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

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Current Issue of the Wisconsin Magazine of History

Fall 2016 Issue, Volume 100, Number 1

Table of Contents

The Show of a Thousand Wonders: Sheboygan’s Mighty Seils-Sterling Circus

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Members of the Seils-Sterling Circus in Wausau, Wisconsin, 1937. CIRCUS WORLD 4059

By Peter Shrake

When it comes to circus heritage, few states compare with Wisconsin. From Janesville to Sparta, over one hundred shows originated from within its borders. Some lasted only a few weeks, while others, like the Ringling Brothers Circus, grew to be the standard bearer of the industry. This photo essay chronicles the history of one such enterprise, the Seils-Sterling Circus, started in by brothers Pete, Bill, and Al Lindemann, the sons of a vaudeville brass bandleader. Based in Sheboygan, the circus was unique for traveling from town to town using trucks rather than rail cars. From humble beginnings in 1919 to its final performance in 1937, the “Show of  a Thousand Wonders” continued to amaze and delight audiences across the Midwest and even as far away as Louisiana and West Virginia. Its final months were plagued with illness and natural disaster, showcasing the unforgiving nature of show business in meager times.

“Wisconsin Congressman Steve Gunderson: Gay Republican in the American Culture War”


Steve Gunderson on the campaign trail in Wisconsin, mid-1980s. WHI IMAGE ID 125404

By Jordan O'Connell

When Wisconsin Congressman Steve Gunderson became Newt Gingrich’s Chief Deputy Whip in 1989, he could not have foreseen the political events that would drive such an intense national interest in his personal life just a few years down the road. The first openly gay member of Congress, he later he admitted that had he known the trials he would face in the 1990s he would never have run for United States Congress. Gunderson adhered to a traditional worldview and Lutheran faith that seemed to easily coexist with his homosexuality. Though Gingrich is often characterized as an instigator of the divisive culture wars of the 1990s, Gunderson says Gingrich was one of the few Republicans who saw no contradiction between his being gay and being a Republican. This article details Gunderson’s turbulent political career from the early- to mid-90s.

Shaping Identity: The History of German-Language Newspapers in Wisconsin


Following its launch on June 18, 1873, the Milwaukee German-language newspaper Germania was in print for forty-five years. WHI IMAGE ID 125698

By Randi Julia Ramsden

Almost five and a half million immigrants arrived in the United States from the German Confederation and the German Empire between 1820 and 1910. By 1914, there were 66 German-language newspapers in Wisconsin serving the state’s German immigrant communities. But when the US government declared war against Germany in 1917, these papers were declared a potential threat to national security. As the need for a unified American identity and the pressures of censorship grew, the decline of the German-language press in Wisconsin became inevitable. Within the four years of the war, about 36 percent of these papers disappeared. This article chronicles the process by which German-language newspapers started as a side effect of German immigration and ended under the rise of patriotism, but ultimately proved to be a central influence in shaping Wisconsin culture.

The Disillusionment of Father Bonduel

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A priest performs a baptism of a Menominee woman in this drawing by an unknown artist published in Father Florimond Bonduel's 1855 book, L'Enfant Perdu (The Lost Child). WHI IMAGE ID 125524

By Anne Beiser Allen

One spring morning in 1855, Father Florimond J. Bonduel, Catholic missionary to the Menominee at Keshena, took an axe and chopped down the large cross he had erected in front of the mission chapel three years before. Furiously, he shouted that the Menominee were an ungrateful people who didn’t deserve the services of a priest. This article tells the story of Father Bonduel, born in Belgium in 1799, and his involvement in the relocation of a Menominee tribe from Lake Poygan to Keshena in the 1850s. For Father Bonduel, the process leading to relocation was a painful initiation into the murky waters of white/Indian relations. Working closely with the Menominee people to fight their impending removal from Wisconsin, Father Bonduel quickly fell victim to complex political maneuvers of the state and national governments as he attempted to gain compensation for his work with the tribe. Despite his angry outburst at the Menominee people and his departure from Keshena, Father Bonduel is remembered today as the man whose unstinting efforts were chiefly responsible for enabling the Menominee to remain in Wisconsin.

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