The Lyman Copeland Draper Manuscript Collection, when it came to the Wisconsin Historical Society, was like the working files of many scholars, a mass of partially sorted papers. They were organized by Society staff into 491 volumes divided into 50 series of varying lengths, arranged by geographic area, subject and individual.
The collection as a whole covers primarily the period between the French and Indian War and the War of 1812 (ca. 1755-1815). The geographic concentration is on what Draper and his contemporaries called the "Trans-Allegheny West," which included the western Carolinas and Virginia, some portions of Georgia and Alabama, the entire Ohio River valley, and parts of the Mississippi River valley.
Military records and information are pervasive throughout the Draper Manuscripts. Particular strengths include the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, especially those actions which occurred in the West. The Guide to the Draper Manuscripts specifically indexes Revolutionary War pension applicant information. Other strengths are Indian conflicts and westward explorations in which the Military played a role, such as the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Only a small part of the collection consists of original documents of the Revolutionary period. The bulk of the files are Draper's research notes and correspondence. The collection as a whole is extremely varied and includes correspondence, interview notes, extracts from newspapers and other published sources, muster rolls, transcripts of official documents, and much more.
To make this large and often unwieldy collection available to the research public, the Wisconsin Historical Society has produced a microfilm edition of the entire collection, a comprehensive guide, a series of calendars for several of the major series, and several volumes of published documents from the collection. For more information, consult Josephine Harper's detailed Guide to the Draper Manuscripts.