Use the smaller-sized text Use the larger-sized text Use the very large text

The Top 10 of 2004

In what is becoming a year-end tradition, members of the Wisconsin Historical Society staff take a retrospective look at history-making stories that have unfolded over the past 12 months and identify the top 10 with a Wisconsin connection. This year's stories run the gamut from political, medical and war news to history-making sports stories. And for a slightly more comprehensive look at the year in review, we've added three additional top 10 lists — history books, history Web sites and artifacts acquired for the state history collection. You might also be interested in our 2004 Year In Review.

Top 10 Wisconsin History Events and Stories

    Michelle Witmer, Courtesy Witmer Family Website,
    Pvt./Medic Michelle Witmer
  1. Michelle Witmer Killed in Baghdad
    Michelle Witmer of New Berlin, the National Guard's first female soldier to be killed in combat, was a member of the Wisconsin National Guard. Witmer, who was helping train Iraqi police, was killed in an ambush on April 9. She was serving in Iraq along with her two sisters, Rachel and her twin Charity. Witmer was the first member of the Wisconsin National Guard to be killed in combat since World War II. To date, 32 Wisconsin soldiers have died in the war in Iraq.
  2. Voters in Swing State Wisconsin Hit the Polls
    Wisconsin citizens were courted repeatedly by major party candidates in the 2004 presidential election, resulting in one of the highest voter turnouts in Wisconsin history. An estimated 2,992,390 voters cast ballots, far exceeding the 2.62 million who voted in the 2000 presidential election. State voter turnout was 73 percent. The national average was 59 percent, making 2004 a banner year for participatory democracy.
  3. Brett Favre, courtesy
    Brett Favre
  4. Brett Favre: Iron Man
    Green Bay Packers quarterback and future Hall of Famer Brett Favre made Wisconsin and NFL sports history by starting his 200th consecutive game on Monday, November 30, 2004. Favre led a spirited team to victory over the St. Louis Rams, 45-17.
  5. Maybe it Was the Bike
    Lance Armstrong and the U. S. Postal Service cycling team won a world-record sixth consecutive Tour de France on July 25. Armstrong raced on different versions of the Trek Madone SL, and used ultralight aerodynamic time-trial bikes for the Tour's four time trials. The Madone bikes, designed and manufactured by Trek in Waterloo, Wisconsin, are one of the only commercially produced frames ridden in the Tour. The Postals won all six Tour de France races riding Trek bicycles.
  6. First Major PGA Championship in Wisconsin in 71 Years
    The 86th Professional Golfers' Association championship, played at Whistling Straits in Haven, Wisconsin, pumped a staggering $76 million into Wisconsin's economy, nearly doubling the economic impact of the 2003 PGA tourney in Rochester, New York. Vijay Singh won the championship by making a birdie on the first of three playoff holes. The par-72 course hugs two miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and was stretched to 7,526 yards for the final round, the longest layout in major championship history.
  7. $205 Million Overture Center for the Arts Opens
    The Cesar Pelli-designed Overture Center for the Arts opened in Madison on September 18. Covering a city block, the center houses seven performance spaces including the 2,251-seat Overture Hall and five visual arts spaces. The center encompasses existing Madison landmarks in a new modern building topped with a glass dome. The construction cost of $205 million was a gift from W. Jerome Frautschi of Madison.
  8. Brewers Sold to California Investor
    Milwaukee's Selig baseball family sold the Brewers baseball club to Los Angeles investor Mark Attanasio for a reported $180 million, though sources close to the Brewers believe the sale price was closer to $200 million. The transaction means ownership of the state's major league baseball team passed outside of Wisconsin for the first time since the baseball franchise was brought to Milwaukee in 1970 by Selig and Edmund Fitzgerald.
  9. Rabies Survivor: Wisconsin Makes Medical History
    As a result of a potentially groundbreaking medical experiment, Jeanna Giese, 15, of Fond du Lac, became the first known human ever to survive rabies without vaccination. Giese was bitten by a bat at a church service on Sept. 12 but did not seek treatment and was not vaccinated. She was admitted to Children's Hospital in Wauwatosa on October 18 with full-blown rabies. Rabies vaccine is ineffective in advanced cases so doctors opted to put Giese in a drug-induced coma and treated her with a combination of anesthetic and antiviral drugs.
  10. Elroy 'Crazy Legs' Hirsch, courtesy
    Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch
  11. Wisconsin Football Great Elroy Hirsch Dies
    Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch died January 28. Known for his unorthodox running style, Hirsch starred as a running back on the 1942 Wisconsin Badgers football team. He also played nine years in the National Football League and led the Los Angeles Rams to the league title in 1951. A Wausau native, Hirsch later returned to Wisconsin as the UW-Madison athletic director. He retired in 1987.
  12. Potosi Picked for National Brewery Museum
    Wisconsin's unique association with the history of brewing beer was recognized when the American Breweriana Association picked the Potosi Brewery in Grant County as the site for the National Brewery Museum. The original Potosi Brewery opened in 1852. Funded by a half-million-dollar federal grant and $250,000 from the American Breweriana Association, the Potosi Brewery Foundation plans to seek additional funding sources to finance the $3.4 million project.

Do you have an idea what the top history events and stories of the past year are? Tell us.

Top 10 History Books

From Michael Stevens, Director of Public History (in no particular order)

  1. "Cataclysm: The First World War As Political Tragedy" by David Stevenson
  2. "Third Down and A War to Go" Terry Frei (Buy)
  3. "Masquerade: The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier" by Alfred F. Young
  4. "Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America's Founding Ideas" by David Hackett Fischer
  5. "His Excellency: George Washington" by Joseph J. Ellis
  6. "When Is Daddy Coming Home?" by Richard Haney (Buy)
  7. "The Reformation: A History" by Diarmaid MacCulloch
  8. "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow
  9. "Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare" by Stephen Greenblatt
  10. "1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft & Debs — the Election that Changed the Country" by James Chace.

Top 10 History Websites

From James Ellis, Website Producer (in no particular order)

  1. Wisconsin Electronic Reader
    Stories, essays and letters about Wisconsin, from 1835 to 1849.
  2. Minnesota Historical Society
    Un-official sister historical society produces some excellent content and great Web work.
  3. Digital Encyclopedia of American History
    University of Houston has collected links of other websites and put them together as a virtual encyclopedia.
  4. American Journeys and Making of America
    Primary sources dating from 1000 AD to 1877.
  5. The Valley of the Shadow
    Two communities in the American Civil War
  6. Ad*Access and Prelinger Archives
    Database of advertisements between 1911 and 1987.
  7. History News Network and Arts and Letters Daily
    History as it happens.
  8. National Archives (England)
    We have almost 400 years of history and some days that feels like a lot. And then I remember that National Archives of England has over 1,000 years of material.
  9. Japanese Photographs from 1850-1890
    Gorgeous, high-definition images from Edo-era Japan.
  10. Wikipedia
    When it comes to quick facts or definitions, Wikipedia has them all beat.

Top 10 Objects Acquired for the State History Collection

From the staff of the Wisconsin Historical Museum

Dining Chair, 2004.10.1a-c

Dining Chair
Designed c. 1937 by Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) for the dining room of Taliesin West. The chair resided in Taliesin West until the furniture was replaced. It was then used in the Wisconsin cabin of James Lloyd Jones. Later, the cabin was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. John R. Howe and the chair was reupholstered by Mrs. Howe. Donated with a matching ottoman by Lu Sparks Howe. More information...


Fair Ribbon Quilt, 2004.12.1

Fair Ribbon Quilt
Made by the donor's great aunt Elizabeth (Meibohn) Milward of Madison from about 250 ribbons won by Elizabeth's husband William Henry Milward for his fruits, flowers, and poultry between 1908 and 1934. Several ribbons are from the Wisconsin State Fair, others are from agricultural fairs around the state More information...

Electric Drink Mixer, 2004.18.1a-b

Electric Drink Mixer
Manufactured by Wisconsin Electric Co. of Racine between 1921 and 1928. The word "Horlick's" on its base refers to the Horlick's Malted Milk Co. of Racine. Wisconsin Electric was founded in 1913 by Chester Beach and Louis Hamilton, who had previously helped found the Hamilton Beach Manufacturing Co. of Racine. According to legend, Hamilton Beach Manufacturing Co. developed the first practical electric drink mixer in 1911 at the urging of William Horlick. More information...

Sash, 2004.22.2

Worn by noted suffragist and peace activist Jessie Annette (Jack) Hooper (1865-1935) of Oshkosh, who served as recording secretary of the National Committee on the Cause and Cure of War. The Committee held an annual conference most years from 1925 through 1940, and Hooper was the chair of the Committee delegation that took petitions to the World Disarmament Conference at Geneva in 1932. Hooper may have worn this sash to one or more of these conferences between 1925 and 1935. More information...

Top Hat, 2004.28.1.1

Top Hat
Worn by Francis Edward McGovern (1866-1946) at his inauguration as Wisconsin governor in 1911.
Donated by James H. van Wagenen

The museum received not only the hat, but also the frock coat and cane used by McGovern at his inauguration. These items join a small collection of clothing associated with the ceremonies and balls held in honor of the installation of the state's governors.

Seder Plate, 2004.35.1

Seder Plate
Used in the 1960s by the Norton and Lois Stoler family of Madison to help celebrate Passover.
Donated by Lois Stoler.

The museum acquired this plate after hosting the traveling exhibition, "Unpacking on the Prairie: Jewish Women in the Upper Midwest." The exhibition focused attention on documenting Wisconsin Jewish history.

Blanket, 2004.60.1

Designed by renowned Ho-Chunk artist Truman Lowe beginning in November 2002 to honor the September 21, 2004, opening of the National Museum of the American Indian. The blanket design is based on the applique ribbonwork patterns of Lowe's mother, Mabel Davis Lowe (d. 1976), and is titled "Sauninga" ("The Shining One" in Ho-Chunk), which was Mabel Davis Lowe's given Indian name. The blanket was manufactured in 2003 by Pendleton Woolen Mills of Portland, Oregon, which called this a "Ribbon Robe," product #ZR495-50579. More information...

Cheese Kettle, 2004.64.1

Cheese Kettle
Made by D. Picking & Co. of Bucyrus, Ohio, and used by donor's parents, Ernest Albert and Hulda Hilfiker, to make Swiss cheese. Ernest and Hulda owned and operated the Tuscobia cheese factory north of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, from 1942 to 1984. Ernest was born in Boswil, Switzerland, and emigrated to the US in 1924. He operated several cheese factories in Monroe, Wisconsin, before buying the Tuscobia plant in 1942. More information...

Wedding Suit, 2004.97.1a-b

Wedding Suit
Worn by donor's maternal grandmother Emma (Ketel) Gallagher at her wedding on September 4, 1901, in Neillsville, Wisconsin. Emma was born August 1873, probably in Neillsville, the daughter of William Ketel, a stone mason, and Matilda Miller/Mueller. Emma married David Gallagher, a lumberman. The donor describes them as extremely poor. In the 1900 census Emma and her mother were both listed as seamstresses, so they would have made the dress.
More information...

Bronze Plaque, 2004.119.1

Bronze Plaque
Designed by nationally known sculptor Rene Paul Chambellan (1893-1955) and made c. 1946-47 for the Ripon Knitting Works of Ripon, Wisconsin. The plaque was made to commemorate the plant's earning the Army-Navy "E" award for excellence in war production during World War II.
More information...

  • Questions about this page? Email us
  • Email this page to a friend
select text size Use the smaller-sized textUse the larger-sized textUse the very large text