Donate Items for April’s Auction!

2020 Auction Rack Card - Donate

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Just One Donated Item Will Make a Difference!

2020 Auction - Oak Hall Tree a2020 Auction - Pipsqueak, Drunkard's Path 22020 Auction - Rosenau, Steuben Verre de Soie Comport, short

The FRIENDS of the Wisconsin Historical Society are currently collecting tax-deductible donations of antiques and vintage items for their April 25, 2020 “30th Star Benefit Antiques Auction” to be held, once again, at Old World Wisconsin’s historic Clausing Barn in Eagle.

Whether a traditional antique, a single collectible coin, a vintage rock or travel poster, or even a 1970s home video game console like Atari or Pong, just one donated item will make a difference! Only six months away, this important fund-raising auction is 2 years in the making! Interesting antique and vintage items made before 1980 are being gathered from across middle America, with tax-deductible receipts provided.

The inaugural auction, held in April 2010, was followed by four successful encores in April 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018. Thus far the proceeds from the five biennial auctions have provided important funding for historic sites in Wisconsin as well as for National History Day. A grant from the Wisconsin Antiques Dealers Association continues their commitment as the benefit auction’s founding sponsors.

The auction’s now-legendary Preview Party includes dinner, prizes, a speaker, silent auctions, and good old-fashioned fun on Friday night, April 24, 2020. Seating is limited so make your reservations early by calling 262.352.0479.

Carol Miller of Bailey’s Honor Auction Service in Oconomowoc has once again volunteered to call the auction. You can follow Carol’s many auctions throughout the year at

For questions about  the April 25, 2020 “30th Star Benefit Antiques Auction,” or to make a donation of an antique or vintage item, please contact Phil Schauer at 608.295.7240, or Debbie McArdle at 815.575.1272,

2020 Auction - McArdle, Green Glass Decanter w Silver Overlay2020 Auction - Hedgwood - buggy2020 Auction - IMG_5630

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Friends of WHS Annual Meeting Held at Delafield

The Friends of the Wisconsin Historical Society (FWHS) held the 2019 annual meeting on June 26th in Delafield, Wisconsin. Part of the FWHS group boarded a bus in Madison for the one-hour trip to Delafield, where other members and friends joined them. Over thirty people enjoyed the day led by FWHS president, Phillip Schauer.

While in Delafield, the group toured the historically amazing exhibit of Abraham Lincoln & The Civil War. The exhibit featured a life-sized portrait of President Lincoln that once hung in the White House and many more paintings of Civil War figures and events. A collection of sculptures of Civil War leaders featured a bust of Lincoln taken from an actual life mask of the President.

Annual Meeting 2019 Lincoln and Old Glory

Other relevant artifacts in the collection include one of the tables used at Appomattox when the CSA surrendered to General Grant, a fragment of the Surrender Flag, and a snippet of President Lincoln’s blood-soaked lapel that he wore when he was assassinated.

Annual Meeting 2019 curator gives details at lincoln exhibit

A key part of the exhibit is the Medal of Honor (on loan from the Gettysburg Museum) awarded to Alonzo Cushing, who was born in Delafield. Cushing was killed during Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg and a painting, Death of Alonzo Cushing, is also on display.

Next door to the Delafield History Center, the FWHS members toured historic Hawks Inn, a marvelously restored stagecoach inn from the Civil War era. Members of the Delafield History Society, dressed in period costumes, led tours of the three floors of the old inn. One of the most interesting parts of the tour was a stop in the kitchen where a lunch was being prepared over an open fireplace hearth.

Annual Meeting 2019 Hawks Inn tour

After the historic tours, the group walked to nearby Revere’s for a delicious lunch. President Schauer then led a short business meeting that featured the election of Riene Wells, Carol Lee Saffioti-Hughes, Linda Noer, Anne Gurnack, Frances Kavenik, Pat Raap, Brad Steinmetz, and Phillip Schauer as the voting roster for the FWHS Board of Directors.

Annual Meeting 2019 Waterville home

After the meeting concluded, those on the bus toured a unique farm homestead near Delafield that featured an 18th-century New England house that had been disassembled and moved to the site in rural Wisconsin.

Many thanks to President Schauer for arranging a truly memorable annual meeting trip for FWHS members!

– Brad Steinmetz

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Anne Gurnack Awarded for Polish Research

Congratulations to FHWS Board Member Anne Gurnack, a 2019 recipient of the Skalny Civic Achievement Award, a national award given by the Polish American Historical Association (PAHA)!

Since 1989, PAHA’s Skalny Civic Achievement Awards “honor individuals or groups who advance PAHA’s goals of promoting research on and awareness of the Polish experience in the Americas.” The awards are named after the Skalny family (Aniela, Anna, Ben, John and Joseph) that donated the funds to support this award.

Anne received the award in January for her contributions to the understanding of the “forgotten Poles” in New York City and Milwaukee. She has undertaken a number of efforts both to mobilize the Polish American community and to engage the Polish institutions to study, protect, and promote Kaszube heritage in Milwaukee. She has fostered cooperation between the Milwaukee Public Library and the Emigration Museum and contributed to the international cooperation between the Universities of Gdańsk and Wisconsin – Parkside.

As part of the annual meeting of the American Historical Associations in Chicago’s Chopin Theatre on January 3-6, Anne was presented with the Skalny award and also made a presentation there talking about the connections between the Kaszube settlements in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Canada, and the establishment of the earliest Catholic churches in the mid-1800’s.

To learn more about Milwaukee’s Jones Island settlement of Kaszube fishermen and how Anne’s research made it back to the Wejherowo Museum in Poland, click here for the story (and one of the FRIENDS’ most popular web posts!).

Anne Gurnack Award award3gurnack

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WHS Celebrates Black History Month

The Wisconsin Historical Society celebrated its 3rd annual Black History Month Open House on Tuesday, Feb. 19. Community members could see the African American archival and museum collections on display and participate in a listening session about the creation of a new Wisconsin history museum on Madison’s Capitol Square.

WHS Black History Month

“The importance of black history is to remind us who we are and who we can be potentially,” Tanika Apaloo, Community Engagement and Diversity Liaison for the Wisconsin Historical Society, told Madison365. “It certainly should be something that is more than one month. It’s something that in my position and in my role that I recognize and celebrate every day.

“Black History Month is very important to me. I think that a lot of the challenges that are occurring in our black community would be mediated in a lot of ways if youths and adults alike new more about their history and their culture,” Apaloo added. “I think the relationship between culture and history is an intangible one and its difficult for us to move forward and be confident in who we are without both knowing where we come from and knowing our purpose.”

Archival documents have been on display for Black History Month in an exhibit called “African American Activism in Wisconsin,” featuring documents that tell the story of the fight for African American suffrage in the 19th century. This includes the proposed 1846 state constitution that allowed granted voting rights to African American men and the 1866 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in favor of Ezekiel Gillespie that finally enacted this right. Moving forward a century, the exhibit highlights documents from the 1960s actions in Milwaukee to desegregate schools and enact fair housing legislation and also features items commemorating the 50th anniversary of the UW-Madison Black Student Strike.

Wes Covington

One of the highlights that the museum archives feature is a display about the Negro Baseball League as it came through Wisconsin. The WHS created a prototype, interactive story map to explore the reach of African American baseball in Wisconsin. Although Wisconsin did not host a long-lived Negro League team like the Kansas City Monarchs or the Chicago American Giants, black ballplayers were a regular presence in communities throughout Wisconsin for decades, even in small northern towns with few African American residents.

“This is important for sharing stories. And it’s everyday stories,” Apaloo said. “Some people think that something has to be very significant to be historic. That’s not the case. In oral history interviews, there are so many everyday people who have done very significant things. They are unsung heroes, so to speak that had that oral history not been discussed or discovered, we would never had known about it. And, they, too, would have never realized what they are doing is historic.”

–David Dahmer, Madison365 Publisher and Editor-in-Chief


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A Tour and Luncheon Worth Archiving!

FRIENDS of WHS Members Tour SAPF

Friends of WHS board members and others toured the new State Archive Preservation Facility (SAPF) on Madison’s near-east side on Tuesday, September 18th. Led by board president Phil Schauer, Friends members were given a tour of the new state-of-the-art facility by Matt Blessing, WHS administrator of the Division of Library, Archives and Museum collections.

Blessing led the group through the new four-story storage facility that will eventually hold more than 500,000 artifacts. The facility will also contain 200,000 books and over 50,000 archival boxes with millions of pages of manuscript pages and documents from state agencies. The WHS is also moving 110,000 historic objects to the new facility, located at 202 South Thornton Avenue, along with hundreds of boxes filled with over 400,000 archeological objects. In addition, the new facility will house 22,000 objects and several archival collections from the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.


Highlights of the tour of SAPF included a stop in the film storage room, where a temperature of forty degrees with a constant low humidity level will preserve the fantastic film and movie collection for the future. Blessing explained that when a film needs to be shown, it will be moved to a transition room where the temperature is gradually raised – again to preserve the quality of the film. Currently most of the film collection is still at the WHS headquarters on the UW campus. When the weather cools in October the collection will be moved to SAPF.


Blessing also explained the new digital identification system that helps staff locate objects and collections. Each object has a scanning ID code that is also on the storage box and the shelf where the box is stored at SAPF. When a researcher needs an object, they can identify it online at the WHS site. WHS staff at SAPF then can locate the needed document of object, pull it from its storage shelf, and by the next morning the researcher can access the needed material at the WHS headquarters building.


On the tour, Friends members saw an early version of the Oscar Mayer “Wiener Mobile,” the hamburger-carrying caricature of Marc’s Big Boy restaurants, and an early television camera from the WHA educational TV station. Stepping out onto the loading dock area of SAPF, Blessing explained that trucks arrive daily with materials from the WHS headquarters building. This process has been going on since early spring and will continue for several years before the move is completed.

Blessing stressed that the new SAPF facility helps the historical society meet its mission of “To collect, preserve and share.” The new facility was built with extra storage space so that the WHS can continue to meet its mission into the future.

FRIENDS of WHS Honor Fannie Hicklin

As part of the September meeting of the Friends of WHS board, a luncheon meal was shared at the Hungry Goat restaurant in Fitchburg. At the gathering, Friends’ President Phil Schauer honored Dr. Fannie Hicklin for her many years of service to both the Wisconsin Historical Society, where she served on the Board of Curators for 27 years including as President of the board, and the Friends of WHS group, where she served as a board member for many years.


After her introduction at the luncheon Dr. Hicklin regaled the gathered Friends members with stories about coming to Madison to get her doctorate degree at UW. During that time she also worked at the historical society and first became aware of the importance of the institution. Her witty recollections entranced the gathering as the centenarian (Fannie recently celebrated her 100th birthday!) retired educator’s presence made for a wonderful time for all.

– Brad Steinmetz, FWHS Vice President

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FWHS Annual Meeting Features History Explorations

The Friends of the Wisconsin Historical Society’s (FWHS) annual meeting was held in Madison on Tuesday, June 26th. To start the day, FWHS President Phil Schauer welcomed everyone with coffee and snacks in the Sellery Room of the WHS Headquarters building on the UW campus. The historic meeting room was recently renovated with the latest in technology paid for through generous donations from the FWHS.

Annual Meeting 2018 - At Meeting a

Jim Draeger of the WHS staff then gave an interesting walkthrough history of the WHS building. Starting in the main lobby, Jim discussed the original construction of the state-of-the-art building in the late 1890’s that include a hands-on introduction to the marble pieces used in the construction of the ornate floor. Then the tour moved upstairs to the magnificent Reading Room where Jim regaled us with the renovations that occurred there. Returning the room to its former glory with its magnificent ceiling and other classical decorations was a massive task – mission accomplished!

Annual Meeting 2018 - Reading Room aAnnual Meeting 2018 - Reading Room b

Moving to the WHS Museum on the Capital Square, the annual meeting participants were treated to a “History Sandwiched In” talk by WHS archivist Julia Wong. “Moulded Eggs in Gargoyle Sauce, Pin Money Pickles and Roman Punch” highlighted the vast menu collection held by the historical society and showed the vast differences in food choices and tastes over the ages. Later, a short tour of the exhibits on the museum’s upper floors featured stops at the Native American exhibit, Wisconsin’s early days of lead mining that gave the “Badger” state its nickname, and the exhibit on fur trade before Wisconsin even was a state.

Annual Meeting 2018 - Julia WongAnnual Meeting 2018 - Trading Post

Our day concluded at the UW Memorial Union, where everyone enjoyed a catered lunch before participating in the FWHS annual meeting. President Schauer conducted the meeting, which featured reports on the Friends of WHS Auction held in April, the FWHS support of National History Day, and possible options to replace the FWHS’s annual Autumn Excursion. A change in the organization’s by-laws to exclude the treasurer from term limits and the re-election of the fifteen members of the board of directors concluded the annual meeting.

Annual Meeting 2018 - Phil Conducting MeetingAnnual Meeting 2018 - At Meeting b

President Schauer also invited everyone to a FWHS tour of the new Wisconsin Historical Society’s storage facility on Tuesday, September 18th – more details will be forthcoming.

–Brad Steinmetz, FWHS board member

Annual Meeting 2018 - Group Pic

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Party Like It’s 1959 at Circus World Museum

Circus World Museum in Baraboo, WI is celebrating its biggest year yet with extraordinary performers and world-class animal acts all wrapped into a 1950’s-inspired theme called “Doo-Wop Big Top,” celebrating the decade that the site was founded and opened…

…and on Thursday, June 28 through Sunday, June 1, you can celebrate Circus World’s 60th Anniversary with a remarkable $5.00 admission rate for everyone for these four days only!

Circus World Museum Anniversary Days

Circus World opened on July 1, 1959 on less than an acre of property with 2 buildings and 6 circus wagons; admission was 60 cents. Given the rate of inflation, 60 cents works out to about $5 today. Even though Circus World’s value has increased with the addition of over 200 wagons and vehicles, several new and historic buildings, and more than 60 acres, admission for these four days will be the same as in 1959!

But on whatever days you choose to experience what Circus World has to offer, remember that “Doo-Wop Big Top” is available all summer long! Circus World Museum’s summer performance season runs through September 2, and the fall season continues to October 31.

For more information on Circus World Museum, visit

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Auction Success, and Success with #NAAPro!

The Friends of the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Benefit Auction–which was held on April 28–not only forwarded the treasures and stories from the past to next generations, but also will be funding projects at our state’s historic sites with the proceeds. Thank you to all who attended!

Many thanks to our auctioneer, Carol Miller of Bailey’s Honor Auction & Estate Service (click here for more!).

The Benefit Auction Day this year also happened to coincide with National Auctioneers Week..and our customers loved that, as you can see below! Learn more about the National Auctioneers Association and the National Auctioneers Week by clicking here.

NAA 2018

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WHS Welcomes New Director

Wisconsin Historical Society Names Christian W. Overland as the New Ruth and Hartley Barker Director

Current Executive Vice President of The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan Will Head Wisconsin’s Premier Historical Organization

The Wisconsin Historical Society’s Board of Curators has appointed Christian W. Overland as its new Ruth and Hartley Barker Director. Overland is currently the executive vice president of The Henry Ford, an internationally-recognized history destination in Dearborn, Michigan.

“The Wisconsin Historical Society is rich in educational resources and one of the best history organizations in our nation,” said Overland. “I am very excited about working with the Society’s staff and Board of Curators to create meaningful and memorable mission-based experiences through access to history.”

“Christian emerged following a national search as our top choice to lead the Society,” said Brian Rude, the president of Society’s Board of Curators. “His impressive career at an important historical institution gives him the skills, insights and experience to lead the Wisconsin Historical Society forward.”

Overland has held a variety of administrative roles at The Henry Ford since 1992. Since 2010, he has been responsible for leading and managing strategic planning, historical research, the maintenance and growth of the institution’s collections and visitor experiences as its executive vice president. Overland also has overseen education programs, experience design, museum operations and national positioning.

The Henry Ford is a national historic landmark that draws nearly 1.8 million visitors annually to its five attractions: Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, Greenfield Village, Ford Rouge Factory Tour, Benson Ford Research Center and The Henry Ford Giant Screen Experience.

Major leadership initiatives by Overland have included the master plan effort, restoration and transformation of Greenfield Village as well as planning, developing and implementing the Henry Ford Museum Master Plan.

Prior to his positions in Michigan, Overland worked for the Minnesota Historical Society and was a volunteer gallery lecturer at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. He earned his undergraduate degree in American Studies and Art History at the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis and his master’s degree at the State University of New York College at Oneonta and New York State Historical Association in Cooperstown, NY in American History and Museum Studies.

Overland, a Minnesota native, has moved to Wisconsin with his wife Maura and their three children.

Overland will replace Ellsworth Brown, who announced his intention to retire last August. Brown has led the Society since July 2004.

“Ellsworth’s efforts have enhanced the national standing and reputation of the Wisconsin Historical Society,” said Rude. “The Board of Curators thanks him for his leadership in the preservation of Wisconsin’s heritage and his unwavering commitment to helping the Society connect people to the past by collecting, preserving, and sharing important stories.”

According to Rude, Overland will be taking over leadership of the Society, its diverse operations and its exceptional North American history resources at an exciting time. In 2018, the Society will move into a new 188,000 square foot State Archive Preservation Facility and explore ways to upgrade the Wisconsin Historical Museum in Madison.

Overland begins his new assignment in Madison on February 12.

For more information about the Wisconsin Historical Society including its mission, sites, programs, and services, visit

Wisconsin Historical Society Footer

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