Current Issue of the Wisconsin Magazine of History | Wisconsin Historical Society

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Current Issue of the Wisconsin Magazine of History

Summer 2016 Issue, Volume 99, Number 4

Table of Contents

“'The Inventions, Though of Little Importance, Opened All Doors for Me': John Muir's Years as an Inventor

EnlargeWMoH Summer 2016

John Muir's Years as an Inventor

John Muir’s ingenious “desk-clock,” created ca. 1861–1862 when he was a student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. PHOTO COURTESY OF WISCONSIN HISTORICAL MUSEUM 1998.85.1

By Matt Blessing

Decades before the self-described “poetico-trampo-geologist-botanist-and-ornith-natural” championed wilderness in the American West, he was the “Ingenious Whittler” in early Madison. John Muir spent his young adulthood as an inventor, creating devices that made his life on the family farm and at the University of Wisconsin easier. Perhaps best known is the “clock-desk” now housed in the Wisconsin Historical Society lobby. It both awakened the young scholar from sleep and turned the pages of his books. Muir’s detailed sketches, created for his autobiography The Story of My Boyhood and Youth, show both the function and artistry behind his inventions. Using collections from the Wisconsin Historical Museum, Matt Blessing tells the story of Muir’s early life and the devices he engineered during his years in Wisconsin.

The Life and Times of Carson Gulley

EnlargeCarson Gulley's Life and Times

Carson Gulley's Life and Times

Publicity photo for the Carson and Beatrice Gulley’s catering business, ca. 1960. UW-MADISON ARCHIVES

By Scott Seyforth

At the height of the Civil Rights Movement in 1965, the UW Regents voted to name a building on campus after beloved longtime campus chef, Carson Gulley. Gulley was a celebrated figure in mid-twentieth century Madison, known for his expertise in food preparation and in training future chefs. Less acknowledged were his groundbreaking efforts to cross racial barriers in Wisconsin in teaching, radio, television, and housing. He and his wife were the first African American couple to host their own television show in Wisconsin in the 1950s, and Gulley was one of the first African American instructors at the University of Wisconsin, having previously worked at Tuskegee University. With a custom-made spice case in tow, Gulley travelled across the Midwest sharing the art of cooking. Despite his success in the workforce, Gulley was not spared from harsh and persistent practices of racial segregation and exclusion. Author Scott Seyforth sheds light on these practices and details how one man used his professional and public stature to challenge racial discrimination in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin State Hygiene Laboratory: Changing Beliefs on Water and Public Health

EnlargeWisconsin State Hygiene Laboratory

Wisconsin State Hygiene Laboratory


By Anna W. Davis

Water, long believed to have healthful benefits, came under scrutiny during the late 1800s with the spread of cholera and other epidemics across the state. The discovery of waterborne disease prompted the demand for a bigger and better public health system. The Wisconsin State Hygiene Laboratory was created to address these growing health needs by creating a standard for water cleanliness through testing and sanitation. On October 1, 1903, the Wisconsin State Hygiene Laboratory opened its doors in Agriculture Hall, and has remained a vital presence on the University of Wisconsin campus ever since. Partnering with bacteriological and other campus laboratories, the Wisconsin State Hygiene Laboratory pioneered the effort to locate and eradicate waterborne disease, later expanding its reach to address public health crises including outbreaks of tuberculosis and anthrax. This article traces the history of the Wisconsin State Hygiene Laboratory and the importance of its creation for public health from its origins through the twenty-first century.

A Simple Soul: The Life and Legacy of Waldemar Ager

EnlargeFremad Publishing Company

Fremad Publishing Company

Interior scene of Fremad Publishing Company, publishers of the Norwegian-language newspaper Reform. Editor Waldemar Ager appears on the left with Reform staff, ca. 1908. COURTESY OF THE WALDEMAR AGER ASSOCIATION

By Taylor Struwe & Greg Kocken

Through cultural advocacy and literary activity, Waldemar Ager helped define Norwegian American identity in the early twentieth century. Ager immigrated to America at the age of sixteen and came to reside in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where he edited the Norwegian-language newspaper, Reform, from 1896 through his death in 1941. Throughout his career, Ager wrote several novels dedicated to two themes: promoting temperance and preserving Norwegian American identity. Ager’s novels were circulated throughout the United States and Norway, gaining popularity in both countries. Ager also received criticism for his promotion of a pure Norwegian American identity. Some viewed Ager anti-American, a dangerous label during times of war. Ager’s strong ideals earned both respect and animosity, and his legacy of the Norwegian American identity can still be seen in Wisconsin today.

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