Book Tells History of Historical Society

News from the Wisconsin Historical Society

Wisconsin Historical Society Press Logo
For Immediate Release

MARCH 2015

Kristin Gilpatrick, Marketing Manager
Wisconsin Historical Society Press

  Book Explores History of Collecting Wisconsin’s Treasures
The Continuing Tale of ‘The Wisconsin Historical Society’

The Wisconsin Historical SocietyTwo years before Wisconsin became a state, pioneers spoke of an institution to preserve the area’s already vast history for future generations. This spring, the Wisconsin Historical Society Press shares details of the institution that those foreword-thinking pioneers ultimately founded – The Wisconsin Historical Society – in a new book of the same name, The Wisconsin Historical Society: Collecting, Preserving and Sharing Stories Since 1846.


As the new book reveals, the Society’s story began during an 1845 conversation between two pioneers, Richard Magoon and Chauncey Britt, who were discussing the need for a preservation effort throughout the then Wisconsin Territory. That conversation launched a “preservation push” at a time when history was more about “being made” than “recorded.” Whole communities, many still forming, answered the call to collect their and their residents’ histories, and a newly founded historical society gathered those communal collections together.


This grassroots style of preservation was itself a new territory for historians. In a time when history collecting was largely reserved for noble, prominent, or wealthy families, Wisconsin set itself apart for generations by collecting the histories of “everyone” – farmers, merchants, Indians, soldiers, and more.


Author John Zimm, an editor with the Society’s Press division, traces the history of Wisconsin’s history from its inception, through its Depression days and trailblazing decades, and into its lasting resilience to provide history to Wisconsin residents and the nation.


Today, the Wisconsin Historical Society has grown into a nationally-renowned organization that serves 3 million people each year and offers a wide breadth and depth of resources and services that not only includes housing the state archives and the millions of genealogical and historical artifacts and documents that pioneering historians began collecting in 1846 but also includes the operation of:

  • 12 historic sites located throughout the state, including The Wisconsin Historical Museum on the Capitol Square in Madison.
  • Area Research Centers located throughout the state,
  • A visual collection of more than 3 million Wisconsin Historical Images, including 75,000 digitized images,
  • State’s Historic Preservation and Historic Tax Credit programs,
  • Archaeology programs,
  • The Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research Collection,
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison’s North American History Library,
  • The Wisconsin Historical Society Press, publisher of the 4th Grade state history textbookWisconsin: Our State, Our Story as well as hundreds of non-fiction titles,
  • Wisconsin’s National History Day program and other educational programming,
  • Local affiliates programs and support,
  • Genealogy and other workshops and training,
  • Community outreach programming including staff presentations, author talks, and the new Wisconsin History Tour, and
  • Much more to explore at

Yet, for all its growth in the past 150 years, the basic mission of the Wisconsin Historical Society has remained largely unchanged from that initial, pioneering, conversation: To collect, preserve, and share the stories of Wisconsin, from every walk of life, in every corner of the state.


The history of the Society’s creation is a uniquely Wisconsin story – one that belongs to all who call Wisconsin home.


Media: For a review copy of “The Wisconsin Historical Society,” to interview the author, or for more information, please contact Kristin Gilpatrick, Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 816 State St., Madison, WI 53706; 608-264-6465; email:

The Wisconsin Historical Society Press, publishing the best of

Wisconsin history and culture since 1855 as a division of the Wisconsin Historical Society.


About the Editor:
John Zimm  received a BA in history from the University of Wisconsin -Madison and has worked for the Wisconsin Historical Society Press since 2002. His articles have appeared in the Wisconsin Magazine of History, and he is the editor of This Wicked Rebellion: Wisconsin Civil War Soldiers Write Home and Blue Men & River Monsters: Folklore of the North.


To Order:

For retail and wholesale orders: Contact the Chicago Distribution Center at 800-621-2736 Fax: 800-621-8476 Email:
For individual orders: Order by phone toll free at 888-999-1669, shop online, or shop in person at the Wisconsin Historical Museum Shop, 30 N. Carroll St., Madison WI 53703. Members of The Wisconsin Historical Society receive a 10% discount off all books and items purchased through any Society gift shop.


The Wisconsin Historical Society: Collecting, Preserving, and Sharing Stories Since 1846 

Edited by John Zimm

Paperback: $25.00

152 pages, 80 color and b&w photos, 2 maps, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2

ISBN: 978-0-87020-691-7


An e-book version of this fascinating story is also available from your favorite e-book vendor!


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Wisconsin Historical Society Press

816 State Street

Madison, WI 53706
Collecting, Preserving and Sharing Stories Since 1846

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