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

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Current Issue of the Wisconsin Magazine of History

Autumn 2014 Issue, Volume 98, Number 1

EnlargeWisconsin Magazine of History, Autumn, 2014, Cover


The featured story in this issue is “Give ‘em Hell, Dan!:
How Daniel Webster Hoan Changed Wisconsin Politics" by Michael Stevens.

Daniel Webster Hoan was a lawyer and politician who became the second Socialist mayor of Milwaukee. His service from 1916 – 1940 is considered to be the longest continuous socialist administration in U.S. history. He was also the second-longest serving mayor of Milwaukee. His gregarious personality helped him to connect with his constituents, and his animated speaking style and sense of humor helped to drive his message home with those who heard him speak.

Hoan advocated for an expansive government in the belief that its proper function was to protect its workers and farmers. He believed that civilization should not be judged on low tax rates but on the level of service its citizens demanded and could afford. His honest administration, reduction of the city debt and his active promotion of public health and safety dramatically improved the quality of life for his constituency. He garnered numerous national awards for Milwaukee’s quality of municipal services, clean government and efficiency.

Overall, the issues Hoan brought to the table—the role of government, the level of taxation, the place of political parties and the distribution of wealth—helped shape the political landscape in the first part of the twentieth century. By offering “a viable political alternative to the mainstream parties” he left a lasting legacy in Milwaukee politics.

Milwaukee’s Hoan Memorial Bridge was named in his honor.

Table of Contents

"Exposed! Harley-Davidson’s Lost Photographs 1915 – 1916"

By Amy Gnadt
EnlargeA woman leans against a Harley-Davidson near a lake.

A carefully staged ad that shows the woman’s elevated social status and ability to engage in leisure activity.

Harley-Davidson is known worldwide for manufacturing top-of-the-line motorcycles. Its founders understood the importance of documenting the company’s activities, and today its photography collection contains over 150,000 pieces in the archives.

In 2012, over four hundred previously undiscovered negatives were found. They provide insight into the “lost years” of 1915 and 1916, a period previously undocumented. The resulting photographic subjects include the Harley-Davidson racing team and ads for Harley-Davidson motorcycles to women. There are also ads for Harley-Davidson motorcycles for commercial use and farm equipment replacements. The once-lost negatives are remarkable both for their survival and for what they can impart to today’s viewers.

"Betting the Farm:  Western Railroads, Eastern Money, the Home League, and the First Foreclosure Crisis"

By Timothy J. Riddiough and Howard E. Thompson
EnlargeStock certificate in La Crosse & Milwaukee Railroad, 1857.

Stock certificate in La Crosse & Milwaukee Railroad, 1857.

Crop transportation problems intensified as Wisconsin’s immigrant population expanded rapidly during the late 1840s and early 1850s and settlers located further inland from Lake Michigan. While railroads were an obvious answer, they did not yet penetrate state borders. Significant capital was required to build railroads, and there was a constitutional prohibition against state government funding of internal improvements that was taken to apply to railroads. As a result, railroad promoters turned to capitalists in eastern states to invest. Because the new Wisconsin railroads were unknown to the investors, they required local investment. The population of farmers at that time had little money for investment, so the railroad turned to farm mortgages as a way to raise funds.

Farmers were eager to have a railroad built nearby, and the railroads devised a scheme that allowed the farmer to purchase stock by taking on debt. Investors were sold on the guarantee provided by the mortgages. The railroad promoters told the farmers they didn’t have to pay the 8% interest on their mortgages because the dividend they received would cover the obligation. The bust that ultimately followed the boom in railroad construction led to a severe depression and failure of the railroads. Stock investors were pitted against farmers who stood to lose their only asset and source of income. The outcome was debated and decided in the courts, which were not friendly to the farmers who mortgaged their livelihoods to bring railroads close to home. Central to the story is the freedom to contract, a powerful piece of the nation’s value system.

"Free Love in Victorian Wisconsin: The Radical Life of Juliet Severance"

By Erika Janik

EnlargePortrait of Juliet Severence, 1893

Portrait of Juliet Severence, 1893.

Juliet Severance was a physician, lecturer, and Spiritualist. She spoke with great conviction on topics such as women’s equality and dress reform; labor issues; the necessity of an absolute separation of church and state; and, most controversial of all, free love. Referred to as the Woodhull of Wisconsin for her association with the famous free-love advocate, Victoria Woodhull, she spent her life on the move—practicing medicine, writing and lecturing—and controversy followed her wherever she went.

Originally from New York, Severance relocated to Whitewater, Wisconsin, in 1862. The town offered a more like-minded community where people advocated for the causes she believed in and practiced herself. She distributed information on contraception and abortion, and lectured on women’s sexual health and issues of equality, individual choice and the state’s authority to legislate marriage. Labeled a “radical among radicals,” she was one of few women willing and able to address the flaws of marriage. In the 1880s, while staying true to women’s rights, Severance expanded the scope of her fight to include all individuals facing domination, especially working people, as she became increasingly identified with the oppressed. She served an important role outside the mainstream by bringing feminist ideas to men and women throughout the Midwest in her lectures, and to a national audience through her writing.

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