Top of page

October in History with Primary Sources from the Library of Congress

Share this post:

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.

October highlights include the birth of the nineteenth U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes  (introductory; advanced) and the swearing in of the first African American Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (introductory; advanced), as well as milestones related to:

Military History

  • October 5, 1877:  Chief Joseph surrendered to the U.S. Army (introductory; advanced),
  • October 19, 1781:  British General Charles Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, VA ending the Revolutionary War (introductory; advanced);
Dorothea Lange

The Arts

The Built Environment

  • October 13, 1792: The cornerstone of the White House was laid (introductory; advanced),
  •  October 27, 1904: The New York subway system opened (introductory; advanced);

    In the subway, New York, New York


  • October 1, 1961: Roger Maris broke the record for the most home runs in a single season (introductory; advanced),
  • October 15, 1972: Jackie Robinson threw the first pitch at the second game of the  World Series (introductory; advanced);


  • October 24, 1861:  The transcontinental telegraph system was completed, ending the Pony Express (introductory; advanced).

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.

How will you engage students using primary sources? Let us know in the comments.

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.