Many publications and manuscripts in the National Library of Scotland's collections demonstrate the strong links between American history and Scotland.
Containing over 300 years of material, our collection includes personal accounts and correspondence and documents on military, business, and intellectual matters.
Places and presidents
Many place names in the United States are the same as Scottish villages, towns and cities, as Scots named their new homeland after the places they left behind. This includes places throughout the USA named Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and even Scotland.
Of the 45 Presidents of the United States, 34 have Scottish ancestry including Washington, Roosevelt, Trump and Clinton.
Great numbers of Scots crossed the Atlantic to find fame and fortune. Opportunities lay in the vast landscapes and rapidly expanding industrial horizons of the United States.
Among the people who feature in our United States collections, many have connections with Scotland, including:
Alexander Graham Bell
Born in Edinburgh in 1847, Alexander Graham Bell left Scotland for North America aged 23. He lived in Canada and the USA for the rest of his life.
Most famous for his invention of the telephone, Bell was an inventor with lots of interests and ideas. These included aircraft, alternative energy, metal detectors and medical research.
Our collections include works written by Alexander Graham Bell in his lifetime, along with books about his life and work.
You can also visit the Scottish Science hall of fame for more information about Bell, his career and the other 'top 10' Scottish scientists.
Andrew Carnegie was born in Dunfermline in 1835, and moved to the United States in 1848. Starting work as a telegraph messenger at 15, Carnegie quickly progressed to investment in the early railroad and steel industries.
Carnegie invested his wealth in philanthropic projects and charitable organisations. Many of these institutions still bear his name today, including libraries, museums, educational institutes, research and more worldwide causes.
Along with biographies and accounts of his legacy, we possess publications written by Carnegie, including:
- Accounts of his travels around the world
- Accounts of his return to Britain and tour of his childhood home of Dunfermline
- Philosophical writings on employment and democracy
- Collected speeches and writings, such as the proceedings of a meeting in memory of Carnegie.
In the Library's collections you will also find some of Carnegie's manuscript correspondence with fellow Scots, including letters to Lord Rosebery, Sir Patrick Geddes, and Lord Richard Burton Haldane. Carnegie's letters to the Haldane family can be found in the Haldane papers [Shelfmark: MSS.5901-6109].
John Muir was originally born in Dunbar, East Lothian, and moved to Wisconsin with his family in 1849 at 11 years old.
The preservation of the United States' wilderness was Muir's lifelong passion, particularly California's Sequoia and Yosemite national parks. He immersed himself in nature, living alone in self-constructed log cabins for years while he observed the countryside around him.
Well-represented in our collections, Muir's writings and activism helped to preserve the wilds of the United States. He co-founded the Sierra Club which established many national parks.
Several landmarks are named after John Muir in the USA and Scotland, including glaciers, trails, mountains and forests.
Born in Glasgow in 1819, Allan Pinkerton moved to the United States in 1842. He became an internationally-famous private detective — he founded one of the world's oldest and largest private detective agencies.
Pinkerton's influence is still seen today: the term 'private eye' comes from Pinkerton's agency logo, and Pinkerton was involved in the development of the modern United States Secret Service.
We have books written by Pinkerton, along with volumes about his life and legacy, including:
- Pinkerton's own account of how he foiled an assassination attempt on Abraham Lincoln in 1861
- Novels by Pinkerton
- Biographies and historical accounts of Pinkerton and his detective agency
- Novels starring Pinkerton as a character.
Search our main catalogue for specific items or people you're looking for, or browse by subject to discover new material. Contact the Library's Manuscripts department for enquiries relating to manuscript items.