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The Best Of Wisconsin’s Documentary History Collections

Wisconsin Historical Documents

From newspaper archives to public records, discover what Wisconsin has archived about its past with our online collection of records.

This page has links to free documents and online document collections related to Wisconsin history, including:

Wisconsin State Constitutions,
a collection of pioneer memoirs, explorers’ narratives, & other eyewitness accounts,
a “primary source set” for teachers, with maps, images, newspapers, sheet music, etc.,
a collection of books, manuscripts, sound recordings, photos and maps,
documents from the State Govt from 1852-1914,
diaries, letters, and other writings on the experiences of pioneers,
newspaper articles for local history and biographies,
hundreds of eyewitness historical accounts, arranged by theme,
U.S. Govt papers for Wisconsin prior to Statehood,
aids to Wisconsin genealogy,
past inventories of archives and of the Wisconsin State Library.

Wisconsin Document Collections

Wisconsin Historical Collections 1855-1915

Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society

The Wisconsin Historical Collections are 20 volumes of pioneer memoirs, archival records, original journals, explorers’ narratives, interviews, and other eyewitness accounts of Wisconsin’s past gathered between 1855-1915. The volumes contain 1,000 articles printed on more than 11,000 pages, often accompanied by illustrations or maps. They are the single most comprehensive record of life in Wisconsin during the colonial era.
Within the collection are copies of more than 600 original handwritten documents not only from the Society’s holdings, but also from archives in Washington D.C., New York, Montreal, and Paris. They take up almost 3,000 pages in volumes 16-20. They are arranged in chronological order and annotated with explanatory notes. Foreign documents have been translated into English.

Wisconsin Primary Source Set

Library of Congress TPS-Barat

Digitized primary sources that includes images, maps, sheet music, books and articles, newspapers, more. TPS-Barat: The Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) program works with an educational consortium of schools, universities, libraries, and foundations. The mission of the Primary Source Nexus is to serve as an online community support resource for the TPS-Barat program.

State of Wisconsin Collection

Madison: University of Wisconsin Digital Collections

The State of Wisconsin Collection brings together, in digital form, two categories of primary and secondary materials: writings about the State of Wisconsin and unique or valuable materials that relate to its history and ongoing development.
The collection includes published material as well as archival materials. The materials were digitized from a variety of formats including books, manuscripts, sound recordings, photographs, maps and other resources deemed important to the study and teaching of the State of Wisconsin.
– Summary from Website

See our free free old magazines download collection

Public Documents of the State of Wisconsin

Madison: University of Wisconsin Digital Collections

This collection, commonly known as Wisconsin Public Documents (WPD), consists of the annual and biennial reports of all important Wisconsin state agencies from 1852 through 1914. WPD is by far the most important collection of documents issued by the state of Wisconsin during this time period. In addition to the annual and biennial reports of various state officers, departments and institutions, WPD is a source for Wisconsin statistical tables, financial charts, vintage photographs, supplementary documents, maps, other graphics and research monographs on specific topics. Virtually all aspects of the social sciences in Wisconsin during the 1852-1914 timeframe are represented in this collection of 118 volumes.
– Summary from Website

Wisconsin Pioneer Experience

Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society

The Wisconsin Pioneer Experience is a digital collection of diaries, letters, reminiscences, speeches, and other writings of the people who settled in Wisconsin in the 19th century. The historic papers were drawn from the collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Area Research Centers around the state, providing a vivid portrait of life in the early days of white settlement in Wisconsin.
– Summary from the site.

Wisconsin Local History and Biography Articles Collection

Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society

The Wisconsin Local History and Biographical Articles (WLHBA) Collection contains 16,000 historical newspaper articles on notable Wisconsin people and communities. The entire collection is available digitally and displays the actual clipping which is downloadable. Most articles were published 1860-1940.
– Summary from site.

See the list of resources on this website for: Genealogy & Local History Research

Turning Points in Wisconsin History

Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society

Hundreds of eyewitness accounts, divided into 10 themes. Five of the themes contain material prior to the Civil War; Early Native Peoples, Early Explorers, Traders & Settlers, Territory to Statehood, Immigration & Settlement, Mining, Lumber & Agriculture.
– Summary

The Territorial Papers of the United States

Carter, Clarence Edwin and Bloom, John Porter, eds.
Washington: National Archives 1934 – 1975

Volumes for the Great Lakes region are:

Vol 1. General
Vol 2. The Territory Northwest of the River Ohio, 1787-1803
Vol 3. The Territory Northwest of the River Ohio, 1787-1803 continued
Vol 7. The Territory of Indiana 1800-1810
Vol 8. The Territory of Indiana 1810-1816
Vol 10. The Territory of Michigan 1805-1820
Vol 11. The Territory of Michigan 1820-1829
Vol 12. The Territory of Michigan 1829-1837
Vol 16. The Territory of Illinois 1809-1814
Vol 17. The Territory of Illinois 1814-1818
Vol 27. The Territory of Wisconsin, Executive Journal, 1836-1848; Papers, 1836-1839
Vol 28. The Territory of Wisconsin 1839-1848

Mills and Boon free online reads here at Century Past

Aids to Genealogy in Wisconsin

Daughters of the American Revolution, comp.
Racine: Wisconsin DAR 1960

Catalogue of the Wisconsin State Library 1881

State Librarian, prepared
Madison: State of Wisconsin 1881

Inventory of the County Archives of Wisconsin

Wisconsin Historical Records Survey Project, Works Projects Administration
Madison: Wisconsin Historical Records Survey Project 1937-42

Teams were created in most counties for this WPA project, but not all of them finished their work. The 23 completed county inventories for Wisconsin are found at this link.

Find out what makes a good historian here at Century Past

Inventory of the State Archives of Wisconsin

Wisconsin Historical Records Survey
Madison: Wisconsin Historical Records Survey 1942

Some Historic Wisconsin Documents

“Approved Constitution of 1848” (for the State of Wisconsin)

Wisconsin History Turning Points

Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society

See the note under “Rejected Wisconsin State Constitution of 1846”, on this web page.

See the Menu at the top of every page for Directories of Free Online Fiction and NonFiction Books, Magazines, and more, on 400 pages like this at Century Past

“Rejected Wisconsin State Constitution of 1846”

Wisconsin History Turning Points

Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society

(This original manuscript is hand-written, but not difficult to read).
After months of debate, the 1846 constitutional convention produced this document. It was controversial from the start and provoked widespread debate and condemnation, chiefly for provisions that would have given women the right to own property, African-Americans and immigrants the right to vote, and for another that would have prohibited privately owned banks. After it was rejected by voters (all of them white males, by definition, and including a strong pro-banking constituency in the lakeshore counties of eastern Wisconsin), a second constitutional convention was called in 1847. This produced a new, less controversial, draft that was finally ratified by voters and led to Wisconsin’s admittance as a state in 1848.
– Summary from Wisconsin Historical Society site

“Map of Milwaukee made for M.L. Martin and Solomon Juneau, with their signatures”

Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society

Pen-and-ink on paper. Title supplied by cataloger. Shows riverside property west of the Milwaukee River. Inscribed by several early Milwaukee settlers, including Henry W. Cleveland, Cyrus Leland, Onslow Peters, Samuel H. Graves, Solomon Juneau, and Morgan L. Martin. Includes inscriptions and signatures by the justice of the peace and a notary public for Milwaukee County.

Find newspaper archives online free here at Century Past

“Fort Winnebago, Wisconsin”

Created by Davis, Jefferson 1830
Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society

This is a reproduction of a plan of Fort Winnebago at the Fox-Wisconsin portage, drawn by Lieutenant Jefferson Davis, later President of the Confederate States of America, who was stationed in Wisconsin between 1829 and 1833. Davis assisted in the building of the fort.
– Summary from Wisconsin Historical Society site.

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