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August 2012 Odd Wisconsin

Labor Day in Wisconsin

To most of us, Labor Day is simply the final weekend of summer. But we have this long weekend only because more than a century ago working men and women insisted on public recognition of their contributions to American life. Origins of Labor Day. The direct inspiration for Labor Day occurred in New York City on Tuesday, September 6, 1882,...
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Posted in on August 30, 2012

Republican Connections, 1860-Style

When the Republican Party convention gets underway this week in Tampa (weather permitting), Wisconsin will play a prominent part. We were also close to the center of the party 150 years ago. The best-known Wisconsin Republican of that day was Watertown resident, Carl Schurz (1829-1906), a friend of President Abraham Lincoln. Early Life As a student in Germany in the...
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Posted in Odd Lives on August 23, 2012

Our First Presidential Candidate

Rep. Paul Ryan's selection as the presumed Republican vice-presidential nominee prompted us to investigate the first Wisconsin resident whose name was floated for vice-president or president. That appears to have been Milwaukee attorney Isaac P. Walker (1815-1872) and, as is often the case, his story has some strange twists. Anti-Slavery Southerner Walker was born in Virginia but came west and...
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Posted in Odd Lives on August 13, 2012

Mrs. Van der Heide and the Bear

Reverend Chrysostom Verwyst (1841-1925) was just a teenager living in the rural township of Holland, a few miles east of Appleton, when a neighboring farm wife wrestled with a hungry bear. He told the following story at the Society's annual meeting in 1916: Bountiful Wisconsin "In those days bears, deer, racoons, and wild pigeons abounded. In some years pigeons could...
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Posted in on August 9, 2012

Downhill All the Way?

Reading today's headlines fills our minds with endless examples of outrageous depravity. Contrasting these horrors with nostalgic memories of our own idealized childhoods, it's easy to conclude that the world is going to the dogs. Standards of personal morality and public behavior have both deteriorated dramatically. But maybe society has always been like this. "More Tolerable to Live amongst Indians...
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Posted in on August 2, 2012

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