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Wisconsin Social Topics – Free Books, Articles, and Collections

Wisconsin Social Topics - Free Books, Articles, and Collections

This Webpage has links to free books, articles, and collections of original documents, related to Social Topics in Wisconsin, Past & Present.  Topics and groups covered include:

Settlement by pioneers, frontier life, farm life, women’s pioneer experiences,
Early criminal groups,
Women’s philanthropic (charity) organizations,
Conditions for African Americans,
Immigrant ethnic groups, including Czechs, Danes, Cornish, Germans, Norwegians, Swedish, Belgians, Italians, Dutch, Swiss, Irish, Greeks, Jews, Icelanders,
Women’s suffrage movement,
Women’s working conditions,
Cooperative associations,
Stagecoach travel and stagecoach inns.

Turning Points in Wisconsin History: 19th Century Immigration

Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society

Online articles from historical journals and newspapers, books, manuscripts, and collections of stories on the theme of immigrant settlers in Wisconsin in the 19th century.

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

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 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.

“The Czechs in Wisconsin History”

Wisconsin Magazine of History Volume 53, No. 3, 1970, 194-203

Bicha, Karel D.
Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society

The Fighting Finches: Tales of Freebooters of the Pioneer Countryside in Rock and Jefferson Counties

Brown, Dorothy Moulding
Madison: Works Progress Administration, Federal Writers’ Project, Folklore Section, 1937

This little book is composed entirely of stories told to W.P.A. field workers as they collected Wisconsin folklore in the late 1930s. They heard many tales about a 19th-century family named Finch who rustled cattle and stole horses throughout Rock and Jefferson counties before the Civil War. The “Fighting Finches” terrorized south-central Wisconsin for three decades from their hideout in London swamp, just west of Lake Mills.
– Summary from Wisconsin Historical Society site

Centennial Records of the Women of Wisconsin

Butler, Anna B., Bascom, Emma C and Kerr, Katharine F, eds.
Madison: Atwood and Culver 1876

This is a collection of papers on a number of women’s philanthropies in Wisconsin. The first five papers, of over 40, are entitled: Taylor Orphan Asylum, Racine; Home for the Friendless, Milwaukee; Beloit Charities, Beloit; Wisconsin Institution for the Blind, Janesville; and Cadle Home, Green Bay.

Where can I read old newspapers online? Try our Newspapers page.

“Danish Settlement in Wisconsin”

The Wisconsin Magazine of History Volume 12, number 1, September 1928 pp 19-40

Christensen, Thomas P.
Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin

The author provides brief biographical information on a number of Danes who influenced Danish immigration to the U.S. and to Wisconsin. Danes began arriving in Wisconsin in the late 1830s. In the 1840s, Danes often settled first in Racine and later moved on to the western or northern parts of the state. This was partly due to the strong influence of the Lutheran minister at the Danish settlement at Muskego, Claus Laurits Clausen.

Stagecoach and Tavern Tales of the Old Northwest

Cole, Harry E.; edited by Louise P. Kellogg
Cleveland: Arthur H. Clark 1930

Cole was for a time the President of the Wisconsin Historical Society. For many years he collected stories of stagecoaches and taverns, mostly in Wisconsin, and visited many of the old taverns and the homes of pioneer tavern owners. This book contains a history of the early roads and stagecoach operations, but is mainly devoted to the taverns. Included are drawings and photos of a number of them.

Contents: -Expanding Days -The Old Military Road -Territorial Roads -Stagecoach Days -Travelers’ Experiences -The Log Tavern -Taverns of a Later Time -Noted Taverns and Taverners -Taverns in the Shadows -Tavern Names, Signs and Advertisements -Tavern Guests and Incidents -Accommodations at Early Taverns -Menus and manners -Pedlars and Prices -The Tavern as a Community Center -Gayety and Weddings in Taverns -Courts and Brawls in Taverns -Practical Joking at Tavern Gatherings -Conviviality at Taverns -Ghosts and Gaming in Taverns -Tavern Tragedies -Last Days of the Taverns

“The Cornish in Southwest Wisconsin”

Wisconsin Historical Collections Vol 14, 1898, 301- 334

Copeland, Louis Albert
Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society

“Memoirs of a Pioneer County Editor”

The Wisconsin Magazine of History Volume 11, number 3, March 1928 pp 247- 263

Cover, Joseph Carman
Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin

The author left Ohio for Potosi, Wisconsin in 1846 because his abolitionist views were so unpopular in Ohio that he feared for his life. The article describes his abolitionist and local political activities in Wisconsin.

Mills and Boon free online reads here at Century Past

“Negro Slavery in Wisconsin. An address delivered before the State Historical Society of Wisconsin December 8, 1892”

Davidson, John Nelson
Madison 1893

In this short address the author provides the details of several examples of slaves being held in early Wisconsin. In all of the cases mentioned, the slave-owners brought the slaves with them when they immigrated from southern states.

For books on the issue of slavery in Indiana and Illinois, see: Anti-Slavery before the Civil War

More than One Struggle: The Evolution of Black School Reform in Milwaukee

Dougherty, Jack
University of North Carolina 2004

How Wisconsin Came by its Large German Element

Everest, Kate Asaphine
Madison: State Historical Society 1892

The author found in the 1880 Wisconsin census that residents who were German-born or whose parents were both German-born made up 31 per cent of the state’s population (‘German-born’ includes the mid-19th century German states of Europe as well as German-speaking Austria and Switzerland). She also provides data about the numbers of immigrants during Wisconsin’s first decades of settlement.

One section of this paper is devoted to several movements in Germany and the U.S. to create a German state in the U.S. Another large part of the paper deals with the reasons that German immigrants chose Wisconsin as their destination.

A History of Norwegian Immigration to the United States, from the Earliest Beginning down to the Year 1848

Flom, George T., PhD
Iowa City: Flom 1909

This includes many early Norwegian communities in Wisconsin.

See our old magazines pdf collection

New Upsala, the First Swedish Settlement in Wisconsin

Forsbeck, Filip A.
Milwaukee: 1936

“The Movement of American Settlers into Wisconsin and Minnesota”

Iowa Journal of History and Politics Volume 17, No. 3, July 1919, 406-428

Goodwin, Cardinal
Iowa City: State Historical Society of Iowa

Negro Suffrage in Wisconsin

Gregory, John Goadby
Milwaukee: Transactions 1895

Danes in Wisconsin

Hale, Frederick
Wisconsin Historical Society 2005

Wisconsin’s Belgian Community

an account of the early events in the Belgian settlement in northeastern Wisconsin with particular reference to the Belgians in Door County

Holand, Hjalmar Rued
Door County Historical Society, 1933

Motherhood on the Wisconsin Frontier

Krueger, Lillian
Madison: State Historical Society 1951

“The Taverns and Stages of early Wisconsin”

Originally in the Proceedings of the State Historical Society 1914, pp 118-67

Lacher, J. H. A.
Madison: State Historical Society 1915

The Italians in Milwaukee, Wisconsin: General Survey

Prepared under the direction of the associated charities

La Plana, G.
Milwaukee: 1915

This 85-page booklet is divided into two parts:
1. “The Italian Colony in Milwaukee” is a social report containing information about work, housing, health, education, delinquency, etc.
2. “Public and Private Charities” covers how various organizations responded to the needs of the Italian community.

“Geographical Origin of German Immigration to Wisconsin”

Wisconsin Historical Collections Vol 14, 1898, 341-393

Levi, Kate Everest, PhD
Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society

See our True Crime Books Free PDF Download

“Documents: The Journey of an Immigrant Family from The Netherlands to Milwaukee in 1854”

Wisconsin Magazine of History Volume 29, No. 2, pages 201-223, December 1945

Lucas, Henry S., ed.
Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin

The Planting of the Swiss Colony at New Glarus, Wisconsin

Luchsinger, John
Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin 1892

The author reported that at the time of writing, virtually all of the 600 residents of the village of New Glarus and most of the residents of the township were themselves Swiss immigrants or children of Swiss immigrants, and they normally spoke Swiss German among themselves. He estimated there were about 8,000 Swiss in Green county, and the neighboring county of Dane also had a large Swiss element. He goes on to discuss economic conditions in Glarus, Switzerland in the 1840s, and tells the story of the creation of the colony in Green county that became New Glarus.

“The Belgians of Northeast Wisconsin”

Wisconsin Historical Collections Vol 13, 1895, 375-396

Martin, Xavier
Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society

Yarns of Wisconsin

McCoy, Sue, et al, eds.
Wisconsin Trails Tamarack 1978

Historical romance novels online free

“Cooperative Communities in Wisconsin”

Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the State Historical Society Vol 51, 1904, 99-117

McIntosh, Montgomery Eduard
Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin

The following cooperative communities are covered: The Wisconsin Phalanx (Fourierist), St. Nazianz (German Catholic), Hunt’s Colony (Owenite), The Utilitarian Association (English cooperative farm), Spring Farm Association.

Six Generations Here: A Farm Family Remembers

McLellan, Marjorie L.
State Historical Society of Wisconsin

Between Memory and Reality: Family and Community in Rural Wisconsin, 1870-1970

Peterson, Jane Marie
University of Wisconsin 1992

“The Dutch Settlements of Sheboygan County”

The Wisconsin Magazine of History Volume 1, number 3, March 1918 pp 256- 265

Rederus, Sipko F.
Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin

The author describes the difficult conditions in Holland in the 1830s and 1840s that led to increased emigration, and narrates the establishment and early history of several Dutch communities in Wisconsin, beginning in the 1840s.

“The Greeks of Milwaukee

Wisconsin Magazine of History Volume 53, No. 3, 1970, 175-193

Salutos, Theodore
Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society

The History of Jews of Milwaukee

Swichkow, Louis J.
Jewish Publication Society of America

“The Icelanders on Washington Island”

Wisconsin Historical Collections Vol 14, 1898, 335-340

White, Harry K.
Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society

Testimony of Working Women, 1914

Wisconsin Legislature. Committee on White Slave Traffic and Kindred Subjects
Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society

“In 1913, the Wisconsin Legislature established a committee to investigate the causes of prostitution and other vice in Wisconsin….” “In the 1914 testimony, working women from around the state answered questions at hearings held in Green Bay, La Crosse, Oshkosh, Sheboygan, and Superior. The women worked in a range of jobs from a factory worker at a paper mill, to a store clerk, a landlady and a telephone operator. Committee members asked the women questions about their wages, their working and living conditions, and why they chose to work in a given job, all in an effort to understand what “leads young girls astray” in the words of one investigator.”
– Wisconsin Historical Society, “Turning Points in Wisconsin History” website

Centennial Records of the Women of Wisconsin

Woman’s State Centennial Executive Committee
Madison: Atwood and Culver 1876

This consists of reports from philanthropic organizations around the state.

Turning Points in Wisconsin History: The Woman’s Suffrage Movement

Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society

Online articles, books and images from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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