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Know-Nothings: Topics in Chronicling America

The Know-Nothing Party was a prominent United States political party during the late 1840s and the early 1850s. This guide provides access to materials related to the “Know-Nothings” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


"Origin of the Term 'Know-Nothings.'" September 20, 1855. The Star of the North (Bloomsburg, PA), Image 2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Officially the National American Party, the Know-Nothings enjoyed a quick but brief rise in fame in the 1850s. While firmly against Catholics and foreigners, the Know-Nothings, like the rest of the country in the pre-Civil War Days, would divide over the issue of slavery. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


Early 1854 The Know-Nothings gain attention after several successful elections of members to office .
February 22 - 25, 1856 At the National American Party's Philadelphia Convention, Millard Fillmore is elected the Know-Nothing presidential candidate, but the Know-Nothings divide into two groups over abolition.
November 4, 1856 Fillmore loses the presidential election and the Know Nothing Party begins its decline in membership.