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A Dutch Official Reports on the Purchase of Manhattan

In this letter to superiors at the Hague, Pieter Schaghen describes conditions in New Amsterdam, including the purchase of Manhattan from local Indians for goods worth sixty guilders. Scholars have speculated that the Indians who took part in this [...]

A Letter from Ireland Tells of the Suffering Caused by the Potato Famine

This 1847 letter from Hannah Curtis to her brother John, who had emigrated from Queen's County, Ireland to Philadelphia some years earlier, gives a sense of the deprivation of those who remained behind during the time of the Irish potato famine. The [...]

African-American Women Threaten a Bus Boycott in Montgomery

This letter from the Women's Political Council to the Mayor of Montgomery, Alabama, threatens a bus boycott by the city's African Americans if demands for fair treatment are not met.

An English Explorer Describes the Riches of the Roanoke Colony

This account of the interactions between English explorers and Native Americans was written by Ralph Lane, one of the leaders of Sir Walter Raleigh's early colonizing expedition on what is now Roanoke Island, North Carolina. Despite being a prisoner [...]

Item Type: Diary/Letter
English Captains Describe Sir Walter Raleigh

In 1584, Queen Elizabeth I granted the rights to settle the Roanoke colony to Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh sent a fleet to investigate the area called Virginia that year. The excerpts below come from a longer account of the first voyage of [...]

Item Type: Diary/Letter
Powhatan Asks "Why should you destroy us, who have provided you with food?"

Powhatan (c. 1547-1618) was the head of a confederacy that spanned hundreds of miles and thirty-two tribes. (He is well known today because of his favorite daughter, Pocahontas, who rescued the English captain John Smith from execution in 1608.) In [...]

Item Type: Diary/Letter
A Young Jamestown Settler Becomes Powhatan's Interpreter

As a young boy, Henry Spelman was part of the early Jamestown settlement, under the leadership of John Smith. In 1608, Smith arranged an exchange with the Indian leader Powhatan that included beads, provisions, and "sons," who were to act as [...]

Item Type: Diary/Letter
Meriwether Lewis Describes Crossing the Rocky Mountains

These selections from Meriwether Lewis' journal describe the crossing of the Rocky Mountains, a particularly hazardous stretch of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. In 1804 President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Lewis and William Clark to explore the [...]

William Clark Describes Crossing the Rocky Mountains

These selections from William Clark's journal describe the crossing of the Rocky Mountains, a particularly hazardous stretch of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. In 1804 President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis and Clark to explore [...]

Patrick Gass Describes Crossing the Rocky Mountains

These selections from Patrick Gass' journal describe the crossing of the Rocky Mountains, a particularly hazardous stretch of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. In 1804 President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to [...]

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