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April 2007 Odd Wisconsin

Great Expectorations

Nearly a century ago, librarian and museum director John Cotton Dana belittled "marble palaces filled with those so-called emblems of culture, rare and costly and wonder-working objects... which kings, princes, and other masters of people and wealth had constructed." He argued that museums should collect, preserve, and share the objects of everyday community life. He would presumably have enjoyed the...
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Posted in Curiosities on April 25, 2007

Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood

Did you know that state government was originally forbidden from spending anything at all on roads and highways? That's especially odd, since today the state spends 2.5 billion dollars annually on transportation. What caused that 180-degree change in attitude? The framers of the 1848 constitution inserted a clause saying that "the state may never contract any debt for works of...
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Posted in on April 22, 2007

Let Us Go Then, You & I

Traveling just for the fun of it is a comparatively modern idea. For instance, Wisconsin's best-known tourist destination, Wisconsin Dells, only dates from the mid-19th century, and northwoods tourism is even younger than that. The first white people to see the Dells were probably Green Bay fur traders. Louis Beaupre wintered on the Lemonweir River in 1810-1811, as, in 1820,...
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Posted in Curiosities on April 15, 2007

Big Boss Man ?

Women were always a rare sight in logging camps, and women bosses were almost unheard of. "Old Mary Ann," long-remembered in northeastern Wisconsin, was the exception who proved the rule. Mary Ann McVane came to Peshtigo from Maine before 1870 and, after operating a boarding house in the town, she joined her husband in the woods. Although he ostensibly ran...
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Posted in Odd Lives on April 8, 2007

Another Time's Forgotten Space

In this week's Supreme Court election, both candidates were women. Although for 2,500 years artists depicted justice as a woman, real flesh-and-blood women were prohibited from the courts until comparatively recently. Here, for example, is the opinion of Edward G. Ryan, who occupied Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson's current position during the 1870s, on whether women should be permitted to practice...
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Posted in Curiosities on April 4, 2007

If You Look At It Right

Besides the pleasure it gives, history is a powerful tool for teaching young people to think critically. By giving them primary sources to analyze and requiring them to explain conflicting viewpoints, educators help kids develop skills that will serve them the rest of their lives. With this in mind, some years ago our Office of School Services designed a lesson...
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Posted in Curiosities on April 1, 2007

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