The Filson Historical Society, founded in 1884, is a privately supported historical society located in Louisville, Kentucky. The Filson’s mission is to collect, preserve, and share the stories of Kentucky and Ohio Valley history and culture. The Filson’s research library provides access to primary source material, which documents our regional history. Our organization is dedicated to providing historical education and engagement in the form of quarterly publications, weekly lectures, historical tours, and exhibits.

Access Primary Source Material

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The Filson’s website has extensive collections listings with finding aids, a keyword-searchable database of manuscript collections, digital collections of photographs and museum objects, and a library catalog of rare books and pamphlets.

We have reviewed the Kentucky Academic Standards for Social Studies (KAS) and included some resources below for use in the classroom! This is only a sampling of our vast collections material. There is much more to explore online and in-person at the Filson!

Available online:

Enslavement and the Legacy of Slavery

Sanders-Bullitt Family Papers: A reworking of the Bullitt family papers to highlight the people enslaved by the Bullitt family on the Oxmoor plantation and the Cottonwood plantation from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth century.

Cecelia Larrison: A Story of Self Liberation from Slavery: A digital exhibit showcasing correspondence from Cecelia Larrison to her former enslavers.

The Reckoning: Facing the Legacy of Slavery in America: The Reckoning’s resources for educators include a searchable database of over 100 histories of formerly enslaved Kentuckians, as well as inquiry materials, aligned to the KAS. The Filson’s collections are utilized throughout, and Filson staff assist in the development of this project.

Black History

Mammoth Life and Accident Insurance, Co. (1915-1992) was one of the largest Black-owned and operated companies in Kentucky’s history. This digital exhibit pairs together photographs, newspaper clippings, and pastel portraits of former presidents to explore the history of Mammoth Life Insurance.

Geneva Bell (1905-2013) Textile Collection: This digital gallery highlights portions of the textile collection.

Women’s History

Women at Work: Venturing into the Public Sphere: This digital exhibit seeks to illuminate women’s professional roles throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Women’s Suffrage: The Movement in Louisville: This exhibit shares items from the Filson’s collections that document the suffrage movement in Louisville.

United States Presidents

The Path to the Polls: Presidential Elections in Kentucky: This digital exhibit uses items in the Filson’s collections to share highlights from over two centuries of presidential campaigns in Kentucky.

Sincerely Yours From the White House: This digital exhibit highlights correspondence from United States presidents spanning the last two and a half centuries.

Geography Progression: Kentucky Geography

A History of Steamboating in the Ohio Valley: The successful transit of the steamboat New Orleans down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers from Pittsburgh to New Orleans in the fall and early winter of 1811 signaled a new era in American history—the age of the steamboat.

Rogers Clark Ballard Thruston Mountain Photograph Collection (1882-1905): The Mountain Photograph Collection consists primarily of photographs taken by Rogers Clark Ballard Thruston in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Tennessee, and Southwestern Virginia.

Hemp: Photographs of Hemp growth and cultivation.

High School: United States History Standards

Frances Ingram Papers: Frances MacGregor Ingram was a social worker in Louisville during the early twentieth century and the Head Resident of the Neighborhood House settlement from 1905 to 1939. 

Camp Zachary Taylor: This digital exhibit shares images and documents from the Filson’s collection that illustrate the changing ownership and landscape of the Camp Zachary Taylor area and illuminate the history of Louisville’s World War I cantonment.

Novia James White Photo Collection: This collection shares snapshots of a life in peacetime and in war. White took dozens of photos during his World War II Air Force service in Japan and the Philippines. These photos depict both magnificent aerial landscapes and scenes of harrowing destruction.

For more information or inquiries into our collections and resources, please contact Emma Bryan.

Field Trips:

Schools can visit the Filson for tours of the historic Ferguson mansion and exhibit galleries and to take advantage of the library and collections for research purposes. Reservations are required. For more information, please email Emma Bryan.

Professional Learning:

The Filson hosts regular educational and engaging programs each year by inviting authors, journalists, and historians to discuss the history of the Ohio River valley. To learn about and register for our upcoming events, visit the Filson Historical Society website. You also can view recorded programs on the Filson website. !

Emma Bryan is a Public Historian and serves as the Community Engagement Specialist at the Filson Historical Society in Louisville, Kentucky.