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Our Motto: Strange but true.

Our Mission: Amuse, surprise, perplex, astonish, and otherwise connect you with your past.

Our Method: Lower a bucket into the depths of Wisconsin history and bring to light curious fragments of forgotten lives.

Odd Wisconsin

Towns Named for Murderer & Victim

In the 1830s, a giant named Pierre Pauquette traded with the Ho-Chunk at the portage on the Wisconsin River. At six-foot two and 240 pounds, Pauquette was famous for his strength. His thighs were as thick as most men's waists, he could carry an 800-pound barrel of lead, and more than once he lifted a horse clear off the ground.... read the rest.
Posted in Curiosities on April 8, 2014

Cat Escaped the Nazis

Madison architect Herb DeLevie grew up in Stadtskanaal, Holland, where his father ran a successful business. Their large household was home to a number of pets, including an enormous black cat that adopted them. "Before the war," DeLevie recalled, "before my father went into hiding, we had a great big black cat that appeared one day... This cat was a... read the rest.
Posted in Animals on April 3, 2014

Mud Season Begins

The vernal equinox arrived last week, and we've already encountered another sure sign of spring -- mud season. It's nice to see bare ground poking through the snow (and for the first time in three months), but the consequence of melting snow is rising tides of muck. Here's an early resident's memory of the main street in Fond du Lac... read the rest.
Posted in Curiosities on March 27, 2014

Mrs. Lincoln Grieves in Waukesha

"I am trying as you will perceive, to make the most of this fearfully wearisome summer. . . I live in a retired manner in a private house on the outskirts of the town where there are no other boarders and have all the advantages of the country. . . . I am so miserable over my great sorrows, that... read the rest.
Posted in Odd Lives on March 13, 2014

Aunt Mary Ann

Wisconsin's first doctor -- in the sense of someone paid to heal the sick -- was a woman of color known simply as Aunt Mary Ann to her Prairie du Chien patients. Her full name was Mary Ann Menard, though she had had two previous husbands before marrying Charles Menard, and raised more than a dozen children from the three... read the rest.
Posted in Odd Lives on February 28, 2014

Curling in Wisconsin

One of the stranger-looking Olympic sports on our televisions this week has been curling. Like most hardy winter pastimes, it has a proud Wisconsin heritage. Its roots lie in the 19th century, and after a long period during which curling nearly died out in America, the invention of ice-making in the 1930's revived the sport. Arrived with Scottish Immigrants A... read the rest.
Posted in Curiosities on February 20, 2014

Valentine's Day

It's Valentine's Day, so after madly dashing out to buy that gift you forgot to pick up earlier this week, you might want to click over to our gallery of historic valentines and see where this custom originated. Years ago, people didn't buy mass-produced cards from multinational corporations in chain stores. They made valentines themselves as a personal expression of... read the rest.
Posted in Curiosities on February 13, 2014

How Cold Is It?

We're seeing some of the coldest temperatures in years. Decades from now, our kids may brag about surviving "the brutal cold of January '14." To put it in perspective, here are some claims made by lumberjacks 100 years ago. One recalled a winter when a logger wanting to write home "just stepped outdoors and shouted the words he wished to... read the rest.
Posted in on February 7, 2014

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... read the rest.
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... read the rest.
Posted in Animals on January 23, 2014

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