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 on 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, including thousands of documents relating to Native American history. 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. These rich resources are recognized and served by The Shapiro Center for American History and Culture at The Huntington, established in 2019.
The Library is famous for its collections of the nation’s founders, especially the papers of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The extensive archives of John Campbell, fourth Earl of Loudoun, the commander of the British forces in America between 1756 and 1758, and his successor, James Abercromby, illuminate 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 place for research in Civil War studies.
Guide to American Historical Manuscripts in the Huntington Library
Mormon History Research Guide
Newspaper Collections Research Guide
Prints, Posters, and Ephemera Guide [for satirical prints]
Thomas T. Eckert Papers
Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography
Kashnor Collection of Early American Maps, 1670-1856
Museum Bookstore Maps of the Americas and the West Indies from the 16th to the 19th century, purchased from the Museum Book Store, London
Orderly Books of the American Revolution
Slavery and Abolition
United States Civil War imagery
Banner image credit: Unknown photographer. 9th Cavalry (“Buffalo Soldiers”), 1903. photCL 43. Purchased from Holmes Book Company, 1947.