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Curators' Favorites: Business, Technology, & Labor

Schlitz 'Sunshine Vitamin D Beer Can'

Schlitz "Sunshine Vitamin D" Beer Can featuring Continental Can Co.'s new crown top design, 1936. (Museum Object 2011.77.1) This can of Schlitz "Sunshine Vitamin D" beer, documents the American fascination with vitamins that began shortly after they were discovered in...
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Posted April 2, 2012



Oscar Mayer Wiener Banjo-Ukulele

Banjo-ukulele used by jingle composer Richard Trentlage in the first recording of the Oscar Mayer Wiener Song, 1962. (Museum object #2009.59.1) Were it not for the words written on its surface, this banjo-ukulele, an easy-to-play, handy instrument, probably wouldn't arouse...
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Posted August 12, 2009



Mayville Iron Parlor Stove

Gothic revival parlor stove made of iron ore from Mayville, Wisconsin, 1846. [Museum object #1999.141.1] Objects that document a single moment of transition from "frontier" to "civilization" are rare. The Mayville stove is one such object. Cast in 1846, it...
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Posted November 27, 2008



Red Dot Potato Chip Can

Container for potato chips made by Red Dot Foods, Inc., Madison, Wisconsin, c. 1950. (Museum object #2002.384.1A-B) Midwesterners who lived through the 1940s and 1950s may remember Red Dot brand snack foods, especially the excellent quality of its potato chips....
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Posted November 13, 2008



Granger Gourd

Ceremonial container made from a gourd, presented to Wisconsin Governor William R. Taylor, 1874. (Museum object #1993.53) In the fall of 1873, Wisconsin wheat farmers were hopping mad. Expecting to profit from a bumper harvest, they were furious when the...
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Posted November 6, 2008



Allis-Chalmers Governor

Governor for hydraulic turbine engine, made by the Allis-Chalmers Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1905. (Museum object #2008.64.1) Everything about the Allis-Chalmers Company was big. Milwaukee's Edward P. Allis Co., whose roots stretched back to 1847, was already the world's biggest...
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Posted October 9, 2008



Early Electric Dishwasher

Early household dishwasher manufactured by Hydro-Electric Manufacturing Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, c. 1930. (Museum object #1997.35.1A-D) The modernization of the American kitchen began in the early 20th century, bringing it out of the "shadows" and into the forefront of domestic and...
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Posted September 18, 2008



Artisans Day Ribbon

Artisans Day Ribbon possibly worn during parade in Milwaukee, September 3, 1888. (Museum object #H12653) Picture this: 1,700 workmen, led through downtown Milwaukee by the city's most popular German orchestra and over 100 iron molders twirling "oddly-shaped Japanese umbrellas of...
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Posted August 28, 2008



Dairyland Rat Poison

Dairyland Rat Poison container made for the Wisconsin Pharmacal Co. of Milwaukee, 1955-1965. (Museum object #1999.143.34) The same substance that can save your life can also kill you. This is emphatically the case for the compound dicumarol, developed in the...
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Posted June 26, 2008



Gumball Slot Machine

Trade stimulator gumball slot machine seized from a Shullsburg, Wisconsin tavern in 1945. (Museum object #2008.13.1A-B) When is gambling not gambling? When you're buying gum, too. At least that was the theory of many tavern owners. Authorities have tried to...
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Posted May 22, 2008



Asbestos Baby Bottle Warmer

Automobile baby bottle warmer lined with asbestos, made by the Hankscraft Company, Reedsburg, Wisconsin, c. 1955. (Museum object #1979.316.21) At the height of the Baby Boom, convenience items like this Hankscraft brand automobile baby bottle warmer proved popular for many...
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Posted May 8, 2008



Shot Tower Lead-Melting Bowl

Lead-melting bowl used at the Wisconsin Shot Company Shot Tower, Helena, Wisconsin, c. 1833. (Museum object #1992.12) Prior to the nineteenth century, producing lead shot for muskets was not only a time-consuming process, the final product was often pock-marked or...
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Posted March 27, 2008



Brooks Stevens Railroad Car Seat

Reclining seat designed by Brooks Stevens for one of the Milwaukee Road's Hiawatha luxury railroad cars, 1948 (Museum object #1991.92) In an era when the choice between interminably boring highway drives and jam-packed, delay-prone airplanes seems equally dismal, cross-country travel...
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Posted February 21, 2008



Lumber Company Scrip

Lumber company scrip issued by Knapp, Stout & Co., Barron County, Wisconsin, between about 1878-1890. (Museum object #N4001) In the forests of northern Wisconsin, ready cash was frequently hard to come by in the nineteenth century. This was especially true...
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Posted January 24, 2008



Ristaucrat Jukebox

Table-top Ristaucrat S-45 Selective Jukebox, produced by Ristaucrat, Inc., Appleton, Wisconsin, 1951. (Museum object #1974.7.2) The precursor of the modern jukebox appeared in 1889, when businessman Louis Glass fitted an Edison phonograph with a coin slot and installed it at...
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Posted November 22, 2007



Carpenter's Tool Chest

Tool chest used by carpenter Charles Colburn of Wonewoc, Wisconsin, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (Museum object #2004.137.1-248) Who built Wisconsin? If by "built" we mean transforming the aboriginal landscape of Wisconsin into today's pattern of farms,...
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Posted November 15, 2007



Nuclear Fuel Assembly

Control rod and replica fuel assembly from Wisconsin's first nuclear power plant. (Museum object 1997.56.13-14) If this nuclear power plant fuel assembly had actually been used, the Wisconsin Historical Museum staff would be dead. The object shown at left is...
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Posted October 18, 2007



Stereo Realist 3-D Camera

Stereo Realist f3.5 camera made by the David White Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, c. 1951. (Museum object #1980.337) Since the dawn of photography in the early 19th century, millions of people have enjoyed the semi-permanent record of life that photographs...
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Posted September 27, 2007



1930s Permanent Wave Machine

Frederics permanent wave machine used in Crisella's Beauty Shop in Blanchardville, Wisconsin, late 1930s. (Museum object #1986.79.2) Prior to the twentieth century, a woman with straight hair who desired curls had to spend hours heating curling irons over a flame...
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Posted September 20, 2007



Workman's Time Recorder

Time clock used by workers at the Appleton Woolen Mills, Appleton, Wisconsin, c. 1894 - c. 1915. (Museum object #1964.58.1,A) Before the industrial revolution, most forms of work were governed by the demands of the season or the task at...
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Posted August 30, 2007



1850s Personal Appointment Calendar

Weekly appointment book made of ivory and used by Wisconsin politician and businessman Cassius Fairchild of Madison, Wisconsin during the 1850s. Maker unknown. (Museum object #1971.19) Today, most people consider daily life to be busier than in generations past, with...
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Posted August 23, 2007



"Rosie the Riveter" Coveralls

Women's coveralls worn by Teresa Kuykendall while working in a factory in Beloit, Wisconsin during World War II. (Museum object #2007.92.1) Teresa Kuykendall of Beloit, Wisconsin was a real life "Rosie the Riveter" during World War II. In 1943 she...
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Posted August 16, 2007



OshKosh B'Gosh Sewing Machine

Industrial sewing machine used by seamstresses to make one of Wisconsin's signature products for more than forty years at OshKosh B'Gosh, Inc., 1950s-1997. (Museum object #1997.54.1A-D) Not so long ago, most people thought of overalls when they heard the word...
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Posted August 9, 2007



Donald's "Educational" Marbles

Jar of marbles used in Wisconsin fair exhibits by Professor John Sweet Donald of the University of Wisconsin during the 1920s. (Museum object #1953.663) While today people tend to flock to the Wisconsin State Fair for attractions like rides, animals,...
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Posted July 26, 2007



Campers' Wash-Up Kit

Wash-Up Kit made by the Bay West Company in Green Bay, Wisconsin and distributed by the Yankee Paper and Specialty Co. of Menasha, Wisconsin in the 1920s. (Museum object #1998.6.2) "Are we there yet?" may well have been one of...
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Posted July 5, 2007



3100 Gallon "Bright Beer" Tank

"Bright beer" storage tank made by Dunck Tank Works of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, c. 1910 and used by the Stevens Point Brewery, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, c. 1915-1995. (Museum object #2007.83.2) Wisconsin has always been popularly conceived of as having a...
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Posted June 28, 2007



Warner's 'Newfangled' Speedometer

Warner "Auto-Meter," Model K-2, made by the Warner Instrument Company of Beloit, Wisconsin, c. 1906-1910. (Museum object #1989.81.1) When automobiles began taking over roads across the country in the late nineteenth century, their drivers had no reliable way to tell...
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Posted May 17, 2007



CCC Trunk

Trunk used by Werner Brunner while he worked on Civilian Conservation Corps projects in La Crosse County, Wisconsin, 1934-1935. (Museum object #1990.165.26,A) During the Depression of the 1930s, many young, unmarried, and unemployed men jumped at the opportunity to join...
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Posted May 10, 2007



Prohibition Soda Pop

Case of soda pop bottles shipped by the Kurth Company of Columbus, Wisconsin during prohibition, 1920-1933. (Museum object #1994.77.1) The day-to-day lives of many Wisconsin residents changed drastically with the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the...
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Posted April 5, 2007



World Famous Duncan Butterfly Yo-Yo

Duncan Butterfly yo-yo manufactured by the Flambeau Corporation, Baraboo, Wisconsin, 1988-1995. (Museum object #2001.83.13) Did you know that one of the world's most famous toys, the Duncan yo-yo, was produced in Wisconsin for most of its existence? The Duncan Company,...
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Posted March 29, 2007



First Practical Typewriter

Sholes & Glidden typewriter developed by Christopher Latham Sholes of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and marketed c. 1874. (Museum object #1964.31) Christopher Latham Sholes, along with other inventors, toiled in a small machine shop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for nearly seven years before...
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Posted March 22, 2007



Burt's Solar Compass

Solar Compass used to survey lands in Wisconsin and surrounding areas during the 1840s and 1850s. (Museum object #1962.60.2,A) In 1834, while surveying and subdividing the layout of thirteen townships in land that would one day become northern Wisconsin, government...
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Posted March 8, 2007



X-Ray Shoe Fitting Machine

Simplex fluoroscope machine made by X-Ray Shoe Fitter, Inc., Milwaukee, Wisconsin and most likely used in a Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin shoe store, c. 1945-1955. (Museum object #1992.109) In the late 1940s, Noren's Shoes of Sturgeon Bay attracted customers with the...
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Posted September 28, 2006



Portable Teletype Machine for the Deaf

Minicom III TTY machine made by Ultratec, Inc., Madison, Wisconsin, c. 1986-1989. (Museum object #2004.58.2a-h) One of history’s ironies is that the telephone - whose inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, was a life-long teacher of the deaf - thoroughly excluded deaf...
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Posted September 21, 2006



Cranberry Harvesting Rake

Handmade all wooden cranberry rake used for harvesting cranberries in Grand Marsh, Wisconsin, early 20th century. (Museum object # 1973.121) The cranberry, Wisconsin’s official state fruit, grows on vines in peat or sandy marshes. In the early days of cranberry...
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Posted September 14, 2006



Seamen's Union Knotwork Plaque

Plaque commemorating the passage of the 1915 Seaman's Act. (Museum object #1942.530) This commemorative plaque, which consists of photographs and text set within an intricately knotted ropework frame, was made to commemorate the passage of the milestone 1915 Seamen's Act....
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Posted August 31, 2006



Shotz Brewery Costume

Shotz Brewery smock used in Laverne and Shirley television series, 1976-1980. (Museum object #2006.38.1) Introduced in the show's opening credits along side an undeniably catchy theme song, the lavender Shotz Brewery smock -- like Laverne's famous "L"-embroidered sweaters -- is...
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Posted August 17, 2006



Early Kelvinator Home Microwave

Kelvinator Microwave “Radarange” thought to be the first home microwave oven used in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 1956. (Museum object #1985.30) By today’s standards, this microwave oven is quite bulky and very heavy. Housed in a brushed stainless steel cabinet which...
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Posted August 10, 2006



Nash Ambassador Automobile

1948 Ambassador sedan, manufactured by the Nash Motors Division of the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation, Kenosha, Wisconsin, 1947-1948. (Museum object #1992.156) The Ambassador was the Nash Motors Company's top of the line model in 1948. This model 4868 four door sedan sports...
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Posted August 3, 2006



Harley-Davidson Knucklehead

1941 Model FL motorcycle manufactured by the Harley-Davidson Motor Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1941. (Museum object #2003.19.1) The FL was Harley-Davidson's first modern "heavyweight" motorcycle. Introduced in 1941, the FL featured the high compression version of the company's first 74-cubic-inch overhead...
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Posted July 20, 2006



Elto Cub Outboard Motor

Elto Cub outboard motor manufactured by the Evinrude Motors Division of Outboard Marine and Manufacturing Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1939. (Museum object #1997.35.3) Produced for only two years, the Elto Cub is an interesting sidelight to the venerable history of the...
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Posted July 6, 2006



Copper Swiss Cheese Kettle

Copper kettle used to make Swiss cheese at the Tuscobia Cheese Factory near Rice Lake, Wisconsin, c. 1910 to 1969. (Museum object #2004.64.1) Swiss cheese was traditionally made in round, copper kettles because the metal heats quickly and uniformly. This...
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Posted June 22, 2006



Bolens Garden Tractor

Garden tractor manufactured by the Gilson Bolens Manufacturing Co., Port Washington, Wisconsin, 1928-1939. (Museum object #2001.1.1) This multi-purpose, walk-behind garden tractor helped bring the advantages of gasoline power to small farmers and market gardeners across America. It is equipped with...
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Posted June 15, 2006



Migrant Workers’ Bunk Beds

Bunk beds used by the Contreras family, Mexican-American migrant workers, in Wautoma, Wisconsin, 1970s-1980s. (Museum object #1999.16.1A-G) If home is where you rest your head, this bunk bed documents the process of Chicano migrant workers learning to call Wisconsin home....
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Posted June 8, 2006



Hoard's Dairyman Farm Milk Bottle

Half gallon milk bottle used by Hoard's Dairyman Farm of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, c. 1934-1944. (Museum Object 1977.354.84) This bottle documents a man, a journal, and a farm that were instrumental in transforming Wisconsin into the Dairy State. William Dempster...
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Posted June 1, 2006



Parker Pen Trim Lathe

Trim lathe used by the Parker Pen Company of Janesville, Wisconsin to manufacture pen barrels and caps, c. 1946-1999. (Museum Object #2001.51.1) The Parker Pen Company purchased this “trim lathe” shortly after World War II. Manufactured by the Elgin Tool...
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Posted April 27, 2006



Gold-plated Ray-O-Vac Flashlight

Gold-plated commemorative Ray-O-Vac flashlight produced to celebrate production milestone, 1950. (Museum object #1950.2541) As a convenient, portable source of electric power, dry cell batteries have been a success for over a hundred years. Much of that success has originated in...
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Posted March 9, 2006



Mirro Sno-Coaster: Cold Weather (and Cold War) Fun

Mirro Sno-Coaster sled manufactured by Aluminum Goods Manufacturing Co. of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, 1955. (Museum object #2006.2.1) In 1954 the Aluminum Goods Manufacturing Company of Manitowoc, Wisconsin was the largest manufacturer of aluminum cookware in the United States. Yet its size...
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Posted January 26, 2006



Oldest Wisconsin License Plate

Oldest known surviving license plate in Wisconsin, issued to a Mount Horeb man, 1905. (Museum object #1966.493.1) Over the past century, automobiles have massively influenced Wisconsin’s built environment and many aspects of our social behavior. But things were not always...
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Posted January 5, 2006



Pink Evergleam Aluminum Christmas Tree

Six-foot Evergleam Christmas tree with 94 branches made by the Aluminum Specialty Company of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, c. 1966. (Museum object #2005.174.1.1) Merlin and Nancy Molstad purchased this pink Evergleam aluminum Christmas tree around 1966 when they began operating Nelson Flag...
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Posted December 15, 2005



Pioneering Carbon Fiber Trek Bicycle

Model 2500 bonded carbon/aluminum racing bicycle, made by the Trek Bicycle Corporation, Waterloo, Wisconsin in 1988. (Museum object # 2005.135.1) The Model 2500 is a pivotal bicycle in the Trek Bicycle Corporation’s development of carbon fiber technology. Headquartered in Waterloo,...
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Posted September 15, 2005



Aqualand Water Ski

Water ski used at Camp Timberlane for Boys in Northern Wisconsin, 1962. (Museum object #2003.115.1) Aqualand Manufacturing Company of Woodruff, Wisconsin, began making wooden water skis in 1961 and often sent their products to nearby Camp Timberlane for Boys for...
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Posted July 21, 2005



"Blitz Fog" Pesticide Cocktail

"Blitz Fog" pesticide package, manufactured for Northern Industries, Inc., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, c. 1965-1967. (Museum object # 1999.143.22) This package of "Blitz Fog," which features a casually dressed woman eradicating pesky mosquitoes as she tidies her lawn with a power mower,...
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Posted April 21, 2005



Big Boy

Trade figure from the Big Boy restaurant on South Park Street, Madison, Wisconsin, 1971-1985. (Museum object #1993.52) In 1932, scientists at Owens-Illinois Glass Company discovered a way to make glass fibers in commercial quantities and began marketing the material as...
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Posted January 31, 2005



Electric Drink Mixer

Electric mixer manufactured by Wisconsin Electric Co. of Racine, Wisconsin between 1921 and 1928. (Museum object #2004.18.1A-B) This mixer, which is an early product of Wisconsin's significant small appliance industry, documents the relationship between several of Racine's most noteworthy manufacturers....
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Posted January 24, 2005



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