Postal Sources (for Educators)

Primary or Secondary Sources?
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Boyd's City Express Post mailbox

Virtual Exhibit

Created by Sharon Deane, Education Intern

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Photograph of Mark Twain
Courtesy of Library of Congress.

Primary and secondary sources are different.

Primary sources are objects (stamps, maps, and photographs) and first-hand accounts (letters, journals, and diaries) created by witnesses who lived during the time of the event in history. These kinds of objects can connect you directly to the past and to those individuals who came before you.

Secondary sources are objects from a later time period and second-hand accounts by individuals who did not witness or experience the events they have recorded. Secondary sources can provide context and perspective on a historical event.

This photograph is a primary source. How can you know it is "primary"? Read the detailed image description to find out.

This is a black and white photograph of Samuel Clemens, who is better known by his pen name Mark Twain. He traveled by stagecoach to the American West and documented his illustrious journey in the 1872 book Roughing It. In it, he expressed that "We had a consuming desire from the beginning to see a pony we were expecting one along every moment, and would see him in broad daylight...a black speck appears against the sky, and it is plain that it moves…another instant…and man and horse burst past our excited faces and go winging away like the belated fragment of a storm."

Date: c. 1905