Culture in Wisconsin History – Writers – Folklore – Wisconsin Education – Architecture

Cultural topics in Wisconsin history. Free online works on Public Schools, Higher Ed, Rural Clubs, Folklore, Circus, Art, Writing, Architecture, Literature

Find the Directory for 90+ pages in this collection at History of the Great Lakes States.

Educational Documents: “Inauguration of the Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin: Address” …

Report of the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin”, “Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction

Milwaukee: Sentinel 1850

This volume is a collection of documents related to the formation of the University of Wisconsin and the public school system shortly after Wisconsin became a State in 1848. These documents report on progress of the University and school system, and lay out visions for the future of education in Wisconsin

The Superintendent’s report also included a brief description of what had been achieved thus far, and then an extensive portion of the report was devoted to proposals for improving the education system. He included with his own proposals a number of letters from educators in New England and New York, including Horace Mann, and also a proposed system of teacher training from the new UW Chancellor.

“The Normal School of the United States Turnerbund at Milwaukee”

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper Feb 6, 1886, page 412

New York: Frank Leslie

” The turnverein movement (“turnverein” means athletic club) was brought to the United States by German immigrants who were ardent practitioners of gymnastics. The American Turnerbund was formed in 1850 and espoused a variety of controversial issues such as abolition and socialism. Later, in 1880, the federation made introducing physical education in all American schools their primary goal. That same year, George Brosius, director of the normal department of the German American Turnerbund, led a team from Milwaukee to an international competition in Frankfurt am Main, where the Milwaukee team claimed several prizes. This article describes the history of turnerbund in Milwaukee.”
– Wisconsin Historical Society

The Status of Teachers in Wisconsin

Anderson, Charles Joseph
Madison: Department of Public Instruction 1923?

This describes teacher preparation throughout the state, with separate sections on rural schools, elementary and high school teachers, and the various institutions and programs that contribute to teacher training. Teacher salaries are also covered.

Also see our collections of Popular Cultural History Articles: Clothes – Food – Recreation and Cultural History Articles – Literature, Music & Fine Arts

Barns Of Wisconsin

Apps, Jerry and Strang, Allen
Tamarack 1977       

The barn is a rich reminder of Wisconsin’s agricultural past. In this revised edition of an award-winning work, author Jerry Apps provides an informative and moving account of barns across the state. Featured are pencil sketches and stunning watercolors of artist Allen Strang.

Contents: Born of the land: barns and people — Settlers? structures: pioneer and ethnic barns — Popular barn styles: bank barns and variations — An alternative form: round and polygonal barns — Forms against the sky: barn roofs — Stones, sawdust, and sweat: builders and building materials — With these hands: building the big timber-frame barns — Chust for pretty: barn decorations — Something special: unusual barns — Towers of ferment: silos — The heart of the farm: the farmstead — Vanishing landmarks: barn preservation.

See our book collection on Education of Girls & Women in the 19th Century U.S.

Rural Cultural Arts in Wisconsin

Barton, John R.
Madison: University of Wisconsin 1940

A 20-page booklet produced in 1940 by the Extension Service of the College of Agriculture at the University of Wisconsin. The focus was generally more on the present than on the past, but the chapter on Literature has some historical interest. Chapter headings and contents are:

-“Rural Literature – Native to the Soil”. Covers a number of American rural writers, not only from Wisconsin, and their novels, poetry and biographies.
-“Rural Art – Created by the People”. Describes an exhibition of Wisconsin rural farm art in 1940 and provides a catalogue of it.
-“Rural Drama – of Folks and Fields”. Covers a trend in the 1930s toward staging of plays in rural areas.
-“Folk Music – Many Voices in Unison”.
-“Social Recreation – Joy in the Common Life”.

Folklore Pamphlets, 1921-1945; Folklore and Folktales Collected by Charles E. Brown

Brown, Charles Edward
Madison: University of Wisconsin

Collection of 47 pamphlets published 1921-45. Brown was curator of the Museum of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and secretary of the Wisconsin Archaeological Society. He collected folklore on Wisconsin Indians, lumbering, steam-boating, local history and related topics, which he published in pamphlets. Some of the titles are:

Lake Mendota Indian Legends, Indian Flower Toys and Games, Paul Bunyan Tales, Flapjacks from Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty, Ole Olson, The Ridgeway Ghost, Whiskey Jack Yarns, Bluenose Brainerd Stories, French Pathfinders of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Circus Lore 1850-1908

Stories of the Big Top, Sawdust Ring, Menagerie, and Sideshows

Brown, Dorothy Moulding

“Collected in the former Circus Towns of Delavan, Evansville, Janesville, Whitewater, Watertown, and Baraboo. Showmen, Equestrians, Aerialists, Acrobats, Clowns, and Freaks, Elephants, Horses, Monkeys, Bears, and “Cats”

Books and articles about everyday life, women, ethnic groups, social issues etc. at Topics in the social history of Wisconsin

Historical Sketches of the Colleges of Wisconsin; Prepared for the National Centennial Exposition for 1876

Madison: Atwood & Culver 1876

Chapin, Aaron L.

This volume contains 30-page histories for Beloit College, Racine College, and Milton College, and much shorter chapters for Lawrence University and Ripon College.

Wisconsin Christmas Anthology

Engels, Terry R.
Partridge 1990       

Mostly this consists of stories and personal accounts of Christmases in Wisconsin through history, with some recipes in the back.

Rural Clubs in Wisconsin

Galpin, C. J. and Sawtelle, D. W.
Madison: Agricultural Experiment Station of the University of Wisconsin 1916

A bulletin from UW’s Agricultural Experiment Station intended to promote rural clubs as well as report on them. Four types of existing rural clubs are covered here, with examples from around the state: farmers’ family clubs, farm men’s clubs, farm women’s clubs, and young folks’ clubs.

See our collection of Etiquette Guides and Advice

Wisconsin Lore

Gard, Robert E. and Sorden, L.G.
Stanton & Lee 1980       

First published in 1962, this is a volume of folklore collected by the authors when they world for the Federal Writers Project and the Regional Writers Association.
“Here is a great harvest of ghost stories, Indian legends, lumberjack lore, circus yarns, home remedies, proverbs and homilies and just “plain talk, in a book that has been hailed as “one of the largest and -liveliest collections of folklore in years. ” Learn how towns got their names, what lumber camp life and humor were like, how farmers scared each other with ghost hoaxes and where the “kissing bug” began. Famous characters appear throughout the book: Paul Bunyan, the legendary lumberman; Gene Shepard, Wisconsin’s greatest practical joker and the “Fighting Finches,” the most masterful horse-stealers in America.” – Book cover

Collected Newspapers and journals in historic Wisconsin

“Early Day Architects in Milwaukee”

The Wisconsin Magazine of History Volume 10, number 1, September 1926 pp 17-28

Guth, Alexander Carl
Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin

The author was a Milwaukee architect, in later years, serving as Secretary of the Wisconsin chapter of the American Institute of Architects. In this article he describes his research in tracking down the identity of the architects of early Milwaukee buildings, and describes some of those buildings and design achievements.

Also see:
– Baas, Christopher, “Concrete in the Steel City: Constructing Thomas Edison’s House for the Working Man” in Indiana Cultural History
Cameron, William, The World’s Fair, Being a Pictorial History of the Columbian Exposition in Illinois Cultural History;
O’Donnell, Thomas Edward, “An Outline of the History of Architecture in Illinois” in Illinois Cultural History;
O’Donnell, Thomas E., compiled, “Recording the Early Architecture of Illinois in the Historic American Buildings Survey” in Illinois Cultural History;
Varney, Almon C., Our Homes and their Adornments, or, How to Build, Finish, Furnish, and Adorn a Home in Michigan Cultural History

One Hundred Years of Wisconsin Authorship; 1836-1936. A Contribution to a Bibliography of Books by Wisconsin Authors (Part 1)

Hazeltine, Mary Emogene
Madison: Wisconsin Library Association 1937

This directory of Wisconsin’s published authors of fiction and non-fiction is organized by category of subject matter of the books. 903 Wisconsin authors during the 100-years to 1936 are included. Omitted are “… authors of erudite treatises, manuals, textbooks, and similar publications.” Bibliographic information for their books and brief biographical entries for the authors are included, and there are cross references to other publications with more extensive information on the books or authors.

The Founding of Public Education in Wisconsin

Jorgenson, Lloyd P.
Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin 1956

A history of public education since frontier days.

Instant Replay: the Green Bay diary of Jerry Kramer

Kramer, Jerry

Professional football player Jerry Kramer narrates the transformation of his team, the Green Bay Packers, into league champion.

Run to Daylight

Lombardi, Vince
Grosset & Dunlap 1967

Memoir of legendary football coach Vince Lombardi’s years with the Green Bay Packers.

Books and articles about work, medical care, business & industry, etc. at Wisconsin Economic History

Early Printing in Milwaukee

McMurtrie, Douglas C.
Milwaukee: Wisconsin Cuneo 1930

This small book contains an account of the early printers and newspapers in Milwaukee from 1836 to about 1850, as well as what appears to be a complete list of all books printed by those printers during that that time period.

For online collections of historical Wisconsin newspapers, see: Wisconsin History Periodicals: Magazines, Historical Journals & Newspapers
For online collections of historical newspapers from throughout the U.S., see: Section 071.1 United States in Newspapers: Free Online Collections

Guide to Wisconsin Newspapers 1833-1957

Oehlerts, Donald E.
Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin 1958

The Introduction of this 300-page volume is a short history of the newspaper industry in Wisconsin. The remainder of the book is organized by counties, with every known newspaper listed, including beginning and ending days of operation, name changes, editors, and archives or libraries where copies were held at the time this directory was published. The author mentioned that the State Historical Society in Madison had the most extensive collection of newspapers in the state. Many of these were on microfilm.

For online collections of historical Wisconsin newspapers, see: Wisconsin History Periodicals: Magazines, Historical Journals & Newspapers

Public Education in Wisconsin

Patzer, Conrad E.
Madison 1924

The author was a Supervisor of Practice Teaching at the Milwaukee State Normal School. He had been a teacher and school administrator for many years prior to holding that position, and spent a year in Europe studying their school systems.

This volume is in three parts. Part 1 is a history of public education in Wisconsin, from elementary level to University. Part 2 is the author’s proposal for reorganizing the public school system. Part 3 consists of summaries of educational laws from 1836 to the time of publication.

Historic Wisconsin Architecture

Perrin, Richard W. E.
Wisconsin Society of Architects 1976       

A small guidebook, with capsule profiles of a number of historic buildings in each region of the state.

Historic Wisconsin Buildings: A Survey in Pioneer Architecture 1835-1870

Perrin, Richard W. E.
Milwaukee Public Museum 1981       

The author, an architect and preservationist for the Milwaukee Public Museum, considered that Wisconsin’s pioneer architecture could best be described by principal building material and structural concept. The book describes buildings first mainly of wood, then of brick, and then of stone. The text is accompanied with numerous photos of existing historic buildings.


Pyre, James Francis Augustin
NY: Oxford Univ. 1920

A history of the University of Wisconsin.

Please visit our collection of 2,000+ selected online magazine and newspaper articles on 40 subjects, plus online map & vintage photo collections, at Century Past History Resources

Famous Wisconsin Authors

Roberts, James P.
Badger 2002

Profiled are: Zona Gale, Aldo Leopold, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Sterling North, Edna Ferber, August Derleth, Black Hawk, Crashing Thunder, Mountain Wolf Woman, Robert Bloch, Hamlin Garland, Clifford Simak, George Wilbur Peck, George Vukelich, John Muir, Margery Latimer, William Ellery Leonard, Marya Zaturenska, Horace Gregory, Glenway Wescott, Robert E. Gard, T.V. Olsen, Thornton Wilder, Warren Beck, Lorine Niedecker, Edna Meudt, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Peter Straub, Jane Hamilton, Ben Logan, Lorrie Moore, William F. Steuber, Kelly Cherry, Norbert Blei, Jacquelyn Mitchard.

Wisconsin in Story and Song; Selections from the Prose and Poetry of Badger State Writers

Rounds, Charles Ralph, and Hippensteel, Henry Sherman, eds.
Madison: Parker Educational 1916

Excerpts from the following ‘General Wisconsin Writers’ were included here: Hamlin Garland, General Charles King, John Muir, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Ray Stannard Baker, Zona Gale, Eben Eugene Rexford, Carl Schurz, Honore Willsie, Edna Ferber, George L. Teeple, George Byron Merrick, Hattie Tyng Griswold, Albert H. Sanford, Charles D. Stewart, Elliott Flower, Jenkin Lloyd Jones, Everett McNeill. There are also more excerpts from people the author terms ‘The University Group’, ‘Writers of Local Distinction’ and ‘Wisconsin Humorists’.

See also: Books about 19th Century American Women Authors

Subject Bibliography of Wisconsin History

Schlinkert, Leroy, comp.
Madison: State Historical Society 1947

A 200-page directory for teachers, amateur historians and scholars of selected publications of importance on major subjects.

Guide for Home Economics in Wisconsin Schools

State Dept of Public Instruction
Madison: State Dept of Public Instruction 1956

This paper provides recommended basic themes and topics for Home Economics education for each grade from 7 to 12.

The Columbian History of Education in Wisconsin

Stearns, J. W., ed.
Milwaukee: State Committee on Educational Exhibit 1893

This 700-page volume was assembled for the 1893 Columbian Exhibition. It contains a 70-page ‘General Sketch of the History of Education in Wisconsin’, followed by short sketches of each college, normal school, and institutions for the handicapped. There is a section on ‘Special Forms and Agencies of Education’ that includes such organizations as the Wisconsin Farmers’ Institutes, City Libraries, and the Milwaukee Public Museum. There are chapters on a number of the city and county public school systems, and on Lutheran and Catholic school systems. Also there is a chapter on the Milwaukee College for Women.

Some mid-19th Century school textbooks are at: Great Lakes Region Cultural History: Education, the Arts

The Journey Home: The Literature of Wisconsin Through Four Centuries, Vol 1

Volume 3

Stephens, Jim
North Country 1989       

A 3-volume set. Volume 2 was not found online. The editor has selected and annotated the works of 74 writers in compiling this anthology. He provides an introduction to each of the 7 sections and to each of the chroniclers, story tellers and poets whose works are represented. Volume 3 mostly consists of poetry.
Vol 1: Part 1. Anish’nabe (Ojibwa) – Mesquakie (Fox & Sac) – Menominee – Kikapo – Otchangara (Winnebago) – Neshnabe (Potawatami) – Munsee.
Vol 1: Part 2: Nicolas Perrot – Claude Dablon – Louis Hennepin – Jonathan Carver.
Vol 1: Part 3: Makatay Mishi Kiakiak (Black Sparrow Hawk) – William Pidgeon – Elbert Smith – Juliette Kinzie – Increase Lapham – Bernard Isaac Durward – John Muir.
Vol 3: Part 6: Viola Wendt – Felix Pollak – Mel Ellis – Chad Walsh – Herbert Kubly – Ray Smith – R. E. Sebenthall – Gerti Sennett – Ben Logan – John Bennett – Mary Shumway – George Vukelich – Bink Noll – John Judson.
Vol 3: Part 7: James Hazard – Dennis Trudell – Peg Lauber – Jim Stephens – Thomas Bontly – Dough Flaherty – David Steingass – J. D. Whetney – Susan Engberg – Norbert Blei – Sara Rath – Warren Woessner – Kenna del Sol – Margaret Benbow – Tony Hozeny – Antler – Justin Isherwood – Ingrid Swanberg – Tom Montag – Roberta Hill Whiteman – Susan Firer – Christina Zawadiwsky

Please visit our Century Past Free Online Library, with thousands of books to read online or download

Historic Milwaukee Public Schoolhouses

Tanzilo, Robert
History Press 2012       

A non-technical architectural tour of a number of Milwaukee schools, with accompanying photos.

Bibliography of Wisconsin Authors; being a list of books and other publications…

written by Wisconsin authors, in the library of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin

Thwaites, Reuben Gold and others, comp.
Madison: State Historical Society 1893

Arranged in alphabetical order of authors’ names, this bibliography includes books, pamphlets, articles in magazines, papers in published transactions of learned and industrial bodies, and contributions to collected works, whether or not they are in the library of the State Historical Society. It does not include contributions to news journals or newspapers.

The University of Wisconsin : Its History and its Alumni, with historical and descriptive sketches of Madison

Thwaites, Reuben Gold
Madison: Purcell 1900

This volume begins with a short history of Madison, followed by a history of the University of over 100 pages, both authored by Reuben Thwaites of the Historical Society. Next are a number of articles on the various colleges and schools within the University, and then articles about affiliated organizations. Following that are biographies; first of regents, then of faculty and staff, then of alumni.

Wisconsin Lighthouses: A Photographic and Historical Guide

Wardius, Ken and Barb
Prairie Oak 2000       

Profiles and photos of about 45 lighthouses.

“Early History of Education in Wisconsin and History of School Supervision in Wisconsin”

Wisconsin Historical Collections Vol 5 (1868) pp 321-68

Whitford, W. C.
Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society

The paper is divided into three sections; focusing on the French missionaries amongst the Indian tribes, the discovery and working of the lead mines, and the western settlement fever that hit after the Black Hawk War. Wisconsin’s first white families, mostly French Canadian, educated their children at home; early schools were mission schools intended to civilize and Christianize Indians. The idea of more established educational institutions came with settlers from the eastern U.S, and as a result, starting in 1837, bills were introduced to create a public school system. The establishment of a free school system, state universities, colleges, and other types of schools in the 19th century are also described.
– Summary from Wisconsin Historical Society site.

Craftsmen of Wisconsin

Whyte, Bertha Kitchell
Western 1971       

Contents: Master Cabinet Maker, John Gaar – Rosemaler, Per Lysne of Stoughton – Maker of Bowls, Harry Nohr – Instrument Craftsman, E. F. Klinger – Ship Model Craftsmen – Wesley W. Jung and his Carriage Collection – Ornamental Wrought Iron Worker, Cyril Colnk – Stained and Faceted Glass Craftsmen – Master Carpenter, William Te Ronde

Facts About Education in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Congress of Parents and Teachers
Madison 1941

This handbook for citizens describes all types of schools in the state, including specialty schools for the handicapped, covers the training and certification of teachers, library services, school finance, teachers’ retirement, and administration of education.

Over 100 magazines online, from the early 1800s to today, at Read Old Magazines Online

Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters

Vol 1- 89, 1870- 2001
Madison: Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters

The Academy was chartered by the state legislature in 1870 with the mission of gathering, sharing, and acting upon knowledge in the sciences, arts and letters for the benefit of the people of Wisconsin. Transactions was issued irregularly in the early decades, with the first 10 volumes appearing over 25 years. A few of the many articles that appeared in Vol 2 (1873-1874) include:

– The philosophy of evolution – The effect of duties on imports upon the value of gold – Natural history as a branch of elementary education – On the relation of the sandstone, conglomerates and limestone of the Baraboo valley to each other and to the azoic quartzites – Requisites to a reform of the civil service – Some of the peculiarities of the fauna near Racine – On the Wisconsin River improvement – The etymology of “church” – History of the science of hydraulics – The rural classes of England in the thirteenth century

Notable Authors of Wisconsin – Website

Wisconsin Library Association
Wisconsin Library Association        

This “Sortable Table of Notable Authors” provides biographical profiles and introductions to the major works of a number of Wisconsin writers who have been recognized for their achievements since 1973. Click on the “Award Year” for a selected author to open the appropriate page.

Wisconsin Folklore

Wyman, Walker D.
University of Wisconsin-Extension 1979       

The author was a professor at the University of Wisconsin who taught a course on Wisconsin folklore, and collected this material over a period of many years.

Contents: Nature of Folklore – Lore of the Discovery and exploration era – Mythical creatures of Wisconsin – Place names in Wisconsin – Folk medicine – Weather lore – Water-witching – Wisconsin legendary heroes – Great legends, hoaxes, and other fun – Folklore of liquor and prohibition – Birth, death, and tombstone lore – Immigrant lore – Animal lore – Campus lore

You can find more works like these at our other ‘Cultural History’ pages.

Great Lakes Cultural History

Illinois Cultural History

Indiana Cultural History

Michigan Cultural History

Ohio Cultural History

Your comments and feedback are welcome!