December 2005 Odd Wisconsin
Today is the one day out of 365 that everyone acknowledges history. We live in a frantic culture of immediate gratification where to most people the past is an irrelevant distraction. But at New Years everyone admits the passage of time, as they recall the old year and usher in the new one. Even people who never otherwise think about...
Posted in Curiosities on December 30, 2005
We hear a lot these days about new technology and the dramatic changes it's making in our lives. An outspoken prophet of an earlier technology -- first ignored, later persecuted, and ultimately vindicated -- was Milwaukee's Billy Mitchell, who was born on this day in 1879. William Mitchell (1879-1936) grew up in Milwaukee, the son of a senator and grandson...
Posted in Odd Lives on December 28, 2005
Dec. 26th is the birthday of two Milwakee brewers, grandfather and grandson, who made Milwaukee famous. Phillip Best (1814-1869) was born in Mettenheim, Germany, the day after Christmas in 1814. He came to Milwaukee in 1844 and established the Empire Brewery with his father, Jacob Best, Sr., and his brothers. In 1860 they all withdrew and Phillip took over sole...
Posted in Odd Lives on December 25, 2005
According to NOAA, winter officially begins today at 12:35pm, Wisconsin time. Of course, most of us have known it was winter for a few weeks now, and quite a winter it's started out to be this year. One exception to our nostalgia for the "good old days" is our memories of terrible winter weather. For example, the Wisconsin State Journal...
Posted in Curiosities on December 20, 2005
Americans have an apparently insatiable appetite for fantasy, whether it's the current box office hit The Chronicles of Narnia or the long run of Harry Potter. There once was a real Wisconsin Harry Potter, a writer for the Milwaukee Democrat in the 1870s, and we've also had our own lions, witches, and wardrobes. The lions came to town with the...
Posted in Curiosities on December 16, 2005
When in 1875 a proud Irish gentleman proclaimed his new racehorse could beat all comers - - knowing full well that his neighbors only owned draft horses -- a crafty German tavern-keeper proposed a race between the horse and a man. He chose the course, a mile up the neighborhood's best-known thoroughfare, bounded by wooden sidewalks, and the runner, a...
Posted in Curiosities on December 14, 2005
Last month 7-year-old Joshua Bradford of Prairie du Sac unearthed a 5,000-year-old Bison Occidentalis skull in the exposed bed of the Wisconsin River. This puts him in the proud company of the young Dosch brothers who, in 1897, came upon the bones of a mastodon in Elm Creek in the town of Boaz, about 5 miles west of Richland Center....
Posted in Curiosities on December 10, 2005
A number of you wrote in this week to comment on or add to our new online Dictionary of Wisconsin History. One of its most popular features is its many obsolete place names, which link defunct locations such as "Bad Axe" or "Kilbourn" to their modern equivalents (Genoa and Wisconsin Dells), and then lets you see them on a map....
Posted in Curiosities on December 7, 2005
Dec. 5th marks the anniversary of the demise of our nation's most enthusiastic effort to regulate public morality: on this date in 1933 Prohibition officially came to an end. Though called The Dairy State, Wisconsin might as easily have been known as the Brewski State, since beer-making was a tradition in its many German-American communities. In 1921, when Prohibition sentiment...
Posted in Curiosities on December 3, 2005