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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Curlers in Her Air

The sounds of curlers have been in the air in Wisconsin since the Territorial Era. This month Portage native Maureen Brunt competed with the USA womens curling team, but both of her parents were also curlers, and so was her grandmother, according to NBC News. As Brunt's heritage reveals, curlers have been growing up here for generations. The Milwaukee Curling Club, founded in 1846, is the oldest in the nation, and the second oldest in Wisconsin is the Portage club, established in 1850, where Maureen Brunt spent much of her childhood.

By the 1870s the sport was well-established in southern Wisconsin. "The strange noises that have been haunting Silver Lake since the defeat of the Portage Club by the Milwaukee Club, on the frozen surface of that beautiful sheet of water, to the discomfort of some of the quietly disposed citizens, sounding like the croaking of some mighty 'bullfrogs,' who in their deep bass tones croaked out 'eighty-one, eighty-one, eighty-one,' since last Friday afternoon, have now entirely ceased," wrote an observer when Milwaukee defeated Portage for the Grand National Club Medal on January 23, 1879.

Teams from Lodi, Portage, Arlington, Cambria, and Poynette were five of the eight founding Wisconsin members of the Northwestern Curling Association of America a few years later, and a stone from that curling-rich region is in our Museum collections. The Society Library-Archives Division collected and preserved the evidence of the sport in annual volumes of the Grand National Curling Club of America, one of which can be read online at Turning Points in Wisconsin History.

Wisconsin's curling tradition is also documented in photographs of the men and women who kept the sport alive when baseball, basketball and football began to dominate the media. Its Wisconsin audience was large enough even to attract visiting athletes from Scotland during the Packers glory years. This past Friday the USA Men's Team captured the 2006 Olympic Bronze medal, though Maureen Brunt's womens team did not qualify for the finals. Still, with curling in the air, on the ice, and in the heritage of Wisconsin, we look forward to great successes in the future.

:: Posted in Curiosities on February 25, 2006

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