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‚ÄčAdditional Sources for Research

In addition to the Historic Agricultural Resources of Pennsylvania bibliography, these additional sources may be helpful for research related to historic agricultural patterns and practices. 

General Reference

Downey, Dennis B., and Francis J. Bremer, eds. A Guide to the History of Pennsylvania. Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 1993.

Demaree, Albert Lowther. The American Agricultural Press, 1819-1860. New York: Columbia University Press, 1940.

Miller, E. Willard, ed. A Geography of Pennsylvania. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995.

Miller, E. Willard (Eugene Willard), 1915-. Pennsylvania--architecture and culture : a bibliography. Monticello, Ill. : Vance Bibliographies, 1985.

Miller, Randall M. and William Pencak. Pennsylvania: a History of the Commonwealth. University Park: Penn State University Press, 2002.

Muller, Edward K., ed. A Concise Historical Atlas of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989.

Murphy, Raymond E. and Marion F. Murphy. Pennsylvania Landscapes. 3d rev. ed. State College: Penns Valley Publishers, 1974.

Basic Primary Sources

Below are listed some basic categories of published and unpublished primary sources that can be helpful in doing research on historic agricultural patterns and practices.

U. S. Census Manuscript schedules for agriculture

These are available on microfilm for the years 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900, at the Pennsylvania State Archives, the National Archives, and Penn State University Libraries. Some may exist for 1910. Pennsylvania conducted a census of agriculture in 1924 and 1927 and these are also available from the State Archives. These manuscripts are valuable because they list production for each individual farm. The Pennsylvania manuscripts for 1850, 1880, and 1927 are now available in digital form through the Pennsylvania Agricultural History Project website.

Published U. S. Census summaries

To some extent, online resources are providing this data, but these are often incomplete. The 1910 US Census, for instance, had an entire supplement on Pennsylvania agriculture. The U. S. Department of Agriculture has digitized many of the published reports, and they are accessible through the USDA website.

PSU Agricultural extension archival records, PSU Special Collections

Records are organized by county and begin as early as 1917. They have reports from the county agents on activities in each county. Many county agents also included photographs, surveys, and other materials. Some of these materials are digitized and are available through the Special Collections section in the Penn State University Libraries website. The digitizing project is ongoing, so more counties are being added into 2012 and beyond.

County tax assessment records

Records are usually found at the county courthouse or historical society and can help determine land ownership and tenancy patterns.

Maps and atlases

Maps and atlases indicate stage routes, internal improvements, post routes, townships, etc. Some examples are: 

    • Henry Walling, New Topographical Atlas, 1872; 
    • Mitchell's New Traveller's Guide, 1851; 
    • Johnson's Pennsylvania and New Jersey Almanac, 1808, 
    • Joseph Scott, A Geographical Description of Pennsylvania, 1806.

Penn State University Libraries' Maps department has a large collection of Pennsylvania historical maps. Many can also be found online through the Penn State Library site or the Library of Congress's American Memory site is a good place to begin looking for historic maps.

The Pennsylvania State Archives also keeps historic survey records and warrant registers. These records can be extremely helpful, and can be found at the Land Records section of the State Archives.

Aerial Photographs

Aerial photographs can be viewed online at PASDA Imagery Navigator or Historical Aerial Viewer websites.


Gazetteers sometimes describe local agricultural practices. See for example Thomas Gordon, A Gazetteer of the State of Pennsylvania, 1832.

Travel descriptions

Travel descriptions are often valuable. There is no centralized bibliography, however.

Pennsylvania State Archives

Pennsylvania State Archives has many collections with relevance to agriculture. The Agricultural History Project bibliography contains a section titled "Agricultural Resources at the Pennsylvania State Archives." Besides the obvious Department of Agriculture materials (Record Group 1), photos and other information may be found in the: 

    • Department of Commerce papers (Record Group 31), which contains 1930s aerial photos and materials such as photographs from the Vacation and Travel Bureau. 
    • Record Group 6 (Department of Forests and Waters) and Record Group 12 (Department of Highways) also have photographic collections which often contain agricultural scenes. 
    • Record Group 28 (Treasury Department) contains county-level data in the Board of Revenue Commissioners' Answers to Interrogatories. 
    • Manuscript Group 213, Postcard Collection, has early twentieth century postcards organized by county.
U. S. Direct Tax for 1798

U. S. Direct Tax for 1798 is a list which contains dimensions and materials of buildings. County coverage for Pennsylvania is quite good. Microfilm copies are available at local libraries and at the Penn State Library. Online availability is spotty.


Notes: Rather than include URLs, which often change, these descriptions contain enough information so that the websites can be found using a search engine. This selected list covers sites whose scope extends statewide or further. County and local sites are discussed in individual narratives. 

    • American Periodical Series: Hundreds of mostly 19th-century journals. May require an access account.

    • Core Historical Literature of Agriculture: Cornell University project.

    • Digital resources for historical Pennsylvania agriculture: Compiled by staff at the Penn State University Libraries, Life Sciences Library. The offerings are incomplete, but one valuable resources is an extensive Bibliography of Pennsylvania's Agriculture and Rural Life, 1820-1945. Many entries have hot-links to online versions.

    • Farm, Field, and Fireside: University of Illinois collection of farm journals. While it focuses on the Midwest, this site also offers nationally-distributed journals such as the Farmer's Wife.

    • Historic American Buildings Survey, Historic American Engineering Record: Searchable database of buildings that were included in these projects.

    • Historical Census Data Browser: Historical data, can be manipulated and searched down to the county level, and mapped also. Hosted at the University of Virginia's Fisher Library.

    • Home Economics Archive: Research, Tradition, History (HEARTH): Primary sources relating to home economics, from Cornell University's Mann Library.

    • Library of Congress "American Memory" website: Maps, photos, Farm Security Administration photos, and more.

    • National Agricultural Statistics Service: Contains state by state current data.

    • National Register of Historic Places: National Park Service website for National Register information and some documentation.

    • PAGenWeb project: Digital genealogy. Genealogists have made available a wealth of primary materials online, and more is added daily. Each state has its own site.

    • PA-SHARE: Pennsylvania Historic & Archaeological Resource Exchange is a searchable database for Pennsylvania's statewide inventory of above ground and archaeological resources collected through PA SHPO's survey programs as well as cultural resources projects, surveys, reports, and historical markers.  National Register nominations are available for viewing.

    • Pennsylvania State Data Center: Includes broad demographic and economic data.