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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Add One Baby and Stir


Almost every day we add a dozen or two new photographs to our online collection, Wisconsin Historical Images. This means that peculiar pictures are published online fairly frequently. One can only wonder, for instance, what made this toddler's parents pose it in a mixing bowl. Or why Gov. Emanuel Philipp would have thought it politically wise to have his picture taken with his arm around a cow, given the row that broke out a few years earlier when one of his predecessors, Gov. Edward Scofield, showed too much affection for one his own cows.*

In any event, if you want to keep up with the ever-rising tide of online photographs coming out of the Society's dark and dingy vaults, subscribe to our email newsletter for the visually enamored or, better yet, to our RSS feed. You'll never miss a weird or wonderful photo, and you'll get immediate notice as our monthly image galleries roll out.

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* After Gov. Scofield was elected in 1896, he had his favorite cow shipped to the capital from his Oconto home by rail -- without paying for it. Free railroad passes for officials were commonplace at the time. By handing out free rides, the railroads ingratiated themselves with lawmakers. They even provided extra passes for politicians to dole out to supporters and undecided voters, and the railroads went largely untaxed and unregulated by their friends in government. Robert M. La Follette considered these free passes nothing less than bribery, calling them "a great asset of the machine politicians" that "went far toward corrupting the politics of the state." He and his supporters had tried to outlaw them for years, but their bills were always blocked by the lawmakers who profited from the system. Until Gov. Scofield's cow rode the rails. Then the Progressives pointed out to thousands of small farmers and factory workers that, while they were required to pay full fares out of their hard-earned wages, free rides were being given to political hacks and even a lowly cow. "It raised a storm of mingled ridicule and resentment," La Follette recalled in his autobiography. "Scofield's cow became famous, her picture appeared in the newspapers, and she came to be known in every home in the state." In the legislative session of 1899, their bill passed and "at once cut off one of the strong props of the boss system in Wisconsin."

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A particularly alert reader points out (3-23-07) that the baby in the photograph linked above may actually not be in a mixing bowl but rather in "a wash basin which was common in the old days, to be kept in bedrooms with a pitcher of water to wash up after use of the chamber pot, and presumably during the changing of a baby's diaper." Very possible indeed, and far more likely; but less odd, unfortunately.


:: Posted in Children on February 28, 2007

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