Henry E. Huntington laid the foundations for the American collections in 1911, when he purchased the Elihu Dwight Church library, which contained such gems as the Book of the General Lawes and Libertyes of Massachusetts (1648) and the holograph manuscript of the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Subsequent acquisitions—most notably in the collections of Robert Hoe and William K. Bixby—ensured The Huntington's status as one of the nation's leading repositories for historical Americana.
Today, the Library is home to hundreds of archival collections and over 200,000 single manuscripts, rare books, prints, photographs, and ephemera documenting the history of what is now the Northeast, Midwest, and South of the United States, as well as the Atlantic and Central regions of Canada, from the colonial era through the end of World War II. The Huntington holdings are particularly strong for the periods of the Seven Years' War (1755-1763), the American Revolution and the early republic, the antebellum decades, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Spanish American War, and the Gilded Age.
The Library is famous for its collections of the Founding Fathers, especially the papers of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The extensive archives of John Campbell, 4th Earl of Loudoun, the commander of the British forces in America between 1756 and 1758, and his successor, James Abercromby, provide rich resources for the history of British and French America in the 18th century. The immense collection accumulated by the famous Virginia collector Robert A. Brock documents three centuries of the history of the American South.
The Library holds a massive Abraham Lincoln collection, including the papers of his cabinet members, friends, and adversaries. There are also numerous letters, diaries, and memoirs of Union and Confederate soldiers, as well as the recently acquired archives of the United States Military Telegraph. All these make the Huntington a major research center for Civil War studies.