The labor-saving rotary eggbeater

Terri Karsten

Catalog Number: 1965.001.910

Before the invention of the mechanical rotary eggbeater, it took 90 minutes to whip egg whites to a stiff meringue. Eliza Leslie, who wrote household management tips in the 19th century, offered detailed advice about using wrist-action to reduce the effort required, but the tiring chore still took too long.

However, civilization marches forward with ongoing efforts to reduce human labor. After centuries of hand-whipped eggs, the first American mechanical eggbeater was invented in 1857. Unfortunately, this clamp-on device was so awkward to use that Miss Leslie strongly advised against it.

Undaunted, inventors kept trying. By the 1870s, the Dover cast-iron rotary eggbeater hit the market and revolutionized cooking in American kitchens. Now, that 90-minute chore took just 5 minutes. Cooks all over the country could rest their weary arms and still produce light, fluffy egg whites. In fact, Dover eggbeaters became so common that all eggbeaters were called Dovers, even when manufactured by another company.

This rotary eggbeater from the Hixon House collection is a Dover pattern eggbeater, manufactured between 1903 and 1908, by Taplan Manufacturing in New Britain, Conn. Clarence Taplin patented his design as an improvement on the Dover model, claiming his beater was stronger, easier to make and more durable.

In 1903, this eggbeater could have been purchased at any one of the 10 hardware stores listed in the La Crosse city directory. Fifteen years earlier, such a fancy tool would have cost more than a dollar, but, by the turn of the century, these beaters were so common they could be purchased for less than 10 cents.

The quest for labor saving devices continued. By the middle of the 20th century, electric mixers made whipping eggs nearly effortless.

Still, in spite of the ease of an electric mixer, it’s worth noting that Taplan’s durable rotary eggbeater is more than 100 years old and works as well as ever. Can the same be said of any modern electric handmixer?

This article was originally published in the La Crosse Tribune September 17, 2016.

This object can be viewed in our online collections database by clicking here.

Special Forces Jungle Fatigue Uniform

Robert Mullen

Catalog Number: 1991.064.01

Former Mindoro-area resident Gerry Barker served in the U.S. Army from 1962 to 1984. For 16 of those years, he was in the Special Forces and served 72 months of combat duty in Southeast Asia.

Special Forces — also known as the Green Berets for their distinctive headgear — played a significant role in undercover and dangerous operations in Vietnam, often sending out small groups of soldiers into remote areas controlled by enemy forces. They also trained and assisted indigenous forces.

One of Barker’s missions found him parachuting into Laos, and he also served as a reconnaissance team leader.

This jungle fatigue uniform was worn by Barker as a member of the Special Forces. Barker described this uniform as having been modified for conditions encountered in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. He said the jacket always was worn tucked in to reduce noise while he moved through the countryside. Pockets were moved up from the lower jacket or pants to the shoulders.

Barker explained that wounded soldiers never land on their shoulders, and morphine stored in a shoulder pocket was more easily accessible than in a front pocket. The camouflage was created by using black spray paint on the clothing. In addition, an “A+” was painted on the fatigue jacket to indicate his blood type should he be wounded.

Special Forces teams wore no dog tags or anything else to identify them as Americans when they were on classified missions, such as the ones Barker took into Laos.

After Barker retired from the service in 1984, he earned a degree in history and for a few years was employed by the La Crosse County Historical Society as curator. It was during this time that he donated this jungle fatigue uniform as well as his master sergeant Special Forces dress uniform with his Special Forces Airborne patch, service bars and combat service bars. Gerry Barker also donated the distinctive green beret he wore with that uniform.

This article was originally published in the La Crosse Tribune on September 3, 2016.

This object can be viewed in our online collections database by clicking here.

Johanna Heileman's Shawl

Peggy Derrick

Catalog Number: 2008.010.01

In 1852, a young German woman left her birthplace of Württemberg to travel by ship to New York City. Johanna Catherine Bantle was 21 years old and unmarried.

We don’t know specifically why she chose to emigrate, but she may have been seeking economic opportunities not then available in Germany or escaping retribution for participating in one of the German revolutions of 1848 and 1849. We know that Johanna was accompanied by one brother and she met up with another in New York, so perhaps they were the politically active ones.

After spending some time in New York, the Bantles moved to Milwaukee, where there was a growing German community. Johanna took a job as a house maid in the home of Capt. Frederick Pabst, a brewer with a large and successful business. It was while working there that she met and married Gottlieb Heileman in 1858.

Gottlieb and Johanna moved farther west, and they started their own brewery in La Crosse. There was great potential for growth because the city was growing rapidly as a center for the booming lumber industry. Gottlieb’s first brewery in La Crosse, the City Brewery, was started as a partnership with another German immigrant, John Gund. It was not long before they ended the partnership and each formed their own business.

As the Heileman brewery grew, so did their family. Johanna bore eight children, seven daughters and one son. They built the large brick house that still stands across the street from the brewery and serves today as its offices. Family lore says that Johanna and her daughters served midday dinner to those brewery workers who did not have wives at home to cook for them. Besides building company loyalty, it probably also served to help her find husbands for those daughters who would know the family business and be part of it.

Gottlieb died in 1878, and Johanna was named president of the brewery. She remained the company’s president until 1912, and she stayed active as a board member until her death in 1917, at the age of 85. She was one of the first female CEOs in Wisconsin history, and an upstanding figure in the La Crosse German community.

Under the leadership of Johanna Heileman, the G. Heileman Brewing Co. continued to grow, more than tripling its production from the time of its opening up to 1912. The brewery became a leader in the industry, providing La Crosse with a successful business that brought recognition, jobs and revenue to the city.

Johanna could count many successes in her long life in America, even though she had her share of grief. She lost her husband after only 20 years of marriage, and her 28-year-old son, Henry, to depression and suicide, in 1895.

Portraits show a heavy-set, stern older woman, often surrounded by her large family. Her grandchildren remember Johanna as a little intimidating; she spoke only German and did not often smile.

Family lore states that she wore this shawl on the journey by ship to New York. It is wool, done in a crochet stitch called Tunisian crochet that was popular at the time. That, along with its use of a feminine pink-lavender color, make it perfectly in keeping with what a young woman of that era would have worn.

The 20-year-old Johanna’s shawl helps us remember her not as the serious matriarch that she would become, but as the young, adventurous person she must have been, brave enough to cross the ocean on a small ship and make a new life in a strange new place.

This article was originally published in the La Crosse Tribune on August 27, 2016.

This object can be viewed in our online collections database by clicking here.