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A Guide to American History

This page brings together various information resources on the subject of American History.

Valuable Subject Headings

As this is a U.S. history course, you might expect to find most of the research materials you will need on the 3rd floor of Olin Library under the Library of Congress Call Number (LCCN) E for the History of the Americas.  A summary of the regions, time periods, and subheadings covered within the Es is available in this document.  Keep in mind, however, that the LCCN Class E covers U.S. history, but you might find relevant material categorized under political science (J), social science (H), law (K), or other fields. Further, books on these subject areas might not only be in Olin Library, but in the Brown, Business, and Law School libraries as well. So, browsing the stacks is a resource-gathering strategy, but it is unlikely to be the most efficient one.

A keyword search ("Word(s)") in the Washington University Libraries' catalog is similar to a Google search in that the words you enter could be anywhere in the item record (title, subject, chapter titles, contents summary, etc.). If you do not know the Library of Congress Subject Heading (LCSH) for the topic you are researching, then a keyword search is a good way to start. However, if you want to find EVERYTHING the library owns on a subject, you will want to discover the proper subject headings and peruse the available titles therein. When you see a title and say to yourself: "Hey, that sounds exactly like what I'm looking for!," click on that item record, then click on it's LCSH for all titles in the library under that subject heading.   

The following is a partial list of relevant subject headings:

African Americans
African Americans 
African Americans -- Social conditions
African Americans -- Economic conditions
African Americans -- Civil rights 
African Americans -- Legal status, laws, etc.
Race discrimination -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
Discrimination -- United States
Poor African Americans 
African American families 
United States -- Race relations -- History.
Civil rights -- United States
Affirmative Action
Affirmative action programs -- United States .
Community Organizing
Social action -- [state]--[city]
Social movements -- 
Decades and Eras
Nineteen forties
Nineteen fifties
Nineteen sixties
Nineteen seventies.
Nineteen eighties.
Nineteen nineties
Two thousands (Decade)
United States -- History -- [dates of presidential administrations]
Families--[state name]
Families--[state name]--[city name]
Families--[geographic region]
Families -- Political aspects -- United States.
Families--economic aspects--United States
for different ethnicities, see:
[Ethnicity] American families (e.g., Korean American families)
Families -- Health and hygiene -- United States
Families -- Mental health -- United States.
Families -- Moral and ethical aspects -- United States.  
Families of military personnel -- United States.
Families -- Taxation -- Law and legislation -- United States
Families -- Taxation -- United States
Families -- United States
Homosexuality -- United States 
Homosexuality -- Political aspects -- United States 
Housing policy
Housing policy -- United States
Public housing -- United States
Federal aid to housing -- United States
United States. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Ideological terms
Progressivism (United States politics)
Right and left (Political science) -- United States 
Latin(x) movements
Chicano movement -- History 
Mexican Americans 
Puerto Ricans -- United States --
Mental Health
Families -- Mental health -- United States
Poor -- Mental health services -- United States
Moynihan Report
United States. Department of Labor. Office of Policy Planning and Research. Negro family, the case for national action.
Income distribution -- United States
Low-income mothers
Low-income single mothers
Poor -- United States.
Poor families--[state name]--[city name]
Poor men -- Employment -- United States
Poor men -- Services for -- United States
Poor women
Poor women -- United States
Poor women--[state name]--[city name]
Poor women -- Employment -- United States
Poor women -- Medical care -- United States
Poor women -- Government policy -- United States.
Poor women -- Health and hygiene -- United States  
Poor women -- Services for -- United States  
Poverty -- United States.
Poverty -- Government policy -- United States
Unmarried mothers -- Government policy -- United States
Rural Poverty
Rural poor  -- Employment -- United States
Rural poor -- Government policy -- United States
Rural poor -- United States
Rural poor -- [state]
Rural poor -- [geographic region]
Social Values
Social values -- Political aspects -- United States
Social values -- United States
Jobs Guarantee
Job creation -- Government policy -- United States
Full employment policies -- United States 
Public service employment -- United States
United States 
United States--social conditions
United States -- Politics and government 
United States -- Social policy
Human rights -- United States
United States -- Economic policy
Economic security -- United States
Equality -- United States -- History
Urban poverty
Urban poor -- United States -- History
Urban policy -- United States -- History
Aid to families with dependent children programs 
Economic assistance, Domestic -- Moral and ethical aspects -- United States
Economic assistance, Domestic -- United States.
Entitlement spending -- United States
Poor -- United States
Public welfare -- United States
Social security -- United States 
Welfare recipients -- United States 
Welfare rights movement -- United States -- History.
Income maintenance programs -- United States
Poor whites -- United States
Whites -- Civil rights -- United States
Whites -- Race identity -- United States.
Whites -- United States -- Social conditions.
Working class whites -- United States 
Women -- Political activity -- [state] -- [city]
Women -- Political activity -- [geographic region]
Working class
Labor and laboring classes -- United States (all pre-1969 sources)
Working class (1816-present)
Labor movement 
Labor unions
Working class African Americans.
Working class -- United States

Journal Databases

America: History & Life (1964-) contains only journals related history of the United States and Canada from prehistory to the present. 
JSTOR - multidisciplinary, a lot of full text articles, but subject headings are too broad
Academic Search Complete (1975-present) - multidisciplinary; subject headings may or may not be LCSH; also made by EBSCO, so overlaps with America: History & Life
Project MUSE a comprehensive collection of peer reviewed, interdisciplinary journals from leading university presses, not-for-profit publishers and prestigious scholarly societies.
MAS Ultra (1975 - ) - Full text for more than 700 popular magazines, plus biographies, primary source documents, pamphlets, and reference books. Complements Academic Search Complete.
Scopus - The world’s largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature. Contains over 46 million records, 70% with abstracts, and also includes over 4.6 million conference papers.

Hein Online - contains more than 900 searchable full-text law journals and many legal resources, including the Code of Federal Regulations, United States Code, and U.S. Statutes at Large. Useful for U.S. political history.


Chronicling America - over 1000 full-text U.S. newspaper titles from 46 states & Puerto Rico published between 1793-1963 (as of 8/30/18)

The subject headings of most U.S. newspapers take the form of "City (state abbreviation) -- newspapers" such as Saint Louis (Mo.) -- Newspapers. However, that's not always the case. For example, the St. Louis Argus has been categorized as African Americans -- Missouri -- Newspapers and has two catalog records: one for microform and one for the digitized version, the latter of which does not appear under that subject heading. This is another reason why it is good to experiment with keywords and subject headings and not to rely on one at the exclusion of the other.

Government Documents

Legislative Insight (1929 - ) - contains over 18,000 federal legislative histories with digital full text publications covering laws from 1929 to present. For federal laws between 1969 and current, coverage will be similar to ProQuest Congressional. This database provides legislative histories for 10,000 laws passed between 1929 and 1968 that are not in ProQuest Congressional.

Monthly Catalogue of U.S. Government Publications (1895-1976) - issued each month by the Superintendent of Documents for the Government Printing Office and catalogs all publications of the United States government, including those of the Congress and all executive departments (with the exception of administrative and confidential or restricted documents). Records for all publications since July 1976 have been available online at the GPO's website, but this version makes all issues of the Monthly Catalog from 1895 to June 1976 available online.

ProQuest Congressional - comprehensive access to U.S. legislative information. Includes: CIS Legislative Histories (public laws back to 1969), Congressional publications (1817 - ), testimony from Congressional hearings (1824-), Congressional Record and Federal Register, U.S. Serial Set, 1789-1969, Serial Set Maps, 1789-1969, and more.

For additional assistance with access to U.S. government documents, see Tove Klovning, librarian for U.S. government documents and foreign/comparative/international law at the Law School.


Special Collections

Urban League of St. Louis Records, 1910-1986 - This collection documents the work of the Urban League of St. Louis to meet the needs of the city's African American population. Of particular note are the files of the executive directors of the League, as well as files from the League's many projects and programs.

Delmo Housing Corporation Records - Delmo was one of ten Farm Security Administration-constructed Group Labor Home communities (6 for whites and 4 for blacks) for displaced sharecroppers and tenant farmers following the January 1939 Southern Tenant Farmers Union roadside sharecropper demonstration in Southeast Missouri. When Congress demanded the liquidation of all FSA properties in 1945, Delmo tenants and a group of St. Louis philanthropists organized the Delmo Housing Corporation to purchase the communities, and make the housing units available for sale to occupants. These Delmo Housing Corporation records cover every aspect of the organization over the years 1945 to 1976. Also included is a copy of a draft of "Delmo Saga" by W. Wilder Towle, a longtime Board member who wrote "Delmo Saga" as an account of the history of the corporation's beginnings.

American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri Records, 1930-2015 - Items in the collection include office files, promotional materials, memos, reports, financial documents, articles, conference materials, and other materials that document the history and operations of the organization

Students for a Democratic Society Records, 1956-1969 - including information from conferences and meetings, newsclippings, publications, membership lists, minutes of meetings of St. Louis chapter, and unclassified letters, as well as various publications collected by Terry Koch.

William Sentner Papers, 1918-1967 - William Sentner was a Washington University scholarship student, labor organizer, and Communist Party member. This collection documents his involvement in St. Louis labor movements, various unions, as well as material regarding his political activities and legal battles. The collection contains photographs, labor newsletters, collected news clippings about Sentner, legal and union documents, and Sentner’s personal correspondence.

Muriel and Ralph Pumphrey Papers, 1934-1993 - Muriel Elizabeth (Warren) Pumphrey, DSW (1910 – 2000) and Ralph E. Pumphrey, Ph.D. (1908 – 1997) were prominent figures in the refinement of both public-oriented and university social work education and on the history of the social work movement. The majority of this collection focuses on Ralph and Muriel’s years of professional work in St. Louis and their continued contributions to the field of social work education. 

Primary Source Databases

WUSTL Libraries has purchased access to quite a few primary source databases. They can be searched for keywords or sorted by Subject, Type, and Vendor. See Full A-Z database list