Featured Primary Sources

Literature and Language Arts

Nothing can enrich and enliven our understanding of the nation’s past, or dispel apathy about it, more powerfully than primary sources. The primary sources below open up a variety of viewpoints and have been chosen by master teachers specifically for use in the classroom. Affiliate School members can print a packet that includes an image of the document, photograph, or other resource, a transcript where applicable, and text to place the document in historical context. Additionally, you may want to search the Gilder Lehrman Collection itself for other resources to enrich your lessons.

George Washington, by Rembrandt Peale, ca. 1852 (GLC09119.01)

George Washington’s First Inaugural Address, 1789

Creator: George Washington Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics, Literature Grade Levels:
Illustration from Uncle Tom's Cabin

Harriet Beecher Stowe sends Uncle Tom’s Cabin to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, 1852

Creator: Harriet Beecher Stowe Curriculum Subjects: Literature Grade Levels:
Abraham Lincoln, speech fragment on slavery and the American government, ca. 185

Lincoln speech on slavery and the American Dream, 1858

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Hanford L. Gordon, “Only a Private Killed,” November 12, 1861. (GLC06559.038)

Poem on a Civil War death: “Only a Private Killed,” 1861

Creator: Hanford L. Gordon Curriculum Subjects: Literature Grade Levels:
President Lincoln delivering his inaugural address on the east portico of the U.

President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, 1865

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
“[A Farewell Ode to Emigrants on Their Journey to America],” Hamar, Norway, 1853

Verses on Norwegian emigration to America, 1853

Creator: Thorvald A. Hansen Curriculum Subjects: Foreign Languages, Literature, World History Grade Levels:

World War I poems: “In Flanders Fields” & “The Answer,” 1918

Creator: John D. McCrae, J. A. Armstrong, and Ella Jane Osborn Curriculum Subjects: Literature, World History Grade Levels:
America the Beautiful, signed by author Katharine Lee Bates, ca. 1925. (GLC)

“America the Beautiful,” 1893

Creator: Katharine Lee Bates Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: