Civil War Weekend

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Molly and I made a trip to the Wade House Historic Site, part of the Wisconsin Historical Society, in Greenbush,Wisconsin. The Wade House is an old stagecoach stop built in the 1850s. The Wisconsin Historical Society acquired the historic property in the 1950s and opened it up as a museum. The museum hosts its annual Civil War Weekend on the last weekend in September. I have been to event in years past, but I was interested in checking it out again. Molly has never been to a Civil War reenactment, so I thought it would make for a fun weekend trip.

Civil War Weekend is a great event to take the young kids too. History comes alive for this one weekend when men and women dress up in period clothes and portray life in 1860s America. It is not all cannons, horses, and guns. There are children’s activities where they can experience childhood games long before video games, television, and electronic devices. Photographers took pictures using wet-plate photography from that era (one of my favorites) and explained the process of taking and developing pictures. We even saw the Rebels roasting a pig rotisserie style over a fire. President Abraham Lincoln made his appearance to explain the backdrop to the battle being portrayed and history of the Civil War (Battle of Chickamauga was featured this year).

After you take in camp life, see medical procedures of the era at the surgeon’s tent, and talk to the soldiers, you can make your way to the battlefield to watch the reenactment take place. I recommend getting to the battlefield early if you want a good spot. I would also recommend a spot near the top of the hill, otherwise you will only see one part of the reenactment. Molly and I get a spot near the Confederate battery position (the cannons). The two sides exchanged some artillery volleys to begin the battle. Next, the Confederate and Union cavalries skirmished with pistols and sabers on horseback. Lastly, the Confederate infantry advanced toward the Union infantry on the top of the hill. Both sides exchanged a few volleys, followed by the Union soldiers’ retreat.

Although my side lost, we had such a great time at the event. The Wade House and historical actors put on a great, family-friendly show. There is so much to learn and experience at Civil War Weekend. Tomorrow is the last day of the event this year, so make your way over to the Wade House (click here for the scheduled events).  Have you been to the event before? What are your impressions, and what was your favorite part of the event?

Our Visit to SW Wisconsin

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My wife and I made a Saturday trip to some historic locations. I had heard of Stonefield Historic Site in Cassville, Wisconsin, but I was never able to make it down that way to check it out. The museum is very intriguing! It features the Governor Nelson Dewey Home and Farmstead, Wisconsin Agricultural Museum, and the Farming Village.

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The first leg of our tour took us to the agricultural building. The exhibits featured different aspects of Wisconsin’s agriculture history-wheat, dairy, cranberries, farm mechanization. My ultimate favorite part of the building was the display of  two Allis-Chalmers tractors. The first, a model 10-18 painted a dark green color the company used before the 1929 introduction of Persian Orange.

The second, an Allis-Chalmers model U was the FIRST farm tractor with factory equipped rubber tires. This was an important achievement in farm mechanization. This tractor is a must see for every Allis-Chalmers enthusiast. However, one thing I would recommend the museum doing is emphasizing some history of notable Wisconsin based farm machinery manufacturers. International Harvester was a prominent theme but not based in Wisconsin. There was little about the J.I. Case Company or the Allis-Chalmers Manfacturing Company; both companies were headquartered in Wisconsin.

After the agriculture building, we  made our way to replica, turn-of-the-century farming village, Stonefield. This replica village had all the businesses and services available to citizens of that era. This part of the museum reminded me of my hometown, Markesan, from that period. The museum has a really great way of showing visitors what rural towns were like in the past.

Our second stop was the Potosi Brewing Company in Potosi,Wisconsin. The old brewery opened in 1852, closed in 1972, and reopened in 2008. It is an amazing place to visit for history, beer, and a place to eat. It’s a must see for every beer/beer history enthusiast. It also happens to be the home of the National Brewery Museum.

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Our first stop on the tour was the beer cave dug into the side of the hill, which is accessible from inside the brewery. We made our way to the 3rd floor where we got a sneak peek of the brewing process at the brewery. Then we made our way down to the memorabilia part of the tour. There are 2 floors packed with just about everything brewery/beer related. Crates, bottle, posters, trays, and antique brewery equipment pack the walls and display cases.

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 After the tour, we made our way down to the Potosi Brew Pub. With your tour you received a free 8 oz beer. If you bought a pint glass from the gift shop then you received a free pint of beer. We got samples of Good Old Potosi, Cave Ale, and Pumpkin Ale. All of which were very refreshing. The food was awesome and reasonably priced. I would recommend it to everyone.

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After our visit, we had one more photo opportunity. Potosi Brewery is not only the home of the Nation Brewery Museum but also the world’s biggest cone-top beer can! We had to have our picture with it.

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If you are in this area of Wisconsin these places are worth a visit. Not only will you learn some interesting history, you will be supporting some worthwhile organizations.

To Live in a Bygone Era

At one point or another we have all said, ” I wish I could go back in time.” If only it was as easy as jumping into a DeLorean, setting a date of destination, and speeding to 88 mph and zipped into the past. Say for a minute that time travel was possible. The decade I would go back to would be the Roaring Twenties.  It was a decade that came in with a bang and went crashing out. Here are my top 10 reasons to go back to the 1920s.

#10-Prohibition

Not to take part in it! I would stop beer from ever being dumped down the drain. Prohibition was bound to fail. What would our alcohol be like today if those 13 “dry” years never occurred?

Beer being dumped
(NYDailyNews)

#9-Automobiles

The cars were super-sharp looking back in the 1920s. My Grandpa Frederick’s first car was a 1929 Ford Model A. Grandpa had good taste in vehicles!

Grandpa (right) with his first car

Grandpa (right) with his first car

#8- Sports

I don’t consider myself a big sports guy, but seeing the early years of the Green Bay Packers would be amazing!

Original Green Bay Packers-1919
(WikiCommons)

#7-Aviation

Imagine taking an adventure on a colossal Zeppelin!  These magnificent ships made trips around the world for nearly 30 years (about 1909-1937).  Although they were prone to disaster, I would not hesitates about taking a trans-Atlantic flight.

Graf Zeppelin
(Airships)

#6-Movies

The movie industry exploded in the 1920s. The decade saw the first “talkie” movie, African-American featured film, and the introduction of Mickey Mouse.

“The Jazz Singer”-First “talkie” in 1927
(PDX Retro)

#5-Fashion

Why don’t men dress like this anymore? I am digging the patterns and textures. I think I might have to have wife make this and share that experience. (The Pinformer)

Men’s Fashion
(Vintage Dancer)

#4-Literature

While a local library would have these books available today, I think it would be extraordinary to meet the people behind the great works of literature from the 1920s. These authors saw the changing world around them and put pen to paper to express their feelings.

#3-Music

Ragtime and Jazz were the popular tunes of the time. A person went to a dance hall or a speakeasy to hear the popular music in those days. Radios and phonographs were becoming popular forms of entertainment.

The I-Pod of the 1920s
(Attic Paper)

#2-Dance

The Charleston, Lindy Hop, American tango and waltz were popular dances of the 1920s. Dance halls became a popular social spot for younger Americans.

#1-Railroads

I am a huge rail fan! In 1920 passenger rail traffic peaked at 47 million passenger miles per day. The Milwaukee depots ( Milwaukee Road/ Chicago & Northwestern) were amazing buildings. The Milwaukee Road Shops in the Menomonee Valley must have been quite an operation. Who would not want to go back to see the age when steam locomotives ruled the rails.

Milwaukee Road depot
(Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

These are my top ten reasons to go back to the 1920s. What do you like about the decade? If you could go back in time where would you go and why?

AC Complex Rebuilt

I Found this article in the Milwaukee Journal that talks about the rebuilding of the Allis-Chalmers factory grounds. It seems demolition got underway shortly after the bankruptcy in 1987. The pictures below are more recent pictures of the former West Allis Works. The buildings that are left gives you an idea of just how big this place once was.

ACSite

Hometown AC Ads

Scanning through old newspapers can be a great source of local AC history. I found these local dealership ads in our area newspapers. Check your local library for newspaper microfilms. You can also access some newspapers on Google Newspaper Archive or Newspaper Archive. Addition sources may be available through local historical societies, universities, and libraries.

 

Memories from the Allis-Chalmers Proving Grounds

Allis-Chalmers tractors and implement prototype units were designed, built, and then tested at the company proving grounds. The units were put through hell at the proving grounds; scenarios that the machine would hardly experience on the farm. Test tractors were abused around the clock for quality assurance. Engineers conducted field tests on grounds or on nearby farms to monitor equipment in action. Before an implement or tractor design went into production it was put to the test on the proving grounds.

WD-45 undergoing field testing
(New Berlin Historical Society)

There were two Allis-Chalmers proving grounds, that I know of, in Wisconsin. One was once located near New Berlin, Wisconsin, located south of Cleveland Avenue, near 166th street.  An old service building still stands as a remnant of the old proving grounds. Sometime around 1960, Allis-Chalmers relocated its proving grounds near Franksville, Wisconsin, on the northwest corner of County Road G and 6 Mile Road.

Franksville Proving Grounds

Prototype D21 being tested

Tractor engine hours accumulated in 4 years on a farm would be done in less than 6 months at the proving grounds. The “Rough course”, as it was called, exceeded any shock the tractor would endure in rough field conditions, but was necessary to test axle, sheet metal, and wheel strength. During the spring growing season, local farmers would line-up at the proving grounds office to offer their farms as testing grounds.

A former employee at the Franksville proving grounds shares memories of testing equipment.

The test track was where the first building north of the main proving grounds building. That building (the one where the track was) was built sometime after the proving grounds closed. The area that Omega Circle now loops around was all open field. It was someplace we could take a plow or whatever and “play” with a little.

Out in that field, I had an obstacle built so that the auto reset bottoms could be tested. It was 2′ square chuck of concrete (faced with steel) on top of about a 4′ concrete pillar, and the top was a few inches under the soil. The top was sloped so that one side sloped up and the other side sloped down so that it would “hook” the plow point. The other two sides were vertical.

The implement chief engineer and project engineer brought out the engineering boss one day so he could see the trips work. The trips worked fine on the first 3 passes, but on the pass where the point got hooked, things broke. That was because the linkage design required the bottom to come up in order to come back.

The chief engineer called it an unrealistic test and blew it off (although he was embarrassed in front of his boss). The first winter that the plow was in production, (by then we had all been relocated to La Crosse), we got a call from the Florida panhandle about the auto resets not working. I was sent down to see what was happening. They were clearing land that had been full of pine trees. There were a lot of roots left in the ground after dozers had pushed the trees into piles on the edges of the field. The plow points were getting stuck under those roots and either breaking things or stalling the tractor. So much for my unrealistic test.

The proving grounds must have been a something to see in its heyday. Did you or someone you know work at the proving grounds? Or maybe you remember a farmer offering to test equipment on their farm? Comment with a story or question.