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American West

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Sources from the Everett D. Graff Collection of Western Americana at the Newberry Library, Chicago



The story of the American West has exerted a powerful influence over the psyche of the modern world, helping to fashion senses of national identity as well as permeating literary and cinematic culture.

Tales of frontier life, of Native Americans and of vigilantes and outlaws are of constant interest, and are matched by more recent interest in the growth of urban centres, the environmental impact of westward expansion and of life in the borderlands.

The Graff Collection is a unique resource which will allow scholars to explore all of these areas and more. Through a mixture of original manuscripts, maps, ephemeral material and rare printed sources, this collection will act as a dynamic teaching and research resource.

  • Papers of early pioneers, explorers and hunters are well represented, including items such as the original manuscript journal and papers of James Audubon.
  • Canada and the Pacific Northwest are well documented including accounts of the Gold Rush and of the landscape.
  • The evolution of Western towns can be seen through materials such as prospectuses and city directories.
  • The growth of railway and road networks can be explored through maps and through records of key railroad companies.
  • Emigrants guides, manuscript travel journals, store catalogues, illustrations and maps enable scholars to understand the phenomenon of Westward expansion.
  • Accounts of ranches and of the prairie lands document the agricultural transformation of the West.
  • There are rich resources for the study of Texas, Mexico and the South.
  • Literary and historical works – as well as contemporary newspapers and posters - enable a better understanding of the real and mythic West – with first hand accounts of the lives of vigilantes and outlaws.
  • Native American history and culture is also very well documented.

This collection complements American Indian Histories and Culture and will be welcomed by scholars working in Western American history, Southern History, the History of the Pacific Northwest, Western Literature, Film and Cultural Studies. Both The American West and American Indian Histories and Cultures are cross-searchable for a more in-depth user experience.