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University of Chicago Library and Filson Historical Society
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The First American West: The Ohio River Valley, 1750-1820 consists of 15,000 pages of original historical material documenting the land, peoples, exploration, and transformation of the trans-Appalachian West from the mid-eighteenth to the early nineteenth century. The collection is drawn from the holdings of the University of Chicago Library and the Filson Historical Society of Louisville, Kentucky. Among the sources included are books, periodicals, newspapers, pamphlets, scientific publications, broadsides, letters, journals, legal documents, ledgers and other financial records, maps, physical artifacts, and pictorial images. The collection documents the travels of the first Europeans to enter the trans-Appalachian West, the maps tracing their explorations, their relations with Native Americans, and their theories about the region's mounds and other ancient earthworks. Naturalists and other scientists describe Western bird life and bones of prehistoric animals. Books and letters document the new settlers' migration and acquisition of land, navigation down the Ohio River, planting of crops, and trade in tobacco, horses, and whiskey. Leaders from Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to Isaac Shelby, William Henry Harrison, Aaron Burr, and James Wilkinson comment on politics and regional conspiracies. Documents also reveal the lives of trans-Appalachian African Americans, nearly all of them slaves; the position of women; and the roles of churches, schools, and other institutions.
The mission of the Library of Congress is to make its resources available and useful to Congress and the American people and to sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations. The goal of the Library's National Digital Library Program is to offer broad public access to a wide range of historical and cultural documents as a contribution to education and lifelong learning. Digital collections from other institutions complement and enhance the Library's own resources.

The Library of Congress presents these documents as part of the record of the past. These primary historical documents reflect the attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs of different times. The Library of Congress, the University of Chicago, and Filson Historical Society do not endorse the views expressed in these collections, which may contain materials offensive to some readers.

Special Presentation: Encountering the First American West

Understanding the Collection

About the Collection

Selected Bibliography

Related Resources

Collection Connections

Working with the Collection

How to Order Reproductions

Copyright and Other Restrictions

Building the Digital Collection

The digitization and presentation of these materials by the University of Chicago Library* and the Filson Historical Society of Louisville, Kentucky* was supported by an award from the Library of Congress/Ameritech National Digital Library Competition. Links marked * lead to web pages mounted at the awardee institution.

The source materials for this collection are housed at the University of Chicago and the Filson Historical Society. Please send electronic mail to with any questions or information about the original materials. Address requests for reproductions to the owning institutions.

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