Wisconsin Historical Society

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Current Issue of the Wisconsin Magazine of History

Summer 2017 Issue, Volume 100, Number 4: Centennial Celebration Issue

Current Issue of the Wisconsin Magazine of History | Wisconsin Historical Society

Table of Contents

Letter from the Editor

EnlargeSummer 2017 Magazine Cover

Summer 2017 Magazine Cover

To celebrate our centennial year, we asked several Wisconsin writers to describe a person or event that exemplifies Wisconsin history. From Jerry Apps on the shift from wheat to dairy, to Joe Kapler on the iconic images of Wisconsin, this issue celebrates much of what we think of as Wisconsin history. Woven together, these stories form a patchwork that resembles John Steuart Curry’s 1939 painting, Wisconsin Landscape, which graces our cover.

            In Curry’s rendering, bands of light fall on the fields, shining out from between majestic, gathering storm clouds. Similarly, our state’s history is a mix of shadow and light—a nuanced story we try to honor every time we go to print. In this issue, Christy Clark-Pujara examines failed attempts to achieve black male suffrage; Nancy Unger profiles a female dairy farmer who won international fame despite her gender; and Erika Janik recounts women’s entrance into the male-dominated sport of bowling. Periods of light also shine through: the Progressive-era reforms that brought oppor­tunity and equality to everyday citizens, and an environmental legacy bolstered by the likes of John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and Gaylord Nelson, as told by Michael Stevens and Michael Edmonds.

            Curry’s painting was of its time, not a romantic, nineteenth-century farmscape, but one whose contours were shaped by the newest thinking in crop rotation and soil management. In the same way, we strive at the Magazine to honor the past without falling prey to nostalgia. As Milo M. Quaife wrote in our very first issue, “The manifold life of our state and country is constantly changing. If our Society is to fulfil its proper func­tion, it must constantly strive to adjust itself to the current developments of the world to which it belongs.”

                What remains constant in times of change? For Curry, it might have been the land itself, and his devotion to it. For the Magazine, it’s our “scholarly ideal,” which, Quaife wrote, would not be “sacrificed . . . in any way” even as the Magazine was to be “as interesting as may be to the ordinary reader.” We will continue to honor these ideals in the next one hundred years, as we share the exquisite complexity of our state’s great history.

Sara Phillips, PhD

From Wheat to Dairy Farming and More

EnlargeFrom Wheat to Dairy Farming and More

Richard W. Patt, acrylic, ca. 2015. IMAGE COURTESY OF RICHARD W. PATT

By Jerry Apps

Popular writer Jerry Apps chronicles Wisconsin’s transition from wheat to dairy farming after the Civil War, looking at factors from the immigration of Yankee farmers to new technology, shifts in supply and demand during the war, problems of overworked soil and cinch bugs, and the culture of dairy farming which ironically took several decades to catch on in what would become “the dairy state.” 

Three Degrees of Separation: Wisconsin's Environmental Legacy

EnlargeThree Degrees of Separation

Aldo Leopold’s shack nestles into the landscape near the Wisconsin River. WHI IMAGE ID 129888 View the original source document: WHI 129888

By Michael Edmonds

“In the beginning there was John Muir, who begat Aldo Leopold, who begat Gaylord Nelson, who begat Earth Day.” So says the Sierra Club website, tongue-in-cheek. But this lineage is cited by Wisconsin residents as proudly as Mayflower descendants tout pilgrim ancestors. In this reflective essay on Wisconsin’s environmental lineage, Michael Edmonds takes a closer look at Muir, Leopold, and Nelson.

The Tenpin League of Women Bowlers

EnlargeThe Tenpin League of Women Bowlers

Women and men bowl together in this 1950s alley, though most bowlers would advise you not to roll at the same time as those beside you. WHI IMAGE ID 7149 View the original source document: WHI 7149

By Erika Janik

At the turn of the twentieth century, the popular pastime of bowling was seen as a man’s sport, played in taverns alongside liberal quantities of alcohol. Some men feared what allowing women in might do, with the sport’s close ties to drinking and many women’s efforts to ban alcohol. As ferment for woman’s rights and temperance grew in the early twentieth century, the future of bowling seemed to hinge on alcohol and suffrage. Yet despite fears over the passage of suffrage and prohibition, it was women who helped bring respectability to bowling, making it the most popular participant sport in the US from the 1920s to the 1970s.

Contested: Black Suffrage in Early Wisconsin

EnlargeBlack Suffrage in Early Wisconsin

Daguerreotype of Ezekiel Gillespie, ca. 1840s. Gillespie’s attempt to vote in Wisconsin’s 1865 general election led to a lawsuit that extended voting rights to black men in Wisconsin. WHI IMAGE ID 129509 View the original source document: WHI 129509

By Christy Clark-Pujara

Historians have long identified three reasons why the 1846 constitution failed: it allowed immigrants who applied for citizenship to vote, granted married women the right to own property, made the question of black suffrage subject to popular referendum. Clark-Pujara focuses on why black suffrage was so contentious and the message that sent to blacks in Wisconsin and those thinking about settling in the state.

Iconic Wisconsin: How Images Shape Our Understanding of History

EnlargeIconic Wisconsin

Inside the Allis-Chalmers plant, workers pose with a spiral casing for a hydraulic turbine being made for the Niagara Falls Power Company in 1923. WHI IMAGE ID 2045 View the original source document: WHI 2045

By Joseph Kapler

Historical Society curator Joe Kapler selects twenty of the most iconic images and objects related to our state’s history, and turns a critical eye on their meaning in the past and for the present. 

Adda F. Howie: "America's Outstanding Woman Farmer"

EnlargeAdda F. Howie

This signature image of Adda Howie playing the mandolin for her cows, ca. 1909, appeared in news¬papers across the United States and in England. WHI IMAGE ID 129425 View the original source document: WHI 129425

By Nancy Unger

An overlooked figure in the history of Wisconsin, Adda Howie was once known as “America’s Outstanding Woman Farmer.” A socialite turned dairy farmer, Howie developed of one of the world’s finest herds of dairy cattle through her application of what she termed “feminine dairy wisdom.” She implemented new sanitation practices that ensured better health for her herd as well as better dairy production. Howie contributed to broadening notions of what constituted women’s proper sphere and potential areas of expertise in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the early twentieth century.

McGovern's Progressivism

EnlargeMcGovern's Progressivism

Oil portrait of Francis McGovern in 1917 by Nicholas R. Brewer. WHI IMAGE ID 2802 View the original source document: WHI 2802

By Michael Stevens

Campaign finance reform, teacher pay, state highway funding, natural resource protection, tax fairness, the University of Wisconsin budget, vocational education, worker protection—all issues at the top of the state’s political agenda. The year? 1911. A 21st-century reader could be forgiven for doing a double take, for the list sounds remarkably contemporary. Yet these issues and others were the subjects of one of the most notable speeches ever delivered by a Wisconsin governor, Francis McGovern, in January of that year.

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