Current Issue of the Wisconsin Magazine of History
Spring 2015 Issue, Volume 98, Number 3
The featured story in this issue is “Michael B. Olbrich’s Role in the History of Wildlife Conservation in Wisconsin” by Franklin E. Court.
Michael B. Olbrich—Madison attorney, civic luminary and founder of Olbrich Park and Botanical Gardens, the University of Wisconsin–Madison Arboretum and other parks and recreational facilities in the Madison area—has received scant biographical recognition since his tragic suicide in 1929. During his short lifetime, he was widely recognized for efforts to promote progressivism and the reform agenda of Wisconsin’s “Fighting Bob” La Follette, but his contributions as a conservationist were often overlooked.
A modest man who enjoyed the simple things in life, Olbrich was a passionate wildflower gardener whose work to save the cypripedium species of little white lady slipper first brought him to the attention of conservationists. In the 1920s, Olbrich and Paul E. Stark of the Madison real estate company acquired the land that became the first six parcels to form the University of Wisconsin Arboretum. Olbrich also worked with Stark to acquire the land along the shoreline of Lake Monona that eventually became Olbrich Park. His conservation efforts gained the attention of John Nolen and Aldo Leopold, and in the last 15 years of his life, he made an immense contribution to the preservation and cultivation of Wisconsin wildlife and wild things.
Table of Contents
“The Hortonville Teacher’s Strike and the Public Sector Labor Dilemma”
By Adam Mertz
Picketers marched in front of the Department of Public Instruction in Madison to show their support for the Hortonville Teachers, April 18, 1974.
In 1974, Hortonville, Wisconsin was the scene of one of the longest and most contentious strikes in American education history. Before it came to an end, the town would be flooded with thousands of union activists and would draw the attention of the nationwide media.
In 1959, Wisconsin became the first state to give public employees the right to organize into collective bargaining units, under the Municipal Employment Relations Act (MERA). The Wisconsin legislature expanded these rights in 1962 and again in 1971. Under section 111.70 of MERA, public employee strikes were illegal. Yet, because of 111.70’s poor provisions for dispute resolution and public employees’ demands for increased salaries and wages to compensate for inflation, public sector strikes in general rose.
Negotiations between the Hortonville Education Association (HEA) and Hortonville school board stalled after 10 months of bargaining in 1973. On March 18, 1974, teachers in Hortonville went on strike. In response, the Hortonville Vigilante Association formed to counter the picketers and escort over 240 replacement teachers to class. The school board ultimately terminated employment of striking teachers. While touting their positions as in the best interest of the students, each camp had painted the opposing side as illegitimate outside agitators. This mutual tactic increased the conflict’s intensity, which further disrupted a small community and contributed to a contentious atmosphere across the state.
“A Close Encounter of the Steam-Powered Kind”
By John Zimm
French engineer Henri Giffard designed and flew an airship in 1852. Eyewitnesses to the 1897 appearances in Wisconsin described a ship similar to Giffard’s.
In 1897, the history of extraterrestrial sightings in Wisconsin included several elements of Steampunk science fiction. On a cool April evening that year, Dr. J.P. Valby of Rice Lake was summoned to attend to a patient. According to the story reported in the “Eau Claire Daily Reader,” he grabbed his valise and made his way to the millpond where he boarded a ship and examined its captain who was suffering from an acute attack of la grippe. When the captain refused to allow him to leave, Valby made a thrilling escape by plunging into the icy lake below as the airship disappeared into the night. According to an unattributed telegram received by the “Minneapolis Times,” Rice Lake, Wisconsin was said to have “gone stark crazy over the event.” In addition to Dr. Valby’s experience, there were an unusual number of sightings that year and most of them, in Wisconsin and across the country, centered around a pattern of lights and rapidly moving cigar-shaped objects. At the time, possible explanations ranged from inebriated spectators to an elaborate hoax by the Ringling Brothers Circus, but the mystery of airship sightings in Wisconsin skies remain unsolved.
“Embroidered Art of Rudolph Sauerhering”
By Rachel S. Cordasco
Sauerhering card embroidered with the image of the Chateau de Chillon, Switzerland, ca. 1948–1956. The work is mounted on cardboard covered in pale green silk.
Wisconsin native Rudolph Sauerhering broke with traditional gender bias in practicing his craft of embroidery. He expressed his love of the arts throughout his life, and his embroidery reveals the kind of attention to detail, color and design that we see in any beautiful piece. Sauerhering’s embroidery can be found at the Mayville Historical Society in Mayville, Wisconsin and in the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database.
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