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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Odd Wisconsin Turns 500

This is the 500th slice of nonsense to be published since Odd Wisconsin emerged from the fertile brain of the Society's former Webmaster, James Ellis, more than three years ago. Here at, 419 anecdotes have appeared since Jan. 12, 2004, when "Spurned Inventor Creates Suicide Machine" launched the blog. Another 81 have been printed in the Wisconsin State Journal, appearing every Wednesday since Jan. 18, 2006. The cream of the crop is just now being published in book form (here's a shameless link to ordering info).

Before we indulge in too much pride at turning 500, though, let's pause for a moment to reflect on other Wisconsin activities that totaled that same magic number:

In the winter of 1821, 30-year-old Moses Hartwick walked 500 miles through the snow, from Detroit, Michigan, to Brown Co., to see "a Green Bay girl, whose heart beat responsive to his own." They later married (of course).

500 lashes were supposedly given by white settlers to the son of Sauk war chief Black Hawk in the winter of 1831-32, "the last in a series of outrages that had induced his father to take up arms."

When some soldiers deserted Fort Winnebago in Oct. 1832, they were tracked to a village of 500 Ho-Chunk located near a trader's hut on the bluff where Monona Terrace now stands, in downtown Madison. Their captain found that his men "had imbibed too freely of the French trader's bad whiskey to be well qualified to secrete themselves. One of them had taken so great liberty in his debauch that he was unable to be carried back immediately."

500 bushels of potatoes were raised on the Menominee Reservation in 1848, which white observers took as a measure of their progress toward "civilization."

During the course of the year 1858, donors gave the fledgling Wisconsin Historical Society 500 pamphlets (we still have them).

On Oct. 18, 1862, 500 Jefferson County men volunteered to fight for the Union.

In 1869, in the space of 9 hours, hunter Adam Bogardus shot 500 passenger pigeons.

In 1890, 500 gallons of urine were estimated to be deposited on city streets every eight hours (per 1,000 work horses). No wonder they needed "Sewer Socialism" in Milwaukee.

An average of 500 prisoners was held at the Waupun Correctional Facility on any given day in 1893.

In May of 1916, 500 Milwaukee school children participated in an American history pageant. Dressed in home-made regalia, they depicted scenes from our nation's past that included "The Coming of the Pilgrims," "Paul Revere's Ride," and "Pioneer Times." Their final tableau, ironically, was simply called "Peace" -- while World War I raged, across the Atlantic.

Finally, in 1943 500 women workers flocked to new manufacturing jobs at the Falk Company plant in Milwaukee, to help produce goods in support of the war effort.

So 500, like any other number, is just an arbitrary benchmark. Will Odd Wisconsin make it, Methuselah-like, to 1,000? Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, keep checking this site and the Wisconsin State Journal on Wednesday mornings to get your regular serving of trifling tales from Wisconsin's past.

:: Posted in Curiosities on July 10, 2007

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