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November 2004 Odd Wisconsin

The Real Christmas Tree Ship

The Weather Channel is currently airing a half-hour movie about the Wisconsin schooner Rouse Simmons. Built in Milwaukee in 1868, for many years it brought Christmas trees from northern Wisconsin to Chicago each Thanksgiving. Its captain Herman Schuenemann even became affectionately known as "Captain Santa" and the arrival of the city's Christmas trees became an annual Chicago event. His voyage...
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Posted in Strange Deaths on November 26, 2004

Ghosts of Shoppers Past

This weekend, purportedly the busiest shopping days of the year, may be a good time to look back on how Americans shopped in times past. We complain about finding a parking place at the mall and get annoyed about lines at cash registers. J.A. Gilmore of Deer Creek had to ford the Wolf River just to get groceries. People who...
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Posted in Odd Lives on November 26, 2004

Kennedy in the Badger State

Dateline: Dallas, Texas, Nov. 22, 1963. It is once again the anniversary of the most famous assassination of our times. November always brings the conspiracy theorists, the forensics experts, and the Zapruder film back into our living rooms, until we risk remembering the Kennedy era only as violence and funerals. Young people could be forgiven for seeing it as simply...
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Posted in Strange Deaths on November 19, 2004

The Political Dustbin

Dateline: Madison, sometime in the early '90's (1890's, that is). This past week we've witnessed more than the usual amount of partisan nastiness here in Madison, as legislators, lobbyists, and editorial writers went after one another at the Capitol and in the press. A century ago things were just as bad, as this reminiscence reveals. In those days, when the...
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Posted in Bizarre Events on November 19, 2004

Historical Museum, Handcuffs, & Executions

Dateline: June 19, 1913. On this day, the press reported that relics of the last execution in Wisconsin were to be given to the State Historical Museum in Madison. They are handcuffs worn by John McCaffry, the last person executed by the state before Wisconsin outlawed the death penalty in 1851, and as brutal a murderer as most on today's...
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Posted in Strange Deaths on November 12, 2004

Close Shave for the President

Dateline: Jan. 31, 1922. No, not this week's election. On this date barber Herman Gaertner shared his recollections of shaving the great, the near-great, and the to-be-great. Coming to Madison at age 17 shortly after the Civil War, he sharpened his razors and scissors at the Park Hotel on the Capitol Square for several decades. At a time when most...
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Posted in Odd Lives on November 1, 2004

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