Snapshots with Mercury II Camera

My Father-in-Law gave me his dad’s old Mercury II camera a couple of years. His dad, John, bought this camera while serving in the US Navy in the late 1940s; it has his initials, serial number, and “USN” engraved on the camera. This one is a little more sophisticated than other vintage cameras I have used, but luckily I found a manual by doing a simple Google search.

I’ve had a fascination with using old cameras for a while. I’ve bought other vintage Kodak cameras that take 620 film (not something you can just go buy in the store). With this camera I can easily pick up a roll of 35mm film, load, and shoot. What is really interesting about it is that the photos are taken in half frames–two photos are taken in one frame of the film.

I’ve been snapping some pictures for that last two years, and I finally got the roll developed. That’s what I find so exciting about film cameras. We are so used to taking a photo with our phones and being able to look at it right away. I enjoy the surprise and anticipation of how it turns out. Before I take a picture I have to properly adjust the shutter speed, aperture, and focus. Which is pretty  much my best guess based off of the gauge on the back of the camera. Check out a few of my photos. Disclaimer– I sent this out to be developed through a Walgreens. I am guessing that I should have made a note that these were half frames. When I got the pictures back a lot of pictures were cut off. It was sort of disappointing, but now I know better for next time.

Do you enjoy using a vintage camera? What do you shoot with?

Asylum: Out of the Shadows


I had the day off on Friday and decided to take a trip up to Appleton for the afternoon. I met up with Molly and got lunch with her–she had to work. After, I made my way over to the History Museum at the Castle just up the street to check out the newest exhibit, Asylum: Out of the Shadows. This was an informative and interesting history of a local psychiatric care facility at the turn of the century.

The exhibit did a fantastic job of portraying life in the Outagamie County Asylum for the Insane for the residents and the roles of its staff played in care. It was interesting to see how “conditions” were diagnosed and treatment methods used throughout the facility’s century of operation. Not everyone that went in were incapable of carrying on a normal life. Some of the residents in the institution worked on the farm nearby to provide food for the facility.


The institution was meant to be a haven for those that needed long-term care for disorders, but dark facts showed what happened behind the walls of the institution. Physical abuse, scandal, untrained staff, food deprivation, and financial woes made life at the asylum hard for some. Early superintendents who oversaw the facility had no prior experience or knowledge of mental healthcare. These problems ushered in change to ensure that residents received the best care possible.


I looked forward to seeing this exhibit since it opened back in November. I think the current state of mental health treatment in our nation made this exhibit very relevant to the present. I was fascinated to learn where we have come in diagnoses and treatment of individuals with mental and behavioral disorders. I was also very impressed with the personal stories of the residents undergoing treatment there, which was a great touch that removed stigma and returned humanity to the residents.

What a great job the museum did to capture this topic and make it so interesting and informative! The museum also did a great job of making it interactive for visitors. Doors and drawers could be opened view images or read letters and books from the period. Bulletin boards allowed visitors to post their thoughts to questions posed to them. I highly recommend you take a trip to Appleton to check it out before it goes away in 2018. Make sure you download the app on your phone to listen to the stories of patients and staff! 

History Museum at the Castle

Tuesday – Sunday, 11:00am – 4:00pm
History Museum at the Castle
330 E. College Ave.
Appleton, WI 54911
Adults $7.50
Children (5-17) $3.50
Seniors (65+) and Students w/ID $5.50
Under 5 Free
Families $20.00
Members Free

Have you visited the exhibit? What shocked you the most? What was your main takeaway from the exhibit?



Family History Book(s)

There is nothing quite like digging up the past! Whether it’s visiting your local library  or visiting a research center to sift through primary documents. I find myself getting a taste of a topic and then wanting to know as much about it as I can. Believe me, its hard not to get lost in hours and hours of research–it’s so exhilarating. What’s even more exciting and engaging is when your research takes you into your family’s past.


Old Family Photos

I’ve looked into making a family history album in the past, but I have not had time to devote to it. My folks have boxes full of Frederick family photos and documents sitting in the attic–not a good spot for them! It would be good to go through them, organize, scan and print them in an album. Face it, this stuff won’t last forever. I just hope my future children and their children will cherish and take interest in it like I have.

Additionally, Molly’s folks gave me a treasure trove of her family photos and mementos. One of those items is her great great grandpa’s passport!  I also have her great grandparents wedding announcements and other documents. There are also boxes full of photographs that I have yet to go through. These are such wonderful items that piece together to tell her family’s story.

You would think that writing this would be easy. I mean, it is my family’s story. The tough part is how to make a family history album more than just birthday, marriage, and death dates. These family members had personal experiences that I need to capture. I remember Grandpa Frederick telling me that shortly after marrying Grandma Millie in 1943 the “G-Men” showed up to take him to a physical exam for the draft. He said that he went through the examination, but that he would not be required to serve. Molly’s Great Grandma, whom I was fortunate enough to meet when we started dating, told us the story of the transatlantic trip her family took to Switzerland when she was a little girl. They were going to Europe to stay with her father’s family. She talked about walking on the deck of the ship as they crossed the Atlantic. These are just a few of the great stories that will fill the pages of a book.


Great Grandpa Frederick’s WWII draft registration

I am really looking forward to doing this…it is long overdue. I am making it my goal to do at least one of these books before the end of 2017. I have a mass of photos and documents ready to go into one of these books; it’s just a matter organizing and making sense of it. There are a lot of examples of how to assemble a book like this on Pinterest that will guide me through the process.  I will post my progress as I work on it in the next year.

Have you put together a family history album? How did you go about doing it?  What was the most exciting details you uncovered about your family history? Share some of your project stories in the comment section below.

5 Years of Blogging

Wow, it has been 5 years since my first blog post. My wife, Molly, got me hooked on blogging. She was taking a college class where she blogged, so I decided to give it a shot. It has been a great way to share information and draw a following of fellow history enthusiasts. I have enjoyed every moment of writing and researching my topics. I look forward to learning more and sharing more. Here is to the first five and many more to come!



Bring on the Snow!



Okay, so it’s officially winter in Wisconsin with our first significant snowfall of the year. Yeah, we got a little snow last weekend, but it was barely enough to cover the ground and melted the next day. We are getting a good dose of snow this weekend–6 to 8 inches by the time it’s all said and done on Monday. I am sure there are a lot of people in pulling their hair out over it, but I welcome it with my new tractor/plow combo!

Dad, Adam, Dan and I went to the Orange Spectacular this past summer where I found this attachment. For those who don’t know, OS is pretty much Allis-Chalmers heaven for those that bleed orange. A whole 3 days of nothing by AC tractors and equipment. There is a huge swap meet area for guys looking to purchase parts and equipment. I was on the lookout for a plow for my garden tractor this year, and I found one.

This was my Uncle Howard’s Allis-Chalmers 710 lawn tractor that he worked in on the deal for having us restore his Minneapolis-Moline tractor a few years back. My brother, Adam, overhauled the engine 2 years ago for me. The tractor had a hard time starting but after the rebuild has been running like new. I’ve been itching to use the plow since I bought it back in July. Now I have no problem pushing the snow out of the driveway.

I am sure I look ridiculous to my neighbors mowing a little lot with a 42″ mower or pushing snow down the driveway, but it’s fun for me! I have to admit that it has been a bit of a struggle for me moving off of the farm and into the city. That’s why it’s nice to have stuff like this to play around with–and it’s orange! The snow is still falling outside, which means there will be more fun to be had later. I can’t wait!

Chief Oshkosh Day

Chief Oshkosh Statue in Menominee Park

Chief Oshkosh Statue in Menominee Park

I’ve been exploring some really interesting local history lately that’s right down the road from me. I live near Menominee Park in Oshkosh where there is a massive statue of Chief Oshkosh near the shores of Lake Winnebago. The bronze memorial to the chief was placed in the park in 1911one of many statues generously donated by Col. John Hicks. What makes this memorial particularly interesting is that the remains of Chief Oshkosh were reinterred at the base of this statue 68 years after his death–or was he and the city practically shut down to welcome the chief home with a huge celebration.

Marker Above Chief Oshkosh's Grave

Marker Above Chief Oshkosh’s Grave

Just to give you a quick background on our city’s namesake. Oshkosh was a Menominee Indian born in 1795. Wisconsin, not yet a state, was still part of the Northwest Territory and mostly unsettled, and the Menominee had over 10 million acres of land to live off of and conduct trade with the French. It wasn’t long before British, Americans and even Eastern Native American tribes moved in and disrupted the Menominee way of life. Oshkosh was appointed chief of the Menominee in 1827 to negotiate treaties with the United States. During his time as the Menominee leader, he reluctantly signed treaties to cede millions of acres of land in Wisconsin away to the United States–he did this to protect his people.  In 1840 the settlements along the Fox River known as “Athens” and “Brooklyn” merged together and formed the village they named “Oshkosh” in honor of the chieftain. The chief spent the rest of his life on the Menominee Indian Reservation in Northeast Wisconsin until his untimely death in 1858. You can check out the Wisconsin Historical Society for more history of Chief Oshkosh.

Chief Oshkosh Day Parade Route

Chief Oshkosh Day Parade Route

On May 25, 1926, the citizens of Oshkosh celebrated Chief Oshkosh Day. A Luncheon was held at the Hotel Athearn in downtown Oshkosh. Following that was a parade through the city featuring nearly 200 floats–one with the casket of Chief Oshkosh. Among the estimated 200 marchers were bands, city officials, the Wisconsin National Guard and members of the Menominee Indian tribe. Airplanes were reported to have been flying above the city doing aerobatics and dropping some sort of aerial ordinance in celebration.

Truck carring the remains of Chief Oshkosh. (Courtesy of Dan Radig)

Truck carrying the remains of Chief Oshkosh. (Courtesy of Dan Radig)

This was a HUGE deal that day.  A big enough deal that the mayor issued a proclamation that asked people to take the day off.

…I therefore request that the afternoon of Tuesday, May 25, 1926, be dedicated thruout [sic] the City of Oshkosh as a Special Day for expressing our Gratitude and honoring the great Chieftain whose name we bear. I urge all the people to observe the day. Let the outpouring of the people of Oshkosh indicate the measure of their gratitude and love,…to that Distinguished American–CHIEF OSHKOSH.

To promote the event outside of Oshkosh, airplanes flew over other towns and cities dropping leaflets by air. One account said that over 20,000 people attended the celebration in Oshkosh. Those who attended the event took home one of these Chief Oshkosh Day Memorial Exercises program booklets.


The program was planned and funded by local real estate mogul Alfred Craft McComb who spent an estimated $12,000 on the day’s festivities. McComb was born in 1857 near Hortonville, Wisconsin. He graduated from Lawrence University in Appleton in 1878 and spent his early years teaching at schools across the state and later served as superintendent of schools in Bozeman, Montana. in 1892 he moved to Oshkosh and soon after married Ella G. Wilson. McComb made a substantial amount of money buying and selling timberland in Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, Florida and a few other states. He also owned tracts of timberland in South America. It’s no wonder he was able to afford to pick up the bill!

The citizens of Oshkosh were grateful of Alfred McComb for his generosity. The Oshkosh Daily Northwestern wrote that Chief Oshkosh Day helped stir historical preservation and civic pride in Oshkosh. It prompted people to learn about their past and take interest in their city’s roots. This is so interesting in that this attitude has come full circle. Today, a boost in civic pride has led to newly designated historic districts, historical markers and a historic tourism program in Oshkosh. It’s great to see that pride in our local history is in our history here in Oshkosh. That same newspaper snippet from 1926 got it right when it said that historical awareness “…will surely make for the good future of this splendid city.”



Cross, Scott. 2002. Like a deer chased by the dogs: the life of Chief Oshkosh. Oshkosh, Wis: Oshkosh Public Museum.
Dawes, William, and Clara Dawes. 1938. History of Oshkosh, 1938. Oshkosh, Wis.: Service Print Shop.
Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, May 22, 1926.
Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, May 23, 1926.
Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, May 25, 1926.