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Madison Area History

Databases & More | Photos | Books | Neighborhoods | School Spirit | Resources and Organizations | Incidents and Events | Genealogy | Library History | See also web sites featuring Wisconsin history | see also: African Americans in Madison and Dane County | Return to Recommended Resources by Subject


The "Lost Madison" exhibit consisted of 30 photographs of Madison buildings which for one reason or another were demolished. Additional Madison photographs can be searched for on the Wisconsin Historical Society web site. The urban landscape of Madison looks vastly different today from the way it did when these exhibit photographs were taken. One by one, the buildings succumbed to what succeeding generations defined as "progress." In...
The Library of Congress has an online exhibit called American Memory. It includes photos from the Detroit Publishing Co. collection. You can search the collection by keyword. Type "Madison and Wisconsin" and see what you get.
In 1938-39, Winifred Ford created over 40 watercolors of Madison residences, the old City Hall, and UW buildings. See these paintings at the Wisconsin Historical Society's site



The early city directories of Madison provide helpful historical information on the early years of the state capitol in addition to helping those looking for information on specific people and businesses in the area in the 1800s and early 1900s. The directories provide an alphabetical list of citizens with their addresses and occupations, a classified business directory, lists of city and county officials, churches, schools, societies, streets and wards. Historical County Plat Maps...
  Historical County Plat Maps from South Central Wisconsin and Early Madison City Directories is a collaborative project completed by the University of Wisconsin Digital Collection Center and Madison Public Library. This digital collection of historic plat books and atlases provides accessibility to...
...preceded by a history of Wisconsin, statistics of the state, and an abstract of its laws and constitution and of the Constitution of the United States (1880).
by John Nolen. Boston: Mass, 1911. - Electronic version - See the library's reference copy. Written in 1911, the report is a preeminent example of the urban landscape movement of the turn of the century. Text, illustrations and maps...
A manual of information, historical, statistical, and descriptive: with street car and carriage tours about the city and its environs.
Find annual reports of the officers of the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association from the years 1899-1905 as well as the papers of John M. Olin. Find out more about the early years of Madison and the parks we appreciate today! This digital collection of historic...
by David V. Mollenhoff. - Reserve the library book: Kendall/Hunt, c1982 version | University of Wisconsin Press, c2003 edition
Wisconsin State Journal, 1902. - Read Online - Reserve the library book. Selections from a Souvenir Volume published to celebrate the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Wisconsin State Journal (1852-1902). Part of the Wisconsin...
by Reuben Gold Thwaites. J. N. Purcell, 1900. - Electronic version - Reserve the library book
The early history of the city of Madison, Wisconsin, covering pre-statehood through the end of the 19th century.



A collaborative community project featuring the neighborhood immediately south of the University of Wisconsin and the State Capitol.
Discover the historic Blooming Grove area, now incorporated into Madison and Monona.
A project of the UW-Madison School of Journalism & Mass Communication and its Center for Communication and Democracy. "The Madison Commons [is] a website designed to provide news and information about all of Madison's neighborhoods and a crossroads for the discussion of community issues."
Beginning in early 2008, the City embarked on a process to create a plan for the future of downtown. This site is devoted to providing current information on the project and process, including: upcoming meetings, results of previous meetings, background information, maps, data, and other resources. It also provides information on the multiple opportunities to become involved in this important and exciting endeavor.
Taken from Wisconsin Historical Society's Odd Wisconsin Archive: Origins of Madison Street Names, this site includes brief information on the persons after whom James Doty named Madison streets.
This site links to neighborhood organizations, neighborhood maps, business directories, and neighborhood organization web sites.
By Burr Angle, Dolores Kester, and Ann Waidelich pt. I. The origins of some northside Madison, Wisconsin street names -- pt. II. The origins of some northside Madison, Wisconsin street names : more street name facts -- pt. III. The origins of some northside Madison, Wisconsin street names : the airport and Truax field -- pt. IV. The origins of some northside Madison, Wisconsin street names : sketches of some northside developers -- pt. V. The origins of some eastside Madison, Wisconsin...
In 2003-2004, the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures coordinated a four day walking tour along the Park Street Corridor with a 4th/5th grade class at Randall School.
David Giffey's collection of stories from the residents of the South Madison neighborhood.
Taking a self-guided historic walking tour is a great way to learn about Madison, its history and its people.


School Spirit

The downtown Madison Public Library has an extensive collection of Madison area high school yearbooks. If a school listed below has a weblink that says "in LINKcat", that means that yearbook is listed in the LINKcat catalog. Clicking on the link takes you into the catalog, where you can see which years are available at the library. Copies are available to view in person at the Central library, please check at the Reference Desk. To request that a particular photo from a certain year...


Resources and Organizations

Includes links, DCGS newsletters, and upcoming events.
The Dane County Historical Archives and Records Center was created in 1964 to collect, preserve and make available the primary historical records of people, businesses and organizations with ties to the County.
Madison's historical society site includes a brief history of Madison and a list of city landmarks. You can also see Mayors Past and Present.
Links to information about city history, Forest Hill Cemetery, mayors, and more.
Find out information about preservation efforts and events in Madison, local history sites, view photos, and more.


Incidents and Events

Information from the Madison Public Library Clippings File, Folders "Churches (M) - St Raphael Cathedral. Prepared by Anne Vandenburgh, March, 2005. This was the oldest Catholic church in the City of Madison. James Duane Doty (the former territorial governor, who had been influential in locating the capitol in Madison) on Nov 15, 1842, gave a warranty deed to the Rt. Rev. Peter Paul Lefevre, Roman Catholic bishop of Detroit, for $1. The deed was for block 67, containing 10 lots. The...
The student body of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has a rich and diverse history of activism and protest. This site does not claim to be all-inclusive, but instead attempts to provide a representative selection and timeline of student protest on campus throughout the twentieth century.
Organized in Madison on June 11, 1861 as a 3 year regiment, they became known as the Iron Brigade. Links are given to other Civil War sites.
Find newspaper articles covering the Sterling Hall bombing on the UW-Madison campus on August 24, 1970. Includes anniversary stories featured in the Wisconsin State Journal and Washington Post and subsequent follow-up stories through 2010. After 40 Years, Search for University of Wisconsin Bombing Suspect Heats Up Again ...
"The mission of the Wisconsin Uprising Archive (WUA) is to collect and preserve materials related to the democratic uprising that started in Wisconsin in February 2011. Examples of materials include, but are not limited to, videos, photographs, pamphlets, and audio." - From web site.



See our recommended sites for genealogists and Genealogy Resources at the Library.

The library subscribes to some databases for genealogists. Start with Ancestry Library or Heritage Quest, but the others may also be able to help you.

Ancestry Library [connect] [more] [availability]

A public library version of the popular that contains census data, passenger lists, and birth, marriage and death records. Search by name, by where a person lived or browse by region or states.
EBSCOhost logo

EBSCOhost [connect] [more] [availability]

EBSCOhost includes thousands of indexed magazines, many full-text, for over fifteen years. Magazine coverage ranges from the popular to the academic.

HeritageQuest [connect] [more] [availability]

HeritageQuest provides access to genealogy records and books, including census data, local histories, tax rolls, cemetery lists, military rosters, and more.

History Reference Center [connect] [more] [availability]

Instant access to a full-text history reference database featuring reference books, encyclopedias, non-fiction books, and history periodicals as well as thousands of historical documents, including photos.
homepage of Wisconsin Historical Society Family History Records

Wisconsin Historical Society Family History Records [connect] [more] [availability]

The Wisconsin Historical Society has partnered with Ancestry to provide free access to selected Wisconsin government records for family history research.

Library History

Free and Public: One Hundred Years with Madison Public Library by Janet Smith Ela. Ela, with Friends of Madison Public Library. 1975. - Reserve the library book