About the Collection
American Notes: Travels in America, 1750-1920 comprises 253 published narratives by Americans and foreign visitors recounting their travels in America from about 1750 to 1920. Also included is a thirty-two-volume set, published between 1904 and 1907, compiled by esteemed historian and then secretary of the Wisconsin Historical Society Reuben Gold Thwaites, entitled Early Western Travels, 1748-1846. This set adds manuscripts that might have been lost but for Thwaites's efforts to track them down for the Wisconsin Historical Society.
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.
American Notes includes the work of several major literary figures, including James Fenimore Cooper, Charles Dickens, Washington Irving, Frederick Law Olmsted, and Robert Louis Stevenson. A reading of these authors' travel narratives will readily suggest why they have become classics of the genre and their authors justly famous.
Selections for American Notes: Travels in America, 1750-1920 were made by Steve McCollum, Jurretta Jordan Heckscher, Christopher Pohlhaus, Elizabeth Gettins, and Lisa Lee. 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.