Use the smaller-sized text Use the larger-sized text Use the very large text

January 2005 Odd Wisconsin

On the Dole for the First Time

On January 28, 1932, Wisconsin passed the nation’s first unemployment compensation law. Labor unions had been urging it since 1910, and in 1918 policy analyst John Commons proposed a plan that would have shared the cost equally among workers, employers, and state government. Progressive state senator Henry Huber, however, altered it so that businesses would have absorbed the entire cost,...
read more.
Posted in Curiosities on January 28, 2005

Slaves, Graves, and Knaves

The Milton House is the only stop on the Underground Railroad known to have actually had an underground refuge. Joseph Goodrich, a staunch abolitionist, operated the Milton House as an inn before the Civil War. He fed and sheltered escaping slaves in its basement rooms, and to protect them from unexpected discovery by other guests he excavated a tunnel to...
read more.
Posted in Curiosities on January 27, 2005

The Two General Macarthurs

Today is the birthday of Gen. Douglas Macarthur (1880-1964), famed for leading U.S. forces in the Pacific during WWII and being conspicuously relieved of his command during the Korean War. To millions of Americans he is a well-known military hero; he is shown here congratulating Wisconsin ace Richard Bong on winning the Congressional Medal of Order in 1944. Few people...
read more.
Posted in Curiosities on January 26, 2005

La Follette at the Fire

January 25th marks the 100th anniversary of Robert La Follette's election to the U.S. Senate. He'd already served in Congress and as governor when, on January 25, 1905, he was elected Republican senator for the term beginning March 4, 1905. Eleven months earlier, the state capitol had caught fire (during the night of February 26-27, 1904). Gov. La Follette was...
read more.
Posted in Bizarre Events on January 25, 2005

Even-Handed Corruption of the 1850s

Jan. 24th is the birthday of Coles Bashford, the leading actor in a strange political drama of the 1850s. For years Democrats had controlled state politics and Milwaukee's William Barstow had controlled the Democrats. When he ran for re-election as governor in 1855, his only serious opposition came from Coles Bashford of Oshkosh, the candidate of the new Republican Party....
read more.
Posted in Bizarre Events on January 24, 2005

Is Madison Just Naturally Weird?

You may have heard our capital city called "a tiny island in a sea of sanity." Certainly it has had its share of lovable eccentrics. But maybe its oddities come not from its residents but from more fundamental causes. In 1837, when the first surveyors came to the hilltop where the Capitol now stands, their compasses would not work. It...
read more.
Posted in Curiosities on January 21, 2005

Security for the Inauguration (Lincoln's, that is)

Security for President Bush's second inauguration is reputed to be the tightest ever devised. In sharp contrast, Abraham Lincoln's security detail consisted of a single officer - - Al Pinkerton, founder of the famous detective agency. Frank Pond, a Wisconsin teenager who shoveled coal on the train that carried the president to his inauguration in January 1861, left this account...
read more.
Posted in Curiosities on January 20, 2005

Governors, governors, governors

Certain images of our leaders stick in our minds. There's the Victorian dignity of the one-armed Gov. Lucius Fairchild (he lost his other one at the Battle of Gettysburg), the moral intensity of Fighting Bob La Follette, the goofy grin of his son Gov. Phil, and the unmistakable charisma of Gov. Tommy Thompson . For portraits of all Wisconsin's governors...
read more.
Posted in Odd Lives on January 19, 2005

The State of the State

This week Gov. Doyle will present the annual “State of the State” address and legislators will begin fashioning remedies to what they see as our most pressing problems. As 2005’s priorities emerge, Odd Wisconsin will occasionally shed light on how other leaders in other times faced the same challenges. As French journalist Alphonse Karr put it when Wisconsin was young,...
read more.
Posted in Curiosities on January 8, 2005

Winter of the Big Snow

Every generation likes to think its successors have things easy. “Why, when I was young…” we are all tempted to say to our little ones. For several decades, though, the winter of 1880-1881 really was the worst that anyone could remember. This 1922 article from the Milwaukee Journal looks back on the autumn storm that began the wintery of 1880-1881...
read more.
Posted in Bizarre Events on January 6, 2005

Wisconsin & the Birth of Automobiles

Jan. 3, 1899. On today's date the New York Times is said to have first used the word "automobile" in print. By then, however, automobiles were old news in the Badger State, where the first horseless carriage had been invented in 1871 by a Racine clergymen named J. W. Carhart (really). Several years later two machines competed in a race...
read more.
Posted in Curiosities on January 3, 2005

  • Questions about this page? Email us
  • Email this page to a friend
select text size Use the smaller-sized textUse the larger-sized textUse the very large text