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January 2014 Odd Wisconsin

He Must Have Been Yaps

One of the more fascinating aspects of any culture is the jargon that its members speak. Whether they're an ethnic community, professional colleagues, a sports league, or a religious sect, every group that shares the same values and lifestyle will evolve a unique vocabulary for talking about it. For example, a lumberjack arriving at a northern Wisconsin hospital supposedly explained...
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Posted in Curiosities on January 30, 2014

Birds of a Feather

Enjoying the birds at your feeders from the warmth inside your house this weekend? Here are some of the people who first studied and popularized our feathered companions. Pioneer Scientists Before the Civil War, R.P. Hoy cataloged the birds of southeastern Wisconsin and reported his findings to scholars in the East. Another mid-century scientist, Increase Lapham, built on Hoy's work...
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Posted in Animals on January 23, 2014

Frontier Justice

Judge William C. Frazier arrived in Milwaukee on a Sunday night in June of 1837. Newly appointed to the Eastern Judicial District of Wisconsin, he had time on his hands that evening and joined a friendly game of poker at his inn. The stakes were small at first, but the wagers increased over the course of the night until "small...
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Posted in Odd Lives on January 15, 2014

Newhall House Hotel Fire

This weekend marks the anniversary of one the state's great tragedies. At 4:00 a.m. on the morning of January 10, 1883, passersby saw flames shooting from one of Milwaukee's landmarks. Built by merchant Daniel Newhall in 1856, it had been one of the nation's most magnificent hotels when it was new. 25 years later, the Newhall House was still fashionable,...
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Posted in Curiosities on January 8, 2014

Pioneer Hospitality

These days, we try to guard our privacy and security quite closely. But in the early days of Wisconsin, settlers had looser boundaries about such things. Helpful neighbors were an important part of establishing not only a home, but also a community. And this wasn't limited to lending a cup of sugar. Hospitality was key to forming close bonds, and...
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Posted in Curiosities on January 1, 2014

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