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

General Information

Current Issue of the Wisconsin Magazine of History

Spring 2017 Issue, Volume 100, Number 3

Table of Contents

"Set Like a Gem in the Clasp of Four Silver Lakes": The Wisconsin State Capitol at 100

EnlargeWisconsin's Capitol

2017 marks the hundred year anniversary of the completion of the Wisconsin State Capitol, pictured here in autumn 2016. PHOTO BY JOHN ZIMM

By John Zimm

The Wisconsin State Capitol took more than a decade to complete, following two previous buildings that proved inadequate to serve the state’s legislators. With stunning visuals, this essay recounts the history of the Capitol from its construction through its restoration in the 1990s.

Re-Examining the American Pioneer Spirit: Laura Ingalls Wilder's Extended Family

EnlargeIngalls Sisters

Ingalls Sisters

Carrie, Mary, and Laura Ingalls, ca. 1880, six years after leaving Wisconsin. LAURA INGALLS WILDER HISTORIC HOME & MUSEUM

By Jennifer van Haaften

A common theme runs through Laura Ingalls Wilder’s eight Little House books and the articles about her family and life in the Missouri Ruralist: the pioneering, independent American spirit that we see in Ma and Pa Ingalls as they continue to move their family to new towns and territories across the Midwest. In reality, the Ingalls were not as self-sufficient as the stories would have us believe. Charles and Caroline (Quiner) Ingalls had close family connections across the Midwest that they held to very tightly as they settled and resettled. Historical evidence shows a complex system of family connections and parallel movement, with parts of the extended family following one another as they moved and keeping in touch with letters and visits when they could not be in the same place. The Ingalls family returned to their home base in Wisconsin’s north woods multiple times. Examining census records, registers of deeds, land grant records, and family letters, a broader story of mutual support emerges. Through multiple moves, the Ingalls and Quiner families demonstrated their desire to remain proximally close to their relatives, showing that there can be no pioneering spirit without family support.

Hemp: Wisconsin's Forgotten Harvest

EnlargeHemp Poster

Hemp Poster

Modern reproduction of a promotional poster from 1942. Even steel warships required immense amounts of hemp rope, helping make the US Navy the largest consumer of hemp during the war. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

By Dirk Hildebrandt

In the early 1900s, Wisconsin was at the forefront of the growing hemp industry, leading the nation in hemp production. The plant’s strong fibers were manufactured to make rope and cloth. With the United States government encouraging production of hemp for the war effort during World War II, the nation worked to expand hemp farms and produce more of the “war crop” for army supplies, as well as for international trade post-war. Wisconsin’s climate and land made an ideal location for the crop, though its production quickly diminished following the war due to a lessoning need for hemp products as cheaper fibers became available and as they federal government began to curtail and eventually prohibit hemp production altogether. Though mostly forgotten today, the hemp industry once was a promising agricultural venture, largely due to Wisconsin’s pioneering efforts in the crop’s growth, harvest, and manufacture.

Indentured Children of the Wisconsin State Public Schools

EnlargeGroup of Girls

Group of Girls

A group of girls from Cottage B of the Wisconsin Public School in Sparta, Wisconsin, in the 1930s. Some residents were indentured to Wisconsin families who took them into their homes in exchange for help with childcare or farm work. MONROE COUNTY LOCAL HISTORY ROOM AND MUSEUM

By Jan Gregoire Coombs

The care provided to orphaned or neglected children has varied drastically throughout our nation’s history, with different states implementing different degrees of assistance to dependent children. Wisconsin opened the State Public School in 1886 in an attempt to house and care for neglected children. Siblings “Alice Hacek” and “Tomas Hacek”—whose identities are protected by state law even today—became wards of the state when their father could no longer take care of them, entering the State Public School in 1923. After several months at SPS, both were indentured to different farms in Wisconsin where they stayed until they came of age. While in state custody, they were not permitted to have any contact with their family or with one another, a policy strictly enforced by SPS director C.D. Lehman, making it much harder to connect after they were out of care. The siblings’ experiences as “indentured” children of the state school provide an example of the difficulties faced by hundreds of children in their situation, as well as demonstrate the successes and limitations of the SPS system in Wisconsin.


A subscription to the Wisconsin Magazine of History is a benefit of membership to the Wisconsin Historical Society. The current issue, described above, will become available in the online archives as soon the next issue is published.

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