Wisconsin Historical Society

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The Wisconsin Historical Society (officially the State Historical Society of Wisconsin) is simultaneously a private membership and a state-funded organization whose purpose is to maintain, promote and spread knowledge relating to the history of North America, with an emphasis on the state of Wisconsin and the trans-Allegheny West. Founded in 1846 and chartered in 1853, it is the oldest historical society in the United States to receive continuous public funding.[1][2] The society's headquarters are located in Madison, Wisconsin, on the campus of the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

The Wisconsin Historical Society has occupied this building in Madison designed by Ferry & Clas since 1900.

Programs and operations[edit]

The library reading room.

In fulfilling its mission to educate the public on areas relating to Wisconsin history, the Wisconsin Historical Society coordinates many programs to preserve objects and information of historical interest while keeping them available to the public. The society's library and archives, which together serve as the library of American history for the University of Wisconsin–Madison, contain nearly four million items, making the society's collection the largest in the world dedicated exclusively to North American history.[3][4]

The Wisconsin Historical Society also has an extensive newspaper collection, the second largest in the United States after the Library of Congress.[5][6][7]

In addition to this library, the society operates the Wisconsin Historical Museum in downtown Madison and a publishing house, the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, which publishes books on Wisconsin and American history and a quarterly magazine, the Wisconsin Magazine of History. In more recent times, the society complemented its printed materials with a website boasting numerous features that include a large, searchable collection of historical images and a vast digital archive containing thousands of scanned documents relating to Wisconsin history. Society employees are actually employees of the State of Wisconsin.[8]

Wisconsin Local History Collection[edit]

The Wisconsin Local History and Biography Articles Collection is a decades-long project of the Wisconsin Historical Society. It includes newspaper clippings such as obituaries, news stories, and advertisements, placed into bound volumes. In 2006, the collection was placed online in a digital form, and includes 16,000 articles and materials on Wisconsin people and communities from the late 19th and early 20th century.

Historic sites[edit]

Villa Louis Historic Site, Prairie du Chien, which is operated by the Society

In addition to all its other pursuits, the Wisconsin Historical Society owns eleven historic sites that can be toured by the public. These sites are located in cities across the state.

Historic Site Location
Circus World Museum Baraboo, Wisconsin
First Capitol Belmont, Wisconsin
H. H. Bennett Studio Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Madeline Island Museum La Pointe, Wisconsin
Old World Wisconsin Eagle, Wisconsin
Pendarvis Mineral Point, Wisconsin
Stonefield Cassville, Wisconsin
Villa Louis Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin
Sylvanus Wade House Greenbush, Wisconsin
Reed School Neillsville, Wisconsin
Black Point Estate Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau (1985), "The Executive Branch", State of Wisconsin 1985-1986 Blue Book, Madison: Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, p. 460, "Founded in 1846 and chartered in 1853, the State Historical Society of Wisconsin is the nation's oldest historical society to receive continuing grants of state funds" 
  2. ^ About page at the Wisconsin Historical Society website.
  3. ^ "Bucerius Seminar 2005: American History and American Archives". German Historical Institute Bulletin (German Historical Institute) (38): 139. Spring 2006. Retrieved 10 April 2010. "the Wisconsin Historical Society, which is impressive both as a building and as an institution. It is the largest library for American history, it functions as a state archive, it is the premier place to do research on Wisconsin" 
  4. ^ "Wisconsin Historical Society" at www.madison.com.
  5. ^ Cates, Jo A. (2004). Journalism: A Guide to the Reference Literature. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing. p. 251. 
  6. ^ Newspapers for Genealogy from the Wisconsin Historical Society
  7. ^ Newspaper & Periodicals Collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society
  8. ^ WHS job announcement from 2010

External links[edit]