November 2011 Odd Wisconsin
One would naturally think that our official state song, "On, Wisconsin!," was inspired by residents of the Badger state. But the "Battle Hymn of the Republic"? Who'd have known. Here's how it happened. Lincoln Inspects the Troops Early in the Civil War, the Sixth Wisconsin Infantry was stationed outside Washington, D.C., to protect the nation's capital. On Nov. 20, 1861,...
Posted in Curiosities on November 30, 2011
Few holidays are as uniquely American as Thanksgiving. We unconsciously picture in our minds over-flowing tables, grammar school classrooms decorated with paper turkeys, and idealized Pilgrims and Indians feasting harmoniously at the birth of the nation. But most of this is made up. "... Yet by the Grace of God..." There are only two textual sources for the origin of...
Posted in Curiosities on November 23, 2011
In the mid-1850s, railroads spread rapidly across the Wisconsin. A line built from Milwaukee to Waukesha in 1851 was extended to Madison in 1854 and reached the Mississippi three years later. But then disaster struck -- a banking crisis called the Panic of 1857, killed investment, and the brakes were slammed on railroad construction. Poverty beside the Tracks The workers...
Posted in Children on November 17, 2011
The Badgers meet Minnesota on Saturday in the latest incarnation of a football rivalry dating back more than a century. The first Madison game was a long time coming and long-remembered. Until 1894, the two teams had always played in Minnesota, and the Badgers had always lost. Gophers manager J.E. O'Brien repeatedly refused to play in Madison because he...
Posted in Curiosities on November 11, 2011
We've all probably encountered someone who makes a career out of telling the same story over and over again. In the 1850s, a Prairie du Chien attorney named A.V. Blair made this mistake and was repaid with a practical joke that frightened him out of town. Pirates and Vigilantes It all started with a band of river pirates who...
Posted in Curiosities on November 3, 2011