Michael Edmonds

Me in Chicago by MaryI’m a writer, teacher, and historian based in Madison, Wisconsin.

My writings on history, nature, and folklore explore ways that ideas have moved through time and space in oral, printed, and digital forms. I’ve always been fascinated by eccentric, unusual, and atypical people or events that mainstream culture has overlooked.

For more than a decade I wrote the syndicated weekly newspaper column, “Odd Wisconsin” highlighting bizarre and little-known stories from the state’s past. My most recent book, Taking Flight: A History of Birds and People in the Heart of America, was published in March 2018. I’ve written three other books and edited or contributed to several more, as well as many journal articles, newspaper columns, and book reviews.

Books       (click cover image for more information)

TF - front    WSS - front    Bunyan - front    RE-front

Cap - front       TFT - front    WET - front


My work has won national awards from the American Folklore Society, the American Association for State and Local History, and the American Library Association. I’m currently working on a memoir that focuses on barely conscious assumptions about the world and how they came down through the centuries to lodge in my mind.

I joined the staff of the Wisconsin Historical Society in 1982 and retired at the end of 2018. I’ve also taught part-time at the University of Wisconsin-Madison since 1986. I hold degrees from Harvard University (BA 1976) and Simmons College (MS 1981). At the Wisconsin Historical Society I led the teams that digitized and put online hundreds of thousands of rare books, manuscripts, photographs, maps, and other historical documents. I also curated several traveling displays and exhibits shown in venues around the nation. Between 2015 and 2018 oversaw the Society’s education, publishing, and outreach programs.

Speaking: I’m happy to talk to civic and academic groups about my research and writing. For more information or to request a presentation, visit the Wisconsin Historical Society Speakers Bureau.  Venues normally cover a modest honorarium and travel costs.

Selected Articles and Essays (more information)

Online Collections (more information)

Other Books:

Women’s History Resources at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin (co-author, Mary E. Fiorenza; Madison, Wisconsin Historical Society, 1997).
Leonard Woolf: A Bibliography (co-author, Leila Luedeking; Winchester, Eng., St. Paul’s, 1992).
Lytton Strachey: A Bibliography (N.Y., Garland, 1981).



  1. Dear Mr. Edmonds, I would like to talk to you about a video documentary i am researching… about Mrs. Adda F. Howie… Wisconsin Dairy Woman from the late 1800’s – early 1900’s … I am currently enjoying your book Warriors, Saints & Scoundrels… Thank you, John Dwight Giles … Stevens Point, WI … 715.544.0763



  2. Mr. Edmonds, I am interested in a timeline you provide in your book, “The Wisconsin Capitol”. On page 3 you indicate that the Spanish were in the area from 1512-1627. I am interested in the documentation for this information. I did find it in the Congressional Record of September 10, 1970 page 31238 (Madeline Island is truly billed the “Island of Antiquity: Under four flags: Spain, 1512-1627; France, 1627 to 1762: England, 1763 to 1783, and the United States of America from 1783 to the present), however no documentation is provided there either. I thank you in advance for providing me with this information. Sincerely, Barbara Schacht



  3. I wanted to write to tell you that this morning I watched and greatly enjoyed your talk on C-SPAN about William Proxmire. I had heard of the Golden Fleece awards but knew next to nothing else of the man. I thought you “brought him to life” with all his strengths and flaws, and it was a true joy to learn from you.
    Thanks again and best wishes!
    Bruce Martin



    1. Bruce,

      I only just realized that I have to go to specific page to see comments, so only discovered your note from October today. Sorry about that. I’m glad you enjoyed that little episode. A few years ago I built a site at the Wisconsin Historical Society that includes all the Golden Fleece awards and much more. If you’ve retained any interest in Sen. Proxmire, you might enjoy it: https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Article/CS15283

      Again, my apologies for not relying sooner.

      Best wishes,

      – Michael



  4. I tried to leave this comment last night but it didn’t seem to work, maybe because I wasn’t logged in. Apologies if this means you have to moderate first but I’m going to try again…


    I recently read your excellent 2010 piece on the Sound Storm festival. I found that while doing research after I rediscovered super-8 film I shot there. I had edited it into a movie at the time and it has been in a box unwatched since the early ’70s, along with other film work from that time. This year I digitized a lot of this material and have posted some of the best stuff on YouTube so they are easy to show to interested people. They are unfinished so they are not publicly viewable but I can send you the URL for the Sound Storm stuff if you’re interested. I need to enter my email to post this so I presume you can see it and can contact me that way. If not, respond here.

    Briefly about the contents: There are shots of several of the bands including the Dead, but no sound unfortunately. My focus was more on the scene and the crowd and what they were doing. I have shots of the birth of the Mud King for example and some of the Northern Comfort bride and a lot of faces.


    –Frank Cox



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