A few days ago I ran into a part of the Library of Congress’ website American Memory. American Memory is a large archive of letters, documents, etc from various times during American history. Just from the little bit of browsing I did through the archives, there appears to be quite an extensive selection of primary materials: both digitally reproduced (i.e. typed out on the website in easy-to-read format) as well as scans of the originals.
I spent some time looking through a large collection of letters and correspondences sent and received by a family who settled the Nebraska plains and found them quite interesting to read. They really give a clear, first hand view about life on the plains during the late 19th century.
The first letter is dated March 27, 1862 and is riddled with spelling errors and horrible grammar, but is nonetheless a very interesting read. It talks about a few different things ranging from “coonhunting” and wool to breastpins. Here is an excerpt:
“Well Mattie I am well pleased with the wool and hair you sent me. I think I will make a woolpicking this spring, as you sent me so much wool. I assure you that I will take good care of all you sent. I think I will send you some of pony’s hair as I did not send any with the other. I have had company all day untill the present or I would of wrote some this morning. tell Giles the next time he goes a coonhunting to come and get Mike Roaches houns then perhaps he will have better luck. which side of the pond did he go on Mattie. I do not know wich side is the best to catch Coons. did George tread the coon for Giles?” (Source: Nebraska State Historical Society; posted at the Library of Congress)