August in History with the Library of Congress

This post comes courtesy of Uhuru Flemming of the Library of Congress.

Many teachers like to include mini-lessons or bell-ringers about “this day in history.” The Library of Congress offers two resources that recount what happened on a particular day using the Library’s collections of digitized primary sources: Jump Back in Time (introductory) and Today in History (advanced). Choose the one that best matches your students’ reading levels to build both content knowledge and research skills with primary sources in context.

August highlights include the 30th U.S. President, Calvin Coolidge, taking the oath of office (introductory; advanced) and the origins of the Oregon Territory (introductory; advanced), as well as milestones related to:

The States

Military History

Second battle of Bull Run. Position of troops at sunset, Aug. 29, 1862

  • August 9, 1814:  Major General Andrew Jackson signed the Treaty of Fort Jackson (introductory; advanced),
  • August 23, 1864:  The Union Navy captured Fort Morgan, Alabama (introductory; advanced),
  • August 30, 1862:  The Second Battle of Manassas ended a long campaign in northern Virginia (introductory; advanced);


  • August 12, 1877:  Thomas Edison completed the first model for the phonograph (introductory; advanced),
  • August 26, 1791:  John Fitch was granted a United States patent for the steamboat  (introductory; advanced),
  • August 31, 1897:  Thomas Edison was granted a United States patent for the kinetoscope camera. (introductory; advanced);

James Baldwin


To engage your students immediately, distribute or display one primary source from an entry and invite them to jot down a single detail they notice and then share. To draw your students deeper into analyzing the primary sources, ask them to record observations, reflections and questions on the Library’s primary source analysis tool. Anne Savage offers tips in the Blog Round-Up: Using the Primary Source Analysis Tool.

Students can also:

  • Compare a secondary source account, such as a textbook explanation, to a primary source account. What can be learned from each? What cannot be learned from each? What questions do students have?
  • Consider how a series of primary sources support or challenge information and understanding on a particular topic. Ask students to refine or revise conclusions based on their study of each subsequent primary source.
  • Use the  list of additional resources at the end of each Today in History entry to search for additional primary sources.

Some of our favorite ideas for using these resources came in the comments reacting to Primary Sources Every Day from the Library of Congress. Let us know how you use them!

Our Favorite Posts: Crossing the Delaware: General George Washington and Primary Sources

There’s nothing like primary sources to make you question your prior knowledge, and this blog post has several that surprise, spark interest, and make you want to learn more. Along with the suggested teaching activities, which are useful across most grade levels, these primary sources can help your students explore a famous historical event from several different perspectives including that of George Washington himself.