The following article was selected by the editors from Volume 21
of the Wisconsin Magazine of History (June 1938) pp.397-404.
Copyright © 2000 by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin.
Louise Phelps Kellogg was born in Milwaukee in 1862, during the Civil War. She was appointed research assistant to the director of the State Historical Society in 1901, the year of Queen Victoria's death, and served in that position until her own death in 1942. Her knowledge of the early history of Wisconsin was profoundly broad and deep, and her books on the French and British regimes in the Old Northwest remain in print. Miss Kellogg's brief survey of Wisconsin's sons and daughters in the Dictionary of American Biography appeared in Vol. 21 of the Wisconsin Magazine of History (June 1938), pp. 397-404.
by Louise Phelps Kellogg
In 1936 the Dictionary of American Biography in twenty volumes was completed, with 13,633 separate biographies of persons not living who had attained eminence or importance in their several professions or accomplishments. Recently has appeared an index volume classifying the subject of the biographies by their birthplaces, their geographical locations, and their several occupations. There is also a list of the college bred, and the institutions in which education was attained. We propose to make a brief study of the contribution Wisconsin has made, to what has seemed to the editors of this great Dictionary the eminence of our nation.
The plans for this work and the carrying it out secured as complete historical accuracy and as impartial a choice as was humanly possible. It is based on the great prototype issued in England a generation ago, The Dictionary of National Biography, still continuing by additional contributions to present British eminence to the world. The American biographical dictionary was sponsored by the American Council of Learned Societies, including the American historical association, and every effort was made to secure impartiality, accuracy, and inclusiveness. A preliminary committee surveyed the field and appointed Professor Allen Johnson of Yale University editor-in-chief. He was responsible in large measure for the choice of persons to be included and the assignment to biographers. After the unfortunate accident in 1931 that resulted in his death and deprived the undertaking of his services, it was carried to a successful conclusion by his successor, Dr. Dumas Malone.
Our purpose in this brief paper is to discover what share in American excellence belongs to Wisconsin as shown by this compilation. Wisconsin, as one of the younger states of the federal union, was not the birthplace of a large number of those contributing to the nation's eminence. The index shows that out of the 13,000 persons selected, only fifty-seven were born in the territory or state of Wisconsin. Of these, fifteen or sixteen were the sons of emigrants from Europe; the remainder, or three-fourths, were of what we call American ancestry.
This number, however, by no means represents Wisconsin's contribution to the eminent of the United States; indeed! of the "Wisconsin-born" more than a half attained their careers elsewhere than in Wisconsin, such as Alva Adams, who became governor of Colorado; Thomas J. Walsh, whose work for Montana took him into the United States senate; Eliza R. Scidmore, the traveler and author, who lived more in the Orient than in Wisconsin.
On the other hand many children, born elsewhere, coming in youth to Wisconsin, were here educated, and here made their contribution to eminence. In order, therefore, to ascertain from these volumes of biography the real numbers of Wisconsin persons considered eminent, it was necessary to make a hand count of those who make up Wisconsin's share in this enterprise. This resulted in a list of about 225 persons, or less than 2 per cent of the full biographical list. For purposes of comparison it may be noted that the latest volume of Who's Who in America contains 31,434 names of living persons of eminence of whom 845 were born in Wisconsin, and 471 are residents.
We now propose to examine some of these names and the reasons for their eminence. Wisconsin has had since its organization as a territory to the present time thirty-two governors, four of whom are still living and therefore find no place in the Dictionary. From among the twenty-eight possibilities remaining thirteen were accorded a place in this work, less than one-half of the number. Of the three territorial governors, Talmadge is not recorded; James D. Doty is classified in the Dictionary's list as a 'speculator'; Dodge is given his fully deserved credit. Among the state governors, the first two, Dewey and Farwell, are not entered, while Barstow and Bashford, not really more distinguished, are included because of their picturesque quarrel. Edward Salomon, the German lieutenant-governor, who on the death of Governor Harvey carried the state through nearly two years of the Civil war, is deserving of a notice, but has been omitted. Of the governors since the war, Fairchild, Washburn, Rusk, Hoard, Peck, La Follette, and Philipp are included; Lewis, Taylor, Ludington, William E. Smith, Upham, Scofield, and Davidson are omitted, while Blaine died too late to be considered.
Wisconsin has sent nineteen men to the United States senate, four of whom were living when the lists were made out. Of the fifteen remaining, ten find a place in the Dictionary-Dodge, Doolittle, Howe, Carpenter, Sawyer, Spooner, Vilas, La Follette, Stephenson, and Rusting. This is probably a fair choice, although Charles Durkee, the first Free Soil senator in congress, certainly deserves a niche in the Temple of Fame. Four Wisconsin youths became senators from other states, Augustus C. Dodge, Knute Nelson, Thomas J. Walsh, and William Warner. With these groups should be considered congressmen, of whom six from Wisconsin are noted, in addition to those who were also senators and governors; diplomats, seven in number, including Fairchild, Rufus King, and Paul S. Reinsch; cabinet officers, five-Howe, Payne, Vilas, postmasters general; Schurz and Vilas, secretaries of the interior; and Rusk, secretary of agriculture. This count for the group of public officials is fifty-two, or somewhat less than one-fourth of the number accredited by the Dictionary to our state. With these men of affairs may be classified judges and jurists, wherein Charles Dunn, Byron Paine, Luther S. Dixon, Edward G. Ryan, William P. Lyon, Harlow S. Orton, and John B. Winslow of our supreme court are given; with Gregory, Jackson, Larrabee, and Jenkins of other courts in the state.
Editors and journalists belong with men of affairs; of these Wisconsin has had full share; sixteen are listed, including such well known names as David Atwood, William D. Hoard, Horace Rublee, George W. Peck, Marcus M. (Brick) Pomeroy. The last two with Edgar W. Nye are also listed as humorists. James W. Scott, Chicago's eminent journalist, was Wisconsin-born, while Horace White of New York fame lived for a time at early Beloit, where a park is named for him and his father, pioneers of that place. Foster D. Coburn, famous Kansas agricultural editor, and Frederick E. Pond, a sporting editor of New York, were natives of Wisconsin earning their fame elsewhere.
Turning now to the academic field, it will not be considered strange that Wisconsin shows considerable eminence in this line. Thirteen college presidents are sketched, of whom Adams, Barnard, Bascom, Chadbourne, Chamberlin, Lathrop, and Van Hise served the State university; Chapin, Beloit college, and Mary Mortimer, Milwaukee college. William E. Huntington presided over Boston university, James W. Bashford over Ohio Wesleyan; Fred W. McNair was president of a Michigan college, while Christian K. Preus was for many years head of Luther college at Decorah, Iowa.
Of the twenty-seven graduates of the State university, five of the law school and six graduate students, many went to serve elsewhere as physicians, college presidents, diplomats, senators, congressmen, and scholars in many lines; while those who remained to serve the state include La Follette, Reinsch, Rublee, Spooner, Turner, Van Hise, Vilas, and Charles McCarthy. The Dictionary classifies as educators and teachers twenty-one Wisconsin persons of whom Madame Giesler-Anneke and James MacAlister of Milwaukee, the two Salisburys, Albert and Rollin D., John W. Sterling, and John W. Hoyt are best known.
Among scholars are seven historians, five librarians; archeologists, astronomers, biologists, botanists, classicists, entomologists, geologists, ornithologists, philologists, political scientists all have representatives from Wisconsin. Thus college presidents, educators, scholars, and librarians total sixty-seven, larger than any other group from Wisconsin.
Next in the academic group are the clergymen and missionaries that gave their services to the people of Wisconsin. This group is somewhat enlarged by the inclusion of the early Jesuit missionaries of the seventeenth century, Allouez, André, Dablon, Druillettes, Marquette, and Ménard. Nineteenth century Catholic missionaries are Baraga, Heiss, Katzer, Mazzuchelli, Saenderl, and Verwyst. Protestant beginnings are represented by Sherman Hall, James W. Bashford, James Lloyd Breck, Jackson Kemper, Samuel Fallows, and Stephen D. Peet, as well as by that enigmatic character Eleazar Williams, mistakenly called the 'lost dauphin' of France. The clergymen, who accompanied and served our foreign immigrants, were for the Norwegians Claus L. Clausen, Johannes W. C. Dietrichson, Elling Eielsen, Gjermund Hoyme, Christian K. Preus, and Hans G. Stub. The German speaking clergymen noted are August L. Gräbner, John Martin Henni, Sebastian G. Messmer, and Friedrich A. Schmidt. With the clergymen and missionaries may be classed the reformers such as Olympia Brown, Eugene W. Chafin, Samuel D. Hastings, May Eliza Wright Sewall, Anna H. Shaw, and Frances E. Willard. This group numbers forty-six, next to public servants in numerical importance.
Authors usually obtain much publicity, but in a new state like Wisconsin the leisure for quiet writing was not usual, and those listed in the Dictionary index under this head number but sixteen. Include with these the poets, such as Peer O. Stromme, James Gates Percival, Ella 'Wheeler Wilcox; the dramatist, George C. Hazelton; and the historians (already classed among scholars), Frederick Jackson Turner, Charles Kendall Adams, Lyman C. Draper, Reuben G. Thwaites, and the Wisconsin-born James B. Perkins, and authorship attains the respectable proportions of twenty-five in the claim of Wisconsin to eminence. It should, however, be noted that most scientists, professors, and scholars may also be ranked as authors.
Artists are still more rare in a newer state; the only accredited architect is Father Mazzuchelli; the sculptors are two women of whom Wisconsin is proud, Vinnie Ream Hoxie and Helen F. Mears; musicians are Peter C. Lutkin, Wisconsin-born, John C. Fillmore of early Milwaukee, and Annie Aubertine Woodward Moore, writer on musical subjects, totaling but six names.
Among the physicians that have served Wisconsin, or having been born here have carried their fame elsewhere, are many quiet, notable men, whose names do not appear in any lists. However, several from Wisconsin have been sufficiently acclaimed to be included in the list we are examining. William Beaumont, Henry B. Favill, Walter Kempster, John B. Murphy, Albert J. Ochsner, and Nicholas Senn are found among the eminent, with Seth S. Bishop as a laryngologist.
Turning aside from the professions, what has Wisconsin achieved in business and manufacturing? It may be noted that several of Wisconsin's capitalists are included for other reasons than their riches. Thus Philetus Sawyer and Isaac Stephenson were exploiting lumbermen, but also United States senators; Alexander Mitchell, the Milwaukee banker, also went to congress. The Dictionary list includes as bankers Mitchell and his partner, George Smith, noted only for his money making achievements; Francis M. Smith, also a capitalist, who made his money by cornering borax in another state. Lumbermen, besides those named above, include Edward E. Ayer, also a bibliophile and book collector. Wisconsin manufacturers are Edward P. Allis, Jerome I. Case, George Esterly (also an inventor), Cadwallader C. Washburn, miller, and Michael Cudahy, meat packer. Two are classified as miners, George Wallace Jones and Moses Meeker. Railway builders are Alexander Mitchell and Henry C. Payne, while George W. Goetz and Richard G. G. Moldenke are metallurgists of the list. With this group may be listed Charles Ringling, circus magnate, and possibly Harry Houdini, magician, making sixteen or seventeen devoted wholly or in part to capitalism.
Soldiers and naval officers total fourteen; among the former Joseph Bailey, Edward S. Bragg, Jonas M. Bundy, Lucius Fairchild, and Rufus King of Civil war fame; William G. Haan of the World War; while Zebulon M. Pike, William E. Merrill, Zachary Taylor represent officers of regular or professional status.
Miscellaneous groups are agriculturists, eight, including Franklin H. King, Hiram Smith, William D. Hoard, and John W. Hoyt. There are five engineers, including John B. Johnson and Roland D. Irving. Four are listed as fur traders including Ramsay Crooks, Robert Dickson, Peter Pond, and Joseph Rolette. From this group is omitted Hercules L. Dousman, who might have been also put among the capitalists, being one of Wisconsin's earliest millionaires. Inventors also are listed as follows: Carl E. Akeley, John F. Appleby, George Esterly, and the inventor of the typewriter, Christopher L. Sholes. Stephen M. Babcock, of milk tester fame, died too late to be included. Travelers and explorers may be classed together: of the latter ten belong to the seventeenth century; three, Charlevoix, Peter Pond, and Jonathan Carver to the eighteenth; while Zebulon M. Pike, John Muir, Jeremiah Curtin, and Mrs. E. R. Scidmore are nineteenth century travelers and explorers.
This study is of necessity empirical and without full accuracy. Numbers of persons are included herein who belong to one or more other states; while probably some who contributed to Wisconsin's fame have been omitted. If the research is worth anything it is to show in a general way in what fields Wisconsin men and women have attained eminence. Thus public service, education and scholarship, and the self-denying activities of missionaries, clergymen, and reformers brought greater rewards in fame than the efforts of capitalists, manufacturers, or business men. Those devoted to the arts were few, and even authorship did not flourish to the extent it does in the present, when Who's Who classifies forty of Wisconsin residents as writers.
Perhaps this brief study may in some way aid ambitious youth in choosing a vocation that may add to the luster of Wisconsin's name in future years.