Skip to Main Content

Primary Sources on Napa Valley History

This guide provides a starting place for researchers interested in people, places, and events related to Napa Valley History. The collections linked here contain primary sources that are appropriate for scholarly research.


This guide provides a starting place for researchers studying the history of Napa Valley. The collections linked or described here include primary sources that cover people, places, events, and themes relevant to Napa Valley and its context in greater California or national history.

Although some of the collections described here are fully accessible online, researchers will find items that have not been digitized. If the material is held by Pacific Union College, simply make a research appointment with the Special Collections Librarian. If you wish to view material held by another institution, we recommend that you contact them ahead of time to make an appointment and ask if there is anything you should do to prepare for your visit. 

Valley View Winery and Vineyard in Rutherford, undated
PostcardsNapa Valley (Calif.)
vital:2477, PUC.PIC.087
Part of the Clyde Tucker Postcard Collection (PUC.PIC.087).
Tucker, Clyde

Is this a primary or secondary source?

Primary sources are materials that are eyewitness accounts or as close to the original source as possible.

Qualitative data:

  • What people say.
    They are usually speeches, interviews, and conversations, and they may be captured in videos, audio recordings, or transcribed into text.
  • What people write. 
    These include autobiographies, memoirs, personal journals and diaries, letters, emails, blogs, twitter feeds and other forms of social media.
  • Images and Videos.
  • Maps.
  • Government documents--U.S. and rest of the world.
  • Laws, court cases and decisions, treaties.
  • Newspapers.

Quantitative data:

  • Statistics and data.
  • Polls and public opinions.

Please note that a book is simply a format.  You can find both primary and secondary sources published in book form. 

Secondary sources are interpretations and analyses based on primary sources.

For example, an autobiography is a primary source while a biography is a secondary source.

Often secondary and primary sources are relative concepts.  Typical secondary sources may be primary sources depending on the research topic.

  1. Intellectual history topics.
    For example, although scholarly journal articles are usually considered secondary sources, if one's topic is the history of human rights, then journal articles on human rights will be primary sources in this instance.  Similarly, research on the thinking of a scholar will include her published journal articles as primary sources.
  2. Historical topics.
    Magazine articles are secondary sources, but for someone researching the view of judicial punishment in the 1920s, magazines from that time period are primary sources.  Indeed, any older publication, such as those prior to the 20th century, is very often automatically considered a primary source.
  3. Newspapers may be either primary or secondary.
    Most articles in newspapers are secondary, but reporters may be considered as witnesses to an event.  Any topic on the media coverage of an event or phenomenon would treat newspapers as a primary source.  There are so many articles and types of articles in newspapers that newspapers can often be considered either primary or secondary.

Special thanks to the American University library for this set of guidelines. For more, please visit

How to cite primary sources