Featured Resource: The American West

The story of the American West has exerted a powerful influence over the psyche of the modern world, helping to fashion senses of national identity as well as permeating literary and cinematic culture. Tales of frontier life, of Native Americans and of vigilantes and outlaws are of constant interest, and are matched by more recent interest in the growth of urban centres, the environmental impact of westward expansion and of life in the borderlands.

The American West, Sources From The Graff Collection At The Newberry Library, Chicago, is a unique resource which will allow scholars at LMU to explore all of these areas and more. Through a mixture of original manuscripts, maps, ephemeral material (trade cards, wanted posters, photos, claim certificates, news-sheets etc.), maps, and rare printed sources, this collection will act as a dynamic teaching and research resource.


  • Papers of early pioneers, explorers and hunters are well represented, including items such as the original manuscript journal and papers of James Audubon.
  • Canada and the Pacific Northwest are well documented including accounts of the Gold Rush and of the landscape.
  • The evolution of Western towns can be seen through materials such as prospectuses and city directories.
  • The growth of railway and road networks can be explored through maps and through records of key railroad companies.
  • Emigrants guides, manuscript travel journals, store catalogues, illustrations and maps enable scholars to understand the phenomenon of Westward expansion.
  • Accounts of ranches and of the prairie lands document the agricultural transformation of the West.
  • Literary and historical works – as well as contemporary newspapers and posters – enable a better understanding of the real and mythic West – with first hand accounts of the lives of vigilantes and outlaws.
  • Native American history and culture is also very well documented.

Text excerpted from “Nature and Scope Section” of American West database.

Blog post image credit: Constitution of the State of California. San Francisco: printed at the Office of the Alta California, 1849.
© – The Newberry Library

Home page image credit: Recollections of my boyhood… Roseburg, Oregon: Review Publishing Co., 1914.© – The Newberry Library