Many students come to the library seeking help in finding this older material, and we're always glad when they do because it can be very difficult to find. Although it doesn't have to be so hard - and I'd like to share with you my tips for finding older material. (Click here for a pdf document that explains Primary Sources)
One of the best resources we have is The New York Times going back to the 1850s in microfilm. This is one of our oldest resources, and we can combine the old technology of microfilm with the new technology of the Internet to use this source effectively by searching for articles at the New York Times Archives website. When you do this you'll get lists of articles based on your key words and years, and many of these have a small preview of the article - but BEWARE - they want you to pay for the article, but don't do that! Instead, write down all the information (date, page, title..) and bring it in to the library, where we can get the microfilm for you and you can print it up for only 10 cents per page.
You can employ this same technology with the Atlantic Monthly's archives website. We have the actual copies of The Atlantic Monthly from 1857 just sitting on our shelves so you can read the article for free after locating it on the website.
JSTOR,(click on jstor after following the link) one of the many databases we subscribe to at Roosevelt houses a lot of old information. JSTOR tends to have more science information than anything else, but they do house material from a wide variety of disciplines as well. (Click here for a pdf guide to JSTOR)
Another good option for older material is to find out if a city or town relevant to your search has a digital archives online, if their newspaper has online access to old articles, or if the public library or a historical society in the area has any online content. Many of these places are putting more and more content online, which is great for you but do be careful to check what website you're getting this from to be sure that the information is reliable. And, as always - ask a librarian when you're perplexed.
These are just a few ways of finding older material, for more comprehensive information on how to research using older sources, please see this post.
Do you have a question for Ms. Information? Ms. Information welcomes your questions about research, libraries, and how to find all kinds of information. Submit your question to mhaller [at] roosevelt [dot] edu.