Photo courtesy of the Southwest Wisconsin Room, UW-Platteville
If you have ever wondered what life was like in Wisconsin during World War I, this Friendly Finding Aid is for you. It explores an exciting time in the United States’ history from the US perspective. This was a war unlike any war fought before, with effects that reached all the way into Wisconsin. This aid follows three years, 1917-1919, of newspaper articles from the Grant County Democrat. One of the great features of this collection is that all the papers you need are on microfilm. Here’s a chance to learn a new skill that all historians are familiar with. Looking through microfilm has advantages that most collections do not. Instead of searching your way through folders and struggling to read someone’s hand writing, you get to spend your time leisurely scrolling through typed newspapers that are easy to read.
This Friendly Finding Aid focuses on how World War I affected the home front in Muscoda (Mus-kuh-day), a small town in Wisconsin. Muscoda was a typical 1917 small town, therefore what went on there is likely comparable to what was happening across the country. Think of this as something historians call a “case study”: use of a single example to represent something larger. World War I had a wide range of impacts, but this FFA focuses on: food shortages, the Selective Service Act, home front support, and home front politics. Like all newspapers, the Grant County Democrat covers a wide range of topics, so while many of the articles pertain to World War I, a lot of them do not. Therefore, if the topics outlined above don’t interest you, there are others that certainly will.
It’s important to mention again that this collection of newspapers is on microfilm. Viewing microfilm is not very difficult but will require some new skills. The best way to learn how to use a microfilm reader is to have either the librarians or archivists teach you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help at any time, they know the machines well! The newspapers that you will be viewing carry an almost identical format throughout 1917 and 1918. The biggest news, especially local news, is focused on the front page. This is where a lot of information about the war is displayed. The rest of the paper includes various national and global news and weekly sections such as fictional stories and advertisements. The collection is extremely interesting and helpful for learning about the impact of World War I on this small town, but is also very intriguing just to see what small town life was like one hundred years ago. As you dive into this collection, try to imagine what these experiences would have been like if you’d lived in Muscoda. Don’t just consume the details; try to use your imagination to take a journey back in time!
To use the articles featured in this FFA do the following:
1. Find the newspaper’s date
2. Locate the page number or if there is no page number, count from the title page
3. Search for the article title
All of this information is provided below.
One of the topics that is related to World War I, and is frequently mentioned throughout the collection, is food shortages. Lifestyles had to change drastically because, to ensure that there would be enough food for the troops, people at home had to eat differently. For example, families had to limit important products such as flour and sugar!
May 18, 1917: Page 2 “Women and Children to Assist in Increasing the Food Supply”
With many farmers away at war, someone has to step up and keep the farms running. Read to find out how women and children were needed to help supply the soldiers with food.
June 15, 1917: Page 6 “Things to Do Now to Assist Win War”
Before you read this article, think of some ways that you would be able to help conserve food if you were asked to do so. The article is short, but very interesting. Did your prediction match what people were being asked to do?
June 22, 1917: Page 7 “Keep Tractors Busy”
Here you can read a great article about some of the latest technology…tractors! This is interesting because during this time period tractors were still not very common. As you read, take notes of what farmers with tractors were being asked to do.
September 14, 1917: Page 7 “Feed the Fighters! Win the War!!”
Read this article to learn about a travel opportunity that helped with the home front effort.
September 21, 1917: Page 1 “Affects 7000 Hotels in State”
Read about how the food shortages are affecting hotels, restaurants, and other eating places.
November 9, 1917: Page 1 “Don’t Eat Less”
During the war, the Federal Government’s Food Administration set up regulations and gave advice for people on the home front. Read more about what they want citizens do to support the country properly.
May 17, 1918: Page 1 “Sugar Ruling for Canning Purposes in Wisconsin”
In the 1910s, many families were canning their own produce. New orders from the Food Administration changed how people could can at home. Read to see what all Americans had to do differently.
August 30, 1918: Page 4 “Wisconsin Food Administrator’s Catechism”
Read about what citizens can do to further comply with the restrictions. There is a list of directions and guidelines on how to follow the rationing of certain foods in Wisconsin.
Throughout this collection you will also learn about the Selective Service Act, which is better known as the military draft. These articles talk about things such as where and how to sign up. The newspaper published soldier’s letters so that people could read first-hand accounts. Additionally, the papers talk about the impacts of missing many young men from the area. One of the biggest problems was a shortage of farm workers.
By the way if this topic interests you, you will also want to see the FFA titled, “The Selective Service during World War I.”
May 4, 1917: Page 6 “Congress Awaits Country’s Stand on the Draft Law”
Here you can read about the process used to set up a draft law. This is a very interesting time because there had not been a military draft since the Civil War, so to have it return was a big deal.
May 11, 1917: Page 2 “Army Draft Law Now in Effect”
The bill passed and is now a law! Read to see how it will be carried out and who will be enforcing it.
June 1, 1917: Page 1 “Military Notice of Enrollment”
Read to learn about who had to enroll and the consequences of not enrolling.
September 12, 1918: Page 1 “Persons Who Must Register”
This is another article that lays out the requirements men had to follow to enroll in the draft.
By the way, another cool article on this same page is, “Airplane Passes Muscoda.” Pay attention to how the people of Muscoda freak out!
In this part of the collection, the papers focus on home front support efforts for the war. Some of the support efforts included organizing Red Cross Chapters, as well as fund raising to send local newspapers to the soldiers away from home. Patriotism and the Red Cross were very hot topics throughout the whole war and many local people were very involved.
May 25, 1917: Page 1“Muscoda To Have Red Cross Chapter” and “Great Patriotic Demonstration at Muscoda Last Friday”
The first article encourages everyone to get involved in the Red Cross Chapter that will be starting in Muscoda soon. The front page features another article describing a great soldier send-off that took place in town.
June 8, 1917: Page 1 “Red Cross Meeting”
This is a brief article, but after reading it I bet you can predict what will be happening in Muscoda.
June 15, 1917: Page 1 “The Red Cross is Calling You”
The Red Cross is starting to take shape in Muscoda. Read about what steps they will be taking to keep growing.
June 22, 1917: Page 1 “The Red Cross is Calling You. Enlist Now.”
This article features a long list of names. Imagine reading through the “Roll of Honor” for the Red Cross Society of Muscoda and not seeing your name on it. As the article says, “Don’t be a slacker.” Find out what citizens needed to do and where they needed to be so Muscoda doesn’t have any “slackers”!
August 3, 1917: Page 8 “Sheriffs are to Nab Lazy Men”
Read about what could happen to the “slackers” mentioned in the previous article.
October 5, 1917: Page 1 “The Red Cross is Still Calling You”
As the article says, “The Red Cross is calling you.” Read more about how the Red Cross in America compares to the Red Cross in other countries.
December 17, 1917: Page 1 “Buy Red Cross Xmas Seals”
With Christmas around the corner see what citizens did to support their local Red Cross and at the same time get in the holiday spirit. By the way what is a Christmas Seal?
February 8, 1918: Page 1 “Red Cross Report”
This short article describes some of the great work the Red Cross was doing.
March 22, 1918: Page 1 “Food and Money will Win the War”
Find out what buying a Liberty Bond can do for the United States. Also, as you read, try to figure out what a Liberty Bond is.
September 27, 1918: Page 1
On page one of this week’s paper you can read numerous interesting articles about what was going on in Muscoda to support the war. Choose two of the articles and see what can be learned.
November 15, 1918: Page 1
The war has ended! Read the articles on the first page to get a sense of what it was like in Muscoda when news of the war’s end arrived. Remember, Muscoda is being used as a case study. What you read happening in Muscoda likely went on in small towns all over the U.S.
The Grant County Democrat also provides a great look at what different political leaders in the United States were doing to help support the war. By examining the local news headlines and experiences of local people, a lot of perspective can be gained on what life was like back then.
February 9, 1917: Page 2 “Diplomatic Relations with Germany Broken”
Read about the diplomatic relations being broken between Germany and the U.S. What does this mean for the future of U.S. involvement in WWI?
March 9, 1917: Page 2 “German Plot Against U.S. is Revealed”
Read about a shocking and surprising twist in the war. Hint; It involves Germany, Japan, and Mexico working together against the U.S.
March 30, 1917: Page 2 “Wilson Calls Congress to Act in U-Boat Crisis”
Read about the tense situation that has been ongoing with Germany’s U-Boats (submarines) and how the United States Government is responding.
April 6, 1917: Page 1 (bottom left corner) “Signs of War”
This very interesting article talks about some things that are happening not too far from Muscoda.
April 13, 1917: Page 2 “Wilson Warns Aliens in War Proclamation”
In this article, you can read about the regulations President Wilson created for German Americans to follow. How are these Americans being treated differently?
April 20, 1917: Page 1 “A Proclamation”
If you’ve read the articles above, the big article on the front page on this date might not surprise you. Read about what’s ahead for the country.
April 27, 1917: Page 1 “Call from United States Army Captain”
This Army Captain says, “Wisconsin is not responding as it should.” Read what he says Wisconsin men need to do to show support for their country.
November 1, 1918: Page 1 “Muscoda Loses First Soldier Boy”
The first issue in November is a sad one because it brings news of the first soldier from Muscoda to die in the war effort.
Reviewed by: Tanner Williamson
WWI Homefront 1919, La Crosse, WI. Photograph courtesy of Murphy Library Special Collections, UW-La Crosse.
The idea that men have to register for the draft when they turn eighteen is a pretty familiar concept to us in the 21st century, but the draft has not always existed. One major change that occurred in preparation for World War I was the switch from a volunteer and local militia-based army to a drafted army. The Selective Service Act of 1917 created a frontline of potential soldiers, men who could be quickly mobilized in twentieth-century conflict. There were three major draft registration dates, days where all the men within a certain age range would report to an office and fill in their information. The first took place on June 5, 1917, the second in June of 1918, and a third, from which a good majority of the papers in this collection are from, on September 12, 1918. The original draft registration was for men aged 21-30, although exemptions were given for college students and men in specialized careers that provided much-needed services for the war effort on the home front.
This collection is mostly handwritten lists and documents. There are very few problems in reading the cursive, however, because it was meant to be read. The collection is contained within one box with approximately fifteen folders inside. Each folder has its own title, which will be in blue below. The documents to find within each folder are in bold. If you follow the folders and documents provided below, you will discover the requirements for being a soldier, the number of men who had to register in Grant County, and the different ways that men avoided registration, the draft, and the war. It is important to keep in mind that while this collection represents a small section of the state, and even the country, this was happening across Wisconsin as well as the entire United States.
Selective Service Register
The first really cool document in this collection is in the last folder. Find the newspaper with the title “Selective Service Register.” It’s pretty clear which item this is, but be careful, it’s over one hundred years old, and could rip. Unfold it and turn to the back cover, on which is a blown up version of the draft registration card that everyone had to fill out when they went to the draft office. This is a prime example of the information that government and military services needed from registrants.
Standard Accepted Measurements
This is a smaller sheet of paper that has columns of numbers of it, which show the height and weight requirements that men had to meet to be considered eligible for military service. It was used to make sure only physically healthy men were being inducted into the armed forces. As an example, think of Steve Rogers before he became Captain America. He wouldn’t have fit all the basic requirements to even get a physical examination. (Would you qualify?) Registrants also had to list physical ailments they had. Anything that would slow a soldier down in a war zone almost immediately disqualified them for military service.
This folder has of lists of men, mainly 21 to about 34 years old, with a few exceptions. Focus on the men who were scheduled for examination between February 12th and February 20th. This is a stack of 18 pages, and the first page is stapled to a little piece of scratch paper, where someone wrote out and added up the number of people they scheduled. This is in cursive, but whoever wrote it had clear penmanship, so there are only a few words that are hard to read. The lists of men are in alphabetical order by last name and serial number, which makes it very easy to go through and look for someone. (To find someone, you could search by name or serial number.) Be sure to notice that there are two columns of names on each page. With this, you can try to match up the names on this list with the names in the Wisconsin’s Gold Star List, a book that recorded the men who died during the war. More information on this book is in the “See Also,” below.
Photo and list of names from the 1918 Normal School in Platteville
This is a photograph and an accompanying list of names. It’s kind of cool to put faces to what some of the people registering for the draft would have looked like. Consider two things while looking at these faces: first, the age of those pictured, and second, the fact that many of the men in this picture likely would have gotten exemptions due to being enrolled in higher education.
Status on Registrants
This is a four page-long packet, about 3/4th the size of a normal sheet of paper, and held together by a gold clasp. It is from November 30, 1918. You’ll notice this is from after the war was over. This is a consolidation of all the information that the draft board received from registrants during the three draft registration dates. This packet summarizes all of the men who registered for the draft in Grant County between June 5, 1917, and September 12, 1918. The last page, in particular, gives the totals for everyone under each of the registration classes. These registration classes were how draft officers knew who could serve in the armed forces, and who was, for some reason, ineligible. Ineligibility could come from a number of things such as, illness, specialized jobs or skill sets, college attendance, being a non-combative conscientious objector, having a dependent family member (or members), among other things.
263 [with the 3 crossed out in pen and replaced with a 5] BOYS REGISTER
This is from June 5, 1918 and is a list of everyone in Grant County who registered on that day because they were now 21. This is just an interesting document because it lists so many names. Do you recognize any of them?
Classed [unsure] without physical examination
These are men who had to register, as everyone did, but were classified as unfit for military service for a variety of physical and mental disabilities. A lot of them were classed unfit because someone at the draft board office could attest to their ailment, physical disability, or mental disability. Take note of the different exemptions that the draft board allowed and the language they used to describe these men.
September 12, 1918 draft registration day
This is a packet of horizontally written light grey papers that have a list of all the towns in Grant County and how many people of each age registered from each town. Notice how many men were registering, even on just this date. Note the towns listed and the men from each town. Do you think any of these men were related? And if so, how?
Final List of Delinquents and Deserters
The last thing to look at in this folder is the bunch of papers that record those who didn’t show up for physical examinations, so are considered deserters or draft-dodgers. These papers are from January 30, 1919, a few months after the war ended. This is another consolidation of the draft registration information that was collected during the time that the draft board was open. Take note of the interesting reasons, or reasons the draft office came up with, that men didn’t appear for registration, examinations, or their draft call. One especially interesting one, on page 3 of this packet, is about Dewey E. Hudson who was said to have been sent to state prison after registration, escaped from jail before the mailing of the draft questionnaire, was never located, and possibly had enlisted in the U.S. army elsewhere, and was likely stationed in the Canal Zone.
Reviewed by: Eve Wenzel
Photograph courtesy of www.findagrave.com
This collection covers the life of Benjamin Franklin Heuston (B.F. Heuston) who accomplished a great number of things in his life. He was one of the first settlers in Trempealeau County, a businessman, county official, and a soldier who fought in the Civil War. (He was in Company C in the 22nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment.) The collection contains two boxes, about half of which, deal with his time in the Civil War. It includes close to 100 hand-written letters to his wife, detailing his everyday experiences traveling and fighting. A small number of these letters also include debates about Negro soldiers. (The word Negro is an old-fashioned, and at the time polite, word for African American.) The letters follow B.F. Heuston through the many cities he marched to during the war, and how he retraced Sherman’s March to the Sea! Some of these letters also give insight on Heuston’s thoughts about abolition, such as the issues he faced when the Union started enlisting and arming African American soldiers, and his opinion when his officers refused to return slaves to southern slave owners. The letters also discuss the conditions of war hospitals, since Heuston was hospitalized twice. A good majority of the letters also deal with making sure his family is safely taken care of back home. In addition to the letters, Heuston also kept a war journal, where he would keep track of the places and distances he traveled, as well as the landscape and weather. Lastly, the collection includes a paper Heuston wrote titled “The Negro Problem.” In it he gives his experiences with African American’s before and during the war.
This Friendly Finding Aid will touch on B.F. Heuston’s life during the Civil War, but focus on the debates and issues he witnessed with African Americans. It will cover the day-to-day life of a Union soldier and issues surrounding African Americans as soldiers and eventually as free people. It will also cover how Heuston thought African Americans should be treated, and if they should be armed. Finally, it covers the viewpoint of a Northern soldier witnessing slavery.
This collection has a lot of materials in it for only being two boxes, however, only documents that pertain to B.F. Heuston’s time during the Civil War appear below. These include several dated folders of correspondence to his wife, his war journal, and several miscellaneous notes. This may not sound like a lot compared to other collections but this one is full of great information that tells many different and interesting stories.
All letters listed below feature B.F Heustons interactions and views on African American, soldiers and civilians. Find the letter by date. It is normally at the top. All letters are handwritten and in cursive, so reading them may take some time to get used to, but after a short while you’ll be able to figure out his handwriting and understand what Heuston is saying. All letters are located in box 1. They are in folders marked as correspondence, and are separated by dates.
January 4, 1863
This is the first of multiple letters Heuston wrote that touch on the topic of African American soldiers in the war. As you read notice what the he says in the letter about new government polices involving Negros as soldiers, and a special policy involving the newly founded state of West Virginia.
August 4, 1863
This letter is another one that shows Heuston’s views on Negro soldiers. He brings up an interesting and odd theory on why he thinks African Americans would be better at fighting in the South than White soldiers. Heuston then gives his reasoning as to why they should fight in the war and how it would be “good” for African Americans to “earn their freedom.” After reading, consider whether Heuston’s racial attitudes were unusual or in the majority at the time?
August 20 and 24, 1863
In the letter dated August 20, notice that Heuston has made a request to be promoted to officer of a new unit of men. He later goes on, in his letter from August 24, to tell his wife his reasons for requesting such an appointment. Read these letters to try to find out exactly what Heuston requested and why.
December 8, 1863
While telling his wife about life stuck at camp, Heuston wrote about a very interesting activity that he had been doing in this free time. Having been a teacher before the war, Heuston visited and taught at a Negro school. Read more of this letter to learn about his experiences there. See if you can find out what he thinks about these students.
February 1, 1864
Notice that Heuston begins this letter talking about home life. However, as you continue to read you will see that a commander in the Negro Army has sent a special request for Heuston to become an officer of Negro soldiers. Heuston is unsure if he’ll be able to fulfill this request. Read more to find out why Heuston doesn’t think he’ll be able to do it.
September 10, 1864
Notice while reading this letter that Heuston is in the hospital resting his wounds. As you read further note that he has a friend who is an officer the in the 17th Colored Regiment who offers Heuston an interesting job if he is discharged. As you keep reading try to find Heuston’s thoughts about leaving the war and where he believes he will end up.
January 31, 1865
As you read this letter, get a sense of all the moving that Heuston had been doing as a soldier. Be sure to read the part of the letter where Heuston brings up the question, “What shall we do with the Negros after the war?” Then read what Heuston thinks should be done and why, in his opinion, he considers his solution good for African Americans.
Most of the materials in this folder are miscellaneous articles and papers. It includes a series of papers on Temperance and Prohibition. At the very front of the folder is a paper written by Heuston tilted, “The Negro Problem.” In this paper, he gives a general history of African Americans, his experiences with African Americans, and what he called “the Negro problem.” This is some of the most interesting writing that Heuston does throughout the whole collection! He tells amazing prewar experiences that are very unusual for a White Midwesterner. If you want to skip Heuston’s history of African Americans start on page seven to get right to his experiences.
War Journals: September 2, 1862 – June 12-16, 1865
The original handwritten war journals are located in Box 2 (volumes 15, 16, 17, and 18).
Here are the typed war journals located in the folder marked Transcription of War Journals.
In B.F. Heuston’s journals he mainly writes brief sentences of where he was that day, how many miles he marched, and what the landscape looked like. He would occasionally tell details of an event that happened that day such when he visited a Negro school, or traveled on a steamboat and took on bullets from across the river. As you go through Heustons letters it would be a great idea to check with the dates in his journal to get a better understanding of what is happening with Heuston at that time.
Reviewed by: Mitchell Bechtel
Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) is a national organization that formed in 1961. They were organized to provide professional and public education about the medical dangers of nuclear weapons and war. They were concerned about the rising tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. The La Crosse chapter of the organization first met on April 28, 1982, and the meeting was attended by only 13 people! Their membership grew however, and they were active for about ten years, until the end of the Cold War. They formally disbanded on April 20, 1995.
As mentioned above, the main goal of PSR was to educate the public on what effect nuclear fallout would have on the world. They wanted to stop the U.S. nuclear arms build-up and persuade Russia to do the same. They also wanted to halt testing and funding of nuclear weapons. They wanted to prevent war with the Soviet Union, and as a result save the world from nuclear destruction. Being doctors, they focused on health issues related to nuclear war. They argued that even one nuclear explosion (in either the U.S. or Russia) would overwhelm the medical resources available. Also, those that didn’t die in the initial explosion would be practically helpless in dealing with health issues brought on by the fallout.
The La Crosse group reached out to Wisconsinites by giving lectures at different events on college campuses, in hospitals, and on TV and radio. They also provided documentary screenings of movies that went into detail about the arms race and its potential damage. The most popular of these, which the group not only showed at events of their own but circulated throughout the state, was called The Last Epidemic: Medical Consequences of Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear War. It is a short, 11-minute film which can still be found online. The group also held forums for many public speakers. As the organization grew, so did their message. As a result, not only are the views of the PSR thoroughly represented in this collection, but so are those of everyday citizens. What may be surprising is that, though there were many people who were in agreement with the PSR, there are also examples of those who thought the group were simply Soviet puppets. Ronald Reagan, the president of the United States from 1981-1989, was one of their skeptics!
This is a rather large collection, totaling four boxes, however the focus of this finding aid is on box 1, specifically folders 1-6, 18, and 19. This box contains great information about the group (both the national and local organization), La Crosse’s views on the arms race, and also events going on in the world at this time.
Remember, this finding aid only focuses on only some of the contents of box 1. Folders 7-17 are not included because they mostly include paperwork on the business end of the organization (insurance, finances, etc.), and letters between members of the local and national group. Most of the letters are repeated in an easier-to-read format in the newsletters and newspaper articles that are covered below. Folder 17 details a meeting between PSR member James C. Baumgaertner and Steve Gunderson, a Republican congressman from Wisconsin who served from 1981-1997. The two discussed much of what was going on in the national government during the Reagan Administration about nuclear arms and national defense budgets. While it is an interesting read, it is not covered here.
Take Note: Russia, USSR, and the Soviet Union are all the same country. The collection uses all three labels.
This folder is the best starting point to learn all about the PSR, as it contains much of the general background about the national organization and La Crosse chapter. There are three types of materials in the folder: 1) a pamphlet entitled “Preventing Nuclear War”; 2) handouts; 3) Newspaper clippings from La Crosse, national, and international papers. Read the pamphlet first, since it’s a quick read and offers a lot of important information. Next, read some of the handouts that cover the effects of nuclear war. These make clear the dangers that the PSR were trying to prevent. Last, read some of the newspaper articles. They span from 1980-1987. Three important articles are: “An Appeal to Physicians of the World,” a call to action for all fellow physicians, “Diagnosing Nuclear War,” a more general overview of the rising tensions between the United States and Soviet Union, and “Armageddon,” which lays out the horrible effects of nuclear war on those who were (un)lucky enough to survive.
This is the largest folder in the collection, with about ten years’ worth of newsletters! They detail different topics of discussion from PSR meetings, mainly information about events the group was holding, including film screenings, public talks, and public receptions. If the group was hosting an outside speaker, background information about the speaker is given. The key to finding a specific newsletter is to look at the date, located at the top of the front page. At first, the amount of information may be intimidating, but there is no need to read every single newsletter. There are two main sections that would be the best to focus on in order to get information about the organization and their time period. The first is “Membership Activity” found on the first page of each newsletter. The second is “From the News,” usually found on the second or third page. Pick any year, and read “Membership Activity” and “From the News” for that year (the newsletters were usually published every 2-3 months). These sections will give a sense of both the group’s outreach, and what was happening in the U.S. and Soviet Union.
This folder is a collection of newspaper articles from 1982-83. All of them come from local La Crosse newspapers, yet the focus is not entirely on the PSR. There are articles detailing student rallies, peaceful protests, and editorials about nuclear war from doctors and professors not in the PSR. There is also focus on what is going on in the Soviet Union at the time! Pick two or three articles and read them.
This folder also contains local newspaper clippings, however they are from 1984-85 and mostly letters to the editor. The letters give us an insight as to how local citizens felt about the arms race. Not everyone was in favor of the efforts of the PSR, and this folder provides both sides of this argument. An interesting example of this is a stapled collection of opinions from the La Crosse Tribune in October/November 1985. Unfortunately, the original opinion that started the debate is not included, but there is a back and forth of ideas. Read these to see positive and negative opinions of the group.
This is the last folder that contains primarily newspaper clippings. They range from 1986-1991. There is a greater focus in this folder on what survivors of past nuclear attacks, (including Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and Chernobyl) thought about the current conflict. Many articles giving their firsthand accounts of attacks and the aftermath that people had to live through.
This folder has press releases and original letters from members of the PSR to news outlets detailing meeting times and upcoming events. Basically, it is much of the same that can be found in folders 3-5, however in their raw forms, and may be interesting to look at them for this reason. The press releases span from 1982-88.
This folder contains letters and newsletters from the PSR to outside groups, mainly hospitals. They show one way the PSR was trying to educate the public. Pick a couple of these to see how the average La Crosse resident might learn about the hazards of nuclear war. The dates of these letters run from 1982-85.
This folder contains correspondence between the PSR and the State Medical Society of Wisconsin. Here, we can see the names of Wisconsin doctors involved with Physicians for Social Responsibility. We can also see how medical professionals all across the state approached educating the public about the dangers of nuclear radiation. Issues include: the effects of the fallout, the problem with shelters and effective medical personnel (as many doctors would also be wounded or killed), and just pain in general. Pick two or three letters, and if you are lucky you will experience an eye-opening read. The letters make clear exactly why the group felt so strongly about getting ordinary citizens to understand what could potentially happen in the event of a nuclear attack.
Reviewed by: Tyler Wisniewski
This collection is made up of a series of newsletters. Each one contains letters from La Crosse men during World War II. The La Crosse native who started these newsletters was C. Ranous Stewart, often referred to as “Boog” in the letters. He printed them so that all of his friends would stay up to date with each other and current events in La Crosse. The men in correspondence are in the service stationed around the world, so staying in touch was very important. This Friendly Finding Aid focuses on one specific man stationed in the Pacific Theater, John Berg. His letters provide an inside look at the invasions of multiple islands, interactions with native islanders, 1940s popular culture, and what life was like for a soldier stationed in the Pacific. The letters included illustrate the true horrors of war, including face-to-face experiences with the Japanese, while also presenting what men did in their down time. Thus, these letters do a great job illustrating that the war was not constant violence and battles, and that not everyone fully supported it.
This collection is composed of one box with eight folders of newsletters. Each folder contains roughly fifteen newsletters, all written using a typewriter so they are very easy to read. The newsletters are arranged by date for convenience. John Berg wrote several letters found in each folder; however, this finding aid highlights some of his more exciting and important letters for understanding World War II in the Pacific. To access these letters, follow the folder number and date on the front page of the newsletter.
*This collection contains offensive language, mature themes, and racial themes.
November 16, 1943
John Berg begins to describe his experiences and updates his La Crosse readers on his life in the navy out in the Pacific. By various clues, one can assume he is currently stationed at the American Samoa Islands or New Guinea, but he is not able to disclose that information. Read this letter to find out how Berg reacts to his first encounter with natives.
December 28, 1943
Berg describes his experience in the Gilbert Island Invasion and the Invasion of Tarawa. He details the true horrors of war and notes that the papers in America have toned down the bloodshed of the invasion vastly. Berg explains some gruesome images of combat. Reading this letter will give you a first-hand look at the combat strategies of both Japanese and American soldiers.
March 9, 1944
John Berg describes his part in an invasion against Japan. He talks in detail about fighting and killing the Japanese. The newsletter contains a submission from a man stationed in the Pacific, Eddie Schlutter, as well. In his letter Schlutter talks directly to Berg about his experiences. He and John share a mutual hatred for the Japanese, and Eddie talks about not liking being in such close contact with them. He uses a racial slur calling them “yellow apes,” a term that is seen multiple times throughout this collection. Read this newsletter to understand the racial tensions that became prominent during the war.
March 21, 1944
John Berg explains the toll the war is having on the ships and submarines. He also describes a tradition among the Navy of flying the Japanese flag for every vessel they sink. He says how well the submarines are doing and that they should receive more credit for their part in the war in the Pacific. Read this letter carefully because it will help you better understand his upcoming July 19 letter.
April 4, 1944
Berg shares that he is in the mid Pacific and has crossed the equator, stopping at an island infamous for its resistance to Marines. If you want to learn about how soldiers in the Pacific kept themselves occupied during their down time, this is the letter to read!
June 13, 1944
John Berg informs everyone that he has moved to a base that he considers the “last outpost of civilization.” Although his experience there was not horrible, his commander did work them hard. Find out what Navy men did when they were stationed at a remote destination and essentially cut off from the rest of the world.
July 19, 1944
John Berg updates everyone that he shot down a Japanese plane and now they have a Japanese flag on the side of their ship. (See folder 2 newsletter March 21,1944 to know more about this tradition.) He reports heavy casualties at Saipan, and hearing news over Japanese radio about new German rockets. He mentions that the broadcaster “Tokyo Rose” was starting to get cocky almost challenging the US to a raid. Use this letter to understand the role that media played in the war.
August 22, 1944
This letter from John Berg is one of the highlights of the whole collection because it contains a war poem recited by one of the Navy men at a celebration. Before he gets to the poem, Berg lets everyone know he is now safe in Guam after a tough naval operation. He describes running into John Roosevelt, son of Franklin Delano Roosevelt who was president at the time. (Why was the president’s son on Berg’s ship?) Berg complains about the movies they are sent by the government, saying that if he sees another “band playing, flag waving, patriotic production” he will write a letter to his Congressman! Finally, Berg describes the celebration held for his ship’s one-year anniversary where the poem is highlighted. Consider how it reflected the morale and sentiments of Berg and his shipmates. Below is the first stanza:
To The 243
Heres to the LST 243
You old iron clad bitch,
We brought you down the Mississippi,
And right on thru the ditch.
September 12, 1944
Berg gives an update that things in the Pacific are starting to move fast and that his unit is not staying in one spot for long. He thinks that it will not be long before the US takes back the Philippines. He also provides an interesting description of an island he has visited. Notice the contrast of this island with other islands that saw heavy combat. Try to relate what Berg says in this letter with his December 28, 1943 letter.
October 19, 1944
Berg describes an invasion taking place in Peleliu. He mentions Japanese tactics. After winning the battle he is glad to be leaving but wished they would go somewhere “civilized.” Look over this letter to understand the toll war had on soldiers’ mental health.
December 6, 1944
In this letter Berg promises his friend, Al Scott, that he will keep an eye out for his brother who is a prisoner at a camp in the Philippines. Read this letter to see the camaraderie war established between men and how they all shared a common longing for the war to be over.
February 27, 1945
This newsletter contains two submissions from Berg. The first letter dated February 2, informs the men that the censorship restriction has been lifted and he can finally tell them all the places he has sailed recently. Along with many other places, he mentions that he visited Lae, New Guinnea which was the last place Amelia Earheart was seen alive. He also describes his interaction with the Filipinos. The second letter by Berg dated February 8, lets everyone know he is coming home. Read this newsletter to hear Berg’s role in the Linguyan Gulf Invasion and stories of his time spent with the Filipino natives.
Reviewed by: Sarah McKee
This collection is actually a book. It contains over 50 essays written by veterans involved in World War II. It is a collection of the work done in the English courses of Edgar C. Knowlton, a professor at Wisconsin State Teachers College or modern-day University of Wisconsin- La Crosse. Many of the authors have multiple essays detailing their experiences in the war. Entries contain combat experiences, participation in the army band, factory work in the United States, and rest and relaxation. There is even a discussion of a kind of caste system between officers and their men. The essays were written between 1945 and 1946 and are easily found by title and author in the table of contents. The focus of this Friendly Finding Aid is on the combat experiences of the veterans with an emphasis on the psychological injuries that they sustained during this conflict. It was the topic most frequently written about with approximately 20 entries and references. The Knowlton collection features encounters in both the European and Pacific theatres. They are on sea, land, and in the air because some of the missions involved parachuting out of planes and aerial combat.
All of the essays in this collection are within one book. It is a maroon colored book with the title, “World War II: Veterans Experiences in War”, written on the spine. One reason that there were so many veterans attending UWL after the war was the GI Bill. It was national legislation that gave returning soldiers many different opportunities, including funding to attend school. You can think of the GI Bill as one way that the US government honored veterans for their sacrifices overseas.
Please keep three things in mind as you read these essays:
1. Readers must be aware that the intended audience for these works was only the professor, Dr. Knowlton. The essays were graded, so it is possible that there is information that has been omitted or exaggerated on behalf of scoring higher.
2. As an important note, this collection does not have page numbers! If a quote on page one is referenced, it will be on the first page of that particular essay. Page two occurs on the second, three on the third, and so forth until a new essay begins.
3. This collection contains offensive language, mature themes, and racial slurs as a part of the experience of WWII Veterans. The views within these essays are not those expressed of the creator of the Friendly Finding Aid.
Each description of each essay will note at the end whether the piece is written in cursive, handwritten in print, or typed. Do not fret if you are inexperienced with reading cursive. It does not take very long to become familiar with someone’s writing style. Ask an adult or archivist for help if you find yourself stuck. The essays have been categorized into the European and Pacific theatres.
“Front Line Duty” (Anonymous) This essay describes some American soldiers who are at first eager to see combat but are dismayed as their supply lines are cut off by surrounding German forces. Their prospects look grim as they go three days without food. Read this essay to find out how they survive. (Cursive)
“Paratrooper Delux” (James R. Meyer) This essay describes a pilot and his squad in a glider being shot at by Germans. “When we got ourselves untangled, the Heinies had us “zeroed” and we all were shot at least once getting out of the glider… One fellow said, in a panicky voice, that he had been hit again… I heard Page’s voice say, “Toss me the pilot’s gun, I think that he is dead.” I had been shot through the right arm and back, so I told him, “I’m not dead, Page, but take the damned thing, I can’t use it.”(Page 2) The situation of this writer and his soldiers is quite grim however the existence of his story if true, is proof of his survival. Read the rest of the essay to discover who saves them. (Typed)
“Re-supply” (James R. Meyer) While soldiers fought for different reasons, they were all affected by the horrors of war. Some troops felt terrible seeing their brothers in arms fall in combat, others were desensitized to the violence and felt nothing. Read this essay for a powerful example of how one soldier reacted to combat. (Cursive)
“D Plus Seven” (Ferne Malde) This entry out of the Knowlton collection details the fear of a new weapon that the Germans had developed. It was a rocket, “A bomb with wings and flame spitting from its tail [that] would dive [just] not on military targets but at random, on any person that perchance was in its wake.” (page 1) This essay is a great way to understand the psychological factors of weapons. (Typed)
“My First Day in Combat” (Ted Dusso) After combat for the first time, reality can set in for many soldiers. “We all escaped unscathed and as I sat in my foxhole waiting for the shelling to stop, I thought that combat wasn’t as bad as I had imagined it would be. When, after the next time we were shelled, I found that two of our boys had been killed. I began to think differently. This was not a game anymore, but real war.” (pages 1-2) Read more of this powerful essay. (Cursive)
“The Battle” (Joseph Welland) Soldiers are aboard the USS Brant as their radar picks up signs of a German U-boat (Submarine). Find out how they react. (Typed)
“What’s Troubling You?” (Benjamin B. Walter) This essay gives insight as to the psychological effects of war. A soldier is talking in his sleep and murmuring to himself. His bunkmate asks him about it the next day and responds with a story of a deadly encounter. (Cursive)
“C’Est La Guerre” (Virgil Cullen) This essay describes an assault on a Japanese ammunition dump in which a US artillery soldier gets alarmingly close to the enemy position. The soldier being described in the essay (Stanley R. Richardson) approaches the dump and before he can pull the pin on a grenade, something unexpected happens. (Cursive)
“Captured” (Anonymous) As an American patrol quietly advances on a German position, some soldiers determine they aren’t as fit for war. “Before we even got to the first row of bushes, a shot rang out. One of our boys decided he had had enough and shot himself in the hand.” (page1) As they advance, their company becomes separated and panic ensues. Read this essay to gain a better understanding of how war affects people differently. (Typed)
“Standing-By” (Anonymous) A tense situation escalates as a German U-Boat closes in on an American ship. The American ship is damaged after a direct hit to the engine room. The soldiers prepare to abandon ship but before they can do so, something else happens. (Typed)
“The Trip Back” (Henry J. Lukes) This essay is written from the perspective of a soldier on furlough and enroute home. He discusses his combat experiences in Europe with Mr. Johnson and tells about having to bail out of his plane into enemy territory. Read more to find out how they make it back. (Typed)
“First Taste of Action” (Anonymous) This essay is about soldiers who are met with a surprise attack. One soldier succumbs to the effects of the traumatic experience and is sent back to the Hawaiian Islands. Continue reading to discover how one soldier’s first combat experience was almost his last. (Cursive)
“Baptism” (Richard Frick) This essay takes place in the Pacific Theatre at night off the coast of New Guinea. The soldiers are ambushed by a squad of Japanese planes. The soldier wrote, “It was, as the shrapnel whistled overhead, that I began to be scared rather than excited. It was the fear of death hanging over me that changed things.” (page 2) Read more to learn about the terror of a Japanese ambush. (Typed)
“You Can’t Tell” (Richard Frick) This essay describes an attack on a US ship by Japanese subs. Multiple times, torpedoes narrowly miss the side of the ship. Eventually, the men aboard the US vessel are able to return fire. Read more to discover who ends up sinking. (Typed)
“The First Japanese Plane I Saw Downed” (John Jameson) The soldier being described in this essay boards a ship in February of 1945. Within the first few days, an enemy plane has been sighted and it appears to be going straight for the ship…not slowing down. This student’s essay describes what could have been a kamikaze attack. (Handwritten, print)
“Bennie” (John Jameson) This entry tells a story of an American soldier named Bennie. From the author’s account, it seems as though Bennie was a great guy. The author spends time speaking about his qualities but suddenly there is an attack on their vessel. A Japanese plane divebombs into the side of their ship but something goes wrong and Bennie is missing. (Cursive)
Reviewed by: Brian Allen
This exciting collection boasts plenty of documents showing how Civil War soldiers from Wisconsin fought and lived as members of the army. Since these soldiers were all from Wisconsin they fought for the Union side against southern states, or the Confederacy. Both sides had huge armies separated into smaller units. These documents correspond to the smaller units called companies and regiments (see glossary). They give you access to a ton of great details about brave Wisconsinites and fighting in the Civil War.
The documents in this collection can be thought of as falling into two categories: 1) documents tracking individual soldiers and their experiences and 2) descriptions of the combat activities.
There are a range of documents that help bring the characteristics and experiences of individual soldiers to life. Muster in papers, for example, give information about the soldiers when they signed up for the army, like height, hometown, and occupation. Discharge records give reasons why soldiers left the army, often because they were injured or killed. Court cases shed light on the rules soldiers needed to follow and the corresponding punishments. The large numbers of troops and savage combat of this war meant that armies were constantly replacing their soldiers. As a result, muster in and discharges appear in every folder in this collection and provide a great sense of the range of Wisconsinites who fought in the Civil War.
Soldiers’ letters and written histories are much rarer but reveal the important role these Wisconsin units played in combat. There is a letter from one of the North’s most famous and brilliant generals, William T. Sherman. He praises his Wisconsin troops for their success in battle. There is also a written history by Lucius Fairchild. It gives specific details about battles. Fairchild describes the “murderous fire” and “disaster” his regiment encountered in some of the most important battles of the war like Bull Run and Antietam. Amazing stuff!
The handwriting in these documents can be challenging – but not impossible – to read. Documents which describe individual soldiers’ identities (like muster in roles and discharge papers) are forms with a lot of filled in blanks, which makes figuring out the handwriting relatively easy, while Fairchild’s documents contain paragraphs of rather sloppy penmanship. I suggest beginning with the documents that describe individual soldiers so that you can get used to this style of cursive before tackling long written paragraphs in Fairchild’s and Sherman’s documents.
This collection consists of one small box with six folders and two larger boxes each containing over ten folders. The folders in the small box correspond with a company, while those in both large boxes focus on the 2nd Wisconsin regiment. This review focuses on just a few of the folders from each box, focusing on soldiers and combat.
Folder 3 contains William T. Sherman’s letter praising Company I of the 8th Wisconsin regiment for their success in battle (until an illness in camp kept them from entering future combat).
Folder 4 holds Colonel Lucius Fairchild’s written history describing the fighting and marching his regiment endured.
Folder 4 holds an order given to the whole regiment which describes soldiers’ daily routines like when they woke up, ate and drilled. Very interesting!
File 8 contains lists of clothing which show that many soldiers lacked full sets of clothing!
Folders 1 and 2 contain the largest group of court cases in the entire collection. These documents reveal the rules soldiers needed to follow and the punishments if they disobeyed them.
Reviewed by: Steven Bonin
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Murphy Library Area Research Center
Orris “Bob” White, the man behind the collection of the Orris O. White Papers, 1919-1962, lived through two World Wars and the Great Depression. This finding aid will focus only on his experience during and after World War I (1914-1918), because it had a large and long-lasting impact on the rest of White’s life. White was a poet and English professor at La Crosse State Teacher’s College, (which later became UWL), from 1914-1952. His teaching career was interrupted when he left to serve in the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in France during World War I. The battlefields were not at all what White and his fellow soldiers were expecting. With hardly any training, the AEF was thrust into the first modern war, with machine guns and more advanced weapons than they could have ever imagined.
After the war, White returned home to his job as a professor, but he and many other veterans still could not make sense of their experiences. Because the soldiers felt misunderstood and different, they were called “The Lost Generation.” They carried not only visible scars, but invisible ones as well, like “shell shock,” or what is known today as PTSD. White and many other veterans turned to poetry and creative writing in order to better understand and explain what they’d experienced during the war. Because of this, they became known as soldier-poets. The soldier-poets tell their own personal history of World War I and the aftermath as the world moved into the modern era.
The Orris O. White collection is made up of two boxes. The first box includes various drafts of White’s poems. The second box also contains drafts of poems, as well as some of White’s creative stories and essays. Since there are multiple drafts and copies of each work scattered throughout the collection, this finding aid will indicate only where a particular document first appears. White and his fellow soldier-poets were rather straightforward with their experiences, because they wanted to explain the reality of war and their memories. The poems and stories are fairly easy to read and interpret. His essays are the most straightforward out of all his works. Nearly every document in the collection is typed, except for Box Two, Folder Four. All documents in that folder are handwritten.
A Note on Poetry and the Themes of the World War I Experience and its Aftermath: The soldier-poets aimed to make sense of their own war memories while they showed the public the reality of these experiences. The themes in these poems often vary between bitter feelings of loss felt during and after the war and disconnection to the modern world, to optimistic patriotism and national pride. Works like “War is Hell” and “Cootie” come straight from White’s experiences. However, an important thing to remember is that though these poems hold value as firsthand accounts of memories, soldier-poets often embellished their memories. It wasn’t on purpose, but the modern warfare of World War I rattled many of the soldier-poets. Even with embellishments, White still acts like a historian, writing down his own experiences and his own story through poetry. Poetry may not be a fact-filled history, but it is still a wonderful form of writing history!
This finding aid lists a selection of poem titles that all deal with World War I and its aftermath. There are many more poems included in the collection than are not listed here. Look at the “See Also” section for other topics White writes about.
Folder Two: Poems
“The World…CALLING or…crying”: This is poem is a patriotic call to duty. Look for examples of White’s nationalism. He places the U.S. in a superior status above other countries, even during a time of uncertainty.
“The Unknown Soldier (of France)”: This poem is in memory of Alan Seeger, another famous soldier-poet. It describes Americans getting ready for war, as well as the soldier’s accounts of the French peasants and the countryside. Many soldier-poets would fall in love with this Old World country, which led some to remain in Europe, or to travel often like White did.
“Torch out of Flanders” and “A Stranger”: These two poems describe the post-war experience. “Torch out of Flanders” tells about the end of the war on Armistice Day (November 11, 1918). “A Stranger” tells about losing a companion in battle, as well as the loss of self.
Folder Seven: Poems
“The Freighter Cook”: This poem is filled with gloomy emotions from the physical injuries leftover from World War I, and life in the U.S. before the Great Depression.
Folder Nine: Poems
“Then God Dropped for War”: White writes that “flying (airplanes) was a means of war” and no longer a joy. This poem describes White’s negative response to the war.
“Tomorrow” (to all the Allied Forces): Contrary to the title, this poem details White’s longing for “yesterday,” or the “good old days.” The poem actually reminds fellow soldiers and veterans “to live, not destroy.” It seems to be a direct response to the violence experienced during World War I, explaining White’s personal reflections and thoughts about his experiences and the aftermath he lived in.
Folder Eleven: Poems
“Silhouettes (of Mississippi Valley)”: This poem uses images of ghosts, dreams, and nature to explore post-war grief.
Folder One: Essays
“Modern Ancient Mariner”: This essay shows White’s confidence in America’s “comeback” after the war. He is hopeful for a return to the “good old days.” He explicitly states that his hope for the future lies in the students he teaches every day at La Crosse! (See Box Two: Folder Seven if you want to read more about the classes White taught).
“The Lost Battalion”: This essay discusses White’s life as a veteran and a professor. He is concerned about the “lost youth,” or the Lost Generation, and states that education, literature, and the arts are the way to help this generation and the United States out of the post-war rut. As a college professor, this perspective makes sense. He puts his hope more in the individual and the arts, rather than industry and development. Fun Find: This typed out essay has an edit in pencil, adding “world” between the “recent war.” World War I was simply called The Great War while it was actually happening. The “world” wasn’t added until later, and the “one” certainly wasn’t added until after World War II.
“After That—The Deluge”: White tries to explain the struggle of his post-war experience. He feels that the United States is caught in a “national game of make-believe,” avoiding the violence and negative aftermath of the war.
“A Reverie (No. 2)”: In describing violent Midwest blizzards, White mulls over the post-war experience and the odd feeling of “gain out of loss.”
Folder Two: Clipped Essays
“Free”: White criticizes post-war government in this essay.
“Reflecting on the Atmosphere of AEF”: This story explains the specific scene of Armistice Day. It describes the French village he stayed in, as well as the French family he lived with during his time at the front. He explains the loss and disbelief he felt, even as messengers declared the Allied victory. Remember soldier-poets embellished their memories even while they tried to show the reality of war.
“War is Hell”: This seems to be another one of White’s memories. This work tells the story of the soldier’s French friend Pierrot who helped the Allies by discovering and relaying important information. The scene actually takes place after the war was officially over, but raiders still attack the French village overnight.
“Cootie”: Cootie is a French woman who runs the Alley-way Café, an improvised cafeteria for the Allied troops stationed in her French village. White describes the reactions of the soldiers and Cootie to recent battles. Fun Find: Before this story, there is a handwritten apology from White. He apologizes for the actions portrayed in the story. White says he was not himself during the “game of war,” and apologizes for this part of himself that committed such violence.
Folder Three: Poems and Prose
“A Bald-Headed Bachelor Looks at Himself in the Mirror”: This is a fictional story, but it directly references “no man’s land” and trench warfare. This story also explains war injuries, referring to them as “noble wounds.”
Folder Five: Poems
“Bombardier”: This poem shows White’s support for the air force. It describes the feeling of flight and the heroic deeds of pilots.
Folder Seven: Poems and Prose
“Creed”: This poem describes the bitter victory many soldiers felt post-war. Although the Allies won the war, the soldier-poets lament the violence they experienced and committed. They fear these memories will haunt them for the rest of their lives.
Reviewed by: Jenae Winter
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 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.
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.
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 title of this collection is the Wisconsin Extension Homemakers Council (WEHC). From 1920-1960 the WEHC was a volunteer organization for women that organized social, educational, and community development activities. The homemakers held frequent meetings, cooking lessons, and a range of other volunteer activities. They greatly valued volunteerism and education. These women worked with other organizations, such as the YMCA and the Children’s Home in La Crosse, and supported each other during the Great Depression and World War II by learning how to ration items and create budgets. This collection tells the stories of thirteen women – members of the WEHC – who lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and the changing roles of women in society. This box includes women from places such as Onalaska, Holmen, and Sparta.
This is a primary source collection of oral history interviews of local women who were members of the WEHC. They are separated into fourteen folders. Each folder includes one interview of a Wisconsin woman. All of the interviews are typed, double spaced, and have very wide margins. Easy reading! The interviews vary in length, but none are very long. The collection also includes two small books that contain pictures and recipes.
Folder 1 is the only folder that does not include an interview. This folder has five documents, including a pamphlet with pictures of the councils, a description of the WEHC, a guide that lists questions used in the interviews, an advertisement for the WEHC, and a project from one of the homemakers. This project is a mini-drama written by Betty Epstein, whose interview is found in Folder 5.
Folder 2 is the account of Helen Basset, a farmer’s wife. Basset described her community work with the council. For example, Basset was part of the Indian Mission. The mission worked to dress Native American children in “clean and suitable” clothing. This interview is 14 pages.
Folder 3 describes the life of Joanne Dach from Viroqua, Wisconsin. Dach described charities that her chapter of the WEHC took part in. For example, she discussed food pantry donations and raising money for Haiti. Dach also described the challenges faced by women who attended college and worked full time jobs. This interview is 12 pages.
Folder 4 includes the story of Dott Dobbs, from Ontario, Wisconsin. Alongside her farm duties, Dobbs described the volunteer work and roles of the WEHC. The council assisted with the local 4-H club and supported community members in need. For example, her council provided aid to families that were impacted by house fires and unexpected deaths. This interview is 12 pages.
Folder 5 presents the story of Elisabeth (Betty) Epstein, from Jackson County. Unlike the other women in this collection, Epstein had a college degree. She described her work in the offices of army camps during World War II, and like Joanne Dach (folder 3), Epstein discussed gender roles. At one point Epstein described her community as a “man’s world” based on the opposition her council faced over railroad crossings. This interview is 12 pages.
Folder 6 is the narrative of Marion Fauska from Onalaska, Wisconsin. Fauska described her educational experiences attending a six week course in order to become a teacher. This folder also includes discussion about the Great Depression and World War II. Fauska provides the perspective of a young bride who could not afford a honeymoon and how she was encouraged to work due to a shortage of teachers during the war. This interview is 35 pages.
Folder 7 describes the life of Mae Flaig from Sparta, Wisconsin. She was part of the WEHC, a Leadership Development Committee, and the 4-H Club. Flaig experienced the economic challenges and the shifting gender roles of women during the Great Depression and World War II. For example, Flaig noted that women became increasingly interested in political activity. This interview is 59 pages.
Folder 8 contains the interview of Leila Halverson, a farmer from Holmen, Wisconsin. She discussed lessons given by the Homemakers Association. These lessons included dressmaking and food preservation. Halverson also described food substitutes and how even in birthday cakes sugar had to be rationed during World War II. This interview is 5 pages.
Folder 9 holds the account of Dolores Kenyon, from Sparta, Wisconsin. After her marriage in 1943, Kenyon’s husband left to fight in World War II. She described women’s shifting roles, such as non-domestic work and financial planning. Kenyon was a volunteer with 4-H and the “Association for Retarded Citizens” (people with cognitive needs) in 1958. Small portions of this interview are hand written. This interview is 16 pages.
Folder 10 holds the interview of Effie Knudson, from West Salem, Wisconsin. Knudson was involved with the YMCA and the Children’s Home in La Crosse. Knudson described the Great Depression in an account about rationing sugar. She also discussed World War II and Victory Gardens. This interview is 16 pages.
Folder 11 contains the story of Josephine Sullivan Nixon. Nixon’s father served in the Civil War between 1863 and 1865, being discharged after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. The interview also gives an account of what life was like during the Great Depression, including meat rationing and flour substitutes. This interview is 31 pages.
Folder 12 belongs to Alice Nuttleman from Onalaska, Wisconsin. Nuttleman described the lessons that the council taught, such as bread making and sewing. She also described growing gardens, picking berries, and rationing sugar during the Great Depression. This interview is 12 pages.
Folder 13 describes the life of Margaret O’Rourke, a mother of twelve from Monroe, Wisconsin. She discussed sugar stamps, gas stamps and the difficulty of getting new tires during World War II. O’Rourke also described the Women’s Movement and gender roles during the war. For example, O’Rourke stated that men took part in more domestic duties in comparison to previous years. This interview is 39 pages.
Folder 14 contains an interview from Elsie Roberts, who discussed the Great Depression. Roberts described a shortage of money and food stamps. This interview is 14 pages.
Reviewed by: Krystle Thomas