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November 2005 Odd Wisconsin

Legislating Marriage

We read on the AP wire this morning that "hundreds of people jammed a Capitol hearing Tuesday to argue over whether the Wisconsin Constitution should be amended to ban gay marriage." This isn't the first time that lawmakers have tried to legislate what constitutes a legitimate marriage. For 150 years, French traders and Indian women married according to la fašon...
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Posted in Curiosities on November 30, 2005

A Typical City Involved in a Typical Daydream

Maybe it's an 1842 view of Kenosha from the lake, or perhaps it's a postcard from Superior in 1945. Maybe it's a lithograph bird's-eye view of Beaver Dam, or Janesville actually shot from the air in the 1860s. Perhaps it's a stereopticon view of main street in Mount Horeb, or a live shot of skateboarders on a Milwaukee sidewalk. More...
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Posted in Curiosities on November 27, 2005

Bonne Fete, Sieur La Salle!*

Nov. 22nd is the birthday of Robert Rene Cavelier, Sieur De La Salle (1643-1687), for whom more than 1,000 American places have been named. Though he spent relatively little time in Wisconsin, few individuals had more impact on our history. La Salle was born in Rouen, Normandy, in 1643 to a prosperous family with investments in New France. His elder...
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Posted in Odd Lives on November 21, 2005

H.L. Mencken & the Goblet of Beer

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth film based on J.K. Rowling's fabulously popular books, has swept the nation this weekend, taking in $100 million in its first three days. A large part of the excitement stems from the movie's dark twist, which appears to mark the end of the series' childish innocence. No one was better at...
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Posted in Odd Lives on November 20, 2005

A Rosendale By Any Other Name

There are more than 2,500 cities and towns in Wisconsin, each with a name that tells a story. Mackford, for example, derived its name from one Hiram McDonald, "generally known as Mack, who was one of the early and prominent settlers of the area. In this section there was also a ford where the trail crossed the river and the...
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Posted in Curiosities on November 18, 2005

Pike's Peek at Wisconsin

Today is the 199th anniversary of the moment that explorer Zebulon Pike (1779-1813) first set eyes on the Colorado mountain that gave his name immortality. Ten days later he climbed part way up it and left this glowing account (from our American Journeys online collection). Only six months before, in the spring of 1806, Pike was here Wisconsin. He had...
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Posted in Odd Lives on November 15, 2005

Couples, couples, couples

Working Title Films' new version of Pride & Prejudice is opening this weekend to rave reviews. It seems we have an inexhaustible interest in the many ways that couples come together, whether in 1805 or in 2005. There were, of course, stereotypical Victorian dour couples that make us grimace almost as well as they did, but back then there were...
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Posted in Curiosities on November 11, 2005

Holding Church Down at the Depot

Pioneer telegrapher and railroad worker George F. Brigham (1827-1914) of Sharon, in Walworth County, performed many feats in his long life. He knew the inventor of the telegraph, Samuel F. B. Morse, and strung wires with the man who would later found Cornell University. He received the first telegraphed message of a presidential inauguration, that of Zachary Taylor (once a...
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Posted in Odd Lives on November 9, 2005

Prince of Wales & King of the Sandwich (Islands, that is)

This week England's Prince Charles has been tourng the U.S. He and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, visited the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York, hurricane-ravaged New Orleans, and northern California near the site where their countryman Sir Francis Drake landed more than 300 years ago. They won't be coming to Wisconsin, though. So far as we...
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Posted in Odd Lives on November 8, 2005

Protesting Trade Policy, 18th c.-style

The mass demonstrations greeting President Bush today in Argentina are nothing compared to the violence with which Wisconsin residents sometimes greeted French and English officials 250 or 300 years ago. When the French dictated fur-trade terms to the Wisconsin tribes at the end of the 17th century, the Fox Indians settled in the valley still named for them and attempted...
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Posted in Curiosities on November 4, 2005

Java Man

Do you worry that you drink too much coffee? Charles Clark of Milwaukee literally spent his life at it. He got into coffee just as consumers switched from roasting their own beans to buying pre-roasted and ground beans at the grocery store. After starting business in New Orleans in 1885, Clark moved to Milwaukee before World War One and, with...
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Posted in Odd Lives on November 2, 2005

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