Day in Appleton

My wife and I decided to hit the road this weekend and take a trip to Appleton. It’s only about a 20-25 minute drive up the road, so we just went for it. I made a deal with Molly, I told her that if we could go to the History Museum at the Castle that I would take her shopping. We actually spent more time shopping than at the museum, but we were both content in the end. 

Before you go on a history/shopping adventure it is important to eat a good meal. We always wanted to go to the Appleton Beer Factory to try out their brews and food. I tried their Hefeweizen  (hay-fuh-veyt-sssenn) and a mac n cheese sandwich, and Molly ordered the Blonde Ale with a BBQ pulled pork sandwich. Everything was very delicious, and I plan to bring my father-in-law back to this awesome brewpub. 


After the brewpub we made our way over to the museum. I was there many years ago, but there is a fun exhibition  called Food  going on now. There is also a floor dedicated to the history of Harry Houdini and his legacy as an escape artist. In the basement you get a glimpse of Appleton’s paper industry, the city’s historical timeline, and recreations of businesses ( bank, doctor’s office, gas station). There was even a little corner about Senator Joseph McCarthy.

I have to say that I was really impressed with the  exhibition about food. I enjoyed all the different elements and visuals used in it. I also liked the ways that the museum incorporated social media into the panels. This was the first time I saw a panel with twitter hashtags to engage discussion. There was a question, depending on the topic, and then you could tweet a response to it on the museum’s hashtag (#MyHistoryMuseum). Another great technique used to get school children involved was asking a question and supplying sticky notes for responses on the panels. Another involved telling a story of opposing views and asking them to make a choice of who they sided. The choice was made by placing a token in a container next to the options.

It was a fun-filled day of beer, history, and shopping. It was great to get back to that museum to see the exhibition and the information they had to share. Have you been to the museum to see Food? What did you think of it and what did you learn?

My Easter Basket

I received one of the coolest Easter gifts ever last Sunday. We had the whole family up for dinner at our home, and my father-in-law says, “come out to the car and help me with something.” First he hands me a small, glass tabletop and then the big surprise. He pulls out a 1962 Civil Defense water barrel/commode. Wow, what an awesome gift that only a historian could get excited about!


These steel barrels were stocked in public fallout shelters during  the early 1960s. The Office of Civil Defense was preparing supplies in the event of nuclear exchange between the Soviet Union and the United States. The barrels  were lined with a plastic bag, and then 17.5 gallons of water could be placed inside and sealed. When the water was gone, the barrel was re-purposed as a toilet. Could you imagine?! Check out the Civil Defense Museum for more information about this and other fallout shelter supplies.

Ghost Signs

The History Museum at the Castle posted great article on Facebook about a ghost sign found in an Appleton building being remodeled. While removing plaster from an interior wall, the building owner discovered an old advertisement painted on the building next door. This ad was painted on the exterior wall of building sometime in the late 19th century, and it was covered up when the structure next to it was built. Painted advertisements preserved for this amount of time are called ghost signs.

This form of advertising is fascinating! These paintings could take up entire sides of a building. Oshkosh has quite a few of these ghost signs, some in better condition that others. Even in little Markesan, where I grew up, there is very faint ghost sign on the side of one of  the buildings. I was happy to hear that the building owners in Appleton decided to preserve the ghost sign and make it part of the building’s decor.

I ran across the site Ghost Sign Project that is mapping out the location of these old building advertisements. If you know the location of some, you could help document this history by photographing and marking the location of this forgotten art. Personally, I would like to see signs in poor condition be revived. Cities are trying to find ways to capture history and promote tourism, and what better way to do that than restoring the signs that captures urban history?!

Vintage Dishwashers

My wife gives me random looks when I tell her the things I look up online. One minute I am looking up the local weather, and then the next minute I am researching old dishwashing machines. My work takes me into a lot of different homes in the area, and the recent home I was working in had a Youngstown Kitchen. There were the metal cabinets, red counter tops with chrome trim, and the electric sink. Electric sinks were cabinet sinks that had a garbage disposal and a built-in dishwasher. It was a luxury if you could afford to have an automatic dishwasher like this in your kitchen, but Youngstown built appliances “priced to own now.”

Youngstown Electric Sink ( )

The picture of the electric sink pictured above is similar to the model that was in the home I was working in. It was in rough shape and not been used for years. The owners said they planned on ripping it all out and remodeling the kitchen. It is a shame, but I am not sure if it is usable or able to be repaired. The dishwasher was missing some components and had some rust in the tub.  I am sure any parts that are needed to get it back in working condition would have to be salvaged from other units.

There is a guy who makes a hobby out of collecting old dishwashers like this. Mike Haller has been collecting vintage appliances since 2008. He travels around the country looking for these old machines. The article says he also uses some of them! He explained how he would like to start a museum with them. If he does start a museum, I hope he has an interactive part of it where visitors and try out one of these old machines. Look at some of his dishwashers in action by watching his YouTube channel.

I think it would be really fun to get an old dishwasher. Of course it will use more electricity and water, but it will be American made and built to last! I will have to keep my eyes peeled for one of these old units. One source I found,, is a great site with a fair amount of information and other collectors that can help. Who knows, maybe someday my kitchen will be a Youngstown Kitchen, but I will have to talk my wife into it first!