Draper Manuscripts Collection | Wisconsin Historical Society

Resource Description

Draper Manuscripts Collection

Draper Manuscripts Collection | Wisconsin Historical Society

Lyman Copeland Draper's manuscript collection was bequeathed to the Wisconsin Historical Society. Draper (1815-1891) was a lifelong student of early American history. Although he was born and raised in upstate New York, Draper made it his life's work to rescue from oblivion the history of the "heroes of the Revolution". Draper was the first corresponding secretary for the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and lived much of his life in Madison. 

Collection Overview

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 found 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 collection specifically indexes Revolutionary War pension applicant information. Other strengths are Native American 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, correspondence and hand written reproductions made by Draper during his research trips. 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.

Order digital copies from the Draper Manuscript Collection.

How the Draper Manuscript Collection is Organized

The collection was organized by Society staff into 491 volumes divided into 50 series of varying lengths arranged by geographic area, subject and individual. 

Search in Person

The original volumes of the manuscript collection are available for research in the Archives Research Room. The Archives are free and open to the public. See more information on Visiting the Library and Archives.

The primary tool used to access materials in the collection is Josephine Harper's book: 

To make this large and often unwieldy collection available to the research public, the Wisconsin Historical Society has also produced the following materials:

  • Calendar of the George Rogers Clark Papers (1979)
  • Calendar of the Frontier Wars Papers (1977)
  • Calendar of the Kentucky Papers (1925)
  • Calendar of the Tennessee and King's Mountain Papers (1929)
  • Calendar of the Preston and Virginia Papers (1915)
  • Calendar of the David Shepard Papers (1979) in same volume as Calendar of the Frontier Wars Papers
  • Calendar of the South Carolina Papers (1979) in same volume as Calendar of the Frontier Wars Papers
  • Calendar of South Carolina in the Revolution Miscellanies (1979) in same volume as Calendar of the Frontier Wars Papers
  • Calendar of the Thomas Sumter Papers (1979)

All calendars are available in hard copy from:

McDowell Publications
11129 Pleasant Ridge Road
Utica, KY 42376
Phone: (502) 275-4075,
(Also available on microfiche from Chadwyck-Healey)

Documentary Volumes

All were originally published by the Wisconsin Historical Society and are now available in hard copy from:

Heritage Books, Inc.
1540 E. Pointer Ridge Place
Bowie, MD 20716
(Also available on microfiche from Chadwyck-Healey)

By Reuben Gold Thwaites and Louise Phelps Kellogg:

  • Documentary History of Dunmore's War, 1774 (1905)
  • The Revolution on the Upper Ohio, 1775-1777 (1908)
  • Frontier Defense on the Upper Ohio, 1777-1778 (1912)

By Louise Phelps Kellogg:

  • Frontier Advance on the Upper Ohio, 1778-1779 (1916)
  • Frontier Retreat on the Upper Ohio, 1779-1781 (1917)

The entire collection was microfilmed in 1949 and re-filmed in the 1970s. More than ninety libraries across the country have complete sets of the microfilm, and many will send individual reels on interlibrary loan. See the many other libraries that have portions of the Draper Collection microfilm.

The microfilm may also be purchased from:

Chadwyck-Healey Inc. (now part of ProQuest)
300 North Zeeb Road
PO Box 1346
Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1346.
Phone: 734-761-4700
Toll Free: 800-521-0600 ext. 2873 (Traditional Products Division)
Email: info@proquest.com
Website: www.proquest.com
Note: The calendars and documentaries are also available on microfilm.

Learn More

Have Questions?

Contact our Archives staff at 608-264-6460 or by email below: