HIST 407/507 Environmental History of the Pacific Northwest:

Guide to Government and other Primary Sources

Go to: Government Documents -U.S.  - Oregon  - Canada | Census | Newspapers & Microfilm | Reference Sources | Maps

This page should help you with your research paper for this course. Feel free to contact me with questions. 

Victoria Mitchell - Librarian for: Political Science, Government Information, and Social Science Data

ph: (541)346-3076 vmitch@uoregon.edu


off-campus access limited to UO = on campus use or UO authentication required

Getting Started

Reference sources, such as specialized, academic encyclopedias and guides, can help you identify and narrow a topic for your research, provide an overview of a specific issue or topic, and suggest further reading.

Atlas of Oregon KNIGHT, REF KNIGHT, MAP LIB.  G1490 .L63 2001
Includes historic and thematic maps, with text.  The sine qua non of Oregon atlases.

The Columbia Guide to American Environmental History REF KNIGHT GF501 .M47 2002
Chronologically organized articles; extensive bibliography.

A Companion to American Environmental History REF KNIGHT GE195 .C655 2010
In-depth articles on conceptual topics, e.g. Americian Indian environmental relations, water development, mining and environmenal history, Northeast Pacific basin.

Encyclopedia of American Environmental History  REF KNIGHT GE150 .E53 2011 (4 vols.)
Shorter articles with brief bibliographies, but with more specific topics than the above, e.g. the Columbia River, forestry, National Park Service, salmon.

Encyclopedia of the U.S. Census: From the Constitution to the American Community Survey  DOCS REF HA37 .U55 E53 2012
This can help you with background on the Census, includes chapters on each decennial census.

Environmental Encyclopedia off-campus access limited to UO
Short articles with brief bibliographies on a broad range of environmental topics. Includes a chronological list of U.S. Environmental Legislation.

Historical Dictionary of the Discovery and Exploration of the Northwest Coast of America REF KNIGHT F851.5 .I48 2008 
A reference mostly to people and places, with an extensive bibliography at the back.

Major Acts of Congress. off-campus access limited to UO Macmillan Reference USA, 2004.
Examines landmark pieces of legislation, explaining the historical factors that led to the proposal of each act, looking at the adoption process and assessing each act's impact. Includes most (but not all)  major environmental legislation, e.g. NEPA, CERCLA (Superfund Act), TSCA, Clean Air Act, more.

Return to top

Government Sources

Citing Government Sources

Citing U.S. Government Publications (A very helpful, general guide, from Indiana University Library.)

Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. off-campus access limited to UO  See the section "Legal and Public Documents" in Chapter 14 Documentation1: Notes and Bibliography

Finding Government Documents in LibrarySearch

  • Regrettably, the University of Oregon Libraries have not added most U.S. government publications published from 1975 to 1996 to the catalog. When you search in LibrarySearch, you may find documents of interest from this "gap" period that don't appear to be available at UO. In that case, bring the title and call number or "SuDoc" number to the Document Center, or contact me by email. Document Center staff may still be able to locate the document in our collection.

Here are some tips for successful use of LibrarySearch in finding government publications. Using Advanced Search:

  1. Search by title if you have a specific one, such as "Oregon statewide planning program".
  2. Search by author if you want publications by a specific government body. For example, "United States. Dept. of Homeland Security", or "Oregon. Water Resources Dept."
  3. A keyword search permits you to specify a topic, and also limit your results to a particular government entity. For example: choose Advanced Search; type "willamette river" in the first search box; select Author search for the next box, and type "oregon". The results will be publications about the Willamette River that were produced by Oregon state agencies.
  4. As an alternative to tip #3, you may perform any search, then limit it by author. For example, do a Subject search on "refugees", then use the Authors in the left column to choose United Nations agencies.

Finding US Government Publications through GPO Monthly Catalog

You can also search for publications in the GPO (Government Printing Office) Catalog. 

Congressional Publications

ProQuest Congressional off-campus access limited to UO
This is the most comprehensive source of Congressional information, from the earliest days to the present.  It includes Bills & Laws, the Congressional Record and its predecessor publications, committee hearings, reports, prints, and House and Senate documents known as the "Serial Set."  All of this information is available in full text. There also are many ways to search it, e.g. you can search by Witness or Witness affiliation in hearings.

  • Note: although the full-text of hearings, reports, etc., are available as pdfs online, these can be quite large. If you don't want to read the entire thing online or print it out, we may have it in our print collection. E.g. if it a hearing, look for the SuDoc number, starting with Y4. If it is part of the Serial Set, look for the Serial Set ID number.

Proceedings in the Journals of House and Senate are available in print, or online at the Library of Congress American Memory project

Return to top

Executive Publications


Presidential Papers, Speeches, and Executive Orders

Executive Agencies

Agriculture (USDA)

Department of the Interior - created in 1849, with a wide range of responsibilities:

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)
  • Bureau of Land Management (BLM) The BLM administers more public land than any other agency in the U.S. It was created in 1946 out of the General Land Office (1812) and U.S. Grazing Service.
    • The annual reports of the Commissioner of the General Land Office, 1866-1932 (incomplete) can be found in the Dewey collection, 4th floor, 336.1 Un32r
    • Some of these reports, along with other historic GLO documents, can be found on the BLM website.  BLM also has GLO Land Records online.
  • Bureau of Reclamation The BuRec is the water management agency for the Western U.S., since 1902 - dams, power plants, canals, etc.
  • Fish and Wildlife Service Created in 1939 with the merger of the Fisheries Service and Biological Survey, both dating from late 1800s.
  • Geological Survey (USGS) See this guide for help in locating USGS publications that the UO Libraries own. Also, the USGS has done a great job of scanning old publications and making them available online; try searching their Publications Warehouse.
    • There are several USGS report series that go back to the late 1800s/early 1900s, including the Bulletin, the Professional Papers, and the Water Supply Papers.
  • National Park Service

Energy (DOE)

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration)
Although NOAA is a fairly recently created (1970) agency, it was formed by merging 3 much older agencies: the Coast and Geodetic Survey (1807), the Fisheries Service (ca. 1871), and the National Weather Service (1870).

Transportation (DOT)

Return to top

Oregon Government Documents

The UO Libraries Oregon documents collection does not go back very far in time, except for legislative (laws, House and Senate journals) and judicial materials.

  • You can search the current Oregon Revised Statutes and to find the original act(s) behind current law, and then look up the original act in the Session Laws.

Session Laws

Acts of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Oregon…  1849- DOC-OR  L.6L44 (Doc Center has 1850, 1854 – other years available in Law and Special Collections—Rare Books)

Acts of the Legislative Assembly of the State of Oregon, 1862-present. DOC-OR  L.6L44

House and Senate Journals

  • Earlier journals, from the Territorial legislature, are available in Law Storage and/or Special Collections—Rare Books.

Journal of the House proceedings of the ... regular session of the Legislative Assembly of Oregon. 1868-1870. DOC-LC  J87 .O7

Journal of the House [of Representatives] of the Legislative Assembly of the State of Oregon. 1870-1913. DOC-OR  L.3J819h

Journal of the Senate of the ... Legislative Assembly of Oregon. 1870-1913. DOC-OR  L.3J819s

Journals of the Senate and House of the ... Legislative Assembly. 1915-1961. DOC-LC  KFO2418.

Journals and calendars of the Senate and House. 1963-1993. DOC-LC  KFO2418.

Oregon Supreme Court Decisions

Reports of cases decided in the Supreme Court of the Territory of Oregon and of the State of Oregon. (aka Oregon Reports) DOC-OR  Ju/Su7.3R29.  (Doc Center has from vol. 1, 1862- present)

Links to more Oregon Government Information

Other U.S. States


Idaho State official web site

  • See A-Z directories -> Agency & Topic Index

Idaho State Archives

  • See Collections -> Digital Records


Washington State official web site

Washington State Archives and Digital Archives

  • The first link searches ALL of the archives, much of which is not available digitally. (You probably would have to travel to Washington to actually view the materials.)

Washington State Heritage Center

The Washington Dept. of Ecology has many searchable databases.

For more links see also this page: State Government Information

Return to top

Canadian Documents

Government of British Columbia

Government of British Columbia web site

Some historical BC legislative and judicial publications can be found on LLMC. This takes you to a title search; type in: british columbia -- only those with a 'yes' in the online column are available digitally.

BC Archives

  • Explore the official government archives for guides, and documents that have been put online.

You might also try BC university libraries' online archives, e.g.:

UBC Library Digital Collections

Simon Fraser University Library Digital Collections

Canadian Government Sources generally

UO Canadian Government Information page

Parliamentary Publications

Debates of the House of Commons (Parliament of Canada) DOC-CN X-3 Library has 1870s to present
"the edited verbatim report of proceedings that take place in the House and in Committees of the Whole House."

Debates of the Senate (Parliament of Canada) DOC-CN Y-3 Library has 1915-present 
"Senate Debates are an edited transcript of what senators say in the course of Senate Chamber deliberations."

Sessional Papers DOC-CN YS Library has 1867-1915

Agency Publications

The Document Center has Canadian agency publications from approximately the 1970s onward. Search the library catalog, using the tips given above.

Return to top


NOTE: Historical census data is generally not available on the US Census Bureau's web site. 

Here are two good sources for access to historical data from the Census of Population & Housing:

Historical Census Browser at the University of Virginia Library

  • Population, agriculture, and economic census data by state and county from 1790-1970.

Social Explorer off-campus access limited to UO (Oxford)

  • All of the decennial population censuses from 1790-2010. Create tables to download; also create maps.  (No ag or econ data.)

There is some historical information available on the Census web site via the Current Population Reports, derived from the Current Population Survey started in the 1930s.

  • See P20, P23, and P60.

Original Census Schedules

The Population Census Schedules (or enumeration schedules) are the handwritten information sheets recorded by the enumerators at the time of a census.

We have the original census schedules for Oregon 1860-1930 on microfilm, and for the 1860 Washington Census

Census of Agriculture

Economic Census

Census Bureau page on obtaining Historical Data from the Economic Census

Economic Census - History (Census Bureau)

  • This page will give you an idea what information was collected from the 1800s onward.  See this page and go to Special Collections and Reports at the bottom for statistical reports by state on specific industries from various years.

The Libraries Document Center has these older "Censuses of Manufactures" in print format, 1905-1967.  See Victoria or other Document Center staff  member for help locating them.

Newspapers and Microfilm


We have an extensive collection of mostly Oregon newspapers on microfilm. See the inventory for a list.

  • The Microforms Dept has reader/printers for microfilm and microfiche, including two ScanPro 1000 digital microform scanners.  You can scan and save to the Hard Drive or to a USB Drive. Using your web-based email, compose message, attach images, and send.

Historic Oregon Newspapers online gives you access to a number of Oregon newspapers from their earliest dates through 1922. (However much more is available on microfilm.)

You may also try the Historic LA Times and NY Times--many Pacific Northwest events are covered by these two papers:

Los Angeles Times, 1881-1989 off-campus access limited to UO

New York Times, 1851-2009 off-campus access limited to UO

Other Microfilm Resources

History Resources on microfilm. This page gives you a list of Oregon, Washington, and Western U.S. primary documents available on microfilm at the UO Libraries Microforms Dept. Some of these collections have a print reference guide to help you locate what you need.  These may be located in KNIGHT Reference, and should be mentioned in this list.

See this page for other Subject Guides to microforms that may be of interest, including: Native American Studies, Presidential Papers, and Census and Newspapers (already mentioned on this page, above.)

Return to top

Maps & Aerial Photos

Online Maps

Historic maps can be very useful in developing the history of a site. Many online resources provide access to online scans of historic maps. Some that you may find useful are listed below:

The General Land Office Survey

  • Survey plats and field notes are often the oldest available detailed maps of Oregon and Washington. You may download scans of these maps at the Land Status & Cadastral Records Viewer
    • Use Internet Explorer as your browser. The website does not work with Mozilla web browsers.
    • To find out what Township and Range designation your site has you may look at historic USGS topographic maps.

USGS Topo Maps

Current and historic USGS topographic maps can be viewed at the USGS Map Locator and Downloader

  • USGS topographic maps will show roads, topography, and even individual buildings if the area is not heavily developed.
  • These provide very detailed information on what buildings are present on a site at the time the map was made. They were made for cities and towns only.
  • You can access these online via the Library's subscription to Sanborn Atlases Online off-campus access limited to UO.

NOAA Historical Map and Chart Collection has scans of old coastal charts and navigable rivers such as the Columbia.

Aerial Photography Collection

The Aerial Photography Collection has over 600,000 aerial photographs of Oregon, stretching as far back as the 1920s. You need to request to see these in advance. Fill out the Academic Request form at https://library.uoregon.edu/air-photo-request-academic.  We will contact you when the photographs are available for you to view in the library.  Aerial photographs do not leave the library, but scanners are available for your use.

For an example of how aerial photography can be used to develop the history of the site see “Aerial Photograph Time Series of the Historic White Stag Block in Portland

Map Making from Aerial Photo Interpretation - 1955 - The New Cartography is a 20 minute video about the "new" technology of using aerial photography to make topograhic maps.

Citing Maps

A good online guide on citing maps and atlases.  It is based on "Cartographic citations: a style guide." A printed copy of "Cartographic Citations" is in the map reference section of Knight Library at call # Z6021 .C55 2010.


Return to top