Culture & Literature
Wisconsin Magazine of History

Wisconsin Magazine of History

Summer 2020

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United States
Wisconsin Historical Society Press
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4 Issues

in this issue

2 min.
letter from the editor

IN THESE STRANGE WEEKS of preparing this issue amidst a global pandemic, I’ve been pondering this: when does the past become most relevant to the present? Change, whether expected or not, begs comparison; it can elicit a deep desire to understand the hows and whys that led to this moment, to go down the myriad rabbit holes of cause and effect. So it is with history. When we don’t know what to expect, we look to precedents, to what happened before. It is ironic, then, that the greatest historic precedent for today’s pandemic, the 1918 flu, has been largely ignored by history. Whether this amnesia is the result of the crisis being overshadowed by World War I or because those who survived it simply didn’t wish to revisit this bleak…

37 min.
daniel webster hoan

THE MARCH 2019 ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE ​Democratic National Committee that it planned to hold the party’s 2020 national convention in Milwaukee drew a distinct line of criticism from leading Wisconsin Republicans. “No city in America has stronger ties to socialism than Milwaukee,” Wisconsin Republican Party director Mark Jefferson asserted. “And with the rise of Bernie Sanders and the embrace of socialism by its newest leaders, the American left has come full circle. It’s only fitting the Democrats would come to Milwaukee.” Republican senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said the Milwaukee convention would provide a “firsthand look” at “the risk of Democrat socialistic tendencies.” Democrats laughed off the jibes, noting that almost sixty years had passed since the last Socialist Party mayor of the city, Frank Zeidler, had finished his tenure…

12 min.
sid boyum

FISHING FEVER IS A YEAR-ROUND phenomenon on Wisconsin waters. For serious and amateur anglers alike, the rod-and-reel magic of casting lines into lakes and rivers or dropping lures into ice holes is not simply about the challenge of hooking walleye, bass, trout, pike, or even the mighty muskie. Fishing provides a direct channel to the beauty, rhythm, and mystery of our state’s green spaces and watersheds and to all the other non-finned wildlife that resides therein—from deer to dragon-flies, peepers to pewees, shagbark hickory to skunk cabbage. It’s also just plain fun. Over his lifetime, Madison-based artist Sid Boyum (1913–1991) created drawings that celebrate the joy of fishing in Wisconsin. His popular Opening Day illustrations, published each spring from 1962 to 1989 in the Capital Times and Wisconsin State Journal, announced…

27 min.
“angels in the commonplace”

“The fiction of the future will realize angels in the commonplace. It will clarify the beauty of much that we are accustomed to pass by.”—Zona Gale, Portage, Wisconsin and Other Essays (1928)1 “IS THERE A SCHOOL OF WISCONSIN WRITERS?” WROTE Zona Gale. It was 1895, the state’s entry into the Union was not yet half a century old, and Gale was a distinguished but unknown student of English literature at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The youthful hubris of her undergraduate thesis question is palpable—even more so given the answer implied in the paper’s title: “The So-called School of Wisconsin Authors.” Gale’s critical review profiles fifteen writers bearing names now largely forgotten, including those of novelist Hamlin Garland, humor writer William Nye, poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox, and historian Charles King. Her assessment…

10 min.
hmong in wisconsin

The following excerpt comes from Hmong in Wisconsin, released this spring by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press as the latest addition to the People of Wisconsin series. Here, author Mai Zong Vue shares the story of Sia Vang, one of the first Hmong refugees to relocate to Wisconsin from Thai refugee camps following the Secret War in Laos. As I drove to Appleton to meet with Sia Vang at his video store, I thought a lot about my years in Kaukauna and Appleton. I knew and worked with Vang’s older cousin and had helped his uncle a few times due to my father’s connections as a clan leader. But I could not remember any interaction with Vang himself besides at community picnics we had both attended at High Cliff State Park,…

3 min.

When I saw your article on a meteorite strike in Clark Co. I hoped that it would confirm a story my father told of his childhood. Unfortunately, the dates do not match. Sometime between 1928 and 1935, my father and his family were sitting on their farm porch in the Town of Lynn, some thirty miles south of Colby, after evening milking. They observed a streak of light in the sky followed by a loud bang as an object fell into the woods less than one-quarter mile from their home. The next day they went to the woods and found broken tree branches and an unusual rock partially buried in the ground. They dug it out, hauled it home, and placed it under some pine trees in their front yard. As…