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

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Current Issue of the Wisconsin Magazine of History

Summer 2015 Issue, Volume 98, Number 4

A camper does a swan dive off the pier on Lake Raymond.

View the original source document: WHI 108171

The featured story in this issue is “Joy Camps the Camp Craft Camps for Girls,” by Susie Seefelt Lesieutre.

A determined movement to provide children with opportunities to interact with nature swept the nation in the late nineteenth century, and organized camping fit the bill. Camps for girls in particular were intended to foster “a new, more self-reliant generation of young women.”

In 1929, Barbara Ellen Joy purchased a parcel of land in northern Wisconsin located along the southwestern wooded shoreline of Lake Raymond near Hazelhurst. Joy, an avid camper, had a background in camp leadership with numerous youth camping organizations including the YWCA and National Camp Fire Girls. Aptly named, “Joy Camps,” the first session drew girls from Illinois, Wisconsin, and other states. The girls, ages seven to seventeen stayed in cabins with counselors who coordinated activities and served as cabin leaders.

The camps were also in part a response to the burden of rote learning and monotonous routines of the American school system. Aside from specific times for meals and rest, Joy adhered to the belief that camping activities should be chosen by the camper according to her particular interests. She also prohibited competition believing that the woods and water were incentive and reward enough.

Joy’s camp was set apart by her dedication to Camp Craft training. Camp Craft was not about art projects, but was required for all campers wishing to participate in adventures away from the main campsite. The girls became proficient in splitting wood, making fires, handling knives, repairing tents, forecasting the weather, and using a compass among other necessary survival skills, providing them with the gifts of self-reliance and confidence.

 The article includes charming and elucidating letters home from Joy camper Sue Ann Hackett as well as poignant photos from the Wisconsin Historical Society’s own image collection. 

Table of Contents

“A Shared Vision: Henry Hamilton Bennett and William H. Metcalf”

By Sara Rath
Enlarge(Right to left) William Metcalfe, H. H. Bennett, and two unidentified men on a camping trip to Juneau County

(Right to left) William Metcalf, H. H. Bennett, and two unidentified men on a camping trip to Juneau County

The summer of 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of Henry Hamilton Bennett’s foray into photography. H.H. Bennett was a passionate pioneer who not only invented a mobile darkroom but advanced photography in ways that continue to impact the profession of photography to this very day.  The H.H. Bennett Studio historic site is celebrating this anniversary and visitors have the chance to explore the restored photography studio and view Bennett’s handmade tools, stereocards, cameras, and more.

Bennett’s iconic views of the rock formations along the Wisconsin River in the Dells can be found in private collections and museums around the world.  In her article, Rath shares the compelling story of the friendship between H. H. Bennett and his mentor, William H. Metcalf. The story chronicles the trajectory of his deep friendship with Metcalf that not only sustained Bennett but also provided the means for Bennett to pursue his passion at a level that allowed for the advancement of the art and technique of photography.

“A Short History of the Swift United States Army General Hospital at Prairie du Chien, November 1864-September 1865” 

By Mary Elise Antoine
EnlargeSwift Hospital, undated.

Swift Hospital, undated

The push for a northern Army hospital began in the Spring of 1962 by Governor Louis P. Harvey. His widow, Cordelia Harvey, took up the cause after his death among the troops in Tennessee. Bureaucratic red-tape placed Cordelia Harvey in the company of President Lincoln pleading her case. She argued that without northern air, these men would die.  She correctly pointed out that a northern hospital would allow for many more men to return to the fight and further the Union cause.  Cordelia succeeded and the Harvey hospital opened in October 1863, leading the way for the establishment of other northern hospitals such as the Swift United States Army General Hospital. 

The hospital would not have opened were it not for the people of Prairie du Chien and surrounding areas, especially the women of the Ladies’ Soldiers’ Aid Society. The article provides first-hand accounts of soldiers who found sustenance and healing at the hospital.  The history of the Swift Hospital gives one insight into those determined, selfless individuals who turned a former hotel and an abandoned fort into an efficient and life-saving operation. 

“A Neighbor to All: Madison’s Settlement House”

By Julia Wong
EnlargeHand-colored photo of a circle game at Neighborhood House, 1929.

Hand-colored photo of a circle game at Neighborhood House, 1929

Settlement houses were established to help newcomers adjust to life in America and create a sense of community. Madison’s Neighborhood House (originally called Community House) opened its doors in 1916. Like other settlement houses, the staff lived on-site, which served not only to foster a sense of connectedness but also to more accurately assess and address the needs of all those who came through its doors.  Its approach differed from that of other charitable organizations of the time, organizations that primarily offered food and financial assistance.  The classes and programs created by the Madison settlement house helped people improve their situation while also fostering a sense of self-reliance.  A century later, Neighborhood House continues to be a vital resource to the Madison community, remaining a place where all are welcome.

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