Wisconsin Historical Society's North American History Collection | Wisconsin Historical Society

Resource Description

About the North American History Collection

EnlargeColor map of North American territories owned by the English and by the French.

English and French Territories in North America, 1755.

Color map of North American territories owned by the English and by the French. View the original source document: WHI 42889

For a century and a half the Library has collected the history of the U.S. and Canada, including political and military affairs, multicultural history, women's history, religion, folklore, anthropology, architecture, labor history, genealogy and more.

Learn more about this collection using the links below:

Collection Overview

Our collection is the largest in the United States focused on the history of North America; see more details below regarding our extensive holdings of newspapers, pamphlets, periodicals and resources on microfilm.

Newspapers

The Society Library owns one of the nation's largest collections of North American newspapers, with more than 11,000 bound volumes and 100,000 reels of microfilm as well as access to digital collections of newspapers dating back to the early 18th century. Particular strengths include Wisconsin newspapers, colonial and early American newspapers west of the Appalachians, and the largest collection of labor and trade union newspapers in the nation.

The Library's holdings of 1960s "underground" or alternative newspapers are also extensive. Other areas of the collection that have attained national importance are Native American and African-American newspapers. Among rarities in the newspaper collection are the first African-American and Native American newspapers and the first Bohemian, Dutch, Norwegian, and Spanish language newspapers published in the United States.

Pamphlets

The Library has a collection of over 500,000 items in its pamphlets and ephemeral materials collection. Materials in this collection range from one-leaf printed flyers to paperback books of over 100 pages.

Periodicals

The library maintains approximately 7,800 subscriptions to current periodicals on all aspects of American social and political life. Its retrospective holdings include virtually all American magazines of news and opinion published before 1860, and specialized periodicals published by abolitionist, ethnic, military, religious, radical/reform, labor and women's organizations.

Resources on Microfilm

Nearly two million items in the Wisconsin Historical Society Library exist on some sort of microform. In addition to newspapers, you will also find manuscript collections, PhD dissertations, pre-1820 American books, archival series and pre-1850 American magazines on microfilm.

Also on microform is the Library's collection of family history records, including published and microfilmed family histories, church and cemetery records, birth, death and marriage registrations, federal and state census, local histories, and military information covering the United States and Canada.

How the North American History Collection is Organized

Research materials in the North American History Collection can be found in both the Library and the Archives. Manuscript collections and photographs can be found in the archives collection. Books, serials and other publications can be found in the library collection. 

Search Online

The library and the archives have separate online catalogs used to describe their holdings. In order to do a complete search of the North American History Collection you need to search both catalogs.

Search in Person

The Library and Archives are free and open to the public. See more information on Visiting the Library and Archives.

Purchasing Copies

Researchers who cannot visit the Library-Archives may order copies by mail, fax or e-mail. We do not accept orders by phone.

See all details on Purchasing Copies.

North American History Collection Donations

The Library collects the history of the U.S. and Canada, including political and military affairs, multicultural history, women's history, religion, folklore, anthropology, architecture, labor history, genealogy and more.

Generally speaking, we have not collected the history of American literature, art, sciences, or business in much, if any, depth, nor do we collect materials that are international or inter-disciplinary in scope because those areas are collected by University of Wisconsin–Madison libraries.

Wisconsin: The Library and Archives is interested in acquiring publications, private manuscript papers and organizational records that document the history of Wisconsin from the seventeenth century to the present (in addition to state and local government records). We seek Wisconsin textual and audio-visual collections encompassing many subject areas including agriculture, the arts, business and industry, mass communications, labor, social action, the military, natural resources, politics and government, ethnic groups and transportation. See more information on Donating an Item or Collection.

Learn More

Have Questions?

Contact our Library and Archives staff at 608-264-6535 or by email below:

Wisconsin History Tour.
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