American History

Subject librarian

About the American History collections

The American History collections have been an integral part of the Stanford University Libraries since the founding in 1891, with particular strengths in California history, the history of American railroads, and U.S. government documents.

Important early accessions include Timothy Hopkins's donation of over two thousand items from his personal railroad library, which in expanded form became the Hopkins Transportation Library. Hopkins also donated a set of mammoth-plate albums of photographs taken by prominent San Francisco photographer Carleton Watkins. Leland Stanford's personal papers contain correspondence, speeches, and journals integral to the study of nineteenth-century California politics. 

In 1895, Stanford was designated an official depository of publications by the U.S. Government Printing Office. The first respectable collections of early government documents were secured for the University by Leland Stanford, then a U.S. Senator for California. Stanford's collections in American history were further bolstered by San Francisco Judge Elmer E. Robinson's 1939 donation of his collection containing books, newspapers, manuscripts, and photographs dealing with American history from the American revolution to the Civil War. In the later twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the library's holdings in American history have been bolstered by the acquisition of important manuscript collections dealing with African American history (Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation Collection) and Asian American history (Emory M. Lee Papers, Chinese American Citizens Alliance Papers) and documentary photography, especially collections dealing with the history of movements for civil rights (the Bob Fitch Photography Archive, the David Bacon Photography Archive, and the Matt Herron Photography archive).

Featured collections

  • The Bob Fitch Photography Archive

    The Bob Fitch Photography Archive consists of the photographic work of activist and photojournalist Bob Fitch, documenting the civil rights movement, the farm worker movement, the peace movement, other social justice movements and issues, cultural change, religion, as well as his professional and personal life, circa 1960s-2000s.

    View the collection

Further resources

Last updated June 12, 2024