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The University of Texas began collecting materials on the history of Texas and of the American South soon after it opened in 1883. In 1914, Major George W. Littlefield, a Confederate veteran and University Regent, donated funds to the University to promote those efforts. Over the years, the Littlefield Fund for Southern History enabled the University to assemble a major collection on the history of the South to support research, teaching, and publications, including funding Prof. Charles W. Ramsdell’s project during the 1930s to microfilm materials in repositories outside of Texas. Today, thanks to the Board of Trustees of the Littlefield Fund for Southern History, manuscript materials, maps, newspapers, and rare and fragile books, pamphlets, and serials purchased by the Fund are housed in the Center for American History's George W. Littlefield Southern History Collections, where they join other primary sources relating to the history of the South that have been acquired independently of this fund through gift and purchase.
The Littlefield Southern History Collections have several major components: The Natchez Trace Collection, Southern History Archival Collections, the Littlefield Rare Book and Pamphlet Collection, the Littlefield Map Collection, the Southern Newspaper Collection, and the Charles Ramsdell Microfilm Collection.
The Natchez Trace Collection
The Natchez Trace Collection (NTC) is actually a series of collections totaling more than 450 linear feet of materials documenting the history of the Lower Mississippi River Valley from 1760 to the 1920s. The collection includes original personal and family papers; financial, business, and legal records; maps, sheet music, newspapers, pamphlets, broadsides, photographs, diaries; and other types of archival documents. These materials reflect the lives and activities of government officials, politicians, soldiers, bankers, jurists, planters, merchants, physicians, clergy, educators, slaves, and homemakers who lived and worked in the parishes and counties of Louisiana and Mississippi, particularly in the region centered around Natchez, Mississippi.
Since the acquisition of the Natchez Trace Collection in 1985, the Center for American History has promoted the collection’s use through staff presentations, publications, exhibitions, and publicity, and through public lectures by scholars who use its resources. Among those efforts, the Center issued Inside the Natchez Trace Collection: New Sources for Southern History (Louisiana State University Press, 1999) a compilation of essays on research areas supported by materials in the collection. Those areas include women’s history, history of the Natchez District, antebellum politics, economic history and elite planters, and the slave experience.
Listed below are some of the major subcomponents of the Natchez Trace Collection. Links to collections with online inventories are included.
Provincial and Territorial Records, 1759–1810. (2.5 ft.) Civil court records and other legal and administrative papers relating to the French and Spanish colonial and Louisiana and Mississippi territorial eras.
Slaves and Slavery Collection, 1793–1864. (2 ft., 2 in.) Primarily legal documents relating to African Americans and the institution of slavery in the Southern U. S., particularly in Louisiana and Mississippi; organized into various subseries.
Steamboat Collection, 1806–1925. (2 ft., 4 in.) Documentation of steamboat activity on the Mississippi river and its tributaries.
Richard T. Archer Family Papers, 1790–1919. (5 ft., 4 in.) Correspondence, financial records, and legal documents of a prominent Mississippi planter and ardent secessionist.
Natchez Trace Small Manuscript Collections. Nearly 2700 discrete small collections and single items covering a host of individuals and subjects.
James Campbell Wilkins Papers, 1801–1852. (3 ft., 9 in.) Papers documenting the life and career of a Natchez cotton planter, merchant, cotton factor, financier, and banker.
Barnes-Willis Family Papers, 1783–1840. (1 ft., 11 in.) Papers of various family members relating to business affairs, travels, administration of estates, cotton, slaves, and family life.
George and Josiah Winchester Papers, 1820s–1888. (17 feet) Personal and business papers documenting the lives and careers of Natchez attorneys and political leaders George Winchester and his nephew Josiah.
Joseph E. Davis Papers, 1824–1880. (.5 in.) Correspondence, legal documents, plantation records, and estate records documenting the business and personal affairs of the eldest brother of Jefferson Davis.
Newspaper Collection. More than two hundred newspaper titles, with special strengths in the pre-Civil War era for papers from Louisiana and Mississippi towns and cities.
Pamphlet and Serials Collection. More than 500 19th-century pamphlets, paperback novels, and periodicals, representing the leisure and professional reading of individuals and organizations whose papers are represented in the Natchez Trace Collection.
Photograph Collection, ca. 1855–1920. More than 870 images, 1855–1920, including daguerreotypes, lantern slides, and other formats depicting Natchez and Vicksburg area families, scenes, and commercial views.
Map Collection. A total of 138 manuscript and printed maps depicting 19th century Louisiana and Mississippi, especially prior to 1861.
Broadside Collection, 1785–1930. Approximately 140 broadsides and handbills published mainly in Louisiana and Mississippi, 1795–1900, announcing or advertising events and services relating to politics, real estate, law, education, agriculture, and economic and cultural affairs.
Sheet Music Collection. Approximately 4,000 pieces of nineteenth-century classical and popular sheet music, including parlor music, Civil War songs, and minstrel and show tunes.
Southern History Archival Collections
Listed below are selected archival and manuscript collections documenting the history of the South. Those marked with * are available on microfilm through University Publication of America’s Records of Ante-Bellum Southern Plantations, Series G. Links to collections with online inventories are included.
Edward A. Parsons Collection, 1678–1928. (6 ft.) Manuscripts relating to the history of Louisiana assembled by collector Edward A. Parsons and acquired by the University of Texas in 1956. The majority of the collection relates to Louisiana prior to 1830.
William Massie Papers, 1797–1919. (15 ft., 10 in.) * Business records and correspondence documenting three generations of the Massie family of Nelson County, Virginia.
Pugh Family Papers, 1807–1907. (10 ft.) * Personal and business correspondence, plantation records, diaries, and journals relating to the Pugh family of Louisiana and their plantations.
Dr. Samuel H. Stout Papers, 1860–1865. (22 ft., 4 in.) Letters, hospital records, and military papers documenting Stout’s career as Confederate Medical Director of Hospitals, Army of Tennessee.
Canebrake Plantation Records, 1856–1858. (3 items) * Records books for 1856, 1857, and 1858 for the Canebrake Plantation in Adams County, Mississippi, owned by Dr. James G. Carson.
Joshua K. Callaway Papers, 1862–1863. (84 letters) Letters written by Lt. Callaway to his wife at Summerfield, Alabama, concerning his Civil War experiences.
William H. Morrow Collection. A collection of manuscripts, books, pamphlets, newspapers, maps, prints, photographs, and art relating to Texas and the South assembled by longtime collector William H. Morrow of Texas and Mississippi.
The Natchez, January 1, 1830–December 25, 1830. Fifty-two issues of this Mississippi newspaper, published by James H. Cook. The paper was a powerful Whig voice in the state.
Confederate Cotton Trade Collection. Manuscript ledger leaves documenting the sale of Confederate cotton in England and France, 1861–1862.
Texas Plantation Collections. Collections documenting various Texas plantations; these materials are considered part of the Center’s Eugene C. Barker Texas History Collections. Those marked * are available on microfilm through University Publication of America’s Records of Ante-Bellum Southern Plantations, Series G.
Julien S. Devereux Papers, 1805–1856. (8 ft., 9 in.) * Papers documenting life in Alabama and correspondence, receipts, ledgers, legal papers documenting Monte Verdi Plantation in Rusk County, Texas.
Lizzie Scott Neblett Papers, 1848–1935. (8 ft., 9 in.) * Correspondence and bound manuscript volumes documenting agriculture, slaves, plantations, domestic life, childbirth, and social life in Grimes and Navarro counties, Texas.
James Franklin and Stephen Samuel Perry Papers, 1786–1940. (13 ft., 9 in.)* Correspondence and business records documenting Peach Point Plantation near Brazoria, Texas, and the move of the slave economy into Texas.
The Littlefield Rare Book and Pamphlet Collection
An estimated 30,000 unique, rare, or scarce printed titles, including books, pamphlets, atlases, government documents, song sheets, broadsides, and serials and periodicals relating to the history of the South, purchased since 1914 by the Littlefield Fund. The main strengths of the collection are history, politics, and biography, especially slavery and abolition, the Confederacy, and the Civil War. Other topics covered in depth include religion, the cotton economy, transportation, medicine, and law.
The Littlefield Map Collection
Approximately 500 printed maps, 1775–1960, largely depicting southern states and regions. The bulk of the collection is 19th-century maps, with special strengths for Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi from the 1820s to 1880s.
The Southern Newspaper Collection
Several hundred linear feet of newspapers published in every state of the Confederacy from the 1790s through the early 1900s. Significant holdings include extensive runs of early newspapers in hard copy from Charleston, South Carolina (1795–1942), Augusta Georgia (1806–1885), New Orleans, Louisiana (1837–1914), and Little Rock, Arkansas (1819–1863). Many issues are scarce or rare, including the copies of several important antebellum Louisiana and Mississippi newspapers. All titles have been cataloged onto OCLC as part of the U.S. Newspaper project.
The Charles Ramsdell Microfilm Collection
Three hundred and ninety-nine reels of microfilmed records of Confederate bureaucracy, soldiers, and politicians, as well as miscellaneous material relating to the general history of the antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction eras in the South. The Ramsdell Collection is the result of a project sponsored by the Littlefield Fund from 1937 to 1940 that filmed printed and manuscript materials on Southern history housed in archival repositories outside of Texas. These included Yale, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Library of Congress, Duke University, the Mississippi State Department of Archives and History, and the Illinois State Historical Society. Holdings include the Nathaniel P. Banks Papers, Mississippi Territorial Papers, Orleans Territorial Papers, Confederate Blockade Runners Collection, Confederate States Congress Register of Acts and Resolutions Passed, Jefferson Davis Papers, John A. Quitman Papers, J. F. H. Claiborne Papers, Indigent Families of Alabama Soldiers Papers, Alexander F. Pugh Diary, and the Mississippi Governors Papers, 1861–1865.
For more complete and detailed information on the above collections, see the Center's subject guide "Southern History Resources."