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Senator William Proxmire Collection

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Senator William Proxmire Collection

The Wisconsin Historical Society holds the papers of Senator William Proxmire (1915-2005). Proxmire served for 32 years in the U.S. Senate (1957-1989), battling to protect human rights and to curb federal waste and corruption.

What Can I Find Here?

The William Proxmire Collection primarily documents the senator's political career 1945-1989. The unpublished papers, totaling over 200 boxes, include office files, correspondence, audio and videotapes, articles, press releases, books, and images. There is little about his early life or retirement years. A complete box-by-box inventory of the papers is available for viewing online.

There are related Proxmire documents in 30 other manuscript collections at the Society. The most important are 40 oral history interviews with some of the senator's closest friends, colleagues, and family conducted 2008-2011.

In addition, a selection of Proxmire papers has been digitized. This online collection of roughly 7,500 pages has been made available through the generous support of Sen. Proxmire's family and friends.

How Is It Organized?


The William Proxmire Digital Collection consists of ca. 7,500 pages grouped by subject.
To view the specific groups of materials, use the Browse tab.

To locate information about specific people, places, or topics, use the Search box on the Home page.

To read the oral histories collected from 2008-2011, use the Interviews tab.


Sen. Proxmire's unpublished papers fill more than 200 boxes at the Wisconsin Historical Society. Thorough researchers will want to consult these manuscripts.

Most manuscripts date 1957-1980, though some are from as early as 1938 or as late as 2004. They consist primarily of biographical materials and clippings, constituent correspondence, speeches, books and articles, sound and video recordings, newsletters and press releases, and federal agency case files.

The heart of the collection is the files of his office staff. They document a multitude of legislative issues important to the Senator: banking regulation and reform; the Federal Communications Commission's Fairness Doctrine; ratification of the international Genocide Treaty; Great Lakes harbors and shipping; Wisconsin agriculture; and the Supersonic Transport plane (SST), the B-1 bomber, and other military spending.

General subject files document topics such as abortion, economic development in Wisconsin, opposition to the Senate leadership of Lyndon Baines Johnson, taxes, and energy. They also contain campaign files, schedules, voting records, filmed campaign ads, and televised "Reports from Washington."

Files of earlier years in his career include papers from Proxmire's three unsuccessful gubernatorial campaigns during the 1950s, his tenure as a one-term Wisconsin assembly member, and recordings from his "Union Labor News" radio program.

Photographs in the collection include publicity shots with constituents or prominent political leaders, as well as from parades, regular workdays, and the Wisconsin State Fair. The collection also contains a number of portraits.

Related Resources

A box-by-box inventory of the William Proxmire papers archived at the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Haney, Richard. "The Rise of Wisconsin's New Democrats: A Political Realignment in the Mid-Twentieth Century." Wisconsin Magazine of History: Volume 58, number 2, (winter, 1974-1975).

Rights and Permissions

The Society offers you the Senator William Proxmire Collection with the permission of his heirs. These materials may be used for non-profit educational use or personal research. Reproduction of a portion of a work for those purposes has generally been accepted by the courts as fair use under the U.S. Copyright Law.

The Wisconsin Historical Society does not own the copyright and can neither grant nor deny permission for further reproduction of these materials. You, the user, are legally liable for complying with the provisions of that law. For more information, consult the U.S. Copyright Office publications.

Any documents in this collection created by U.S. government employees as part of their official duties are not copyright protected.

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