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Marathon County Park, Wausau, Wisconsin, circa 1936 WHI Image ID 77879
Marathon County Park, Wausau, Wisconsin, circa 1936 WHI 77879

'Wisconsin: A Guide to the Badger State'

Photographer Harold Hone photographed cities, towns and landscapes in Wisconsin from 1936 to 1940. Most of the images in this collection were done as part of his role as staff photographer for "Wisconsin: A Guide to the Badger State," the 1941 publication by the Wisconsin Federal Writers' Project. The Works Progress Administration, a Depression-era New Deal program, created the project to put people back to work on public works projects. In addition to downtown views of Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Wisconsin Dells and other major Wisconsin cities, the collection includes images of Vilas Zoo in Madison, the Lake Michigan shoreline, major Wisconsin industries including lumber and milk production, mass-produced housing, and the landscapes of Wisconsin.

The collection held in the Society's library and archives consists of more than 769 photographs and 705 negatives, and around 25 oversize photographic prints. This gallery includes select images from the whole collection, focusing on the images used in the "Guide to the Badger State" and those depicting the Madison area.

About the 'Guide to the Badger State'

A lookout area on Rib
Mountain near Wausau
A lookout area on Rib
Mountain near Wausau
WHI 77877

The WPA created the guide to be distinctly a guide, not a systematic history of the state, as the book's foreword states. The book contains three parts: a series of historical essays about the general background of the state, a section describing the nine largest cities of the state, and a third section labeled the "Road Ahead," composed of a series of tours covering the main highways of the state. The book has two intentions: to guide the motorist through Wisconsin and to provide background knowledge of the state. All three sections fit together to fulfill these intentions and represent a single picture of Wisconsin.

Throughout the book are sections of photographs to accompany the text, many taken by Harold Hone. The photographs found in this gallery depict people enjoying outdoor recreation activities, scenic images of Wisconsin's cities and towns, historic or important buildings around the state, scenes from daily life, and Wisconsin's main industries including lumber, commercial fishing, farming and dairy, and shipping. The other images found in this gallery are woodcut illustrations by artist Frank Utpatel. These illustrations depict the people, history and scenery of Wisconsin, and are scattered throughout the text of the book, usually found at the end of chapters.

Harold N. Hone, Madison Photographer (1892-1970)

Harold Hone, a well-known Madison portrait photographer, created many of the images in this gallery. Hone was known for his artistic work and original photographic methods, including his use of the "soft lens" technique. Throughout his career, Hone photographed many noteworthy Wisconsin figures, including governors, Senator Gaylord Nelson, all of the La Follette family members, Frank Lloyd Wright, and many prominent University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty members.

According to Hone's May 3, 1970, obituary published in The Capital Times newspaper, his landscape photography was also, "highly regarded for its excellence." His obituary described that, while he was originally born in Toledo, Ohio, Hone moved to Madison in 1914 after living in Minneapolis and, "worked in every phase of commercial photography for the old Photoart Studio. … He returned to Minneapolis for a time, then turned back to Madison, where he was employed as a cameraman and dark room man for Oscar De Longe. Several years later he opened up his own studio and operated it in a number of sites along State Street. He operated as a photographer from his home on Ridge Street after moving there. Hone was never highly promotional in the business, but was highly regarded by other photographers throughout the nation."

An earlier newspaper article written about Hone on November 11, 1956, by the Wisconsin State Journal describes him opening up his own studio in the 100-year-old Findlay House on Ridge Street in Madison on the 100th anniversary of the beginning of portrait photography. The article describes Hone's career and approach to photography, stating that, "Hone's studio equipment is simple, and he strives for an honest picture."

Frank Utpatel, Artist (1905-1980)

Frank Utpatel was a well-known artist born in Waukegan, Illinois, in 1905. Frank's woodcut illustrations have been used for many novels' cover art, especially Arkham House's H.P. Lovecraft books. Utpatel's work is also featured in the "Guide to the Badger State." Sixteen of his woodcut illustrations are found within the pages of the book, showing images of the people, places and history of Wisconsin. Utpatel created these images as part of his work with the Federal Art Project, which, like the Federal Writers' Project, was part of the Works Progress Administration.

Utpatel's work with the Federal Art Project helped launch his career as an artist and led to exhibitions in New York and Chicago. The artists involved in Wisconsin's Federal Art Project were asked to create works of art to be displayed in public buildings such as banks, post offices, schools and hospitals. The art that came out of Wisconsin's Federal Art Project is valuable because it gives us a window into the lives of people in Wisconsin during the years of the Depression. The collection of Utpatel's work held in the Society's library and archives includes the 16 images in this gallery, along with three other illustrations done as part of the Federal Art Project.

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