Thomas Gilcrease is known as having been a collector of Americana at a time when few others were interested in materials relating to the history of the Western Hemisphere. The archive and library collection — which contains manuscripts, books, photographs, maps, imprints, and broadsides — expanded to include nearly 100,000 items.
Extensive travel to European museums and libraries during the 1920s and 1930s seems to have prompted Gilcrease’s aspiration to create his own collection. Pride in his Native American heritage and interest in the history of the American West provided a focus for collecting activities. But the items chosen for inclusion in the library also demonstrate Gilcrease’s belief that the history of America was not confined within the boundaries of the continental United States.
Gilcrease’s library collection grew rapidly. While building it, he was not assisted by full-time advisors but would seek out single works as well as purchasing large groups of books or documents from dealers and other collectors.