Historic Plaque for the Fluor House


This past month I applied for a plaque for our home through the Oshkosh Landmarks Historic Plaque Program. Molly and I had no idea when we bought our home that there was some history behind our home. I applied for the Wisconsin Historical Society Historic Home Tax Credit program, but we were denied. The WHS said that our home does not exhibit enough architectural character to be accepted into the program. Most of the Craftsman features of the house were lost when the house was re-sided in the 1970s. However, I did not agree with the society’s decision to reject us based on historic significance.

Fluor Bros Construction Co headquarters on Otter Ave, Oshkosh

Our home was constructed for Casper R. Fluor. Casper served as a president of the Fluor Brothers Construction Company formerly of Oshkosh. He also served as the vice president of Peoples Brewing Company in Oshkosh for several years.  I investigated the property at the Winnebago County Register of Deeds office and discovered that Casper purchased the property in August 1919. According to city tax records, the property assessment shows a significant increase in the year 1921. The 1922 Oshkosh directory also shows the Fluor family at this address in 1922.

Born February 26, 1875, Casper R. Fluor was one of four children of Ralph and Jennie Fluor. Ralph with brothers Simon and Casper started a construction business together in 1870 after they emigrated from Switzerland to Oshkosh. The Fluor’s are credited as building some of this city’s first industrial plants. Casper and Simon left the business in subsequent years and left Ralph and two of his sons, Walter and Casper R., to run it. Simon Fluor moved to California and started a company which continues to thrive today as Flour Corporation. Ralph passed away in 1913 leaving Walter and Casper R. to co-manage the business. Some of the more notable structures built by the company included: Morgan Co., Buckstaff Co., Paine Lumber Co., St. Paul’s Church, Winnebago County fairgrounds barns and grandstand, Wisconsin National Life Insurance, Mercy Hospital, Theda-Clark Hospital, and many other residential, commercial, industrial, and civic buildings.* Casper R. Fluor passed away in our home on April 27, 1955.

I was excited when the Oshkosh Public Museum informed me that they had blueprints for our home. I went in and took a look at them, but was disappointed to discover that it was not my home. However, the prints did say they were for Casper Fluor and dated 1919. These blueprints had to be a preliminary design for the home, but Fluor changed his mind on the design. The architect of the house was Frank A. Thew who also worked for the company. I was surprised to see the blueprint of another one of Thew’s designs hanging on the wall at Parkview Health Center in Oshkosh.

It’s always fun to uncover history associated with your home and the occupants. It seems like every time I do more digging I come up with more information. Someday I hope to come up with the blueprints of our home. It would also be great to find some early photographs of the home and the Fluor family in it. I guess for now the hunt continues, but at least now the city’s Landmark Commission recognizes the significance of the home and the importance of the owners. If you are from Oshkosh, have you considered applying for your plaque? It is great way to learn some history and have your building recognized locally as a historic property.

* “Flour Brothers Started in 1870.” Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, June 18, 1953. Accessed August 30, 2015.
http://access.newspaperarchive.com/us/wisconsin/oshkosh/oshkoshdailynorthwestern/1953/0618/page64?tag=Casper Fluor.  


A Cold November Evening

Hello to all of my blog readers. It seems I have taken another hiatus from writing. It has been such a busy year here at the Frederick home. Molly and I have been working on our house, traveling for weddings, and spending time with family. It’s also hard to find the time since I have become the vice president of the Winnebago County Historical & Archaeological Society. The board of directors has been very busy restructuring our society and changing the way we carry out business, and I have been going to a lot of committee meetings. Tonight I thought I would make a conscious effort to get back into the habit of writing, which I enjoy doing and miss very much.

It has been a pretty good year for me in the field of history. The City of Oshkosh hired me on part-time a while back to do some research for historical markers that are being placed along the city’s Riverwalk. The experience has been phenomenal, and I am honored to have had the opportunity to leave my mark on the city that I call home. I did much of the work last year, and now this year the markers are finally placed. Another marker I helped with will be placed next year. I also hope to be involved with more of these in the future. Another project I helped the city with is still in the works….more on that later.

My career change earlier this year has also opened the doors to some new historical work. I am a maintenance worker with the county, and I have access to the Winnebago County courthouse. My supervisor is looking into ways to preserve and bring back originals features of our courthouse. I have been doing some free-lance historical research of the building’s construction, which turns out to been an interesting one. It was built between 1937-38 at just over a million dollars–bought and paid for by the taxpayers of Winnebago County. In the process, I have found some amazing pictures of the building’s interior when it was completed. I don’t want to give away too many details….that’s another blog post for later.

So, there you have it. These are a few things I have been working on the past month or two. I will be more diligent and make time to blog more often. With the days getting shorter and temps continue to fall, there will be a lot more time for sipping hot tea and blogging about the many amazing histories I find every day.

Great War to Great Gatsby


Molly and I had a great Labor Day weekend. We did some of the usual summer rituals. We had friends over for a brat fry, beer, and a campfire to roast s’mores and visit.  It was a great way to celebrate the unofficial end of summer. But a holiday weekend is not complete without learning some history. We paid a visit to the Oshkosh Public Museum to see their current exhibit called, Great War to Great Gatsby: 1914-1929.

We both find this era very intriguing, especially the fashion and entertainment of the 1920s. Both of these topics and more were touched on in the exhibit. Upon stepping into the exhibit, I was amazed to see the local items in its collection connected to this era. Molly even commented, “all of these gowns are in the museum’s collection?” We often learn of all the movements, social norms, and cultural fads on a national level. This exhibit brings that history home.

You will encounter a number of objects with some interesting history behind them. You will learn about Oshkosh suffragette Jessie Jack Hooper and get up close to one of her 1920s outfits.Oshkosh men and women volunteered to serve and defend the United States during the Great War, and their uniforms are displayed. Bathing suits,  kitchen appliances, and homemade moonshine stills, are just a few of the objects on display. All of them having a connection to someone or some event in Oshkosh of that era.

I am always excited to see ways that museums are making exhibits interactive for the audience. There were a few in this exhibit that were fun. You were able to pick up an old telephone and listen to someone telling you a story over the phone. An old radio was set up that allowed guests to press buttons and  hear popular music from that time. Another interactive portion was a wall filled with automobile ads with car features and prices. You wrote which car you preferred, and you could also figure out the 2015 price of that vehicle.

In the end, we both really enjoyed the exhibit. I hope the OPM can put on some more exhibits with objects and stories that coincide with a set time period. I liked learning about the connections to Oshkosh with events like Prohibition, fashion, suffragist movement, and the advancement in technology. Go and see it before it’s gone! The exhibit lasts until October 18.



The Muk Luks Museum

This weekend my wife, Molly, and I spent some time with my folks in Markesan. We traveled up the road to Princeton, Wisconsin. Princeton is a little town along the Fox River that has a wonderful flea market every Saturday in the park. We made it a point this weekend to go to the Princeton flea market and the downtown businesses for some local shopping.


While shopping in stores on Water Street, a little building with a red door and big white letters in the window caught our attention–The Muk Luks Museum. It is a quaint, self-guided museum that tells a history that I knew nothing about. This little museum was so intriguing to me that I could not pass up the opportunity to have a look.

The extent of my knowledge of Muk Luks is that of Molly having a pair of them. It seems like a trendy line of crochet apparel. I had no idea that the origins were in Princeton. It started as a hobby business that grew over time. Heck, I learned that my hometown of Markesan had a factory where these socks were made. The original company was bought in the early 1970s, and operations were moved to Milwaukee. While the socks are no longer made there, they continue to be popular.

It was amazing to see how people came together in the community to establish a small museum that tells a big story. Museums come in all shapes and sizes, but what matters most is the amazing stories that we learn inside. If you are visiting Princeton or just passing through take a few minutes and stop by this little building to support the local effort to preserve a piece of history.

Blog Hiatus

Hello to my loyal followers. Sorry that my blog has been inactive for about 5 months now. It’s been a busy year for me, and I guess I just took a little break from the blog. I am back now, and I plan to be writing more often.

Although my blog posts may have been put on hold, I haven’t put my passion for history on hold. I’ve been doing historical work with the Winnebago County Historical & Archaeological Society, City of Oshkosh, and I have been actively reading all summer. I am also in the process of getting some more projects lined up, so I am staying plenty busy!

I thought a good way to resume my blogging would be to talk about the last two books I have read. This May marked the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania. I’ve always known of the Lusitania, but I guess I never really looked into the events leading up to her sinking. I was determined to learn more about this magnificent ocean liner’s tragic end. I recently read two books about the subject: Lusitania: Triumph, Tragedy, and the End of the Edwardian Age, by Greg King and Penny Wilson, and Dead Wake, by Erik Larson.















Most of us probably were taught in school that the Lusitania was an unarmed passenger liner torpedoed without warning by a German U-boat killing over one thousand innocent men, women, and children (128 Americans) and pulled United States into the Great War with the rest of Europe. There is much more to the story that these books reveal.

King ad Wilson’s book was my first read. In my opinion, this book focuses primarily on people rich passengers aboard the doomed liner. It does offer the background of the events of the voyage and circumstances that made the liner a target. The book is fact heavy, which can make is a tedious read at times. I liked learning about the people on the ship, but it seemed like more detail went into their lives. Nonetheless, I did enjoy reading their work about a subject I knew little about.

Erik Larson is becoming one of my favorite authors. He has a way of taking a historical topic and making it exciting. I was on the edge of my seat the duration of the book, and I found it extremely difficult to put this book down once I started. The book is very readable and has enough information to tell the story but not bore the reader. Larson’s chapters bounce from the perspective of the predator (U-Boat 20) and the prey (Lusitania), as well as a few other important characters.  If a major motion is ever made about the Lusitania it should be based on Erik Larson’s book.

Allis-Chalmers Fuel Cell Tractor

Farm technology is a constant evolving industry. I think about how much the farm has evolved in one hundred years. In 1915 fields were plowed and planted with teams of horses; grains were brought from the field to be threshed on the dooryard; milking a small herd of cows was done by hand. Today, farming is all but computerized. Thousands of dairy cows are milked systematically in robotic dairy operations. Thousands of acres can be planted with equipment that uses high-tech instruments for precision planting. Tractors have gotten larger, powerful, and loaded with additional features. A futuristic innovation that Allis-Chalmers engineers pioneered in back in the late 1950s has made a comeback in the farm scene–the fuel cell tractor.


Allis-Chalmers Fuel Cell Tractor (History Wired)

On October 15, 1959, engineers from the AC Research Division unveiled a prototype fuel cell tractor at the company-owned golf course just outside of West Allis.It was built on the D10/D12 tractor chassis but had little resemblance to it. It had a bulky, box-like appearance. Three large panels covered the complex system of fuel cells where an engine would normally be. The operator sat dwarfed behind the giant fuel cell unit. The dash panel was packed with gauges and meters to monitor the chemical process and electric current. To the left of the operator were levers to control the current (for speed) and polarity of the current (for forward or reverse). Oxygen tanks were secured beneath the tractor, and a propane tank was behind the driver seat. It was a one-of-a-kind tractor.

The vehicle was powered by a 112 units of 9 cells in each, making a total of 1008 fuel cells in all. The chemical reaction between propane gas, hydrogen-oxygen, and an electrolyte in the cells produced an electrical current that powered the 20 hp electric motor. The fuel cell’s total electrical output was 15 kilowatts.It produced a clean by-product during the chemical reaction–water and carbon dioxide. The tractor weighed in at 5270 pounds and had up to 3000 pounds of drawbar pull.In addition, the tractor was silent while in operation.

Fuel Cell Process

Although Allis-Chalmers did not invent the fuel cell, it had been around for many years, the company was the first to build a vehicle powered by one. It’s fuel cell tractor was far too expensive to put into production, but It was a stepping stone that launched the company into a new line of products. Allis-Chalmers developed fuel cells for NASA’s space program, and the U.S. Military also contracted some experimental fuel cell equipment. Sadly, the company discontinued the division and sold it to Teledyne Corporation. Allis-Chalmers made the announcement in December 1970, that the loss of major contracts was the reason it had to cut funding.

After its tests were conducted, Allis-Chalmers donated the fuel cell tractor to the Smithsonian. The tractor is currently being loaned to the McLeod County Historical Society in Hutchinson, Minnesota, for display. If you attend the annual Orange Spectacular in that city be sure to take a quick detour to see this piece of technological history.


Wendel, C. H., and George H. Dammann. 1988. The Allis-Chalmers story. Sarasota, Fla: Crestline Pub.
Swinford, Norm. 1994. Allis-Chalmers farm equipment, 1914-1985. St. Joseph, Mich: American Society of Agricultural Engineers.
Peterson, Walter Fritiof, and C. Edward Weber. 1978. An industrial heritage, Allis-Chalmers Corporation. Milwaukee: Milwaukee County Historical Society.
Fuel Cell Paces Power- Allis-Chalmers publication

AC Drafting Table

About 6 years ago I had the opportunity to acquire an awesome piece of AC history that I couldn’t pass up. We restored a Farmall M for an implement dealership, and the gentleman who set up the restoration said he had a piece of Allis-Chalmers history I might be interested in. He showed me these pictures of a drafting table from the Allis-Chalmers factory in West Allis.

I think I paid $70 for it. I have actually never seen it put together. I got it home and it went into the rafters in my folks’ garage. Seems silly, but it is a big piece of furniture! My plan was always to set it up once I got a place of my own, which is what is going to happen now. I think it would be fun to get a blueprint of a tractor or other part that AC drafted to display it on the drafting board side. Once in a while an AC blueprint will show up on Ebay, but maybe AGCO Corp would be able to help me out.

This drafting table is a May-O-Matic built by Mayline in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The company began in 1939 specializing in drafting tables, blueprint files, and straightedges. I contacted the company to ask if they have any record or information about this desk. Unfortunately, the company does not because of its age; However, they were able to tell me this:

We don’t have a great deal of information to pass along.  The drawer pull was used until the late ‘70s, at least until 1977.  We do not have a record of how many Allis Chalmers bought, but I would imagine they had quite a large engineering department back then.

Like the Mayline representative said, Allis-Chalmers had a huge engineering department; which makes me wonder what happened to all the others when the place cleared out? I am pretty fortunate and happy that I acquired this piece. Once I get this all set up I will be sure to share some pictures of it.