First Floor Exhibit
Spring – Summer 2022
Take a look at Wisconsin history through the eyes of some of the people who know it best:
Museum staff and volunteers!
We’ve selected some of our favorite images from the thousands in the Wisconsin Historical Society’s archives. Check out treasured pastimes, beautiful scenery, and a few pictures that were just too weird not to share.
A group of Menominee women,
Menominee, WI, 1943.
“In 1943, while the men are off fighting in World War II, these Menominee women are protecting their reservation’s white pine forests from blister rust by clearing away the ribes plants that carry the disease. I love how happy and confident these women look—they have their mission and know they’ll succeed.”
— Heather, Guest Services
A winding farm road,
Gilmanton, WI, 1969.
“My great-great-grandfather purchased his plot from the government in 1838 and was the first blacksmith in Walworth County. My dad grew up on the dairy farm called Royal Oaks. Memories still run strong of childhood time spent alongside my grandfather, milking cows, driving horses, and at threshing time.”
— Ron, Volunteer
A staged scene depicting men poised with weapons pointed at a hodag, a mythical beast, that has attacked a child.
“This monster was captured with great difficulty to display for terrified fairgoers around the state—at least, so claimed notorious prankster Eugene Shepherd. I recognize the hodag of this picture from happy memories of the statue that greets visitors to Rhinelander today, and the many more that populate the surrounding area. The upper Midwest is the source of many great tall tales, and this is one that helped a town that faced economic decline and was looking for a new identity.”
— Dylan, Guest Services
Portrait of Hank Aaron, who played for the Milwaukee Braves from 1954 to 1965 and helped lead the Braves to a World Series title in 1957.
“This image brings back the summer of 1957. I spent most evenings listening to Blaine Walsh and Earl Gillespie doing the Braves games on WTMJ radio. I was also lucky to have grandparents with season tickets. Baseball and Milwaukee go together and Henry Aaron was Milwaukee baseball in 1957.”
— Dennis, Volunteer
A group of men at the Echo Lake Hunting Club Camp, Pembine, WI, 1920.
“Just 35 miles south of this photo is another hunting club that created a 42-year family tradition of going ‘up north’ after my grandfather became a member in 1977. This tradition is filled with campfires, ATVs, swimming, fishing, family memories, and Old Fashioneds.”
— Sarah, Education
Postcard of “Tootsie” the dog, wearing a dress and holding a mandolin while sitting on a daybed. Madison, WI, 1910.
“This picture proves that people in the past were not just the grim-faced, prim, and immutable things that we often perceive. They were as weird and complicated as we are. Many things throughout Wisconsin history have undergone tremendous change— but apparently not our desire to take silly pictures of our pets.”
— Audrey, Education
Lawrence Wickman (right), owner of the Viking helping chef Helmer Erickson during a fish boil, Ellison Bay, WI, 1963.
“A visit to Door County isn’t complete without witnessing a boil over! The fun is less in the feast than the theatrics: each boilmaster entertains his audience with Door legends and fish boil facts (taken with a hefty grain of salt, of course). I love that boils have drawn people together around a fire in good spirits since pre-settlement times to enjoy the good things our state offers: Wisconsin wood, fish, and folklore.”
— Laura, Education
Aldo Leopold inspecting a white pine, Baraboo, WI, 1946.
“Our state has a history of pioneering unique environmental conservation methods perfectly exemplified by the photo of Aldo Leopold observing a white pine. Leopold’s idea and practice of the ‘land ethic’ is now used across the country and is worth recognizing.”
— Lucas, Guest Services
Harper’s Weekly cartoon, produced as a response to violent attempts to keep African-American voters from the polls during an election year, 1876.
“Lady Justice’s message is unapologetically blunt: white lives are not more valuable than black and it’s time to even the scale. Her outraged gaze calls out the morally corrupt white racists. The continued relevance of this image speaks to me.”
— Amy, Guest Services
Two campers yawn and stretch from their sleeping bags near a shoreline, Hazelhurst, WI, ca. 1950.
“In this photo, two sleepy girls yawn in their sleeping bags. I grew up camping with my own family, and this photo reminds me of myself and my sister, enjoying the natural beauty and fresh air of the outdoors.”
— MaryBeth, Guest Services
A group of cranberry harvesters at work, 1950.
“One day an elderly man took me by the arm. We went to the picture on the wall of the men working in the field. He said, ‘That man is my dad and that man is my grandpa. This picture was taken on our farm.’ This shows how our museum connects with people all over Wisconsin.”
— Lon, Volunteer
Group of people on the front porch of Villa Louis weighing the guests, Prairie Du Chien, 1898.
“This photo was taken in the Villa Louis in my hometown of Prairie du Chien. It shows the Dousman family weighing their guests. The Dousmans were known for being exceptionally good hosts and a visit to their home was considered successful if you weighed more when you left than when you arrived. Though I don’t think that weighing your guests would go over very well today I enjoy seeing how much fun this party had with it.”
— Ellie, Education
Drawing of a wild-looking Paul Bunyan, 1916.
“This sketch of Paul Bunyan depicts him not as a jovial children’s character, but a grizzled woodsman. To me, Paul Bunyan represents the history of ‘up north,’ spanning early lumber camp folklore to advertising in the modern-day tourism industry.”
— Nick, Education
Nels Wickstrom with his wife Anna (born Anna Stoel) and their children in front of their log home, Fence, WI, 1891.
“Traditionally, married couples stand together, or husband sits with his wife standing behind hand on his shoulder. But Anna is seated, next to her children. Only the position of her arm tells the tale that the family in Norway knows instantly: the Wickstroms are expecting another child! It would be improper for Anna to write to her family to say that she was expecting; she would blush to do so.”
— Dale-Harriet, Education
A woman rows a small boat with her cat, Madison, WI, 1895.
“I love this photo because it depicts two of my favorite Madison activities: hanging out on the lake, and hanging out with my cat. A century from now, I think Madisonians will still be taking their cats on adventures, whether the cats like it or not.”
— Laurel, Education
The first forestry building at Trout Lake Headquarters, Boulder Junction, WI, 1911.
“Trout Lake Headquarters, built in 1911, began forest restoration in the state. They were the first to sow pine seeds after decades of lumbering in Northern Wisconsin. My father didn’t work there until 1977 but the Javenkoskis still claim we were part of saving and regrowing Wisconsin’s forests.”
— Kate, Guest Services
Kenneth Crook’s Uranium Tunnel, Lone Rock, WI, 1954.
“To me this looks like an uncomfortable waiting room, but to the people in the photo it was a miracle of medicine. Lots of folks back then didn’t understand radiation’s dangers, but still had faith in its potential. The state shut down the Uranium Tunnel the year after this picture. I wonder if more patients were relieved or devastated by that.”
— Michael, Volunteer Coordinator
Lillian Wheeler positioning herself on a sled atop a winter slide while her mother Anna Holt Wheeler watches, Oconto, WI, 1916.
“This photo reminds me of how much fun our Wisconsin winters can be. I love how Wisconsinites have always endured, and even found fun in, the most enervating weather.”
— Clare, Guest Services
The Wonder Bread team getting ready to compete, Milwaukee, WI, 1969.
“I myself am a terrible bowler, but I come from a long line of bowling enthusiasts. This photos reminds me of my family, particularly my mother, who once bowled a 270. I can only dream of that score.”
— Doug, Exhibitions
A young girl playing with soap bubbles, Waukesha, WI, 1984.
“I chose this picture because it reminds me of playing in the backyard with my siblings when I was younger. I love the idea of Wisconsin at play and relating modern day life and activities to those of the past.”
— Abby, Guest Services
View of the Devil’s Door rock formation overlooking Devil’s Lake, Baraboo, WI.
“I have so many wonderful memories of Devil’s Lake State Park— from my earliest memories camping with family, to my first date as a teenager, to hiking and swimming with my own children today. It is my favorite place in Wisconsin.”
— Christina, Education
Two Wisconsin legislators hold a cat found in the Assembly chambers, Madison, WI, 1961.
“All work and no play makes for a dismal day; pictured here are two Representatives of the Wisconsin Assembly playing with a kitten found in the capitol’s chambers in the 1960s. We can learn a lesson from these men; in a demanding workplace find the small things that bring joy!”
— Katie, Guest Services
Children riding a tobaggan, Milwaukee, WI, 1975.
“I love the pure joy. The kids are having so much fun. This photo is a perfect example of how we treat winter in Wisconsin. It’s not a time to hunker down, it is a time to go play.”
— Mike, Director