Information about North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries and Oral Histories

  Release 4   April, 2005.
1. About the Database - a description of the contents of the database and its purpose.
2. Editorial Policy - detailed criteria used in selecting materials.
3. Errata - known typographical and software errors to be fixed next release.
4. Notes on the Current Release - notes on this version.
5. Software Requirements - notes on which browsers are supported.
6. Technical Support - whom to contact for technical support.
7. Subscription and Free Trial Information - how to get a subscription or a trial.
8. License Agreement - licensing terms and conditions.
9. Acknowledgements - charter customers and individuals who contributed.
10. How to Contribute Materials or Comments - how to contribute materials.
11. Copyright Statement - copyright terms and conditions.
12. Archiving - how this material is preserved for the future.
13. Cataloging Records - what kind of MARC records will be available for this collection.


1.   About Immigrant Letters, Diaries and Oral Histories

North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories provides a unique and personal view of what it meant to immigrate to America and Canada.  Our goal is to include more than 100,000 pages of personal narratives including letters, diaries, pamphlets, autobiographies, and oral histories,  providing a rich source for scholars in a wide range of disciplines.  Much of the material is previously unpublished.  Several thousand pages of Ellis Island Oral History interviews, indexed and searchable for the first time, are included.  Never before have scholars been able to search these documents easily and find answers to complex questions with just a few clicks.

The materials begin around 1840 and extend to the present, focusing heavily on the period from 1920 to 1980.  People from many countries are represented, including more recent waves of immigrants from Latin America and Asia.  In selected cases, users can to hear the actual audio voices of the immigrants or view images of their scrapbooks.  With the help of Alexander Street’s award-winning Semantic Indexing, researchers can easily compare experiences across temporal and ethnic boundaries.

No other single resource presents such a broad, detailed, and immediate record of the experience of immigration, supporting research in history, sociology, ethnic and diversity studies, women’s studies, labor studies, and literature.  Labor historians will benefit from details describing work in restaurants, meat packing plants, mines, railroads, and factories.   Sociologists will find lengthy passages describing immigrant schooling, social life, domestic life, and community rituals.  Students of literature will find descriptions of the events that inspired Upton Sinclair and Theodore Dreiser.

North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories provides perspectives both on North America and on the immigrants’ countries of origin.  Users will find vivid descriptions of life under the Czar and the various revolutionary governments in Russia; tales of famine and poverty in Ireland; accounts of anti-Jewish pogroms in Eastern Europe; stories of persecution and fascism; and detailed descriptions of life in rural communities and towns as well as in major cities such as London, Berlin, and Moscow.  Descriptions of initial encounters with soda pop, chewing gum, and bananas appear alongside reflections on labor conditions, political groups, and attitudes of the authorities.

Back to Top

2.   Editorial Policy   

The material for North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries has been selected from a wide range of sources with the assistance of our editorial board and advice from customers.  The following general criteria have been used:

  • The focus of the collection is the late nineteenth century.  
  • We have selected approximately 2,000 political cartoons that reflect immigration from this time period.
  • We have attempted to balance the various cultural groups and provide representative works from each.
  • The collection includes approximately 5,000 pages of Emigrant Guides and advice books for immigrants.

Here are the members of our editorial board:

Joel Wurl, General Editor

Joel Wurl is Curator & Assistant Director of the University of Minnesota's Immigration History Research Center, where he has worked since 1985. He is an advisor to public programs, exhibits, and historical preservation projects and has presented and and published research on several topics related to immigration and the preservation of documentary resources.

Joel has led seminars and workshops on both archival and immigration-related topics and has spoken to a diverse array of community audiences on the immigrant experience in America and, particularly, in the state of Minnesota. He currently serves as a board member for the International Institute of Minnesota and the Ironworld Discovery Center. Wurl was elected this year to the Society of American Archivists council and has served the Midwest Archives Conference as a council member and as editor of its journal Archival Issues. He is a co-author of The Immigration History Research Center: A Guide to Its Holdings and has written related articles for a number of publications


Hasia R. Diner

Currently serving as the Paul and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History in the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University, Dr. Diner is a specialist in immigration and ethnic history, American Jewish history and the history of American women. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois-Chicago in 1976.

Her publications include: In the Almost Promised Land: American Jews and Blacks, 1915-1935; Erin's Daughters in America: Irish Immigrant Women in the Nineteenth Century; and A Time for Gathering: The Second Migration, 1820-1880, all published by the Johns Hopkins University Press.

More recently she has completed work on Lower East Side Memories: The Jewish Place in America, published by the Princeton University Press in 2000, and Hungering for America: Italian, Irish, and Jewish Foodways in their Age of Migration, published by Harvard University Press in 2001.


Donna R. Gabaccia

Donna R. Gabaccia is the Charles H. Stone Professor of American History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the author of many books and articles about Italian migration around the world and about immigrant women and immigrant life in the United States. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1979.

Dr. Gabaccia’s newest book, Immigration and American Diversity was published in January, 2002, by Blackwell Publishers. A new collection of essays, co-edited with Franca Iacovetta, and titled Women, Gender and Transnational Life: Italian Workers of the World, is published by the University of Toronto Press. She is also the author of From Sicily to Elizabeth Street, Militants and Migrants; From the Other Side; and We Are What We Eat, Ethnic Food and the Making of America.


Salvador Gerea

An archivist, librarian, and writer, Sal Gerea specializes in ethnic and multicultural archives. He received the MLS from the University of Arizona, where his emphasis was in library services to Latinos and library administration. Currently he is Director of the California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives, in the Davidson Library of the University of California, Santa Barbara. Previously, he headed the Coleccin Tloque Nahuaque (Chicano research library) in that institution. He also teaches a course on documentary research methods in the Department of Chicano Studies. While with the Santa Barbara Public Library System (1980-1983) he directed the system's multicultural outreach program and managed one its branch libraries.

Mr. Gerea is a past president of REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library Services to the Spanish Speaking. He has been on the governing Council of the ALA and chaired various ALA committees including the Reference and Adult Services Division's Committee on Library Services to the Spanish-speaking, the American Libraries Advisory Committee, and he has served on several ALA Presidential Program planning committees.

His publications include several books and numerous articles in the field of library science, bibliography, and in archives. His latest edited books include Latino Librarianship: A Handbook for Professionals (McFarland, 1990), Latino Periodicals: A Selection Guide (McFarland, 1998), and Library Services to Latinos: an Anthology (McFarland, 2000).





Franklin Odo

Currently Director of the Smithsonian Institutions Asian Pacific American Program, Franklin Odo's academic background was in traditional Asian Studies, but in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he became part of the movement that created Asian American and other ethnic studies in California.

Since then he has taught at the University of Hawaii and at many other colleges and universities, including a college in Japan and at the University of Pennsylvania, Hunter College, Princeton, and Columbia University. Aside from his work as a curator and APAP director at the Smithsonian, Odo currently teaches a course in the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Maryland.

Dr. Odo is the editor of The Columbia Documentary History of the Asian American Experience, published by Columbia University Press. His previous books include A Pictorial History of the Japanese in Hawai‘i and Roots: An Asian American Reader, co-edited with Amy Tachiki, Eddie Wong, and Buck Wong

Back to Top

3.   Errata

Our intent is to produce a database with no errors. Please let us know about any inconsistencies, factual omissions, or typographical errors by emailing us at

Known errata in this database:

  • There are no known errata in the database at this time.

Back to Top

4.   Notes on Current Release

This release of the database includes 2,162 authors, and 2,229 sources.

Back to Top

5.   Software Requirements

North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries is optimized to operate with Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0 or higher, and Firefox 3.0. (We are aware that the "select terms" feature of our Find and Search is not performing well in Firefox 3.5.2. Upgrading to the latest version of Firefox will resolve this issue.)

Back to Top

6.   Technical Support

You can contact us by:

When reporting a problem please include your customer name, e-mail address, phone number, domain name or IP address and that of your web proxy server if used.

Back to Top

7.   Subscription and Free Trial Information

North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries is available for a one-time purchase of perpetual access, or as an annual subscription. Please contact us at if you wish to begin a subscription or to request a free 30-day trial.

Back to Top

8.   License Agreement

Terms of Use

Back to Top

9.   Acknowledgements

North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries  was made possible through the hard work of the following individuals:

Isabel Lacerda Alexander Street Press
John Cicero Alexander Street Press
Ning Zhu Alexander Street Press
Cynthia Owens Alexander Street Press
Sheryl Friend Alexander Street Press
Pat Lawry Alexander Street Press
Graham Dimmock Alexander Street Press
Steve Kistler Alexander Street Press
 Mary Marshall Clark  Columbia University, Oral History Program.
 Jessica Wiederhorn  Columbia University, Oral History Program
 George Tselos  National Park Service


Back to Top

10.   How to Contribute Materials or Comments

Our goal is to create a unique archive according to the editorial criteria expressed above. We welcome contributions from organizations and individuals, especially if you have materials that are unpublished or of unique interest. Submitting materials to our editors is easy and without obligation on your part. If you have collections of substantial value, we may be able to pay you a royalty in return for the rights to use them.

  • To submit materials for inclusion in North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, please email Will Whalen at or mail them to him at 3212 Duke Street,  Alexandria, VA 22314.


  • If you are a commercial publisher who would like to discuss licensing materials for inclusion in the database, please contact Stephen Rhind-Tutt at or 1-800-889-5937 or 1-703-212-8522.


  • To report factual errors or to suggest improvements, please email us at Please include the author, the document, and the page number. Please also include your email address, so that we can let you know the status of your correction.

Back to Top

11.   Copyright

All materials in North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries are protected under U.S. and International Copyright Law. Fair use under the law permits reproduction of single copies for personal research and private use. Further transmission, reproduction, or presentation of protected items requires the written permission of the copyright owners.

Back to Top

12.   Archiving

Texts produced for North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries are considered research materials and receive the same level of stewardship as books, paper documents, and photographs. Once complete, copies of the database will be given to all purchasing institutions, so ensuring that the materials are available to subsequent generations.

Back to Top

14.   Cataloging Records

MARC records are available for this collection. Please ask your customer service representative for details.



Produced in collaboration with the University of Chicago.
Send mail to with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright © Alexander Street Press, LLC. All rights reserved.
Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy | Cookie Policy
PhiloLogic Software, Copyright © The University of Chicago.