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Highlights Archives

Wisconsin Magazine of History, Summer 2010


Billie Sidell in prone pose with feathered cap (image courtesy of Lonna Schumacher Morouney)

You'll find there's something in the air with the summer 2010 issue of the "Wisconsin Magazine of History." From the electric atmosphere the Sidell sisters forged onstage at the Kehl School of Dance and the clouds of DDT that enveloped southern Wisconsin in the 1950s to the farm fields of days gone by and the bucolic skies of the Kraftwood Gardens in summer, the issue looks at a series of stories detailing Wisconsin's rich story. Still looking for fresh air? Travel north to the shores of Lake Superior to see Madeline Island Museum's beautiful collection of Native American bandoliers.

Encore, Encore! On Stage with the Sidell Sisters

Cover of the summer 2010 issue of the "Wisconsin Magazine of History"
Cover of the summer 2010 issue

This summer's cover story, "Encore, Encore! On Stage with the Sidell Sisters and the Leo Kehl School of Dancing" by Lynda Williams Salisbury and Lonna Schumacher Morouney, documents the remarkable lives of the Sidell sisters (Violet "Billie" Sidell and her sister Piera) who hailed from Madison. Between 1922 and 1942 the sisters dazzled audiences in America and Europe with their performances, earning an international reputation for excellence. With contracts from prestigious companies such as the Folies Bergère in Paris, they enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame through their talents, training and lifelong friendship with Leo Kehl of the Kehl School of Dance. You can learn more about their story, set against the dramatic backdrop of 1930s and 1940s Europe, by researching the Kehl School of Dance papers housed in the Wisconsin Historical Society archives, or by taking a peek at many of the photographs hosted online in Wisconsin Historical Images. The Society also houses some of the sisters' costumes in its museum collections.

Pesticides and Politics: A Wisconsin Town Battles Bugs and Bureaucracy

In 1954, the city of Whitewater, Wisconsin, started spraying its own community with pesticides, hoping to ward off pesky summertime mosquitoes and the bothersome effects of Dutch elm disease. With support of the U.S. government, which had published a 1947 pamphlet celebrating the "faithful and effective ally of the good housekeeper" known as DDT, the city suffered tragic environmental consequences. Community activists' struggles to stop the spraying are detailed in Kathy Brady's, "Pesticides and Politics: A Wisconsin Town Battles Bugs and Bureaucracy." Set in the context of the debate unleashed by Rachel Carson's 1962 bestseller, "Silent Spring," the article uses community newspapers and government documents to tell how the environmental movement emerged at the grassroots.

The Kraft Family and Kraftwood Gardens

In Langlade County, Wisconsin, stands Kraftwood Gardens, once a popular tourist destination and former playground of J.L. Kraft, founder of the Kraft Corporation. As author Joe Hermolin suggests in "The Kraft Family and Kraftwood Gardens," many readers will recognize Kraft's food products — Kraft's presence (the company is based in Chicago) helped solidify Wisconsin's reputation as "America's Dairyland." Yet few people are likely to know the full story of Kraft's historical ties to the state. In 1922, when the Kraft Cheese Company decided to locate a new manufacturing facility near Antigo, J.L. Kraft decided to purchase lakefront property near Elcho, Wisconsin. Between 1938 and 1955 his lands became a popular tourist destination, animating many fond memories for Wisconsin residents. See rarely seen photographs and read selections from Kraft's in-house company journal, "The Kraftolier."

Art Traditions of the Anishinaabe

In "Art Traditions of the Anishinaabe," Steve Cotherman, the director of Madeline Island Museum, leads a tour of Native American bandoliers from his museum's collections. Among the more than 4,000-plus objects held, several dozen Ojibwe and Plains Indian bags and pouches, dating from the late 18th to the early 20th century, stand out. The bags, often made of buckskin and decorated with furs, quills and moose-hair embroidery, imbued the bag's carrier with great importance — as a holder of sacred objects and for signaling a family's wealth or prestige. Visitors to the museum this summer can see the exhibit, "Art Traditions of the Anishinaabe," seven days per week, now through October 2, 2010.

Book Excerpt: Horse-Drawn Days

The summer issue of the magazine also features an excerpt from "Horse-Drawn Days: A Century of Farming with Horses" by author, storyteller and local historian Jerry Apps. Recently published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, the book combines personal narrative, folk culture and an intimate knowledge of place in this loving tribute to rural lives.

Magazine of History a Member Benefit

The "Wisconsin Magazine of History" is a benefit of Society membership. Individual issues are available through our online store and at bookstores around the state. Don't miss an issue. Sign up for membership today!

:: Posted June 10, 2010

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