Annual Meeting 2017: Recap and Report!

On June 28th, a determined group of FRIENDS members from various locales came together in Rock County to visit the Historical Society and tour Rotary Gardens. Like the postal service, neither the wind nor rain kept us from our appointed rounds of the many garden settings, ponds and art work. The recently mounted outdoor garden art project was a hit with the gaily decorated colorful fish forms helping to brighten the cloudy, sunless morning. On command, the rain relented as our tour ended and we boarded our mini-coach.

2017 Annual Meeting Pic 1

Heading back to the Rock Co. Historical Society headquarters, we were chauffeured past many historic buildings in the downtown area and through portions of three of Janesville’s historic districts. Upon arrival at the society, we were welcomed by director Mike Reuter who apprised us of the many recently completed and ongoing projects what will put the Tallman House and entire grounds into a campus- type destination environment. A tour followed highlighting the relocated Frances Willard Schoolhouse, the totally refurbished carriage barn (fall of 2017 completion), and of the c. 1857 Tallman House itself.

2017 Annual Meeting Pic 2

If you have not visited this historic site lately, you will be amazed at all of the renovations and thoughtful additions. The near future will provide visitors with hands on exhibits, audio, and video displays to engage mind and body. This is not your mom and dad’s house museum but an interpretive look at our historical past through a 21st-century lens.

2017 Annual Meeting Pic 3

A wonderful catered luncheon preceded our annual membership meeting. The meeting covered topics from the fall excursion to the 2018 excursion. For a complete report of the annual meeting, please click here.

If you couldn’t make it this year, we hope to see you at the 2018 annual meeting. The location will be revealed later this year!


Phillip Schauer, President FWHS

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Do You Know About the 30th Star Benefit Antiques Auction?

You have seen the biennial “30th Star Benefit Antiques Auction” advertised for about eight years now. Ever wonder how the FRIENDS of the Wisconsin Historical Society chose this name for their first auction when planning began in 2009? They’re all about preserving and sharing history, so they wanted to choose a name that would be a history lesson in itself. Wisconsin was the 30th state admitted to the Union, and therefore the 30th star on the flag. And now you know!

30th Star Flag

And speaking of facts about the “30th Star Benefit Antiques Auction,” did you also know that the donation period for the next auction has already begun? In keeping with their efforts to preserve and share history, the FRIENDS are seeking donations of vintage (50-99 years old) and antique (more than 99 years old) items for the next auction, to be held in 2018 for the benefit of Wisconsin’s State Historic Sites. And did you know that your item donations are tax-deductible?

To make an item donation, you can contact Riene Wells at 262-363-4700,, or Debbie McArdle at 815-575-1272, And now you know!


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Donate Your Antiques This Friday and Saturday (or Anytime Thereafter)!

The FRIENDS of the Wisconsin Historical Society are soliciting tax-deductible donations of antique (more than 99 years old) and vintage (50-99 years old) items for their next “30th Star Benefit Antiques Auction,” to be held in 2018 at Old World Wisconsin.

To assist us with that goal, the Wisconsin Antiques Dealers Association (WADA)–the founding and continuing sponsor of the auction–is providing FRIENDS with a free booth at their 43rd Winter Antiques Show, this Friday and Saturday, February 3rd and 4th at the Waukesha Expo Center. Volunteers will be on hand to accept donations for the next auction. Tax-deductible receipts will be provided!

Larson, Double Irish Chain, Ohio Amish, 74x74

Though more than a year away, the next “30th Star Benefit Antiques Auction” demands a great deal of advance preparation (yes, it really does require two years to acquire enough inventory for our auction!). Contributions of antique and vintage items will be gathered from across Middle America. In keeping with our goal to “preserve and share history,” each item will be accompanied by a Provenance Statement. The auction catalog will list the known history of each piece as well as the donor’s name, if desired.

1 2014 auction begins

Our previous auction, held in April 2016, was another financial and cultural success. Thus far the proceeds from our auctions have provided important funding for restoration projects at several Wisconsin State Historic Sites, as well as funding for National History Day.

The admissions charged at WADA’s antiques shows fund their grant and scholarship programs. Please support their endeavors by attending this worthy show! Details are available at or at 414-510-4441.

If you are unable to attend the WADA antiques show to drop off your antique or vintage donation, please contact Riene Wells at 262-363-4700,, or Debbie McArdle at 815-575-1272,


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Some Bought Antiques. Others Donated Their Own!

Thanks very much to the Wisconsin Antiques Dealers Association for providing the FRIENDS with a booth in the center hallway at their fall antiques show at the Waukesha County Expo Center on the 7th and 8th of this month! Visitors could make tax-deductible donations of vintage and antique items for our next benefit auction, to be held in 2018.

And likewise, thanks very much to those who stopped by and made donations! We appreciate it, and remember: your donations help keep history alive!


You didn’t have to be there to donate, of course; to make your tax-deductible donation of vintage (50-99 years old) and antique (100+ years old) items, contact Riene Wells at 262-363-4700 or

And take note: the next Wisconsin Antiques Dealers Association antiques expo is on February 3rd and 4th, 2017.


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A Curtain Call for the 2016 Autumn Excursion

Q: How could entertainment be even MORE entertaining?

A: If it is delivered FWHS-style!

Another Autumn Excursion, sponsored by the Friends of the Wisconsin Historical Society (FWHS), has delighted participants with a fascinating look at the entertainment history of the Badger State. This year’s FWHS tour, “That’s Wisconsin Entertainment,” took place on September 21-23 and provided backstage stops and educational tours of many of the state’s iconic entertainment venues.

Day 1 of the Autumn Excursion included a viewing of some of the fascinating collection of the UW’s Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research housed at the Wisconsin Historical Society; lunch at the historic Union House in Genesee Depot; a special tour of the historic American entertainment gathering place Ten Chimneys; a buffet of German cuisine and accordion music at Best Place; and an insiders’ tour of the historic Pabst Brewery.

On our second day of the 2016 Autumn Excursion, we experienced stops in Milwaukee at the iconic Oriental Theater (one of America’s grandest movie palaces); Turner Hall with an insiders’ tour of the bar room, restaurant, historic ballroom, and innovative gymnasium; and finally a special guided tour of the opulent and magnificent Pabst Theater. We then traveled north to Appleton’s History Museum at the Castle where we were entertained by The Great Rondini and viewed the AKA Houdini exhibit in the museum. Our day concluded with a scrumptious dinner at the Del-Bar in Lake Delton.

On our last day of the tour, we visited Baraboo and its historic entertainment venues. We saw the magnificently restored Al Ringling Theater and were entertained with music from the theater’s Barton Pipe Organ. Around the block at the Al Ringling Mansion, we were amazed as owner Joe showed us the efforts to restore and refurbish the mansion to its original glory. Our last stop of the day was at Circus World Museum, where we enjoyed a personal tour of the circus carriage restoration barn, were regaled with music from a steam calliope circus wagon, and enjoyed a trip back to our youth with a ride aboard the Circus World Carousel.

Entertainment was abundant on the 2016 Autumn Excursion! Our recap continues with the photos and fun facts below:

2016 Autumn Excursion Recap


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Annual Meeting 2016: A Trip Down Memory Lake

For those who attended last month’s Annual Meeting, we don’t have to tell them what fun it was! And for those who could not hop on board–we missed you!


Yes, we did some organizational business at the meeting, but steeping ourselves in times gone by was surely the highlight. We cruised Lake Geneva, held our breath for the Mailboat Jumper (who was spectacular!), and enjoyed being special guests at an estate that echoes a unique history of life on the lake.


We had the privilege of riding on the Lake Geneva U.S. Mailboat as it left the dock to begin its 100th anniversary. Captain Neil Frame, who not only piloted the boat for us but was an entertaining and informative guide, has been driving the boat since 1969 and has been a great supporter in carrying its history forward. To this day, the U.S. Mailboat makes about 50-70 deliveries each day, all summer long, and it is still delivered the same way as it was back in 1916. Captain Frame must carefully navigate the 60-ton boat within 4 feet of each pier so the Mail Jumper can leap from the boat onto the pier, drop off the mail, pick up the occasional outgoing mail, and then jump back onto the boat; the challenge for the Mail Jumpers is that the boat never stops moving. Fortunately, there were no splashes made during our tour on June 15th!


We then reached our destination of Black Point Estate, where we had lunch, heard from site director David Desimone, and witnessed for ourselves just what FWHS support has contributed–and continues to contribute–to the site. Mr. Desimone has laid out a plan to continue allocating the funds raised from our 2014 auction to Black Point restoration projects, including restoring and renewing the weathered finish of the benches and tables on the veranda and dining porch, re-adhering detached wall coverings in the stairways, and painting the second floor doors in the dollhouse area. He thanks the FRIENDS for being “a great group of people,” and adds, “Let’s fix up this old house!”


Here’s to another year of preserving history!

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Sharin’ in Sharon’s Circus History

Before we went to Lake Geneva for our Annual Meeting last month (more about that great event in an upcoming post!), the FRIENDS set up a booth in Sharon, Wisconsin to help celebrate a Wisconsin tradition–the circus!

The tallest clown to visit our booth--more than 7 feet tall!

The tallest clown to visit our booth–more than 7 feet tall!


Our booth invited kids and adults to enter circus-based contests for prizes, with many dozens participating. We also handed out red noses so everyone could become part of the merriment!


The youngest visitor to our display.


And don’t forget, you can join us for more circus-themed fun on our September 21-23 Autumn Excursion, when we’ll tour many more of Wisconsin’s historic entertainment-related sites (click here for the Autumn Excursion brochure).

FWHS members dropping by our booth.

FWHS members dropping by our booth.


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A Look Back at Our Best Auction Yet

Thank you all for making our 2016 fundraising benefit a massive success! Last month’s 30th Star Benefit Antiques Auction and its Preview Night were very well-attended, and the donated vintage and antique items were definite treasures. We are proud to be able to assist the Wisconsin Historical Society with putting the auction proceeds to good use keeping history alive. You can be sure that your support will make a difference for our state historic sites!

Spring Pillars 2016


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Auction Update: We’ve Caught a Cart


We have acquired an exciting last-minute addition to the lots for this Saturday’s auction: an antique governess cart!

Governess Cart Pic 1

Two-wheeled horse-drawn carts like this one were designed to provide a safer, gentler ride than other carts and to be difficult to fall from–perfect for transporting small children, hence the name!

Governess Cart Pic 3Governess Cart Pic 5Governess Cart Pic 4

This hot item and hundreds more antique and vintage objects will be up for the bidding at the 30th Star Benefit Antiques Auction, which will be held on Saturday, April 23 at 10:00 am at Old World Wisconsin’s Clausing Barn (check out our recent post about it for more information). We hope to see you there!


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Auction Listings Are Here: Lots of Lots to Look At!

30th Star Benefit Antiques Auction

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Preview 9:00 am, Auction 10:00 am to 3:00 pm

Old World Wisconsin’s Clausing Barn

W372 S9727 WI-67

Eagle, WI 53119

Two years in the making, 350+ lots of vintage (50-99 years old) and antique (100+ years old) items have been donated from throughout the Midwest to produce the 4th Biennial 30th Star Benefit Antiques Auction.

2016 Auction Lot a2016 Auction Lot j

From vintage kitchenware to antique churns, country cupboards to Victorian rockers, antique quilts to country store advertising, there is something for everyone! Included in this auction are the “Asparagus Man” paintings, among them Heaven on Earth, the masterpiece of outsider artist Adam Berg’s works.

For many more photos of the auction listings, click here!

2016 Auction Lot d2016 Auction Lot h

The auction is produced by the volunteers of the Friends of the Wisconsin Historical Society. The auctioneer is Carol Miller, Wi Registered Auctioneer #319 of Baileys Honor Auction & Estate Service LLC. All proceeds benefit Wisconsin State Historic Sites.

2016 Auction Lot c2016 Auction Lot g

This is a No Reserve auction. There are no phone or internet bids. Absentee bids will be accepted through April 20. Cash, checks (with proper ID), and credit & debit cards are accepted (a 3% credit & debit card convenience fee will be added). A 10% buyer’s premium additionally benefits Wisconsin State Historic Sites.

2016 Auction Lot b2016 Auction Lot e

Good food will be available on the site!

For more info, contact Debbie McArdle at or 815-575-1272.

2016 Auction Lot f2016 Auction Lot i

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