History of Wisconsin – Free History Books – State of Wisconsin


Free online Wisconsin history books and articles, covering the 17th to the early 20th centuries. These are general or comprehensive histories covering a wide range of subjects. Histories of particular topics of Wisconsin history are found on more than a dozen subject webpages about Wisconsin history on this website.

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


Parkman Club Papers (Vols 1-10)

Milwaukee: Parkman Club 1896

Papers are:

Stickney, Gardner P., “Nicholas Perrot”
Campbell, Henry Colin, “Radisson and Groseilliers”
Legler, Henry E., “Chevalier Henry de Tonty”
Terry, Frank T., “The Aborigines of the Northwest”
Gregory, John G., “Jonathan Carver”
Davidson, Rev. John N., “Negro Slavery in Wisconsin”
Wight, William Ward, “Eleazer Williams”
McIntosh, Montgomery E., “Charles Langlade, First Settler of Wisconsin”
Bruncken, Ernest, “The Germans in Wisconsin Politics, Until the Rise of the Republican Party”
Miller, Frank H., “The Polanders in Wisconsin”

Parkman Club Papers (Vols 11-18)

Milwaukee: Parkman Club 1897

Papers are:

11. Campbell, Henry Colin, “Pere Rene Menard; The Predecessor of Allouez and Marquette in the Lake Superior Region”, page 1
12. Starkey, Dan B., “George Rogers Clark and his Illinois Campaign”, page 24
13. Stickney, Gardner P., “The Use of Maize by Wisconsin Indians”, page 62
14. Gregory, John Goadby, “The Land-Limitation Movement; A Wisconsin Episode of 1848-1851”, page 88
15 & 16. Legler, Henry E., “A Moses of the Mormons; Strang’s City of Refuge and Island Kingdom”, page 114
17. LaBoule, Joseph Stephen, “Claude Jean Allouez; “The Apostle of the Ottawas” and the Builder of the First Indian Missions in Wisconsin, page 180
18. Davidson, John Nelson, “Negro Slavery in Wisconsin and the Underground Railroad”, page 210

See our 10 webpages with hundreds of books on American history at American History Books

Also see our collections of articles at Articles on U.S. History until 1800 and Articles on 19th Century U.S. History

The Wisconsin Story: The Building of a Vanguard State

Austin, H. Russell
Milwaukee Journal 1948       

This was a Milwaukee Journal contribution to the celebration of Wisconsin’s centennial year of statehood. For two months the Journal ran the history as a daily serial, then expanded some sections and published the whole as this book. It has a companion book; ‘The Milwaukee Story’, also by H. Russell Austin, on the Wisconsin Local History page of this website.

French Pathfinders of Wisconsin: Explorers, Traders and Missionaries, French Regime, 1634-1763

Wisconsin Tercentenary

Brown, Charles E.
Madison: State Historical Museum 1934

A brief history of less than 10 pages.

First French Foot-prints Beyond the Lakes …

or, What brought the French so early into the Northwest?”

Butler, James D.
Madison: 1882

The author begins this article by briefly outlining a number of early French visits to the region of Wisconsin and Illinois from 1634 to 1684. He then poses this question and sums up in the answer the theme of the remainder of the article: “How shall we account for the phenomenon I have now sketched, that the French penetrated so far inland so early and so persistently? My answer to this question is implied in the words Fun, Faith, Fur, False Fancies, Finesse and Feudalism

Collection of Wisconsin Biographies & Memoirs

Wisconsin in Three Centuries, 1634-1905, Vol 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Volume 4

Narrative of Three Centuries in the making of an American Commonwealth, illustrated with numerous engravings of historic scenes and landmarks, portraits and facsimiles of rare prints, documents and old maps

Campbell, Henry Colin
NY: Century 1906

Volume One – Wisconsin as a Province
Volume 1 is a survey covering the period of the French regime in Wisconsin. According to the author, the Society had recently searched the French government archives and acquired copies of many important primary sources, with the result that “a complete narrative of that portion of our history is now possible for the first time.”

Contents:– The Indians of Wisconsin -Waterways to Wisconsin – Nicolet’s Discovery of the Northwest – Discovery of Lake Superior – First Missionary to Wisconsin – Wisconsin’s First Missions – France Takes Possession – Discovery of the Mississippi – To the Mouth of the Mississippi – Exploring Northwest Wisconsin – Exploring Beyond the Mississippi – France and the Fur Trade – A Titantic War with Indians – French and British in Conflict – Langlade and the End of the French Regime

Volume Two – Wisconsin as a Territory
Contents:– Pontiac and his Indian Rebellion – The Anglo-Saxon Wedge – British and American Fur Trade – The War of the Revolution – After the Revolution – The Ordinance of 1787 – The War of 1812 – The Early Territories – The Black Hawk War – Village Life in Early Days – Farm Life in Pioneer Days – Pioneer Anglo-Saxon Settlements – Boundaries of the State – Territorial Legislation

Volume Three – Wisconsin as a State
Contents:– In the First Year of Statehood – Tendencies Inherited from New England – From the Old World to the New – Black Spots on the Record – Factional Feuds and Political Passions – An Underground Railroad Episode – The Bursting of Utopian Bubbles – King Strang and his Voree Colony – At the Commencement of the Civil War – Organization of Volunteer Regiments – Loyal Support to the General Government – Wisconsin Regiments in the Eastern Campaigns – Wisconsin’s Regiments in the Armies of the West and Southwest – Wisconsin Regiments in the West and Southwest, continued – The Cavalry Volunteer Regiments and Light Artillery – Various Subjects of Interest

Volume Four – Wisconsin as a State
Contents:– Growth of the Cities – Industrial Expansion – Labor – In Peace and in War – Development of Transportation Facilities – Banks and Banking – Schools and other Educational Institutions – In the World of Letters, Science and Art – Northern Wisconsin’s Great Fires – The Booming of the Gogebic – During the War with Spain – Politics since the War

For works on the Old Northwest under the French regime (until about 1760), see: Great Lakes General History

For historic maps of the Great Lakes region and states, see:
Great Lakes Maps, Atlases & Map Collections
;
Ohio Maps, Atlases & Map Collections;
Indiana Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers;
Illinois Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers;
Michigan Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers;
Wisconsin Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers

Find 14 more subject pages of books and articles about Wisconsin at the History of the Great Lakes States Directory.

Hand Book of Wisconsin

Chapman, Silas
Milwaukee: Chapman 1855

“This pocket-sized book provides statistical and geographical information about Wisconsin in the 1850s, including topographical descriptions, a listing of natural resources, educational data, a discussion of available lands and instructions for filing land claims, information about un-surveyed lands, census figures, the economic activities of each county, and transportation routes. Advertisements from publishers, retailers, and members of the professions appear in the back pages.”
– Library of Congress American Memory website

The author wrote in the preface that the handbook was intended to be used with the map of Wisconsin that he published. We have the 1856 version of Chapman’s “Sectional Map of Wisconsin” on the Wisconsin History: Maps & Gazetteers page.

Books and articles on education, the arts, journalism, recreation and architecture are in Wisconsin Cultural History

Stalag Wisconsin: Inside WWII Prisoner of War Camps

Cowley, Betty
Badger 2002       

“A comprehensive look inside Wisconsin’s 38 branch camps that held 20,000 Nazi and Japanese prisoners of war during World War II. Many of these prisoners blended with the local community, drinking at taverns and even dating local girls. Some returned and settled in Wisconsin after their release. Their familiarity with local residents caused resentment by returning soldiers who had battled them in Europe and Asia.” -Publisher

In Unnamed Wisconsin; Studies in the History of the Region between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi

to which is appended a memoir of Mrs. Harriet Wood Wheeler

Davidson, J. N.
Milwaukee: Chapman 1895

Our Wisconsin; a School History of the Badger State

Doudna, Edgar George
Eau Claire, WI: Eau Claire Book 1920

“The book is Intended for use In the upper grades of the schools of the state, it being a law of Wisconsin that its history and government be taught in the common schools. It is as definite and as concrete as brevity permits. Beginning with Jean Nicolet, the first white man to set foot on Wisconsin soil in 1634, the book describes the Indians, the first settlers, the various nationalities that have made Wisconsin their home, its attitudes in national crises, its laws and industries, etc.”
– The Book Review Digest

The author wrote in the preface that this easy-to-read introductory history for students was based upon The Leading Events of Wisconsin History (1898) by Henry Legler [found on this web page]. He also drew heavily upon the publications of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Contents:-Wisconsin in 1634 – The Indians – The Coming of the White Men – The Strange Adventure of Radisson – Nicholas Perrot, Forest Ranger – The Wanderings of the Black Gowns -Joliet and Marquette – La Salle and his Companions – La Salle and the Mississippi – Famous Visitors – The War with the Fox Indians – Under the Flag of England – Charles Langlade – English Travelers in Wisconsin – Wisconsin in the Revolution – The Northwest Territory – Wisconsin in the War of 1812 – Life in the Early Settlements – From Fur Trading to Lead Mining – Red Bird and Black Hawk – The Territory of Wisconsin – The Thirteenth Star – From 1848 to 1860 – In the Civil War – The Melting Pot – Since the Civil War – In the World War – Wisconsin in Industry – Wisconsin in Literature – The Growth of the Public School

Collection of Documents & Records in Wisconsin History

The Early Outposts of Wisconsin: Green Bay for Two Hundred years, 1639-1839…

A paper read before the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, December 26, 1872

Durrie, Daniel S.
Madison: State Historical Society 1872

This paper provides brief summaries of all the French outposts, established by both missionaries and traders, at Green Bay until the end of the French regime. Also included are visits by explorers and other notable French Canadians enroute to other locations. It then does the same for British outposts and visits during the period of the British regime, which ended there in 1796, and continues in the same way into the period of American control up to 1839.

Wisconsin

Fitzpatrick, Edward A.
Milwaukee: Bruce 1928

A history of the state, intended for Wisconsin residents and teachers rather than for use by students.

The Romance Of Wisconsin Place Names

Gard, Robert E. and Sorden, L. G.
October House 1968       

“Educator and writer Robert E. Gard traveled across Wisconsin, learning the trivial, controversial, and landmark stories behind how cities, counties, and local places got their names. This volume records the fruits of Gard’s labors in an alphabetical listing of places from every corner of Wisconsin, and the stories behind their often-unusual names. Gard’s work provides an important snapshot of how Wisconsin residents of a bygone era came to understand the names of their towns and home places, many of which can no longer be found on any map.” -Publisher

History of Wisconsin under the Dominion of France

Hebberd, S. S.
Madison: Midland 1890

The author does not appear to have intended this to be a comprehensive or ‘stand-alone’ history of the French regime in Wisconsin. He instead assumes the reader already is familiar with conventional narratives of the period, and he proposes some revised interpretations. In the author’s Preface he states, “…in these pages I hope to show that the French struggle for supremacy over the continent was, to a large extent, decided by events that took place in Wisconsin. Here was the entering wedge of disaster and ruin. Here happened the real although obscure crisis in a great drama of which the Fall of Quebec was merely the closing scene. “

He also wrote in the Preface, “I have been compelled, in many different parts of this volume, to very decidedly dissent from the conclusions reached by that eloquent and indefatigable historian, [Francis] Parkman, both in his book upon La Salle and that upon the Conspiracy of Pontiac.” Parkman, at the time this book was published, was one of America’s favorite historians, and his book on the Conspiracy of Pontiac was the standard work on the subject then.

The Parkman books mentioned in the notes above are on this site: Parkman, Francis, La Salle and the Discovery of the Great West in American History in the Colonial Period – 1607-1775
Parkman, Francis, The Conspiracy of Pontiac and the Indian War after the Conquest of Canada on Conflict, War and Military History in Michigan

For works on the Old Northwest under the French regime (until about 1760), see: Great Lakes General History

Wisconsin

Huhti, Thomas
Avalon 2005

Travel guide book.

Brevet’s Wisconsin Historical Markers And Sites

Hunt, N. Jane
Brevet 1974       

The Wisconsin State Historical Society runs an historical markers program which, at the year this book was published, had 202 official markers in the state. The text of each is reprinted here, and the location is shown. The Society’s four historical sites are also featured here, as is the Museum of Medical Progress.

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

The British Regime in Wisconsin and the Northwest

Kellogg, Louise Phelps
Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin 1935

Contents:– The Interregnum, 1760- 1763 – The Treaty of Peace and the Regulation of Trade, 1762- 1764 – The Northwest Pacified, 1764- 1767 – Robert Rogers Seeks the Northwest Passage, 1765- 1768 – Jonathan Carver in Wisconsin, 1766- 1767 – The Aftermath of Rogers’ Plans, 1767- 1769 – Pre- Revolutionary Days in the Northwest, 1768- 1774 – The Quebec Act, 1774 – The First Years of the Revolution, 1774- 1777 – Americans Invade the Northwest, 1778- 1779 – The British Retaliate, 1780- 1781 – The Northwest Ceded to the United States, 1782- 1783 – Organization, 1783- 1789 – Struggle for a Change of Boundary, 1790- 1795 – British Influence Continues, 1796- 1803 – Americans Attempt Control, 1803- 1808 – The Approach of War, 1809- 1812 – The Opening of the Contest, 1812- 1813 – Wisconsin Indians Aid the British, 1813 – Prairie du Chien and the Treaty of Peace, 1814- 1815

Biographical profile of the author at the website of the Wisconsin Library Association.

The French Regime in Wisconsin and the Northwest

Kellogg, Louise Phelps
Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin 1925

Contents:– The North American Continent – The Great Rivers – Conjectures concerning the Great Lakes – The Discovery of the Great Lakes, 1598- 1632 – The Voyage of Jean Nicolet, 1634- 1635 – Tribal Wars and Dispersion, 1635- 1654 – The First Traders, 1654- 1670 – The Missions, 1660- 1675 – Annexation, 1671 – Exploration of the Mississippi Valley, 1671- 1682 – Iroquois War and the West, 1682- 1689 – The West Evacuated, 1689- 1701 – The First Fox War, 1701- 1716 – The Reoccupation of the Posts, 1714- 1727 – The Second Fox War, 1727- 1738 – Early Mining in the Northwest – Changes in Fur Trade Methods, 1738- 1759 – The French Residents of Wisconsin – Intercolonial Rivalry for the Western Trade, 1741- 1752 – The End of the French Regime in the Northwest, 1752- 1761

Biographical profile of the author at the website of the Wisconsin Library Association.

For U.S. histories of the same period, see this page: American History in the Colonial Period – 1607-1775

For works on the Old Northwest under the French regime (until about 1760), see: Great Lakes General History

Organization, Boundaries and Names of Wisconsin Counties

Kellogg, Louise Phelps
Madison: the Society 1910

The main part of this paper is a list, arranged chronologically, showing the date of organization of each of Wisconsin’s 71 counties, the territory from which it was formed, and the changes of boundaries that had since occurred. The second part is a statement about the origin of each county name.

A Collection of Northwoods Nostalgia, from the Pages of the Lakeland Times, Vol 2

Laabs, Joyce
Royal 1980        

Vol 1 is unavailable online. Many stories apparently adapted from newspaper articles on the history of northern Wisconsin in the vicinity of Minocqua, where the Lakeland Times is published.

Books and articles on Exploration & Travel in Historic Wisconsin

Leading Events of Wisconsin History; the Story of the State

Legler, Henry Eduard
Milwaukee: Sentinel 1898

A comprehensive history written for the general reader, the volume contains numerous drawn illustrations. 55 chapters are organized within the following five parts:

-In the Era of Beginnings (about Mound-Builders and more recent Indians)
-In the Footsteps of the Explorers (French explorers and Jesuit missionaries)
-Under French and English Dominion (up to the 1780s)
-Pioneer Days in the Territory (from early American settlement until the 1840s)
-Fifty Years of Statehood (up to 1897)

The Physical Geography Of Wisconsin

Martin, Lawrence
University of Wisconsin 1965       

Contents: The State of Wisconsin – The geographical provinces of Wisconsin – The western upland – The driftless area – The discovery and explanation of the driftless area – The glacial period in the western upland – The Mississippi River in Wisconsin – The rivers within the western upland – The eastern ridges and lowlands – The glaciation of eastern Wisconsin – The drainage of eastern Wisconsin – The Wisconsin coast of Lake Michigan – The central plain – The drainage of the central plain – The northern or Lake Superior highland – The lakes and streams of the northern highland – The Lake Superior lowland – The Wisconsin coast of Lake Superior

The History of Wisconsin from Prehistoric to Present Periods

Matteson, Clark S.
Milwaukee: Wisconsin Historical Publishing Co. 1893

This was meant as a popular history of the state, with the entire second half of the volume dedicated to the 30 years from the beginning of the Civil War to the date of publication. In the first half, a lot of space is dedicated to the pre-historic era, and there are separate brief biographical chapters for each of the territorial and state governors.

The Wisconsin Story: 150 Stories, 150 Years

McCann, Dennis
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 1998       

150 short stories written with a lot of digging in the newspaper morgue. Most have photos.

History of Wiskonsan; from its first discovery to the present period…

Including a geological and topographical description of the territory, with a correct catalogue of all its plants

McLeod, Donald
Buffalo: Steele 1846

The author visited and toured Wisconsin, and wrote this volume as a guide for settlers. It is made up mostly of descriptions of various regions of Wisconsin as they were in about 1845, and contains only a little history.

Books and articles on Local, City, and County History in Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s Historic Shipwrecks: An Overview and Analysis of Locations for a State/Federal Partnership with the National Marine Sanctuary Program

Meverden, Keith N. and Thomsen, Tamara L.
Wisconsin Historical Society 2008       

A report prepared by the Wisconsin Historical Society to evaluate Wisconsin’s historic shipwrecks for the possibility of designating a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) national marine sanctuary in Wisconsin’s Great Lakes waters. Includes profiles of numerous individual shipwrecks, often with illustrations of the ship or the wreck site.

The Wisconsin Centennial Story of Disasters and Other Unfortunate Events 1848-1948

Morton, W.E. and others
Madison: Wisconsin State Centennial Committee 1948

“This book called itself “a summary of selected events unusual in character, costly in human life or causing substantial economic loss” and was prepared as part of the state’s centennial celebrations in 1948. It describes dozens of fires, floods, tornadoes, epidemics, explosions, shipwrecks, and similar catastrophes that occurred in Wisconsin before 1948.”
– Wisconsin Historical Society, “Turning Points in Wisconsin History” website

Wisconsin: A History

Nesbit, Robert C.
University of Wisconsin 1973       

“Wisconsin: A history will certainly find a welcomed spot as a standard text in history courses on the college level and at the higher levels of secondary schools. But perhaps more important, it will quickly become a treasured volume for thousands of state residents who cherish their heritage and thirst to gain a new appreciation and understanding of it.” -Book jacket

State Parks for Wisconsin

Nolen, John
State Park Board 1909

“The [Wisconsin] legislature had approved the establishment of Wisconsin’s first state park in 1878, a 760-square mile park in northern Wisconsin called “The State Park.” The First State Park Board was appointed in 1909 to investigate and make recommendations for the development of a state park system. Noted landscape architect John Nolen was hired to draft the plan. His report, published by the State Park Board, provided guidelines and recommended four sites for inclusion in Wisconsin’s first state park system.”
– Wisconsin Historical Society, “Turning Points in Wisconsin History” website

Books and articles on Politics & Government in historic Wisconsin

Wisconsin Land And Life

Ostergren, Robert C. and Vale, Thomas R., eds.
University of Wisconsin 1997       

“An exploration of place, a series of original essays by Wisconsin geographers that offers an introduction to the state’s natural environment, the historical processes of its human habitation, and the ways that nature and people interact to create distinct regional landscapes. To read it is to come away with a sweeping view of Wisconsin’s geography and history: the glaciers that carved lakes and moraines; the soils and climate that fostered the prairies and great northern pine forests; the early Native Americans who began to shape the landscape and who established forest trails and river portages; the successive waves of Europeans who came to trade in furs, mine for lead and iron, cut the white pines, establish farms, work in the lumber and paper mills, and transform spent wheatfields into pasture for dairy cattle. Readers will learn, too, about the platting and naming of Wisconsin’s towns, the establishment of county and township governments, the growth of urban neighborhoods and parishes, the role of rivers, railroads, and religion in shaping the state’s growth, and the controversial reforestation of the cutover lands that eventually transformed hardscrabble farms and swamps into a sportsman’s paradise. Abundantly illustrated with photos and maps.” -Publisher

Wisconsin; A Story of Progress

Raney, William Francis
NY: Prentice-Hall 1940

The author was a college professor. Each chapter has a bibliography.

Contents:1. The Land and its First Inhabitants – 2. The French Period, 1634-1763 – 3. The British Period – 4. The Indians and the Fur Traders Leave the Stage – 5. The Territorial Period: I. Settlement and Early Politics – 6. The Territorial Period: II. Elements of Community Life – 7. Wisconsin Becomes a State – 8. The Years 1848 to 1860 – 9. The Period of the Civil War – 10. The Building of Wisconsin Railroads – 11. Pine Lumbering in Wisconsin – 12. A Century of Agriculture – 13. Agrarian Discontent and Farm Organizations – 14. Republican Rule, 1866-1901 – 15. La Follette – 16. Three Crusades – 17. Modern Life and the Growth of Industry – 18. Politics Since 1906 – 19. Labor – 20. The Growing Tasks of Government – 21. Education – 22. Literature and the Fine Arts – 23. Depression and a New Society

The Making of Wisconsin

Smith, Carrie J.
Chicago: Flanagan 1908

Written by a school teacher, this history was apparently aimed at young people of high school age, and contains many brief stories and a number of photos.

The History of Wisconsin in Three Parts, Historical, Documentary, and Descriptive

Volume 2

Smith, William Rudolph
Madison: Brown 1854

Although the title of this work refers to a three-part history, only two volumes were completed. The author had been a lawyer and politician from Philadelphia when he was appointed adjutant general of Wisconsin Territory by President Van Buren in 1839. He moved to Mineral Point and served in several offices in the territorial and state governments. He also served as the first president of the State Historical Society, and prepared this history at the direction of the state legislature.

Volume 1 may have been the first full history of Wisconsin ever published. The footnotes seem to indicate that he derived most of the information from just a small number of sources. The notes within the Table of Contents at the beginning of the volume provide an extremely detailed guide to the volume.

Volume 3 contains documents on about 30 topics, including 100 pages of the “Jesuit Relations”, over 100 pages on the Black Hawk War, several documents about ancient earth works, and various other subjects.

“Vol. I, commencing with the early history of the Mississippi valley, and dealing quite fully with the French regime, takes the story of Wisconsin down to the organization of the territory (1836); there are numerous and copious notes on details, chiefly documentary. Vol. III is a compilation of documents, beginning with translations from those portions of the Jesuit relations touching on Wisconsin history, and closing with a history of the Milwaukee and Rock River canal (1836-53).”
– Literature of American History; a bibliographical guide (1902)

Books and articles on the History of the Great Lakes region

The History of Wisconsin, Vol 3; Urbanization and Industrialization, 1873-1893

Thompson, William F.
Madison: Historical Society of Wisconsin 1973

Volume 3 of a 6 volume set. The other volumes are unavailable.

The French Regime in Wisconsin 1634-1760, Vol 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Thwaites, Reuben Gold, comp.
Madison: the Society 1902

In the years prior to publication of these 3 volumes the Wisconsin Historical Society obtained funding to carry out research in the Paris archives, in order to locate all documents significant for the history of the French regime in the Northwest. That funding also covered translation into English of documents important for Wisconsin history. The three volumes found here contain, in chronological order and in English, all those documents significant for the history of the French regime in Wisconsin.

-Volume 1 (which is in fact Volume XVI of the Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin) contains documents for the period 1634-1727.
-Volume 2 (actually Volume XVII of the Collections) contains documents for the period 1727-1748.
-Volume 3 (actually Volume XVIII of the Collections) contains documents from the French regime for the period of 1743-1760, and also contains documents for the British regime in Wisconsin 1760 -1800, and the Mackinac Register of Marriages 1725-1821.

For U.S. histories of the same period, see this page: American History in the Colonial Period – 1607-1775

Stories of the Badger State

Thwaites, Reuben Gold
NY: American Book 1900

The author, Reuben G. Thwaites, was the director of the Wisconsin Historical Society and there were probably few people with more knowledge of Wisconsin’s history. He wrote in the Preface that this collection of true stories, “…selected from Wisconsin’s history, have been written as a means to the cultivation of civic patriotism among the youth of our commonwealth.” “…it is desired to give selections from the interesting and often stirring incidents with which our history is so richly stored, in the hope that the reader may acquire a taste for delving more deeply into the annals of the Badger State.”

Despite his stated purpose of writing for youth, the reading level is higher than usually considered suitable for students. Adult readers should not overlook this informative and interesting introduction to Wisconsin history. There are a number of fine drawings throughout.
Biographical profile of the author at the website of the Wisconsin Library Association.

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

The Story of Wisconsin

Thwaites, Reuben Gold
Boston: Lothrop 1890

“A popular, racy and scientific account of a picturesque section of history, by a master hand. One of the very best books in the useful Story of the States, edited by Elbridge S. Brooks. Especially rich in its handling of the period under French and English domination. Appendix comprises Story of Wisconsin, told in chronological epitome, and The People’s Covenant as Embodied in the Constitution of the State of Wisconsin.”
– Literature of American History; a bibliographical guide (1902)

Reuben G. Thwaites was the director of the Wisconsin Historical Society, an experienced newspaper editor, and a very knowledgeable historian. This survey of Wisconsin history was intended as an introduction to the subject for the general reader.

Contents:-In the Beginning -Discovery of the Mississippi 1658-1673 -Explorers and Fur-Traders of New France 1674-1760 -Under the British Flag 1761-1783 -English Domination continued 1783-1815 -Wisconsin Becomes Americanized 1815-1836 -Territorial Days 1836-1855 -“Barstow and the Balance” 1844-1856 -Spots on the Escutcheon 1854-1856 -Wisconsin on a War Footing 1860-1865 -Deeds of Valor 1860-1866 -Since the War -Appendices

These are some of the topics and people discussed in this volume:

Algonkins, Algonquians, Claude Allouez, mission at Depere, American Fur Company at Mackinaw Island, Jesuit Louis Andre, Arndt-Vineyard quarrel, John Jacob Astor, General Henry Atkinson, Winnebago War, Black Hawk War, Barstow and the Balance, Laurent Barth trapper and trader, Coles Bashford, Bostonniens, Captain Jonathan Carver, Father Charlevoix, Chippewa Indians, Coureurs de bois, Father Dablon, Governor Henry Dodge, Farmers Institutes, Fort Antoine, Fort Edward Augustus, Fort Crawford, Fort St. Francis, Fort Shelby, Lieutenant James Gorrell, The Griffin, Governor Harvey, Louis Hennepin, Judge Levi Hubbell, Radisson and Groseilliers, Solomon Juneau in Milwaukee, Charles de Langlade, La Pointe trading post, Robert Cavelier de La Salle, Governor James T. Lewis, Godefroy Linctot, missionary Rene Menard, Jacques Vieau, The Northwest Company, trader Nicholas Perrot, Prairie du Chien fur trading station, Judge Charles Reaume, Chief Red Bird, Sieur Saint Lusson, Governor Salomon, Jesse James Strang, King Strang, Governor Nathaniel P. Tallmadge, Battle of Wisconsin Heights, Wisconsin Phalanx.
Biographical profile of the author at the website of the Wisconsin Library Association.

Books and articles on Politics & Government in the early history of the Great Lakes region

Wisconsin; the Americanization of a French Settlement

Thwaites, Reuben Gold
Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1908

Offering three surveys of Wisconsin by Reuben G. Thwaites on this webpage appears excessive, but in fact they are quite different. This volume represents Thwaites’ understanding of Wisconsin history in his maturity, after many years of research. That research included his study of a large mass of documents from France that became available around the turn of the century.

“Dr. Thwaites begins with early days of “Ouisconsin,” when French voyageurs often at the mercy of Indians made their first settlements. He continues the narrative thru the later periods of industrial, agricultural and political development. Twenty years of research and study have prepared Dr. Thwaites for this task.”
“The student of the history of the middle west finds in Mr. Thwaites’s work an epitome of the latest results of the research that is constantly developing materials as the French and English archives are becoming available. One could desire fewer facts and a larger discussion of leading topics, such as, for example, the Indian policy of Lewis Cass, which he dismissed with a few words of implied censure.”
“A book of considerably more consequence than the mere annals of a state. Perhaps the book’s greatest fault is that the author very rarely gives his authorities.”
– The Book Review Digest

By the time he wrote this book, Thwaites’ views had changed about French and British influence on the 19th century development of Wisconsin. He now considered that even though Great Britain had dominated Wisconsin from 1760 to 1815, the longer-term British influence on the state was fairly negligible. Instead, as the title indicates, Thwaites thought that when the New England yankees arrived, Wisconsin was still French in many ways. He also stresses in this volume the major cultural and political impact of European immigrants, particularly the Germans, who arrived during the formative years of Territorial government and early statehood.
Biographical profile of the author at the website of the Wisconsin Library Association.

The County Forests Of Wisconsin

Trenk, Fred B.
Wisconsin Conservation Department 1938       

This small, well-illustrated book describes and locates the county forests throughout the State, and describes the work the Wisconsin Conservation Department had been doing, in cooperation with the Federal Government’s Civilian Conservation Corps, to restore and conserve forests.

Books and articles on War in historic Wisconsin

Wisconsin Pioneers: Some Lessons on Wisconsin

Turner, Jennie McMullin
The Wisconsin Magazine and C. C. Nelson Publishing Co., 1929

An Illustrated History of the State of Wisconsin: being a complete civil, political, and military history of the state …

from its first exploration down to 1875; including a cyclopaedia of legislation during the administration of each governor, from the organization of the territorial government down to Governor Taylor: with historical and descriptive sketches of each county in the state separately, embracing interesting narratives of pioneer life; including an account of the commercial, agricultural, and educational growth of Wisconsin

Tuttle, Charles R.
Boston: B. B. Russell. 1875

Only the first half of this book (360 pages) is concerned with events prior to 1860; the second half is concerned with Wisconsin’s ‘war record’ and the administrations of governors from 1860 to 1875. Of the first 360 pages, about 200 pages are devoted to a general history that includes chapters on geography and exploration era, French and British regime, pioneering period and the Black Hawk war. Then begins a succession of chronological chapters on political events during the Territorial government, and then individual chapters for each governor’s administration until the Civil War.

“Puritan Influence in Wisconsin…”

An address delivered before the State Historical Convention at Madison Feb 22, 1899 1898

Usher, Ellis B.
Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin

The author’s method of demonstrating Puritan influence was to mention numerous individuals who were prominent in early Wisconsin history in many professional fields who came from New England. It would have been more accurate to call this “New England’s Influence in Wisconsin”.

Fire and Ice: Two Deadly Disasters (Fire at Peshtigo; Shipwreck on Lake Michigan)

Wells, Robert W. and Davenport, Don
Northword 1983       

Two separate books packaged together; go to page 260 for the second one. The story of the Peshtigo Fire of 1871, which occurred at the exact same time as the much more famous Chicago Fire, is covered in the first book. The full story of the 1958 wreck of the ore-carrier ‘Carl D. Bradley’ is told in the second.

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

Great Lakes General History

Illinois General History

Indiana General History

Michigan General History

Ohio General History


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