Murphy’s Area Research Center (ARC)
This collection was put together for the FFA. It is actually ten different manuscript collections, each with their own title and call number. Together all these different sources tell a story about the LaX Rubber Mills . . . and a lot more!
This collection contains two vertical files on the La Crosse Rubber Mills Co. and LaCrosse Footwear, Inc., six oral history transcripts of people who worked for the La Crosse Rubber Mills Co. and LaCrosse Footwear, Inc., and two booklets published by the Rubber Mills Co. that explain the manufacture of rubber. The two booklets have very unusual names: “Caoutchouc,” published in 1915 (31-pages), and “Caoutchouc II” published in 1925 (39-pages). Don’t be turned off by the name. These booklets are very interesting and informative. They are also filled with pictures of the factory and the production process.
The La Crosse Rubber Mills Co. opened in 1896 in La Crosse and moved to Portland, Oregon in 2001. They imported rubber from Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America for making rubber products, mostly footwear. Though they were a small company, they were unique and grew to be one of the largest employers in La Crosse. This collection not only tells the story of a factory, but brings to light ways La Crosse was connected to other areas in the world because of manufacturing. It also tells the story of unions, strikes, and the exploitation of workers in La Crosse.
All the parts in this collection work very well together. For example, many of the people interviewed in the oral histories talk about the same subject, thus providing a number of viewpoints on the same topic. Likewise, the booklets give background and images to some of the things discussed in the oral histories. Lastly, the vertical files have a wide range of information about everything covered in the both the oral histories and the booklets. Each part of this collection is strong, but together it’s even stronger!
PLEASE NOTE: The La Crosse Rubber Mills Co. changed its name to LaCrosse Footwear, Inc. in 1986.
CALL NUMBERS/TITLES: La Crosse Businesses Vertical File: LaCrosse Footwear, Inc. La Crosse Businesses Vertical File: La Crosse Rubber Mills
CITATION FOR LACROSSE FOOTWEAR: La Crosse Businesses Vertical File: LaCrosse Footwear, Inc. (1896- present). Special Collections, Murphy Library,University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
CITATION FOR RUBBER MILLS: La Crosse Businesses Vertical File: La Crosse Rubber Mills (1896-present). Special Collections, Murphy Library, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
PLEASE NOTE: The citation for documents in the vertical files changes depending on what is used. For example, a newspaper article would be cited differently than a pamphlet. Look at a Chicago Style citation guide or ask a librarian or teacher how to cite your specific source.
The two vertical files are very similar. They have many newspaper articles, pamphlets, programs, newsletters, and advertisements that explain the history and the people working for the Rubber Mills and/or LaCrosse Footwear. Most articles date back to the 1970s, but there are some from before that as well.
One of the oldest newspaper articles is from 1887. It describes the factory when it was quite small and also tells about the imported rubber the factory used. Other articles talk about workers’ strikes, the company’s name change, and the company’s move to Oregon. There is also an issue from a newsletter called “LRM Footwear Footnotes” with an interview of a woman who started working in the Rubber Mills in 1907!
Bill Larkin, interviewed by Sandra Molzhon, UW-L Oral History Program, UW-L Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, 8 April 1997.
Jerry Larkin, interviewed by Herbert Tancil, UW-L Oral History Program, UW-L Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, 22 April 1997.
Donna Lemke, interviewed by Margaret Larson, UW-L Oral History Program, UW-L Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, 17 November 1994.
Richard Morkwed, interviewed by Sandra Molzhon, UW-L Oral History Program, UW-L Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, 1 April 1997.
George Schneider, interviewed by Dan Freudenburg, UW-L Oral History Program, UW-L Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, 19 March 1997.
Herman Tietz, interviewed by Howard Fredericks, UW-L Oral History Program, UW-L Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, 20 June and 25 July 1972.
The oral histories are interviews with people who worked at the Rubber Mills. Some people worked at the Mills for only a few years, while others worked there their entire life. These interviews cover topics like: unions, working conditions in the factory, pay, child labor, women in the workplace, family relationships, the Depression, the economy, and war. Some interviews focus on the Rubber Mills for only a few pages, while others talk about it for the entire interview.
Bill Larkin worked as a supervisor for various departments in the Rubber Mills. He worked for the company from 1961 to 1996. The entire interview is about the Rubber Mills.
Pages 1-10 Mr. Larkin talks a lot about work and his work experience. In particular, he discusses how he got his job at the mill, and his family and co-workers. (Some of his co-workers are also family.) On pages 8-9 he mentions women in the factory.
Pages 10-13 cover Larkin’s first day on the job and the smell of rubber. Amazing!
Pages 13-21 Larkin addresses wages and the Mill owners. The Funk family was one of the Mill’s founders and also one of the wealthiest families in La Crosse. On pages 14-15, he describes working with rubber.
Pages 21-22 discuss unions.
Pages 22-25 Larkin talks about how World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, and Desert Storm affected the Rubber Mills.
Pages 25-31 Larkin reviews the relationship between the company and the community, the company’s name change, and he gives his opinion on why La Crosse Footwear had the success it did.
Jerry Larkin worked as a chief engineer at the plant. He worked there from 1933 to 1976. The entire interview is about the Rubber Mills.
Pages 2-10 hit a wide range of topics, from politics and the Great Depression, to fellow mill workers, wages, and Tuberculosis! These are just a few of the subjects, therefore, for anyone interested in an overview of mill-related topics, these pages may be just the ticket. Also in this section, it is interesting to note that Jerry Larkin talks about his first day on the job. Bill Larkin’s oral history discusses the same topic, which may make for some enlightening comparisons or connections.
Pages 10-15 talk more about what his job was like, including having to take work home. In addition, Mr. Larkin discusses what he enjoyed about the job, unions, and how wars affected the company.
Pages 15-20 largely cover the mill’s relationship with La Crosse, the company’s growth, and his brothers’ jobs. However, on a completely unrelated topic, Larkin also provides insight into college sports!
Pages 20-29 also cover a lot of topics, including Larkin’s boss, Prohibition, changes made at the factory, and the Great Depression.
Donna Lemke worked on the assembly line and talks about what work was like as a woman. She worked there in the winter of 1947-1948 after graduating high school. Pages 9-16 cover the Rubber Mills.
Pages 9-13 Lemke talks about getting hired and what it was like to work at the mill, including how she dressed. In particular she discusses some of the dangers related to mill work and her memory of the factory’s smell. (She specifically notes the smell of the rubber cement.) Two other topics of note from this section are lay offs and the mill’s production during the wars.
Pages 14-16 discuss workers’ wages and more about getting laid off.
Richard Morkwed did not work on the factory floor. He worked in the billing department, the purchasing department, and later became the Vice President of Distribution. He worked at the company from 1948 to 1992. The entire interview is about the Rubber Mills.
Page 2-11 cover his history with the factory, including his first day on the job. Mr. Morkwed explains some of the different work duties related to the factory, and just like in Jerry Larkin’s interview, he talks about taking work home.
Pages 11-15 cover a number of different topics, but most notably, workplace atmosphere, layoffs, and the mill’s transfer to a new owner.
Pages 15-20 cover some very interesting topics, including, unions, the Korean War, buying rubber and cotton, the U.S.’s dependence on synthetic rubber during WWII, and company innovation. This part of the interview pairs nicely with the “Cauotchouc” booklets because they talk about the history of the La Crosse Rubber Mills where the factory got the rubber for making its shoes. Just a hint, it didn’t come from Wisconsin!
George Schneider bought the company in 1982 and became Chairman of the Board. The entire interview is about the company.
Pages 2-6 discuss how Schneider became involved with the company, product changes that happened during his watch, and his philosophy about the the mill.
Pages 6-11 comment on other factories that competed with the La Crosse factory, and innovative changes made.
On pages 11-15 Mr. Schneider talks about hist relationship with workers. These pages also discuss strikes. Remember Schneider was the mill’s owner, so his perspective is important to keep in mind.
Pages 15-20 cover the mill’s role in the community, places Schneider traveled on business trips, and his vision for the company.
Herman Tietz worked in the factory from 1906 to 1908 making shoes. Only pages 31-38 cover the Rubber Mills. The rest of the interview is about other topics.
On pages 31-33 Mr. Tietz describes what the Rubber Mills looked like way back in 1903. He talks about what his job was like, and also his wages.
Pages 33-36 covers how shoes were made, and again, the smell of the rubber is brought up. (See also Donna Lemke and Bill Larkin.) Mr. Tietz goes further on this subject and describes the lack of ventilation in the factory.
Pages 36-38 discuss unions, working conditions,and his brother’s fallout with management.
CALL NUMBERS/TITLES: Cauotchouc: The Manufacture of Rubber Footwear, An Illustrated Story of Rubber from its growth to the finished Product,” (1915)
(F589.L1626 L3754 1915)
“Cauotchouc II: The Manufacture of Rubber Footwear, An Illustrated Story of Rubber from its growth to the finished Product,” (1925)
(F589.L1626 L3754 1925)
PLEASE NOTE: “Cauotchouc II” is also available as a digital resource at: http://murphylibrary.uwlax.edu/digital/lacrosse/LaxFootwearCatalog1925/01.htm.
La Crosse Rubber Mills Company. “Caoutchouc: The Manufacture of Rubber Footwear: An Illustrated Story of Rubber from its Growth to the Finished Product.” La Crosse, WI: La Crosse Rubber Mills Company, 1915.
La Crosse Rubber Mills Company. “Caoutchouc II: The Manufacture of Rubber Footwear: An Illustrated Story of Rubber from its Growth to the Finished Product.” La Crosse, WI: La Crosse Rubber Mills Company, 1925.
The two booklets “Caoutchouc” (1915) and “Caoutchouc II” (1925) are very similar. Indeed, the second one is just an updated version of the first. Both explain where the factory’s rubber came from, how it was produced, and the products manufactured. Also, both have pictures to go with the text. Reading these booklets will help establish the context needed to better understand the La Crosse Rubber Mills.
PLEASE NOTE: The Rubber Mills published these booklets for their own purposes, and can be considered corporate propaganda. Think about this while reading the words and looking at the pictures too.
“Caoutchouc: The Manufacture of Rubber Footwear, An Illustrated Story of Rubber from its growth to the finished Product,” (1915) is 31-pages long.
Pages 3-10 go through the history of rubber, where it came from, and how rubber manufacturing was invented. These pages are very interesting because they show that over 100 years ago La Crosse had connections with places you may have never thought possible.
Pages 11-26 discuss rubber manufacturing. These pages also have many photographs of workers in the factory, which along with the text, provides a kind of virtual tour of the rubber mills!
Pages 27-29 tour the administrative offices and give a conclusion to the booklet.
Pages 30-31 has pictures of different shoe styles made by the company.
“Cauotchouc II: The Manufacture of Rubber Footwear, An Illustrated Story of Rubber from its growth to the finished Product,” (1925) is 39-pages long. It is longer than the first one because it has more information and a more complete tour of the factory buildings with additional pictures. Inside the front cover is also a flyer stating the purpose of the publication of this booklet.
Pages 3-5 give a history of rubber and where rubber came from. (Remember that this booklet is very similar to the first!)
Pages 6-7 explains the “vulcanization” of rubber.
Pages 8-10 discuss where rubber comes from. In particular, this book looks at rubber from wild rubber trees vs. plantations.
Pages 11-26 covers rubber manufacturing and footwear production. There are many photos and it feels like a tour through the factory.
Pages 27-30 give a brief history of the Rubber Mills, its founders, and company growth. There are also pictures of the founders and illustrations showing factory changes over the years.
Pages 31-34 give a description of the administrative offices with photos.
Page 35 shows product distribution throughout the world.
Pages 36-39 has pictures of different styles of shoes made by the company and gives a conclusion to the booklet.
Reviewed by: Jennifer DeRocher
The real name of this collection is Demonstrations, or, Student Demonstrations. It contains three vertical files: “Demonstrations #1,” “Demonstrations #2 (1966-1972),” and “Demonstrations #3.” The files are filled with newspaper articles, government documents, university documents, newsletters, student event flyers, student protest signs, and more. There is no set organization for any folder, and all of the files cover La Crosse and other campuses. Don’t be fooled by the label!
The documents in each folder have to do with student protests mostly during the 1960s and 1970s, although there are also some articles from the 1990s and 2000s. These protests were generally about the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, the environment, and other issues important to students.
The documents show how the 1960s and 1970s were a time of conflict between college students and the government, as well as college students and La Crosse community members. The language used is very interesting and informative. For example, in a number of the government documents, college students are described as needing haircuts, baths, clean clothes, and more intelligence. There are many La Crosse Tribune articles that report student actions negatively.
PLEASE NOTE: In many of the articles from the 1960s and 1970s, UW-La Crosse was called Wisconsin State University-La Crosse (WSU) or La Crosse University (LCU).
PLEASE NOTE: The citation for each document in the vertical file depends on the type of document it is. For example, a newspaper article would be cited differently than a memo or a protest sign. Go to the Chicago Manual of Style, or ask a librarian or teacher for help.
CALL NUMBER/TITLE: UW-L Vertical Files – Students – Demonstrations
Demonstrations File #1 has documents that cover 1966-2009. There are newspaper articles about bomb threats on the La Crosse campus, student protests against the Vietnam War and U.S involvement in Cambodia, reaction to student protests, rallies against coal burning, protests against U.S. involvement in Iraq, use of tear gas and force on student protestors, and violence against women. This file also contains UWL student-made flyers, and documents between the university and the government in which officials discuss what to do about campus demonstrations and bomb threats.
Demonstrations File #2 is very similar to File #1 except it’s thicker. This file has mostly government reports that discuss problems with student protests in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and the U.S. There are also newspaper articles specifically about La Crosse University students causing trouble. There are a few articles from UW-Madison’s liberal newspaper The Daily Cardinal about student protests. There is a court document on an incident that took place at UW-Oshkosh involving the Black Student Union’s civil rights protests. Some students were suspended for disruption and destruction of property.
Demonstrations File #3 is similar to the other two files, however it has mostly student-made flyers that announce demonstration events on La Crosse’s campus. There are also many documents and flyers that mention the draft and the Vietnam War, as well as anti-war happenings at Kent State (in Ohio) and Berkeley (in California).
Reviewed by: Jennifer DeRocher
Scrapbook photo taken by Jennifer DeRocher
This collection is all contained in one cardboard box with the call number (M95-1). However, not everything in this box may be useful for your research. For this reason, this finding aid focuses on the newspaper articles collected and kept in the scrapbooks, and the manual for teaching temperance to children.
The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.) was a national organization that formed to protest the use of alcohol in U.S. society. To do this they educated children about the negative effects of alcohol and also held street protests to make their voices heard. Also, it was the W.C.T.U. that led the movement for Women’s suffrage – voting rights – in an effort to strengthen their platform.
The W.C.T.U. had many state, county, and local groups. One prominent W.C.T.U. group in Wisconsin was in Sparta in Monroe County. This group collected local, state, and national articles about the W.C.T.U., which they kept in scrapbooks from 1909 through the 1920s. (These scrapbooks cover an important time for the W.C.T.U. because that was when they temporarily won their fight for temperance in the U.S. with the start of Prohibition in 1920.) The local group in Sparta also kept treasurer’s books, monthly meeting minutes, notebooks, and a few other random items like a manual for teaching temperance to children.
The newspaper articles collected are interesting because they connect a national organization’s larger movement for temperance to what a small rural community in Wisconsin was doing at the same time. Most of the local articles are editorials written by a local doctor – Spencer (Pen) Beebe – who worked with Sparta’s W.C.T.U. to help curb alcohol consumption, gambling, and violence in the community. His articles are usually aimed at the local police, the mayor of Sparta, or the community as a whole. He often quotes the harm of drunk driving accidents, violence, and death due to alcohol consumption.
Each item in this collection has its own number, ranging from 1 to 24. This is both wonderful, and until you see it for yourself, possibly confusing. But never fear, the numbers are written on each item. These numbers are written as (M95-1-1) to (M95-1-24). They are often written on the inside of the materials, on either front or back covers. Below you can see that the finding aid is organized by these call numbers. All of them start with “M95-1” because that is the box! Be aware that each item you use must be cited with its own item number.
It is important to note that the notebooks and “Records” books that contain meeting minutes and other notes could be useful for research if, for instance, you are looking at the rules and regulations local groups passed to make their movement successful. Beware, however, that these books are dense and written in cursive. This finding aid focuses on the newspaper articles collected and kept in the scrapbooks and the manual for teaching temperance to children.
(M95-1-1) – (M95-1-2), (M95-1-4): Scrapbooks, 1909-1940
This scrapbook began in 1909. The newspaper articles inside are not organized very well – they jump around by years. There are mostly national and state-level articles published about the temperance movement. There are, however, some articles about Sparta, Monroe County, and La Crosse. This scrapbook has articles about W.C.T.U. and its movement before Prohibition began in 1920.
Notice that this scrapbook began in the midst of Prohibition. It contains many local articles and tells the story of how prohibition affected a small rural Wisconsin community. This scrapbook goes through the 1930s, which means that the articles inside reflect the tensions at the national, state, and local levels over ending Prohibition. The language is often different than we see it today. For instance, people that are for temperance are often called “Drys,” and people that are for the legalization of alcohol are called “Wets.”
This scrapbook has a lot of Dr. Spencer’s articles. He used a “pen name” Beebe in them. Many of the articles argue that the police need to take their job prohibiting alcohol more seriously. There are also articles about liquor raids in and near Sparta, the local ordinances passed after Prohibition ended in 1933, and many articles written about why women specifically should not consume alcohol. These articles about women often reflect the sexism in society at that time. One national-level article critiqued controversial comments Eleanor Roosevelt made about women and drinking.
This scrapbook was collected at the same time as (M95-1-2), but it has more national articles than the other. These articles focus more on the W.C.T.U. organization than the controversy of Prohibition.
Towards the end, there are clippings of pamphlets, poems, songs, and prayers that they collected.
(M95-1-5) – (M95-1-6): Treasurer’s Books, 1897-1954
These books narrate expenses made by the Sparta W.C.T.U group from 1897-1954. It lists member’s names, dues paid, money made by fundraisers, money spent by the group, and money the group donated to the national W.C.T.U organization.
(M95-1-7) – (M95-1-18): Secretary’s Books and Notebooks, 1879-1942
Each of these books contain notes made by secretaries throughout the years 1879-1942. They include: the group’s Constitution and By-Laws, lists of current members, lists of trustees, notes from state and national conferences that the group attended, and notes from their monthly meetings in Sparta.
These books are written in cursive and are frail with age.
(M95-1-19) – (M95-1-23): “Temperance Lesson Manual: For the Band of Hope and Loyal Temperance Lesson” booklets, 1896
There are four of these booklets, three of which are lesson manuals for children and the fourth is the teacher’s edition.
(M95-1-24): Envelope with various materials, 1937-1938
This envelope contains a booklet published by the national W.C.T.U. organization thanking local groups for their donations. Wisconsin towns with W.C.T.U. chapters are listed on pages 18 and 19. The envelope also contains an award made out to the local Sparta group from the national W.C.T.U. organization congratulating them for their large donation. There is a letter-sized envelope addressed to Sparta’s W.C.T.U. president at the time, Miss Etta Tompkins, that has multiple things in it. Most notable, there is a newsletter and news release about a man scheduled to speak about the W.C.T.U. on a national radio station.