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Wisconsin History Series

Wisconsin's Long History of Schools for the Blind and Deaf

by Dayanara Flores Gonzalez, age 16

Most students know how to read and write, but these tasks are difficult or even impossible for students who can’t see or hear. Parents in Wisconsin have sent their visually impaired children to special schools to be educated since the 1800s.

Before Wisconsin was a state, citizens had already noticed that educational facilities for visually and hearing impaired children needed to be provided. In 1843, Increase A. Lapham petitioned Congress to give funds to build schools for visually and hearing-impaired children, but nothing was done to make a change. The institution first began in Janesville when private citizens decided to create the first state school for impaired students. J.T. Axtell, a graduate of the Ohio Institution for the Blind, arranged a village meeting explaining several methods to teach children with defective vision.

Thirty residents gave $430 to start a school and purchase construction equipment. In October 1849, eight visually impaired students attended the first school for the impaired in the state, held in a private home. They asked the Legislature to help fund their school, and landmakers approved. The school tax-supported a budget of $2,500 to keep the school running in its building. [Read More]

Wisconsin's Dairy History from Wheat Fields to Cheese

by Allison Wallace, age 11

When people think about Wisconsin, most individuals think of the dairy industry, however, that was not always the case.

The cattle industry landed in the U.S. in 1707. Some cows were brought to Wisconsin by the British-American fur trade. Unlike now, these were only beef animals. In 1838 dairy cows were introduced to the state. In the 1850’s and early 1860’s, the wheat industry was much bigger than its dairy counterpart. Not many people were selling dairy to a mass market. Dairy farmers mostly traded with local stores and neighbors and used milk, butter, and cheese in their households.

This changed in the late 1860s when wheat prices fell because wheat producers struggled due to overused land, crop diseases, chinchbug infestation, and lowering prices. This allowed the dairy industry to take off. [Read More]

A Rare Piece of Wisconsin History: Most Expensive Bike Ever Sold at Auction

by Jules Da Costa, age 15

The most expensive bike ever sold at an auction was a 1908 Strap Tank Harley-Davidson, which happens to be a rare piece of Wisconsin history.

Manufactured in Wisconsin, the 1908 Harley-Davidson was sold at an auction for $935,000, after the auction fees. The motorcycle was sold at the end of January at the Mecum Auction in Las Vegas. The 1908 that sold is suspected to be one of 12 to ever be made. A 1907 Strap Tank was sold for $715,000 in 2015, making it the fifth most expensive bike sold at an auction.

The 1908 Strap Tank is one of the most unique models in Harley-Davidson history and is considered the earliest model most people can find. This model is most known for its features and original parts. It was given the name “Strap Tank” because of how its fuel tank is connected by nickel straps. As a result of these one of a kind features, these motorcycles can be very difficult to find and are rarely sold at auctions. [Read More]

Olympic Medalist, Ralph Metcalfe, Left his Mark on Wisconsin and the World

by Owen Ayite-Atayi, age 15

The Summer Olympics, also known as the Games of the Olympiad, are a series of multi-sport events that are usually held every four years. The Olympics include track and field, archery, gymnastics, and swimming , among other events.

The late Olympic African-American athlete Ralph Metcalfe left his mark on Wisconsin, nearly winning a gold medal in the 1932 Olympics. Metcalfe was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 29, 1910, and moved to Chicago, Illinois, with his family at a young age. He attended Tilden High School in Chicago, where his interest in track and field erupted. He later pursued a collegiate track and field career at Marquette University as a sprinter.

During Metcalfe’s career at Marquette University, he was America’s leading sprinter from 1932 to 1934. In his sophomore year, he ran a 10.3 in the 100-meter dash and a 20.6 in the 200-meter dash, tying world-record times in both events. In 1932, Metcalfe won three of the first National College Athletic Association (NCAA) championships. [Read More]

Milwaukeean becomes first Black woman mathematician to have her papers in Library of Congress manuscript collection

by Hanna Eyobed, age 17

Gloria Ford Gilmer was an expert at ethnomathematics: how math manifests itself into the lives of cultures all around the world. She was a Black woman who dedicated her life to math: both the learning and teaching of it.

Gilmer received many of her accolades after her passing in August 2021. A historian of science and technology at the Library of Congress’ Manuscript Division, Josh Levy, reached out to Gilmer's family to uncover work that had been stored away. Gilmer left a legacy of success and transcending the odds; her files, documents, photographs, and VHS tapes were held in 64 bankers boxes and are now maintained in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, an honor that has not been held by a Black woman before her. Her work is now able to be examined and used for further research for other historians to explore for educational purposes.

Gilmer paved the way for Black intellectuals to follow. With her concentration in ethnomathematics, Gilmer taught all over Milwaukee, including the Milwaukee Area Technical College, the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, and various Milwaukee public schools. She was the first Black educator in many of the spaces she entered. There were many firsts in Gilmer's career, such as first Black person to earn a doctorate from Marquette University, first Black woman to sit on the Board of Governors for the Mathematical Association of America, and first Black woman to have her papers kept in the Library of Congress’ Manuscript Division. [Read More]

The Unique History of Lake Ivanhoe, Wisconsin

by Josepha Da Costa, age 18

This past summer, Lake Ivanhoe was one of 40 new historical markers to be designated in Wisconsin. It became only the 8th marker, out of 600, in the state to feature Black History. Peter Baker, a current resident who grew up in Lake Ivanhoe, “the safest place and the coolest place” he’d ever been in his life, played an important part in the process of celebrating this history. His tireless efforts for over 20 years finally made this commemoration possible.

Lake Ivanhoe was founded in 1926, in the town of Bloomfield, by three Black men from Chicago: politician Bradford Watson, business executive Frank Anglin, and attorney Jeremiah Brumfield. These men were looking for a summer vacation place to visit with their families to get away from the racial unrest in Chicago at the time, which was a result of the Great Migration. As Black people started frequently moving to the northern cities, specifically Chicago, segregation became increasingly prominent. Since Black people were not welcome in predominantly white resorts in neighboring places like Lake Geneva, they decided to create their own. This was where the first entirely Black owned community in Wisconsin was born.

The town’s streets were named after famous historical people like Crispus Attucks and Phyllis Wheatley. A large gazebo was built in the middle of town where the neighborhood families were able to hold cookouts, gatherings and concerts. For most of the 1920s, Lake Ivanhoe was a safe haven for Black families to reside and enjoy. However, after the stock market crash in the 1930s, the once lively resort quickly became abandoned. [Read More]

Local Observatory Renamed For STEM Pioneer Jocelyn Bell Burnell

by Mariah Justice, age 17

“Astronomy compels the soul to look upward, and leads us from this world to another,” said Greek philosopher Plato. With the renaming event on September 7 for the Bell Burnell Observatory— previously the Oscar Mayer Observatory—Madison has a new facility for cultivating the exploration of astronomy.

The history of the Bell Burnell Observatory dates back to 1880, when the director of the Washburn Observatory, located on University of Wisconsin-Madison's (UW) campus, felt there was too much student traffic for the University to only have one observatory. This notion spurred him to personally fund the construction of the student observatory, which was then called the Student Observatory. However, as Madison grew, light pollution obstructed both the Student and Washburn observatories, rendering the facilities obsolete.

In 1959, the UW offered to gift the Student Observatory to the Madison Astronomical Society (MAS) on the condition that MAS was able to finance a move to a different site. A year later, the observatory was officially relocated to its current location on the Promega Campus, and renamed the Oscar Mayer Observatory after the astronomer who funded its move. The observatory was in use for over two decades until light pollution resulting from Madison’s growth once again caused it to be inactive. [Read More]

1,200 Year Old Canoe Discovered in Lake Mendota

by Desteny Alvarez, age 17

Last summer, Tamara Thomsen, a maritime archaeologist for the Wisconsin Historical Society, and Mallory Dragt discovered a 15-foot-long dugout canoe in Wisconsin’s Lake Mendota. What sets it apart from other sunken boats is its age – the canoe was estimated to be 1,200 years old.

Thomsen and Dragt work together at Divisions Scuba, and they discovered the boat in 27 feet of water near Shorewood Hills while testing some scuba equipment. The canoe was brought to shore by a team of divers near the Spring Harbor Neighborhood. For the next two years, the canoe is set to undergo a series of preservation treatments so it can safely be put on display at the Wisconsin Historical Society’s renovated museum on the Capitol Square.

One of the several treatments will take place at the State Archive Preservation Facility, on the East side of Madison. The canoe will be positioned in a 16-foot-long, 3-foot-wide tank. Inside this tank, aside from water meant to keep the environment of the boat stable, there will be a biocide to ensure there are no microorganisms or algae growing on the wood. Then, a treatment of polyethylene glycol will take the place of water that the wood had soaked up. [Read More]

Madison Students Revive Wisconsin History with Modern-Made Birch Bark Canoe

by Camila Cruz, age 16

Students are using modern technology to build a Native American birch bark canoe; in doing so, they're keeping a part of Wisconsin history alive. In a new class offered through a partnership with the local office of the Ho-Chunk Nation, Madison junior high and high school students built a plywood reconstruction of the boats used by Wisconsin tribes for centuries.

Gene Delcourt, a woodshop instructor, directed the class. He learned the skill from a German YouTuber and a master Ojibwe canoe maker. Delcourt previously studied the art of canoe making when he traveled to Lac du Flambeau in 2021 and learned from expert builder Wayne Valliere of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Delcourt had also built three canoes at a Monona alternative school.

[Read More]

Discovering Aztalan, Wisconsin's Hidden Ancient Civilization

by Aria McClinton, age 13

Aztalan was an ancient civilization located in what is now southern Wisconsin. It was discovered in the 1820s by American settlers, who named the hidden civilization but did not explore its origins.

Then came Increase A. Lapham, a natural scientist from Wisconsin. He revisited Aztalan in 1850 after the settlers. Lapham couldn't tell what used to be there. He studied and made detailed drawings of the area. These maps helped future researchers see what Aztalan was like before much of it was turned into farmland.

In 1919, Samuel Barrett, the founder of the Milwaukee Public Museum, did detailed research under the surface of Aztalan. At first, he thought the hills and bumps were effigy mounds from the Native Americans. Later, Barrett discovered that the Crawfish River cut a ravine through some of the land. He was excited because this revealed more tools, bones, and other artifacts. Later in his studies, he could tell that it was a very advanced civilization from things like structures or pottery. [Read More]

Chief Buffalo: A Leader's Legacy in Preserving Ojibwe Rights

by Ian Kosharek age 11

Kechewaishke, known as Chief Buffalo, was the tribal leader of the Lake Superior Ojibwe people. He lived in La Pointe, which today is known as Madeline Island. Kechwaishke was born in 1759 and died in 1855.

Kechewaishke played a major role in signing treaties between the U.S. government and the Ojibwe tribe. He was well known for his work to conserve lands for Native Americans in Wisconsin, resisting attempts by the U.S. government to take away territories. Kechewaishke and the tribe peacefully protested against the U.S. government. His people valued and recognized his ability to speak publicly, and other Ojibwe tribes in the area began to recruit him as a spokesperson to negotiate treaties with the government.

Kechewaishke served as an authority figure who represented Ojibwe tribes in the Lake Superior region for the treaties of 1837 and 1842. In these treaties, he wrote letters describing his discontent with the United States government and its actions to gain control of native land to access lumber and other natural resources. At 93 years old, Kechewaishke even went to Washington, D.C., with other tribal leaders to speak about the injustices they faced by the government with President Millard Filmore. [Read More]

The “Mataafa Blow” of 1905 was Lake Superior’s Greatest Storm

by Will DeFour, age 13

Lake Superior has sunk over 500 ships, claiming an estimated 30,000 lives. This lake's ability to sink ships is primarily attributed to the terrifying storms that terrorize its mountain-like waves. With hail storms, frigid waters, and winds reaching 70 miles an hour, it's no wonder this lake has taken so many lives. Some ships have become famous, such as the Edmund Fitzgerald, but one legendary storm sank almost 20 boats in just two days.

On November 27, 1905, this behemoth of a storm hit Lake Superior, caused by a low and high-pressure system violently hitting each other. Some captains foolishly tried to brave the storm. Those who attempted had to retreat to their harbors or sink thousands of feet below. Capt. Richard F. Humble of the Mataafa decided to brave the storm, not knowing that the sheer weight of this storm would soon humble him.

On the first day of the storm, after 12 hours of winds reaching hurricane speeds, Humble realized that there was no way he could face the weather. With snow falling so quickly that he could not see anything beyond the ship, the crew made their way closer to shore. The captain said, "The sea [Lake Superior] had become so large that it was running over our decks on both sides." Humble, with his back to the storm, decided to sail back to his home port as quickly as he could, unaware of the horrors that would await him there. [Read More]

Wisconsin History and the Invention of Typewriters

by Sedona Afeworki, age 15

Christopher Latham Sholes created the first practical typewriter in 1874, right here in Wisconsin.

He was born in Pennsylvania in 1819 after finishing his apprenticeship in newspapering and moved to Green Bay when he was 18 years old. There, he started working for his brothers at the Wisconsin Democrat as a publisher. Around a year later, his brothers promoted him to edit the Madison Enquirer. Sholes later moved to Kenosha and created the Southport Telegraph, which he worked on for seventeen years. He also worked in Wisconsin politics, organizing the Republican Party and Free Soil Party, which resulted in a successful campaign to outlaw the death penalty.

In the fall of 1867, Sholes created a working typewriter with the help of Matthias Schwalbach, a machinist, and Samuel Soule, an inventor. Later, he had a test race with the superintendent of the Western Union Telegraph; the superintendent was writing with his hand and Sholes using the new typewriter. In the end, Sholes was quicker in finishing the sentence. One would think it would give them more sales, yet that wasn’t the case. [Read More]

The Green Bay Packers, From Bankruptcy to Community-Owned NFL Legacy

by Kaleab Afeworki, age 11

You may have heard of the Green Bay Packers, but did you know that this successful NFL team once faced bankruptcy? It's true!

Back in the early days, Green Bay, the smallest city in Wisconsin to join the NFL, had a relatively small fan base and limited financial resources. This situation left the Packers in precarious financial shape during the 1920s. In 1935, they hit a critical point, ultimately going bankrupt. To navigate this financial crisis, they established a new company known as Green Bay Packers Inc. and raised $15,000 by selling stock shares of the team to the public.

The team's founding fathers, Ed "Curly" Lambeau, after whom the stadium was named, and George Calhoun, played pivotal roles in the Packers' history. The name "Packers" itself has an interesting historical connection. It was inspired by Lambeau's affiliation with the Indian Packing Corporation, a meatpacking company. This choice resonated with the working-class residents who made up the core of the Green Bay community during that era. [Read More]

Exploring the Award-Winning Restoration of the 1868 Brisbane House in Arena, Wisconsin

by Ayelen Flores Ruiz, age 13

The historic Brisbane House in Arena, Wisconsin, is renowned for its builder's past. William Henry Brisbane, known as an "abolitionist," faced significant scrutiny when he embraced this cause and subsequently relocated from his Southern home state.

Born on October 12, 1806, Brisbane began his journey as a cadet at the Norwich Military Academy in Norwich, Vermont. He later inherited 33 enslaved individuals from his family. While residing in a South Carolina house with his slaves, Brisbane underwent a transformation in his beliefs, recognizing the inherent wrongfulness of slavery. He made the courageous decision to set his slaves free, a move that garnered heavy criticism and disdain from his community. Nonetheless, this opposition did not deter him from persisting in his human rights campaign. To escape judgment and pursue his cause, Brisbane left South Carolina and settled in what is now Arena, Wisconsin, embarking on a new chapter in his life.

Brisbane harbored grand plans to construct a house where he could reside and eventually provide accommodation for others after his passing. The house was built in the "I-style," a design Southerners transported with them when they migrated North. Characterized by its towering structure and an interior adorned with numerous large windows that facilitated excellent ventilation in the summer, the house also featured tall doors. Remarkably, the house still stands in good condition. [Read More]

The Last Voyage of the SS Phoenix

by Kelly Vazquez, age 17

On November 11th, 1847, the steamboat S.S. Phoenix, was sailing across Lake Michigan. It carried an estimated 293 passengers, many of whom were immigrants from the Netherlands. However, many of these passengers would never go on to see their destination.

Around 4:00 am on November 21st, smoke began to escape the ship's engine room as the boilers overheated and set overhead wooden beams on fire. When the crewmen discovered the fire, the Phoenix was within seven miles of the town of Sheboygan.

Although at first, the crew managed to contain the flames, the fire raged out of control shortly after. The ship's passengers were alerted and First Mate Watts organized the crew and passengers into a bucket brigade (passing buckets of water down a line of people) in an attempt to fight the fire. The fire continued to grow. Watts ordered the ship to turn towards the shore, but the fire overwhelmed the engine room and the ship drifted until it stopped about five miles from shore and nine miles from Sheboygan. [Read More]

Deep Diving for History: Another Ancient Canoe Found in Lake Mendota

by Theodore Morrison, age 15

An ancient canoe dating back three millennia has recently been unearthed from the bottom of Lake Mendota. This artifact was discovered by Tamara Thomsen, a regular scuba diver in the lake, who was teaching a diving lesson to a student when she spotted what would end up being the exposed end of the canoe.

The canoe could be dated as far back as 1000 BCE! To put that in perspective, Japan, one of the oldest existing nations on the planet, was founded in 660 BCE, making the canoe older. This is not the only bizarre thing about the discovery: Thomsen also discovered the previous record-holder for the oldest intact canoe, in Wisconsin just a year ago.

The canoe was crafted by ancestors of the tribe now known as the Ho-Chunk Nation. This canoe was praised by archaeologist Amy Rosebrough saying, “I don’t have many words for what this is right now. I can’t really think of much that competes with this. I really can’t. I mean Wisconsin has incredible archaeology, but this is stellar.” The quote exemplifies the quality of the product the pre-Ho-Chunk Nation people made and the state of its preservation. [Read More]

Ezekiel Gillespie Helped Secure Voting Rights in Wisconsin

by Melanie Bautista, age 16

Ezekiel Gillespie was a civil rights activist that was known for his accomplishments and his big impact in the African American community in Wisconsin.

Gillespie was born into slavery in 1818 in the state of Tennessee. After he bought his freedom for $800, he moved around the country, eventually moving to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1854. There, he focused on challenges faced by the African American community.

Gillespie was active in the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. Gillespie became a messenger for the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company, where he helped escaped slaves travel to northern states, including Wisconsin. [Read More]

Tony Bennett's Remarkable Basketball Journey from Player to NCAA Championship Coach

by Owen Atayi, age 15

Tony Bennett is currently a National College Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball head coach for the Virginia Cavaliers. However, Bennett isn’t simply just a coach; he was first a great basketball player.

Anthony Guy Bennett was born June 1, 1969, in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Growing up, Bennett enjoyed playing the game of basketball. In high school, Bennett was a six-foot point guard who attended Green Bay Preble High School. After high school, Bennett made a big jump to college basketball where he represented his father, Dick Bennett on the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Phoenix men’s basketball team.

In college, Bennett averaged 21.5 points per game as a junior and 20.2 points per game as a senior. Bennett wasn’t just your ordinary basketball player. He shot a whopping 51 percent from the three-point range. Bennett finished off his college career in 1992 and was named Mid-Continent Conference’s all-time leader, along with many other NCAA accolades. [Read More]

Why You Should Visit Wisconsin River

by Elim Eyobed, age 11

Have you ever been to the Wisconsin River? We’ve heard from explorers that it is a good place for boating, fishing, and camping. Other benefits of going to the Wisconsin River are the numerous animal species.

The Wisconsin River is a great resource of food, water, and space for many different species like beavers, otters and fish. It is also a great source of business specifically for Native people, explorers, and fur trappers.

The Wisconsin River has been used as a way of transporting materials like logs for lumber or paper. Logs are floated down the river and sent to Central Wisconsin where they are used for things like building houses. There have also been many dams built along the Wisconsin River, supplying electricity to the rest of the state. The Wisconsin River is a 430 mile long tributary of the Mississippi river. [Read More]

What Life Was Like for Wisconsin's Early People

by Max Moreno, age 9

It is challenging to think about what life was like a thousand years ago. However, how about thinking all the way back to 10,000 years ago, when Wisconsin Natives were constructing living areas, tools, and mounds.

As time went on, people from different regions began to settle in what is now known as Wisconsin. For example, native groups from the Mississippi area traveled up the Mississippi River to reach Wisconsin. They planted gardens and began to set up living areas, growing crops such as corn and beans.

These early people in Wisconsin also were forming communities, and establishing rules and traditions that were shared from one family generation to another. [Read More]

The Armistice Day Blizzard: Worst Winter Storm in Wisconsin History

by Theodore B. Morrison, age 14

Anyone who lives in the northern Midwest has experienced his or her fair share of snowstorms. These snowstorms though, do not compare to the Armistice Day Blizzard, one of the most devastating natural disasters in Wisconsin’s history.

The name originates from the storm which occurred on Armistice Day, now known as Veterans Day, a day that celebrated the end of World War I and a new period of peace. However, this blizzard was anything but peaceful.

The Armistice Day Blizzard on November 11 and 12, 1940 caused a drastic drop in temperature that resulted in more than 150 deaths in Wisconsin. The blizzard formed when cold northern air combined with warm moisture from the Gulf Coast, which created a sudden drop in air pressure. The storm generated winds up to 80 MPH, creating 20-foot snowdrifts, laying down a foot of snow, and conditions similar to those of a hurricane. [Read More]

The Ancient City of Aztalan Is a Wisconsin Mystery

by Eleanor Pleasnick, age 13

Most people know that there are ruins of ancient cities and towns all over the world. Even Wisconsin has them, and Aztalan is one of the most famous ancient sites in our state. Aztalan is also the largest historical site in Wisconsin.

You can find the ancient remains of Aztalan, which is now a Wisconsin State Park, about 30 miles east of Madison and approximately 50 miles west of Milwaukee. This area, now known to be the northernmost settlement occupied by the ancient Mississipians, is close to both the small town of Lake Mills and the Crawfish River.

The Middle Mississippian people originally migrated to Aztalan around 1100 A.D. Archeologists have found many cultural remains in the area. By studying the evidence, archeologists believe that people migrated to Aztalan from a large Mississippian city called Cahokia, located in an area that is now Illinois. The remains at Cahokia and at Aztalan show many similarities, which has led archaeologists to make this connection. [Read More]

Large Meteor Crashes to Earth in Wisconsin

by Justin Medina Ruiz, age 13

In April of 2010, a large meteor struck across the Midwest skies, passing Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri at an altitude ranging between 6,000 to 12,000 feet. The meteoroid released heavy amounts of sound energy, known as a sonic boom, which was heard hundreds of miles away.

The meteoroid rapidly decreased in size, burning up, as it traveled down through the Earth’s sub-atmosphere, until it eventually crashed near Lancaster, Wisconsin. According to the National Weather Service, no one was injured. The impact, however, destroyed several trees and houses and left a huge scar on the Earth’s surface. Scientists estimated that while burning up, it exploded with a force equivalent to 20 tons of TNT.

This is not the first account of a meteor crash in Wisconsin. On record, approximately 13 meteorites have hit the State since the 1860s. These cometary remains were observed. They weighed between one and 530 pounds. When meteors are spotted in the sky, they are called “falls,” and when recovered from the ground, they are called “finds.” [Read More]

Ed "Strangler" Lewis: Wisconsin's World Champion

by Moore Vang, age 13

Ed “Strangler” Lewis was one of the most famous athletes in the world in the 1920s and 1930s, along with baseball player Babe Ruth and boxer Jack Dempsy. During that time, he managed to win five world championships and made the sport of wrestling more popular around the world.

Robert Friedrich, later known as Ed Lewis, was born on June 30, 1891, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. When he was 13, he and his family moved to Wood County, which is where he began wrestling. In high school, his team had a match near Wisconsin Rapids where he would defeat the local champion after a long fought battle in front of 300 people. Robert took on all types of competitors throughout high school and won most of his matches.

He then briefly attended Ripon College, but the opportunity to wrestle professionally inspired him to drop out. On July 4th, 1916, Robert participated in a five and a half hour long wrestling match – one of the longest in history. He fought against Joe Stretcher, a former wrestling champion. Although the match ended in a draw, four years later, in 1920, Robert defeated Stretcher to win the world championship title for the first time. [Read More]

Wisconsin Supreme Court 4-3 Decision Sparks Open Records Debate

by Leilani McNeal, age 17

Open government watchdogs say a recent 4-3 decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court might weaken part the state’s landmark 1982 Open Records Law. The court ruled citizens are only entitled to certain types of open records requests if there is “some judicially sanctioned change in the parties’ legal relationship.”

The opinion dates back to a 2017 lawsuit filed by Waukesha residents and a taxpayer group, Friends of Frame Park. The dispute concerned city plans to bring an amateur baseball team to the community.

The litigants were granted their records request, but later denied access to a proposed draft contract between the City of Waukesha and Big Top Baseball. But city officials claimed public access during ongoing negotiations might compromise the future contract. Waukesha officials said “public disclosure of the draft contract before the Common Council has had an opportunity to consider the draft” might hinder negotiations. [Read More]

Wisconsin's Long History of Devastating Winter Weather

by Daniel Li, age 14

Although many people have a very loose definition of a blizzard, the official classification requires the storm to last for longer than three hours with winds of at least 35 miles per hour.

Light blizzards are merely just a part of the weather in many places. Today, if you’re stuck in traffic, you can turn on the heat and listen to the radio, or if you’re at home, you can watch TV, read a book and just relax. But back in the 1800s and early 1900s, these luxuries didn’t exist. There were no government services to assist people in need, and if you hadn’t stocked up on food, chances were you would go hungry. Houses were many times eaten by animals, destroying insulation and roofing.

Having your house eaten is always bad news, but more so in colder areas such as Wisconsin – one of the coldest states on average in the US. The record low was -55 degrees Fahrenheit in 1996, in Couderay (15 years prior, Couderay hit 53 degrees below). The lowest recorded temperature in the United States was just 15 degrees lower, at -70 degrees Fahrenheit. Current daily averages in the winter are seldom above 30 degrees Fahrenheit, while lows can be well in the negatives. [Read More]

How Madison Became Wisconsin’s Capital City — by Jason Medina Ruiz, age 11

Madison was founded in 1836 and became Wisconsin’s state capital in 1838. Wisconsin was introduced as a state in 1848, the same year the campus of the University of Wisconsin was established in Madison. The downtown area of Madison was created on an isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona. An isthmus is a narrow strip of land between two bodies of water. The city was also named after James Madison, the fourth president of the United States. Madison resides on Ho-Chunk land, and they call it Taychopera or Dejope. This translates to “land of four lakes” in the Ho-Chunk language. [Read More]

The Boaz Mastodon: Wisconsin’s Famous Fossil — by Anissa Attidekou, age 12

The Boaz mastodon is a fossil of a mastodon discovered near Boaz, Wisconsin in 1897. A mastodon is an elephant but harrier. A spear made of stone found near the Boaz mastodon shows that humans once hunted the mastodon. They lived in North America, Asia, and Africa, during the Ice Age. During the last Ice Age, many giants like the mastodon and mammoth roamed Wisconsin. [Read More]

Exploring Wisconsin's 'Shipwreck Coast' — by Dyami Rodriguez, age 16

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) named Lake Michigan’s Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast a National Maritime Sanctuary in 2021, six years after its nomination by local communities. A new addition to the National Marine Sanctuary System, Wisconsin’s Shipwreck Coast became the second sanctuary in the Great Lakes and third freshwater sanctuary. [Read More]

The Peshtigo Firestorm and Tornado — by Jeremiah Warren, age 11

The Peshtigo fire was a huge fire that destroyed the town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin on October 8, 1871. Although the fire is considered one of the deadliest fires in America history, somehow it is largely forgotten. [Read More]

Wisconsin’s First State Park: Interstate Park at the St. Croix Dalles — by Leilani McNeal, age 16

1.1 billion years ago, a mysterious rift, ranging from the depths of Lake Superior to present-day Iowa appeared. From the cracks of this rift, came oozing lava, hardening into a substance known as basalt. Over the next 500 million years, these natural occurrences worked in tandem with one another to support a sea of water which floored the entirety of this dark, gray material. The deposition of sand and silt from the sea led to the creation of sandstone and shale. Increased global temperatures promoted the shift of myriad glaciers across the state of Wisconsin, carving out the area’s famous potholes that are widely recognized today as the St. Croix Dalles. [Read More]

How the Bombing of UW’s Sterling Hall Changed the Anti-war Movement — by Dyami Rodriguez, age 16

On August 24th 1970, a bomb went off outside Sterling Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a result of the attack, a university researcher was killed and others were injured. The cost of the bombing was 6 million dollars and years worth of research. The people behind the bombing were a group called “The New Year’s Gang.” The group consisted of four people: David Fine, Leo Burt, Dwight Armstrong, and Karl Armstrong. The bomb attack on Sterling Hall occurred in the context of protests against the Vietnam war. [read more]

America's Red Scare: Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy Used Fear and Intimidation to Hunt Communists and Subvert Civil Liberties — by Sandy Flores-Ruiz, age 15

Joseph McCarthy was one of the most controversial politicians in American history. He served as a Republican Senator from Wisconsin, from when he was first elected in 1947 until his death in 1957. He is known for declaring that communist spies and sympathizers had penetrated the U.S. federal government and for launching anti-communist investigations that polarized the country. [Read More]