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Staff Favorites in Turning Points

Homemaking and recipes from Milwaukee's own Martha Stewart

"Do not let the table become disordered during the meal." Sound advice in any era, let alone 1901 when these words were first written. Milwaukee native Lizzie Black Kander helped to establish and was president of Milwaukee's first social settlement, known simply as "the Settlement" in 1900. There, she taught cooking classes to immigrant girls to aid in their assimilation to American culture. The popularity of the classes and her recipes led to the publication of the the Settlement's own cookbook called The Way to a Man's Heart...The Settlement Cookbook

Considered the most successful fund-raising cookbook in American history, The Settlement Cookbook has been revised into 34 editions and sold more than 2 million copies. For countless brides, the book became standard as they entered married life.

Posted December 19, 2005

Those were the "days of REAL sport"

Wisconsinites have never been ones to let snow and bone-chilling cold slow them down! No, true Wisconsinites embrace the winter, enthusiastically adopting winter sports like...tobogganing! One particularly cold winter (temperatures hovering around 25 below zero) in 1885, some young men in La Crosse organized the La Crosse Toboggan Club. They built a huge slide for the sleds alongside a skating rink lit with electic lights that attracted nightly crowds to enjoy this "healthful outdoor sport."

Posted November 25, 2005

Not exactly Thanksgiving in Plymouth Rock, but at least they had turkey

Like the Pilgrims of Plymouth, French traders Pierre Esprit Radisson and his brother-in-law, the Sieur de Groseilliers, nearly starved to death their first winter in Wisconsin. Wandering the frozen grounds of the Northwoods, Radisson and Groseilliers struggled to find food, eventually resorting to eating their two dogs before finding some exiled Ottawas to live amongst for the winter. There, at the headwaters of the Chippewa River, Radisson and Groseilliers were given wild rice and other fowl, including wild turkey, prepared by the Ottawas. Groseilliers even gave a speech of Thanksgiving (p 213). While not exactly the feast enjoyed in Plymouth in the fall of 1621 (nor the one we enjoy today), the Ottawas saved Radisson and Groseilliers from almost certain death. This account, written after their return, describes their tumultuous trip.

Posted November 21, 2005

Expect the unexpected with Victor Berger...

The nation's first and only Socialist Congressman was quite the quirky character. Not one to let high office or honors change him, Victor Berger remained a "man of the people," eating pie with his fingers, wearing flashy suspenders, and even getting his nails manicured when he first went to Washington. This article reveals the man behind the movement, taking the symbol of Milwaukee socialism off his pedestal and onto the barstool.

And, in the same vein as the oft seen touristy saying, "my grandma went to [insert: fun place] and all I got was this crappy t-shirt," Berger, upon retiring from the Socialist national executive committee remarked, "I have been a member of the committee since the party was organized and all I ever got out of it was a 20 year prison sentence."

Posted November 11, 2005

"What sent that electric thrill through the man to his mate?"

Why a piece of land, for only the "most perfect country house" on the shores of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, of course! Frances Kinsley Hutchinson and her husband Charles built their country home in Lake Geneva in 1901. Prominent members of Chicago's business and civic community (Charles served as President of The Art Institute of Chicago from 1888-1924), the Hutchinson's developed many acres of land into a wildlife sanctuary that attracted more than 60 species of birds. Frances named the estate Wychwood in reference to the "wych-hazel" that grew on the property. She also wrote three books about the home, including this one, Our Country Home , published in 1907, which is the only one to include photographs of the estate. In very florid and dramatic prose, Frances describes how they transformed a Wisconsin woodland into a habitat for plants and animals.

Posted October 27, 2005

Take some diastoid and call me in the morning

Originally developed as a nutritional supplement for infants and people with bad digestion, malted milk changed the way America ate. Pharmacist James Horlick developed his wheat and malt-based drink in London but soon moved to Racine, Wisconsin, to join his brother William. In 1873, the two formed a company to manufacture their own brand of infant food. Ten years later, the Horlicks patented a new formula enhanced with dried milk that they marketed under the name "diastoid." Although the name didn't last--the company trademarked the name "malted milk" in 1887--the drink surely did, becoming a soda fountain staple.

Despite its origin as a health food for infants and invalids, Horlick's malted milk found several unexpected markets--the most unusual probably being that of explorers like Admiral Byrd.

Posted October 21, 2005

What's tart and tangy and comes from a bog?

Native to bogs across northern North America, cranberries are one of only three common fruits indigenous to North America--and Wisconsin is the nation's leading commercial producer. Cranberries have been an important Wisconsin crop almost as long as Wisconsin has been a state, as this 1875 article attests. In the mid-19th century, the first commercial cranberry marshes were established near Berlin, Wisconsin, and soon spread throughout Central Wisconsin. Until Ocean Spray blended cranberries with other fruit juices in 1963, though, consumer demand for cranberries was relatively small. This woman was certainly doing her part to encourage cranberry consumption, however, long before the introduction of juice blends.

Today, Wisconsin not only produces the most fruit, but also has the world's largest festival devoted to the tart red berry each fall in Warrens, Wisconsin. In 2004, Governor Doyle declared the cranberry Wisconsin's official state fruit, and nationally, October is National Cranberry Month.

Posted October 14, 2005

A dinner plate full of patriotism

Could you live without wheat, beef, pork, dairy products, and sugar? While this may sound like fightin' words in a dairy and agricultural state, during World War I, Wisconsin citizens were encouraged to do just that--and this booklet, produced by the Women Students' War Work Council and the UW Home Economics Department, contained recipes to show you how.

Although most people associate food rationing with World War II, state and federal ration programs were actually first implemented as a show of homefront patriotism during the first World War. In fact, Wisconsin pioneered many of the programs that formed the foundation for federal Food Administration policies. Wisconsin became the first state to organize both state and county-level Councils of Defense which helped to educate citizens about wartime sacrifices. As an agricultural state, Wisconsin's State Council of Defense was particularly interested in the national food crisis that developed once the U.S. entered the war in 1917. Council chairman Magnus Swenson began vigorously promoting food conservation through the cultivation of home gardens and the institution of meatless and wheatless days. Anyone for some steamed barley pudding?

Posted October 06, 2005

A workingperson's answer to the Monday morning blues

Trouble getting out of bed in the morning? John Muir has the solution you've been looking for--a bed that gets rid of you!

In this short reminiscence, Grace Lindsley recalls a visit to Muir's dorm room at the University of Wisconsin in the early 1860s, where she encountered his combination bed/alarm clock that tipped him onto the floor at the appointed time each morning. At the same time, another mechanism would strike a match and light a candle at the foot of the bed. Muir's room was full of innovative gadgets to help him maximize his college experience, many of which could still prove quite useful today.

Posted September 29, 2005

When romance and style came with a full tank of gas

While driving excitement is today intimately tied to the car itself, in the 1920s, fantastic-style filling and service stations provided attention-grabbing design and romance for motorists traveling Wisconsin roadways. Functioning as 3-dimensional billboards, thematic gas stations were readily identifiable for their resemblance to pyramids, windmills, and tepees, among other designs.

In Wisconsin, Wadham's Oil Company used the intrigue of the East to create an ornate pagoda-inspired chain of stations across the state. Over 100 stations were constructed between 1917 and 1930, and though varying in floor plan, all featured the red-stamped metal roof with flared eaves. The Wadhams pagoda represented a pioneering effort to tie architecture to corporate image, a move that would soon become a staple of fast-food architecture.

Posted September 22, 2005

"Wisconsin...a Utopia where everybody drinks their fill and John Barleycorn still holds forth in splendor"

So began Frank Buckley of the Bureau of Prohibition in his 1929 survey of prohibition enforcement in Wisconsin. Buckley's survey of Wisconsin provides a detailed portrait of the state soon after citizens had voted to repeal the state's own prohibition enforcement act. Buckley describes conditions in each county, offering his own colorful observations of life in certain cities, including this summation of Hurley: "gambling, prostitution, bootlegging, and dope are about the chief occupations of the place" (pg 1105).

Despite the passage of national prohibition in 1919, alcohol use remained fairly widespread. Fueled by media coverage of the gang wars in Chicago, public concern over crime and lawlessness throughout the U.S. grew in the 1920s, leading to the creation of a commission charged with investigating law enforcement efforts across the country. Popularly known as the Wickersham Commission after its chairperson, George W. Wickersham, the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement took surveys of virtually every state. More "wet" than "dry" it seems from this survey, prohibition in Wisconsin appeared doomed to fail.

Posted September 15, 2005

A lesson for teachers on how NOT to run a school

The U.S. government began organizing schools for Indian children in the 19th century. Like the missionary schools that preceded them, these institutions sought to teach Indians how to be white "Americans." After decades of forced removals and fighting, the government decided that the best way to deal with Indians was not to keep pushing them out of sight but to assimilate them into the dominant white culture. The Office of Indian Affairs issued a series of books and pamphlets, such as this one from 1892, that described in exact detail how this process of assimilation was to occur, from the organization of the school and school officials to the rules and lessons taught in the classroom. The purpose and methods of this process are made strikingly clear in rules such as no. 93: "Pupils must be compelled to converse with each other in English, and should be properly rebuked or punished for persistent violation of this rule. Every effort should be made to encourage them to abandon their tribal language."

The children's time was carefully monitored, with boys receiving instruction in agriculture or trade skills and girls in the domestic arts. This particular guide was designed for Indian girls who were expected to return home after school rather than enter a career. While it was certainly not unusual for boys and girls, white or Indian, to receive different classwork, the standards of what constitutes proper homemaking reveal much about the imposition of mainstream values on indigenous peoples in the early 20th century. To white policy makers and teachers, these efforts appeared to be a helpful act of kindness, while to Indians, they often seemed an act of aggression; as one Stockbridge woman recalled, "They tried to erase us."

Posted September 09, 2005

Ah, college life! Hard beds, bad food, and strict rules about members of the opposite sex

Like countless numbers of college students today, students in the 19th century had much to say to friends and family about teachers and classes, breaks from school, adventures with classmates, and most particularly, school food. "Tell grandma to please make some more cookies. Addie and I would starve if it was not for those," begged Fannie in letters written from her room at Wisconsin Female College in Fox Lake. Poor Fannie did praise the quality of the school cafeteria's bread and butter but that probably provided little comfort after a night spent on a bed stuffed with the occasional corn cob! The teachers also kept a close eye on their students, even keeping them from ice skating for fear of having them interact with the "town boys."

Opportunities for women to attend college increased throughout the United States in the 19th century. Wisconsin was home to several female colleges (as well as co-ed universities), including Fannie's school, the Wisconsin Female College, which opened its doors in 1855. In 1895, the Wisconsin Female College joined with Downer College and the Milwaukee Female College to become Milwaukee-Downer College.

Posted September 01, 2005

"Why don't he go himself and live in such a fine country, where there is an abundance of everything?"

In Oct. 1848, the U.S. government held a council with the Menominee Nation at Lake Poygan, in Winnebago County, to try to persuade them to give up their Wisconsin homelands and relocate west of the Mississippi. Fur trader Louis Porlier was there, and recalled how Menominee leaders reacted to the government proposal in this short memoir. Although at the end of the day the Menominee agreed to move west, when they inspected the Minnesota land two years later they argued successfully that the U.S. had mis-represented it, and refused to go. In 1854, a subsequent treaty established their reservation on 276,480 acres around Keshena, Wis., where most Menominee make their homes today.

Porlier's memoir quotes at length from a famous elder named Souligny (1785-1864), who relates a speech that the famous Ottawa resistance leader Pontiac (ca. 1720-1769) gave in Milwaukee in 1763, when trying to enlist Wisconsin Indians in his war of resistance against white settlers.

For the Menominee view of these events and their role in Wisconsin history (as well as much more information), visit the Menominee Nation home page at

Many more documents and accounts of Indian-white relations in Wisconsin are at Turning Points pages on the following topics:
Arrival of the First Europeans
Colonialism Transforms Indian Life
The French Fur Trade
The Black Hawk War
Treaty Councils
Indians in the 20th Century

Posted August 26, 2005

The radical women of Richland Center form a secret club

Meeting secretly in the home of Laura B. James (mother of future suffrage leader Ada James) on a June afternoon in 1882, a group of Richland Center women formed Wisconsin's first woman suffrage club. As the wives of prominent businessmen and professionals, these women felt that their husbands might not approve of their activities, so they operated publicly as a social, philanthropic, and intellectual club-- neglecting to mention the exact intellectual topic that brought them together.

Woman suffrage had little popular support in 19th century Wisconsin. Bills to grant women full suffrage were introduced in 1855 and 1867 but both failed. Many women's suffrage activists were also leaders in the temperance movement which generated hostility toward both causes from Wisconsin's powerful brewing industry and from German Americans. By the 1890s, a new generation of suffrage activists led by, among others, Ada James of Richland Center began relying heavily on women's clubs (like this secret one) to promote suffrage as one part of a broader platform of reforms.

Posted August 18, 2005

Water: quenching your thirst and healing your pain...

Mineral springs, known for their "unique medicinal and therapeutic properties," played an important role in the early tourist and resort industry in Wisconsin, particularly in Waukesha. Known as the "Saratoga of the West," Waukesha's history was forever changed in August of 1868 when Colonel Richard Dunbar drank 12 tumblers of water from the spring at Bethesda and proclaimed his incurable diabetes gone. Dunbar's "miracle" brought trainloads of visitors to Waukesha and led to the development of hotels and resorts to house all those who came seeking miracles of their own. Soon, other "healthful" resorts began springing up all over Wisconsin and the upper Midwest, prompting the Chicago, Alton & St. Louis Railroad to issue this travel guide to the healing waters along their rail lines in 1875.

In the nineteenth century, many Americans traveled to distant springs to drink, bathe, and totally immerse themselves in the supposedly healing powers of hot and cold mineral waters. Doctors analyzed newly discovered springs and constructed elaborate scientific classification systems and health regimens based on water cures. The discovery of germs and bacterias in the early 20th century though changed the way that medicine understood and treated disease, leading to a decline in miracle waters.

Posted August 10, 2005

And you thought your vegetable gardens were out of control

August in Wisconsin for home gardeners and cooks often means bumper crops of zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, and more. As you think of clever ways to bless your neighbors with piles of squash, just imagine trying to deal with the vegetables that came of the garden of Alfred Stanley Johnson! Johnson was a Beaver Dam photographer who specialized in the production of tall tale postcards. In these images, produced between 1911 and 1917, Johnson elaborately staged friends and family in story lines that were later embellished with enlarged vegetables and fruits.

Wisconsin's bountiful soils were a primary selling point for town promoters seeking to lure new settlers and immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Immigrant guides lavishly praised the state's agricultural potential, often citing examples of amazing crop yields and profit earned in Chicago, Cleveland, and other eastern markets. Johnson's tall tale postcards included titles that attributed these astounding agricultural achievements to the fertility of Wisconsin soils and the skills of local farmers.

Posted July 29, 2005

Finally! Relief from those embarrassing holes...

Long before the advent of nylon pantyhose in 1938, Milwaukee's own Holeproof Hosiery was producing high-quality, light, and durable silk-blend hosiery for fashionable women and men. Company founder Carl Freschl took hosiery to high art, experimenting for years before hitting upon just the right blend of fibers and intricate knitting technique to make "Holeproof a household word throughout the world." Holeproof Hosiery produced a variety of styles for men, women, and children in different silk-blends and colors. The company name said it all and it was backed up by a six month hole free guarantee. Today when bare legs seem to be the order of the day, let Holeproof remind you that hosiery is "always in good taste."

Posted July 27, 2005

"Buying the farm" takes on a whole new meaning

Settling in Sawyer County was made all that much easier with "made-to-order" farms from the Wisconsin Colonization Company. Each farm came with land, a barn, and your choice of 4 attractive home styles. No farm could be complete without some barnyard animals, so even the animals were included! One cow, 2 pigs, and 6 chickens, plus a set of tools and seeds to get you started. In the wake of the 19th-century logging boom in Northern Wisconsin, local promoters and settlers alike saw an opportunity to create a world of small-scale farms and self-sufficient communities. Unfortunately, the region was apparently better suited to growing trees than crops, and farmers struggled for decades. But for a few years anyway, promoters like those of the Wisconsin Colonization Company put forth a grand vision of community and prosperity for Northern Wisconsin.

Posted July 22, 2005

Shocking Developments on the Home Front: Electrical Power Transforms Domestic Life

"This is the porch where in the breeze
My lady irons at her ease
When summer makes the kitchen hotó
The Iron stays warm, the ironer not.
Fatigue's to her a stranger quite,
She does her work and finds it light--
In the Electrical House that Jack Built."

So begins this 1916 advertising brochure from Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Co., published to show how electric appliances could transform home life. Written in verse to parody the well-known nursery rhyme about The House That Jack Built, and illustrated with drawings like those in children's books of the period, it celebrates the convenience, comfort and health enjoyed by users of electrical appliances. Pictured are an electric iron, coffee maker, heater, vacuum cleaner, and clothes washer, as well as electric lights.

Today it seems odd that a utility company would have to advertise to get new customers to use their services. Electricity is so ubiquitous we forget that it was once unavailable. The story of how Wisconsin built its electrical infrastructure -- including the first electricity ever offered for sale anywhere in the world, rural electrification cooperatives, and dams for hydroelectric power -- is told and illustrated at our page on "The Introduction of Electrical Power."

Posted July 19, 2005

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