The Iroquois Influence on the United States


One of the lesser-discussed influences on the founding of the United States we celebrate this weekend is that of the five nations confederacy and their form of government. The 1936 article quoted below sheds light on that influence and this Youtube video goes into more depth about Chief Canasatego. Happy Fourth!

Milwaukee Journal March 26, 1936
Indian Origin of Constitution

Iroquois’ Idea of Government Was Unique, Investigator Says

The germ from which the American Constitution grew may have been planted by an almost unforgotten Iroquois Indian orator.

J.N.B. Hewitt, student of Indian history and customs, after years of research among records of the early Iroquois, announced Thursday that he had found a direct chain of evidence connecting the Constitution with an eloquent plea made by an Iroquois statesman named Canasatego at a conference held at Lancaster, Pa., in 1744. The conference was called to settle differences over land rights and for mutual defense against the French invaders.

Quotes Tribal Sage

The Indian told delegates from the then British colonies of Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland to unite on their own initiative under the principle that government rested on the consent of the governed, not the rulers.

Canasatego quoted from the words of the historic founder of the Iroquois confederacy of five nations, Deganawida, including the eloquent phrase:

“We, the Mohawk, the Seneca, the Onondaga, the Oneida, and the Cayuga people, set up this tree of government.”

Hewitt pointed out the close resemblance to the phraseology with which the federal Constitution begins:

“We, the people of the United States, in order to from a more perfect union…”

Idea Made Impression

He found that records of the Lancaster conference greatly abbreviated Canasatego’s speech, although evidently it made an impression. The idea that he advanced was new to the colonists, trained in the European tradition that the authority of government came from above – that is, the throne. The Iroquois confederation was the only place in the world during the eighteenth century where a different idea was in operation, Hewitt said.

Thirty-one years later, in 1775, representatives of the five nations of the Iroquois and delegates from the continental congress met to sign a treaty which would keep the Indian confederacy neutral in the war with Great Britain.

Hewitt points out that in a formal speech, Col. Turbot Francis, one of the colonial representatives, told the Iroquois that the colonists had remembered the advice of Canasatego and finally had acted upon it.

Do You Remember the Old Whitefish Bay Excursion Boat?


Local writer and historian Carl Swanson wrote a history of the Whitefish Bay resort on his blog. It brought to mind this article written by Frederic Heath back in 1920 about the excursion boats that serviced the resort from downtown. Heath’s article fills in some of the details of the resort.

Milwaukee Leader, April 13, 1920

By Frederic Heath

Whitefish Bay as a resort for city-baked people seeking the cooling influence of lake, woods and grass in the good old summer time, is now merely a memory. The old steamboat pier is almost washed away, just as the old piers off Huron and other early streets also disappeared.

Afternoon and night crowds flocked to the resort north of the city and from the high terrace viewed old Michigan by day, or hunted pebbles on the beach below, and at night sat at the open air tables, drank their beer, munched their caviar sandwiches, and chatted or watched the lights on steamers and schooners passing to and fro on the black waters out in the lake.

Excursions Years Ago.

It is the criticism of strangers coming to Milwaukee that our people act as though the lake were merely to be tolerated, and they wondered why excursions on the bay and to near-by points are not a part of the city’s enjoyments. This criticism would not have held good years back, for there was a Whitefish Bay boat making regular trips that was well patronized. It was 25 cents a round trip and there was always a comfortable crowd on board when the weather was at all favorable.

The view given today is of the Cyclone, one of the steamers that successively handled the bay excursion business. It had its dock just north of Grand Ave. bridge, alongside the old No. 2 Grand ave., which was for many years the old Pollworth Home restaurant. The river at this point could tell many historical facts, had it the power of speech. For years and years Old Abe Muehlendyke rented rowboats at the lakeshore, off the present Juneau park. But the memory of man goes back a little further to the days when Abe’s boat livery was originally situated on the shore of the river, also near the Grand Ave. (Spring St.) bridge.

Park System Blamed.

It is altogether likely that the passing of Whitefish Bay can be laid to the door of the development of the city park system. Lake park, with its cool shades, its beautiful view of the lake, its accessibility and its band concerts and other attractions, became a powerful competitor to Whitefish Bay before motor vehicles became common, and even afterward they do not appear to have put the bay back into favor, as might have been expected.

Whitefish Bay is getting nearer and nearer to town. A few years ago the county was offered, free of charge, a strip along the lake shore in Whitefish Bay village, just north of the turn on to the county loop (Silver Spring Rd.) for park purposes, but there were enough wise ones in the county board to block its acceptance. It was a narrow strip and the edge of the bluff was close to a Whitefish Bay street, which would have to be protected from landslides at some cost, but even so, a par at that point would have given the people access to the lake. Now the Whitefish Bay resort is gone and the public cannot reach the beach without becoming trespassers. All of which is sincerely to be regretted.

Dawn O’Hara – The Girl Who Laughed


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.


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.


In 1915, 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

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.


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.


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.

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.


Police Court Scenes 1915

One of my favorite columns from the Milwaukee Daily News was the Police Court Scenes. Reporters from several dailies at the time always found interesting stories at the Police Court every day. Sometimes they were sad stories of abuse and sometimes odd and funny stories unfolded in the courtroom. This story was one of the latter. Enjoy!

Milwaukee Daily News, June 24, 1915


The wheels of justice were grinding out their grist of verdicts and decisions and fines; the courtroom was silent but for the drone of low-voiced witnesses and the occasional sharp rap of the deputy’s hammer. Suddenly the spectators, the attorney and the judge were astonished to hear irrelevant words apparently spring from the lips of a witness who had just been sworn.

“Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub; the cow jumped over the moon,” was what it sounded like.

The judge glanced up sharply. The lips of the witness twitched and he looked startled.

“Honest. I didn’t say a word!” he stammered.

The court was framing a reprimand when another interruption came. This time a solemn, gray-haired police sergeant, who was sitting in one of the front rows, seemed to shout:

“I’m getting tired of hanging around this blamed court. If something doesn’t happen soon, I’ll pull my revolver and start something!”

Everybody turned his way. The sergeant almost fell off the bench. But attention was distracted when from underneath one of the benches came sounds indicating a dog fight. There were whines, barks and yelps of pain. The deputies made for the spot and nearly collapsed when they found no trace of a canine.

“Spooks!” they gasped.

“Right-o!” cried a dapper little fellow who popped out of the bull pen, hat in hand and smiling blandly. “Reginald Spooks of Spokane, that’s me. Cops nabbed me last night for being drunk. Didn’t know who I was. Here’s my card,” and he handed a pasteboard to the judge.

“‘Reginald Spooks, ventriloquist,'” read the judge. “Oh!” he exclaimed as an afterthought, “that explains it.”

“I can throw my voice forty ways,” grinned Spooks. “Some dog fight that was, eh? Ha! Ha! I’m clever – what?”

“You may entertain the prisoners at the workhouse for fifteen days,” said the judge.

Milwaukee Architect – Herman W. Buemming


Milwaukee has had its share of architects with german heritage who have helped to shape the style and development of the city. Herman Weis Buemming worked for the most part in the early part of the 20th century designing many commercial buildings and homes which remain as part of the landscape. His hand is seen most densely in the downtown area between 3rd Street, Plankinton, Kilbourn and Wells Street. In that area, three of his buildings remain; the Pietsch Building at 826 N. Plankinton, the Chalet at the River across the street at 823 N. 2nd St. and the Watkins Building at the corner of 3rd and Kilbourn. A few others still stand nearby on West Wisconsin Avenue although their appearances have been much changed.

His buildings remain because they are utilitarian enough to be adapted to changing purposes. The Chalet at the River was originally a furniture manufacturing and sales company and has since been re-purposed to apartments and stores. The buildings are sedately commercial in style without extra terra cotta ornamentation that was in vogue at the time. Because of the lack of ostentatious style they are easy to overlook but that is part of their strength. They are built solid with a reinforced concrete structure that withstands the passage of time.

Herman was the first son of German emigres, Julius and Charlotte Buemming, born in Toledo, Ohio on September 5, 1872. Julius was a salesman who came to America in 1868. The family eventually settled in Milwaukee in 1884 when Herman was 12 and there the parents had two more children; Carl W. and Charlotte.

After Herman graduated from the Sixteenth District School in 1888, he apprenticed for a short time as a draftsman with Charles A. Gombert and then became a head draftsman at Pabst Brewing Company. In 1891 he enrolled as a “special student” at Columbia University architectural school in New York City where he studied for three years. After leaving Columbia he worked as a Superintendent until 1896 in the office of well known New York architect, George P. Post who designed many famous Beaux Arts style buildings in New York but also designed the Wisconsin State Capitol.

In December 1896, Herman returned to Milwaukee with enough experience to start his own business in partnership with Gustave Dick. They worked together until 1907 and designed buildings such as the former Century Hall on Farwell near North Avenue and the Otto Pietsch building at 826 N. Plankinton. He also designed his own “honeymoon house” at 1012 East Pleasant Street in 1901 where he lived with his wife, Gertrude after they married on April 27th. The following year their son, John Durr Buemming was born.

When his partnership with Gustave Dick dissolved in 1907, Herman spent some time traveling in Europe and working on his own designing homes and buildings such as the Watkins Building which stands on the southeast corner of Third and Kilbourn and the Chalet at the River (formerly CW Fischer Furniture store) at 823 N. 2nd Street. He eventually partnered with Alexander C. Guth in 1918 and they worked together until 1927. Together they designed buildings such as the Bartlett Building at 176 W. Wisconsin Avenue which still exists although its exterior was modernized in 1983.

Once his son John graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1926 and was ready to start working in the family business he was under pressure to succeed as his father had. The pressure along with health problems led John to commit suicide in 1933 at the family home. At a time when the Great Depression was at its peak and when commissions were very difficult to find, Herman most likely felt extreme hopelessness over his son’s death. During the period between the stock market crash in 1927 until 1934, only one large building designed by the architect was built. He continued to work in his own practice for several years until 1939.

His final partnership was formed in 1939 with Clarence W. Jahn and lasted until Herman retired from practice in 1943, possibly after the death of his partner in December. One of the buildings they designed was the Abbotsford Apartments at 722 N. 13th Street which has since been bought by Marquette University and converted to student housing. Herman died after a short illness on April 17, 1947.

Building Age, May 1906, p. 145, “Competition in $6500 Houses; Second Prize Design”
Milwaukee Journal, April 17, 1947, Obituary, p. 24
American Institute of Architects online archives
Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission files