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Collection American Notes: Travels in America, 1750 to 1920

About this Collection

Comprises 253 published narratives by Americans and foreign visitors recounting their travels in the colonies and the United States and their observations and opinions about American peoples, places, and society from about 1750 to 1920. Also included is the thirty-two-volume set of manuscript sources entitled Early Western Travels, 1748-1846, published between 1904 and 1907 after diligent compilation by the distinguished historian and secretary of the Wisconsin Historical Society Reuben Gold Thwaites. Although many of the authors represented in American Notes are not widely known, the collection includes works by major figures such as Matthew Arnold, Fredrika Bremer, William Cullen Bryant, François-René de Chateaubriand, William Cobbett, James Fenimore Cooper, J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, Charles Dickens, Washington Irving, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Sir Charles Lyell, William Lyon Mackenzie, André Michaux, Thomas Nuttall, Frederick Law Olmsted, and Robert Louis Stevenson. The narratives in American Notes therefore range from the unjustly neglected to the justly famous, and from classics of the genre to undiscovered gems. Together, they build a mosaic portrait of a young nation.

American Notes is the fifth in a series of local history collections presented as part of the Library of Congress's American Memory program, joining "California As I Saw It," Pioneering the Upper Midwest, Puerto Rico at the Dawn of the Modern Age, and The Capital and The Bay. Together, these online collections make up a virtual local history bookshelf in intellectually and electronically accessible form.

Three criteria determined selection: in order to be included, a work had to be written primarily in the first person, free of copyright restrictions, and part of the Library's General Collections. These criteria follow closely those used in previous local history collections from American Memory.

As in previous collections, there are regrettable limitations in the range of voices represented in American Notes. Most obviously, there is a dearth of works from Native Americans, African Americans, and other racial and ethnic minorities arising from the circumstances of history that severely constrained the number of books published by members of these groups during the time that the collection covers. Certainly there were people in these groups who published, and within the confines of the selection criteria, such works are included when possible.