Finding Furs

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Ivy King

Today while walking through collections, we spotted yet another two boxes of furs. A few months ago Amy went through and cataloged all of the furs in the collection, so it was surprising to find multiple furs. They were sitting on one of the bottom shelves and hidden away from view. 

Upon opening the box, we discovered two coats, two stoles, two hats, and a collar. The two stoles came from Joseph Bicha's local fur shop which was established in 1915. One of the coats came from Kreuzer Furs, which is a fur company that was in La Crosse from 1916 until 1975.  

We cataloged, photographed, and packed all of the furs, so hopefully that means we have actually cataloged all of the furs in our collection.

 

Storing Umbrellas and Parasols

Ivy King

For most boxes, we were only able to fit four to five parasols or umbrellas in a box.

For most boxes, we were only able to fit four to five parasols or umbrellas in a box.

Last week we cataloged and photographed the parasols and umbrellas in our collection. We learned how umbrellas and parasols differed from the late 1800's up through the 1950's. For example, a majority of our parasols date from in the late 1800's and early 1900's because they grew out of fashion in the 1920's when tanned skin became the style. Parasols are meant to keep the sun off of the skin. They were popular at the time because pale skin signified wealth. This information was important for cataloging, but we also needed to learn how to properly store them.

First, we packed the inside of the umbrellas with acid free tissue paper because it isn't good for the metal to rest on the handle and other sections of the umbrella. After wrapping the inside, we protected the outside fabric with tissue paper as well. Then, we tied the tissue in place. This helped contain the fabric, and stopped the umbrellas from touching each other. When packing any item, we don't want them to graze the other objects because that can deteriorate the other artifacts in the box.

Once the umbrellas were wrapped, we needed to carve ethafoam to prevent the umbrellas from resting on themselves, which would cause damage. Ethafoam is similar to Styrofoam, but it is more dense and less acidic. We traced the umbrellas, and then carved out the exact shape form them to rest in. This is so they don't move around in the box.

This is how we packed and stored the umbrellas and parasols, so they will be protected for future use.

We added an extra piece of ethafoam to support the shorter umbrellas and parasols. 

We added an extra piece of ethafoam to support the shorter umbrellas and parasols. 

Canes

Ivy King

While looking through a set of old records, I found one that was extremely intriguing. There was a record for "a sturdy man's walking stick." This record described an engraved crown at the top, and then in further detail revealed that it was a gift to someone from King George I  of Great Britain, which was later verified by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. While he isn't a famous ruler, it was King George I's grandson that went to war with the colonies during the Revolution. This cane dates back to the early 1700's during King George I's reign, and in that long history, it somehow ended up in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

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This week for my internship, I surveyed the Cane Collection. We cataloged many captivating canes that held a great amount of history. Some of the canes were gifts from employees to the owners of early La Crosse Breweries including Gund and Michel. It's always really compelling to comb through the records in order to discover the history and the secrets of an object. And these canes revealed a lot.

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One artifact was different from the other canes that we surveyed this week. It looked like a typical walking stick with many bumpy ridges. In fact, it looked slightly boring in comparison to the other ones. The cane didn't even have any adornment or special handles. But, upon reading previous records and inspecting the cane itself, we discovered that the top of the cane actually twisted off. Inside of the cane was a glass vial with a cork in it. At one point the vial could have held whiskey or bourbon. Twisting the lid off revealed a secret compartment for alcohol, which immediately makes one think of the Prohibition.  

Masonic Sword

Natalie Van Dam

Another sword that was very interesting to me was a sword that had a very masonic theme. The reason this sword was so interesting to me was because it was so elaborately designed and decorated. It was clearly a sword meant for ceremonial purpose only though due to the amount of effort that went into decorating it. No design on this sword was simple. It had scenes of knights on horses in front of buildings and in fields, to elaborate images of crowns and crosses and shields. I think the part of these designs that I found the most interesting, was the amount of time and effort that would have gone into the design and their placing upon the sword. Every single design on this sword was etched or carved into its surface. This particular sword was owned by an Edwin Matthew Schafer, however we are unsure if it was the Senior or the Junior as the records we have do not give us any clues to this. It is possible though that this was an item that could have been owned by both of them, being passed down from father to son. 

Overall, I am enjoying my time interning here. I have gotten to work on all types of items, from swords and guns, to souvenir spoons and trunks. This is a wonderful learning experience for me and I can't believe that I've already been here for two weeks now.

The Sword of Wilson Colwell

Natalie Van Dam

In the past few weeks of interning at the La Crosse County Historical Society, I have worked on and learned a lot. Some of my favorite items to work with have been the swords. We have several different swords from several different time era. One of my favorite swords to document and research was Wilson Colwell's sword from the Civil War.  

Wilson Colwell was born in 1827 and moved to La Crosse after attending Jefferson College. He was elected mayor in 1861. When the Civil War started, he enlisted and became Captain Wilson Colwell. He would fight in several battles including the First Battle of Bull Run. However, it was at the Battle of South Mountain in September of 1862 that he was wounded by a bullet and died within an hour. 

I found it very interesting to not only study a sword that had seen action in the civil war, but to also learn about the person who owned it. It also gave me a chance to learn more of the local history of La Crosse and one of the many roles it played in the past.  As I am not originally from the La Crosse area I enjoyed a chance to learn more about the history of the area.

The Start of Something New

June 7, 2017

My name is Natalie Van Dam. I am a student at the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse working towards a European History major and an International Studies minor. My main interests lie mainly in the studying early history of Europe but I am also interested in the history of the world in general. I have recently returned to Wisconsin from a semester spent abroad in Glasgow, Scotland,studying the history of the UK, to begin an internship here at the La Crosse County Historical Society.

I am very excited to begin my internship here as it is an awesome opportunity for me to learn all kinds of new information and procedures that will be very useful in my future work. I am also excited to learn more about the local history of La Crosse as this is where I live and go to school. Today I was introduced to our cataloging system and began to work on cataloging Sterling Silver souvenir spoons. It's very interesting to see all the different kinds of decoration and detail these spoons contain and all the different places they have come from.

I am very excited to see all the different artifacts we will work with over the course of the summer and to learn more about each of them.

Starting Off

May 30, 2017

My name is Ivy King, and I will be interning here at the La Crosse County Historical Society over the summer. I am an English major with a literature emphasis and a minor in history. Currently I am a senior at Viterbo University. My main interest lies in the Early Modern Period, but I also have an desire to learn about the local history because I have lived in the La Crosse area for my entire life. 

This summer we will be working and cataloging a few different sections of the historical society. Already we have worked with dolls and doll clothes, and one of the pairs of dolls were found hidden away in a doll trunk that was assumed to be empty. We started working in the garage, which contains larger artifacts including bassinets, settees, trunks (including one from the Gundersen settlers of the area), a coffee grinder, and countless of other objects. Another few random objects that we have been looking at include silverware, local buttons, and a map of the Mississippi.

I am excited for my upcoming summer interning here at the Historical Society, and I am interested in learning about the other artifacts that we come across in working through the collections.