Dawn O’Hara – The Girl Who Laughed

Dawn

I am in the middle of reading this fun book by Edna Ferber, Dawn O’Hara – The Girl Who Laughed. It was Ms. Ferber’s first book written in 1911 when she was working as a newspaper reporter in Milwaukee. Much of the book takes place in the Milwaukee of the time and probably was based on many of her experiences. The title character was also a newspaper reporter and the story follows her as she tries to keep her sanity through her many adventures. It gives a unique but accurate view of the city at the time:

There is a fascination about the bright little city. There is about it
something quaint and foreign, as though a cross-section of the old world
had been dumped bodily into the lap of Wisconsin. It does not seem at
all strange to hear German spoken everywhere–in the streets, in the
shops, in the theaters, in the street cars. One day I chanced upon a
sign hung above the doorway of a little German bakery over on the north
side. There were Hornchen and Kaffeekuchen in the windows, and a brood
of flaxen-haired and sticky children in the back of the shop. I stopped,
open-mouthed, to stare at the worn sign tacked over the door.

“Hier wird Englisch gesprochen,” it announced.

I blinked. Then I read it again. I shut my eyes, and opened them again
suddenly. The fat German letters spoke their message as before–“English
spoken here.”

On reaching the office I told Norberg, the city editor, about my
find. He was not impressed. Norberg never is impressed. He is the most
soul-satisfying and theatrical city editor that I have ever met. He
is fat, and unbelievably nimble, and keen-eyed, and untiring. He says,
“Hell!” when things go wrong; he smokes innumerable cigarettes, inhaling
the fumes and sending out the thin wraith of smoke with little explosive
sounds between tongue and lips; he wears blue shirts, and no collar to
speak of, and his trousers are kept in place only by a miracle and an
inefficient looking leather belt.

When he refused to see the story in the little German bakery sign I
began to argue.

“But man alive, this is America! I think I know a story when I see it.
Suppose you were traveling in Germany, and should come across a sign
over a shop, saying: ‘Hier wird Deutsch gesprochen.’ Wouldn’t you think
you were dreaming?”

Norberg waved an explanatory hand. “This isn’t America. This is
Milwaukee. After you’ve lived here a year or so you’ll understand what
I mean. If we should run a story of that sign, with a two-column cut,
Milwaukee wouldn’t even see the joke.”

It is a fun book by a very talented writer and because it is now in the public domain, can be downloaded for free in many formats on Project Gutenburg including spoken audio files. I highly recommend anyone interested in reading home grown fiction to download this. Ms. Ferber eventually wrote many popular books, some which became famous films in their own rights such as Show Boat, Cimarron, and Giant which starred three immortal film stars; Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean.

Ferber

Lakeside Hospital on Prospect Avenue

Upper Prospect Avenue in the 1890s around Woodstock Place was sparsely settled. It was near the end of the Farwell Avenue car line with the carbarn located where the Oriental Theater now stands at Ivanhoe and Farwell. Because there wasn’t much there it was a good location for hospitals and rest homes. In November 1894, Dr. Horace Manchester Brown opened his new surgical hospital at the northeast corner of Woodstock & Prospect and named it the Manchester Brown hospital. It was a small hospital that looked more like a German hunting lodge than a medical facility but the inside was modern for the time and cost $18,000 to build. What made it unique was the fact that it was the first strictly non-sectarian hospital in the city.

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In 1916, Ford Motor Company bought the property across the street and began plans to build a large automobile plant there. Dr. Brown pushed hard against the proposed plant and filed a lawsuit which he didn’t win but the furor led to stricter zoning laws preventing manufacturing from being built that close to a residential district. Shortly after the factory opened Dr. Brown closed the hospital. In a strange twist of fate the factory was taken by the federal government late in 1918 to be used for a medical hospital during the war. Meanwhile in 1919 the old hospital had been bought by the Country Day School for use as a Junior School until it moved to new facilities in Whitefish Bay in 1932. The building sat vacant until it was torn down in 1934 for the proposed Milwaukee Western Fuel Company offices. That building was a modern art-deco building designed by Milwaukee architect Herbert W. Tullgren.

Country Day School
COUNTRY DAY SCHOOL

Big thanks to Gary Rebholz for providing a picture from his research on Milwaukee’s German Newspapers and the idea for this article!

Public Library Display on 70th Anniversary of End of World War 2

The Central Library has a small display on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. It’s in the 2nd floor hallway near the Humanities Room entrance. It focuses on FDR’s death, his Four Freedoms, includes Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms poster series and their first appearances in The Saturday Evening Post.

Next month’s focus will be on V-E Day & Gertie the Duck. June may be a bric-a-brac on the home front, death camps & Okinawa. July will be on Potsdam and Churchill’s Tories losing the 1945 UK election before wrapping up in August w/the A-Bombs & V-J Day.

Display materials are from the Milwaukee Public Library’s magazine and newspaper collections, Historic Poster Collection, Historic Photo Collection and Historical Sheet Music Collection.

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Green Sheet?

From an interview with Journal Sentinel editor George Stanley:

Hi everyone. I’m curious to know how many other readers would like us to find a way to bring back The Green Sheet for old time’s sake, if we could manage it?

Duane Dudek also blogged about the possibility of its return.

If you would like to see it come back, let him know by emailing him here: jsedit@journalsentinel.com If there are enough supportive emails the Green Sheet could have a green light!

Thanks to Dan Lee for the heads up!

Old Homes

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From an early 20th century German Newspaper. This ad shows a newly built duplex at 1252 25th Street which now has an address of 3052 N. 25th Street. The house is still there but has gone through many changes over the years. The current value of the house isn’t too much more than the price back then.

Pride In Place

The Milwaukee County Historical Society will present a new exhibit with an opening presentation on the evening of Thursday, February 12. Don’t miss this event!

Join us for the Opening of our Newest Exhibitions

Thursday, February 12
Milwaukee County Historical Center
6:00pm – 8:00pm
Presentation at 7:00pm
Wine and light hors d’oeuvres provided

RSVP by Monday, February 9th to info@milwaukeehistory.net or 414-273-8288

February 5th through April 10th

By taking pride in place, Milwaukeeans can learn to appreciate the city and its built landscape. Though much has been lost over the decades, an impressive array of buildings and houses remain. From a perspective of pride we can look at how Milwaukee emerged, how it has been maintained and/or reworked over the decades, issues of preservation, current land usage, and new uses and initiatives going forward. Through a combination of artifacts, photos, text, and interactive elements, we can explore important issues regarding Milwaukee’s architecture and built environment and how people in and outside of Milwaukee view and approach the city.

Don’t miss this major exhibition that will allow you to simultaneously revel in Milwaukee’s impressive architectural past, relish that which still remains, and explore where it may be going.

Pabst Farms: The History of a Model Farm – Book Event

Join senior historian of the Pabst Mansion, John Eastberg in a presentation of his new book, “Pabst Farms: The History of a Model Farm” at Boswell Books on Tuesday, December 30th. The event will start at 7:00pm at 2559 N. Downer Avenue. Mark it on your calendar!

From the UW-Press webpage:

Pabst_Farms

Pabst Farms
The History of a Model Farm
John C. Eastberg
Foreword by James C. Pabst

The great brewery family’s innovative farm

Although the Pabst name is world-famous for its ties to the brewing industry, Fred Pabst Jr. balanced his duty to the family brewery with his love of land and livestock. In 1906, he began purchasing large parcels of land near Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, to create one of the most important model farms in the United States. Employing the latest advances in American and European agricultural theory, he organized a sustainable farming operation that provided all that was necessary for his selfsufficient farm.

From the construction of new farm buildings to the selection of diverse livestock, Pabst carefully considered every detail of his landmark farming operation. Hackney and Percheron horses were the mainstay of Pabst Farms until the popularity of the automobile quickly made horse breeding for carriages and wagons a thing of the past. Undaunted, Pabst transformed his 1,400-acre farm operation to focus solely on the development and breeding of award-winning, high-production Holstein dairy cattle. This is the story of how one family made their mark on Wisconsin’s dairy industry, but also of the Pabst family’s life on the farm and their efforts to bring the Pabst Brewing Company through the dark days of Prohibition with the development of a revolutionary cheese product, Pabst-ett. Pabst Farms: The History of a Model Farm showcases Wisconsin’s dairy history at its best and is illustrated with hundreds of photographs from the Pabst family’s private archives.

Milwaukee’s Supermodel

Most may have heard about Martin Tullgren and his sons, the family of early 20th century architects who made an impact on the landscape of the city. They are well know for a variety of incredibly decorative masterpieces such as the Watts Building at the northwest corner of Mason & Jefferson and the Bertelson Building on Prospect & Windsor Place. The two sons who took over the business when their father Martin died in 1922 were Herbert and Minard. Minard died scant years later in 1928 at the age of 41 of a heart attack leaving behind a wife and two young sons and two much younger daughters.

His oldest daughter, Barbara was only four at his death but grew up to be a beautiful young woman of 17 in 1941. She entered and won a statewide beauty contest for the American Legion where she won in a pool of 50 contestants. She became the queen and official hostess when the American Legion had their national convention here in September of that year. After graduating from Shorewood High School she studied for a time at Layton School of Art in fashion design before her big break came.

In March 1943, her mother persuaded her to enter a contest at the Riverside theater to select an entrant most closely resembling a Powers model, the largest model agency in the country located in New York. Of course she easily won against 69 other contestants and won a trip to New York to meet with John Powers. She set out for the big apple with her aunt as chaperone but once there she at once was brought to the headquarters of the agency where she met John Powers. When he set eyes on her he exclaimed, “My God, where did you come from? So you want to stay in New York?”, and her career was launched. Within a week she was modeling for Vogue and meeting celebrities and Hollywood stars. Her rise was so quick it was like a fairy tale.

Tullgren

The Lion in the Public Library

If you got to read the January issue of the Historic Milwaukee, Inc. newsletter, “Echo” you already know the story told by Dan Lee of Sim the lion who lived on the roof of the Central Library in the late 1920’s. If not you may want to see this news story from Fox 6 telling the story last month. The Milwaukee Public Museum also has a video posted on Youtube with rare, original film of Sim when he was just a cub.

Caution for cute lion cub pictures.
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Florence Killilea

Several years back, Dennis Pajot had written a great bio of Florence Killilea, the president of the Milwaukee Brewers for the 1929 and 1930 seasons. Sadly, she left us in 1931 when she was much too young and never had the chance to show her true potential. The sketch shown below was from the Wisconsin News in May 2, 1929.

Killilea