Western American History

The Huntington Library is a leading repository of original sources on the trans-Mississippi West. Henry E. Huntington established the strength with his own bold purchases, such as the diary and drawings of Forty-niner J. Goldsborough Bruff, the Fort Sutter papers, the William G. Ritch Collection of New Mexico manuscripts, the Henry R. Wagner library of Western Americana, and the papers of the Hudson's Bay Company outpost at Fort Nisqually in the Oregon country.

Today there are nearly 400 manuscript collections that focus on the West, as well as hundreds of thousands of printed and graphic items, including travel narratives, guide books, scientific surveys, maps, photographs, engravings, lithographs, and promotional ephemera. Geographical coverage extends from Alaska and the Canadian Northwest, south to the borderlands of the United States and Mexico, and across the continent from the Mississippi to the Pacific. Chronologically, resources span the middle of the 17th century to the early years of the 21st.

Numerous collections relate to missionaries among American Indian and immigrant populations, as well as overland migration to and settlement of the Rocky Mountain and Pacific Coast states. The exploration of the Far West and the Mormon exodus to the Intermountain West are exemplified in the letters and diaries of such figures as John C. Fremont, Richard Kern, and Eliza Roxcy Snow. Outstanding visual materials include George Catlin's original drawings of Native Americans.

There are collections from railroaders such as Theodore Judah, Thomas Lord Kimball, and Montgomery Meigs. Records of naval officers, merchants, explorers, and gold seekers—including Edward Brinley, George Clymer, and Augustin Hale—document sea voyages to the West Coast. Materials on mining, finance, transportation, and migration record the growth of urban centers such as Denver, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. Recent collecting concentrates on the transformation of the West as a landscape for tourism, recreation, and leisure in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Image credit: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, 1871. Artist: Thomas Moran (1837-1926). Chromolithograph. In F. V. (Ferdinand Vandeveer) Hayden (1829-1887), The Yellowstone National Park, and the mountain regions of portions of Idaho...RB 289000.

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