HI 1332: Introduction to the History of Technology

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Primary Sources for History

Primary sources are materials that provide firsthand testimony or the closest evidence to a subject under investigation. Researchers often use these firsthand accounts of specific events, or direct investigations to understand events from the viewpoint of people living during that time period. Primary sources include letters, diaries, photographs, newspaper articles, and pamphlets. For more information, check out the Primary Sources Guide.

Primary Sources: Examples

  • New York Times (Historical)  
    Search full text and images 1851-2010 including news, illustrations, editorials, and advertisements.
  • Library of Congress Digital Collections
    Try searching for collections such as:
    - Inventing Entertainment: Edison, movies and phonograph
    - Samuel F. B. Morse papers
    - Wilber & Orville Wright Papers
    - Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers
  • AdAccess - Duke University
    Over 7,000 U.S. and Canadian advertisements covering five product categories - Beauty and Hygiene, Radio, Television, Transportation, and World War II propaganda - dated between 1911 and 1955.
  • Emergence of Advertising in America - Duke University
    Over 3,300 advertising items and publications dating from 1850 to 1920, illustrating the rise of consumer culture and the birth of a professionalized advertising industry in the United Sta
  • Candid Science : Conversations with Famous Chemists
  • The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II: A Collection of Primary Sources
    These materials are reproduced from www.nsarchive.org with the permission of the National Security Archive.
  • IEEE Global History Network: First-Hand Histories
    Technologists from around the world relate their personal, first-hand experiences as central participants in the process of technical innovation in its broadest context.
  • IEEE Global History Network: Oral History Collection
    The spoken memories and personal commentaries of scientists, engineers, and other technologists of historical significance through recorded interviews, including Society of Women Engineers and Women in Computing.
  • FDSys
    The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) is the Federal Government’s official, digital, secure resource for producing, procuring, cataloging, indexing, authenticating, disseminating, and preserving the official information products of the U.S. Government. The GPO is responsible for the production and distribution of information products and services for all three branches of the Federal Government, including U.S. passports for the Department of State as well as the official publications of Congress, the White House, and other Federal agencies in digital and print formats.
  • Cal Tech Archives Digital Media Collections
    Oral histories, lab notes, and more ...
  • Cal Tech Photographs and Images Collection
    Check out the Science and Technology Artifact Images

Internet Resources - Leads for Primary Sources


The WPI Archives and Special Collections Department

Richard T. Whitcomb Collection

Richard T. Whitcomb, WPI Class of 1943, was an engineer for NASA for over thirty years and invented airplane designs to allow planes to fly farther and faster. He is best known for the Area Rule, Supercritical Wing, and Winglets. Connect to the Whitcomb finding aid for details about the contents of this new manuscript collection in the WPI Archives. To learn more about the Curation, Preservation, and Archives department at WPI or to schedule an appointment to visit the archives, email archives@wpi.edu