Skip to main content

Oil and Environment in American History

Primary sources at Smith Library Center

Special Collections on the second floor of SLC, has some interesting primary source material related to the Texas oil industry. One example is The Texaco Star, a general interest magazine published by Texaco, Inc. Special Collections has Volumes 1-5 (1913-1917) and Volumes 7-14 (1929-1927). Other primary source possibilities include first hand accounts of the discovery of oil in Texas, and the papers of Texas Senator John Tower.


More ideas for finding primary sources at SLC:

  • A search in WorldCat for petroleum industry hearings brings up many results for books available here in SLC. You can add more search terms to look for hearings or legislation tied to a specific event.
  • Also in WorldCat, look for biographies that include first hand interviews, letters or other primary source material.
  • The New York Times is available on microfilm from 1851 to the present. To find articles on your topic, use either the print indexes in SLC or the NYT Search online, limiting your search to Specific Dates. For example, a search for Teapot Dome from 1922 through 1929 yields articles written about the scandal as it unfolded. Note: some articles are available free online. 
  • Use the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature found in the Research Commons to identify magazine articles contemporaneous to the time period of significant historical incidents. Older issues of magazines (periodicals) can be found in Bound Periodicals or on microfilm.
  • Historical Statistics of the United States is a 5 volume set in the Research Commons (317.3 H629) with tables of highly detailed statistical information from colonial times to the late 1990s.
  • Print copies of the Statistical Abstract of the United States for most years from 1937 through 2014, can be found on the second floor at 317.3 Un3s. It is also available online , although not particularly easy to use.
  • The Congressional Record, which contains the proceedings and debates of Congress, is available on microfilm from 1789 to 1992.
  • Explore back runs of magazines found in Bound Periodicals like Life to study historical patterns of advertising, lifestyle issues, etc.

Primary sources on the web

The Portal to Texas History is a gateway to rare, historical, and primary source materials from or about Texas.

DPLA Digital Public Library of America provides access to more than 15,000,000 items from libraries, archives, and museums across the country.

Google Books allows you to find books and magazine articles. To search specifically for full-text articles use this Advanced Book Searchlink and select Full view only and Magazines.

Chronicling America from the Library of Congress allows you to search America's historic newspaper pages from 1789-1924.

Prelinger Archives contains approximately 11,000 digitized and videotape titles (all originally derived from film) and a large collection of home movies, amateur and industrial films. 

HathiTrust Digital Library offers a collection of millions of titles digitized from libraries around the world.

American Oil and Gas Historical Society website.

National Petroleum Council website provides reports going back to 1946 relating to oil and natural gas or to the oil and gas industries.  

Types of sources

Primary sources are generally created by a participant in, or direct observer of, an event. They are usually first-person sources, and they reflect the observer’s or participant’s point of view. Examples are photographs, books or articles published during a time under study, recorded or transcribed interviews, government documents, films, letters, diaries, works of art, and published reports of experiments conducted by scientists or social scientists. Primary sources do not have to be used in their original form, however. They may be reproduced electronically, printed or published later and still be considered primary sources.

Secondary sources include interpretation or analysis of events by an author who was not present. This is often done by studying primary sources. Secondary sources are a step removed from an event or work of art or time period. Examples include books and articles, documentary films, reference books, and textbooks, and these may be printed, on microfilm, on DVD, or digital.

In different fields, typical examples of primary and secondary sources can vary, but in history a primary source might be a handwritten letter held by a library’s special collections department or the text of the same letter printed in its entirety in a published book. Or it could be a contemporary newspaper article reporting on an event. A secondary source could be an article or book that uses that letter or newspaper article as a source through which something about the life of a person or an event can be interpreted or drawn.

Both primary and secondary sources are important, and either or both types may be appropriate for historical research.

Loading ...