New Books and Author Appearances


Authors of a number of books on various topics of Wisconsin history will be appearing around the state in the latter half of March to discuss their works; don’t miss ‘em (and even if you can’t attend the events, be sure to check out the books themselves)!

Click on each title below for more information about the book event:


Studying Wisconsin: The Life of Increase Lapham

Monday, March 18 from 6:20 – 8:00 pm

Waupaca Area Public Library, Waupaca

In this illustrated talk about Wisconsin’s first scientist, authors Martha Bergland and Paul G. Hayes explore the remarkable life and achievements of Increase Lapham (1811-1875). Lapham’s ability to observe, understand, and meticulously catalog the natural world marked all of his work, from his days as a teenage surveyor on the Erie Canal to his last great contribution as state geologist. Self-taught, Lapham mastered botany, geology, archeology, limnology, mineralogy, engineering, meteorology, and cartography. A prolific writer, his 1844 guide to the territory was the first book published in Wisconsin. Asked late in life which field of science was his specialty, he replied simply, “I am studying Wisconsin.”


Damn the Old Tinderbox! Milwaukee’s Palace of the West and the Fire That Defined an Era

Tuesday, March 19 from 7:00 – 8:00 pm

Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee

Author Matthew J. Prigge tells the gripping tale of how in the dead of an unassuming January night in 1883, Milwaukee’s Newhall House hotel was set on fire. Two hours later, the building—once among the tallest in the nation—lay in ruins and over seventy people were dead.  From the great horror emerged an even greater string of mysteries: Who had set the fire and who was to blame for the staggering loss of life? The Newhall’s hard-luck barkeeper? A gentleman arsonist? What of the many other unexplained fires at the hotel? Had the Newhall’s management neglected fire safety to boost their profits?


Madison in the Sixties

Thursday, March 21 from 7:00 – 8:00 pm

Barnes & Noble – West, Madison

Madison made history in the sixties. Landmark civil rights laws were passed. Pivotal campus protests were waged. A spring block party turned into a three-night riot. Factor in urban renewal troubles, a bitter battle over efforts to build Frank Lloyd Wright’s Monona Terrace, and the expanding influence of the University of Wisconsin, and the decade assumes legendary status. Historian and journalist Stu Levitan chronicles the birth of modern Madison with style and well-researched substance.


Taking Flight: A History of Birds and People in the Heart of America

Friday, March 22 from 7:30 – 8:30 pm

The Village Booksmith, Baraboo

In this illustrated talk, author and longtime birder Michael Edmonds will explain how and why people in the nation’s heartland worshipped, feared, studied, hunted, ate, and protected the birds that surrounded them over the last 12,000 years. From ancient American Indian shamans to modern conservationists, our predecessors thought about and acted toward birds differently than we do. Edmonds will share stories from his 30 years of research among unpublished manuscripts, rare books, archaeological reports, and historic places that led to Taking Flight. Whether you’re a casual bird-watcher, a hard-core life-lister, or simply someone who loves the outdoors, you’ll encounter new ways of thinking about birds, people, and the extraordinary history that connects them.


Settlin’: Stories of Madison’s Early African American Families

Saturday, March 23 from 1:00 – 2:00 pm

Goodman South Madison Library, Madison

Author Muriel Simms will share some of the stories she collected for the book from the descendants of 25 early African American families who settled–survived and thrived–in Madison, Wisconsin in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Seeing a pressing need to preserve these little-documented experiences, the lifelong Madison resident collected stories from the families who came to Madison more than 100 years ago and formed vibrant and cohesive communities of churches, businesses, and social clubs, and who frequently came together in the face of adversity and conflict.


The Making of Pioneer Wisconsin: Voices of Early Settlers

Tuesday, March 26 from 1:00 – 2:30 pm

Oakwood Village University Woods – Auditorium/Arts Center, Madison

Between the mid 1830s and the 1850s, nearly three quarters of a million people moved to Wisconsin. Historian Michael Stevens tells the migration experience through the words of ordinary people. How did it feel to decide to move, adapt, and create a new society? Meet an excited young man who is delighted by the abundance of food in Wisconsin, or a teenage girl who missed her schoolmates, or immigrants who worried about their children forgetting their old language. It is easy to think of the first generation of settlers as stiff, cardboard figures as they appear in their portraits. By exploring their joys, sorrows, and humor, we come to understand their lives and even a little more about our own.


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