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July 2005 Odd Wisconsin

Tall Tales of a Tall Guy

Every state that ever floated a log to a mill has claimed Paul Bunyan as part of their unique heritage. But, as every resident of the Badger State knows, he and Babe the Blue Ox really belong to Wisconsin. Need proof? This article published in the Vilas County News in 1921 tells of some his well-known exploits. And the credibility...
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Posted in Curiosities on July 25, 2005

Paines in the Neck for Powers-That- Be

Before the Civil War, Wisconsin's politics generally mirrored the nation's. Democrats rode a wave of popularity that began with Andrew Jackson, and as tensions heightened nationally in the 1850s over slavery and states rights, most residents of Wisconsin were too busy trying to create homesteads or fortunes to care very much. But in the mid-1850s a small minority of utopian...
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Posted in Odd Lives on July 21, 2005

Our Atomic Heritage

This weekend marked the 60th anniversary of the birth of the atomic age. On July 16, 1945, the first atomic bomb was exploded at the "Trinity Site" on the White Sands Proving Grounds, 20 miles east of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and 45 miles north of El Paso, Texas. Three weeks later, on August 6th over Hiroshima and August 9th...
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Posted in Curiosities on July 17, 2005

The Crowning of King James

July of 1850 marked the high point in one of Wisconsin's oddest stories. James J.Strang (1813-1856) was an early Mormon leader in the years before the Latter Day Saints emigrated to Utah. After the death of founder Joseph Smith in 1844, Strang forged a document claiming that he had been selected by Smith to be his successor. The community divided...
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Posted in Odd Lives on July 8, 2005

Why Are These Women Smiling?

Photography has become ubiquitous, with digital cameras hidden in cell phones and bulging from shirt pockets. It's easy to forget that having one's picture taken was once an important event; and of course for most of the 20th century, everyone set in front of a camera was instructed to smile. These Ho-Chunk women who posed in the studio of Charles...
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Posted in Curiosities on July 8, 2005

Poverty at the Supreme Court

In the 19th century Wisconsin Supreme Court justices were paid so little that some of them had to go into debt merely to keep house in Madison. The city’s chief banker, Lucien Hanks, who started as a humble teller in 1860, revealed this in an article published in 1923. We tend to think of such august figures as pillars of...
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Posted in Curiosities on July 6, 2005

"Don't Hit Me Again!"

In 1890 a northwoods train crew, realizing they'd hit a pedestrian on the rails in the middle of the forest, ran back to see if he had survived the impact. They found a drunken lumberjack who had mistaken the charging mail train for an adversary in a brawl and ... well, you can read the rest yourself in our collection...
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Posted in Odd Lives on July 4, 2005

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