Passenger Pigeon Net

Copyright La Crosse County Historical Society

Copyright La Crosse County Historical Society

Abigail Wollam

Catalog Number: 1941.001.01

This net was once used in La Crosse to capture a species that no longer exists.

Passenger pigeons were once one of the most abundant species of birds in North America. They would fly in huge flocks as a method of protection against predators.

Unfortunately, this survival strategy ultimately played a part in the rapid decline in the species’ population in the late 19th century: The large groups in which passenger pigeons traveled created easy targets for hunters looking to nab some birds.

An abundant source of food, the pigeons were killed in massive numbers.

They were shot down and trapped with nets like the one pictured.

Passenger pigeons were hunted so heavily that it was not long before their population began to dwindle. By the late 19th century, this species was rapidly heading toward extinction.

As their numbers declined, the public debated the cause. Some cited disease as a possible explanation. However, it soon became clear that human behavior was the critical factor.

And because there was little to no effort made to save the species, the last passenger pigeon died in the Cincinnati Zoo on September 1, 1914.

The last passenger pigeon, Martha, was then frozen and shipped to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., for preservation. She now resides in the National Museum of Natural History and represents one of the many species that have gone extinct as a result of human actions.

While the extinction of the passenger pigeon is mostly remembered as a striking example of how human intervention can permanently alter our environment, it also played an important role in the history of environmentalism in the U.S.

During the time of the passenger pigeons, the ideas of environmentalism and conservation were still in their infancy. The pigeons’ decline and extinction helped motivate the fledgling movement. Efforts surrounding the conservation of birds at the time the passenger pigeon was going extinct ultimately led to the signing of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918.

This net, and the accompanying “beater,” were donated to the La Crosse County Historical Society in August 1941 by Lottie Smith, and is a visual reminder of the direct and indirect ways in which Coulee Region residents interact with the natural world around them.

This article was originally published in the La Crosse Tribune on August 10, 2019.

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

Dolly Madison Ice Cream Carton

Copyright La Crosse County Historical Society

Copyright La Crosse County Historical Society

Catalog Number: 2017.050.01

As we enter the dog days of August, with its heat and humidity, our thoughts frequently turn to a favorite summer refreshment: ice cream.

Serving ice cream brings people together, makes friends of strangers and helps us forget our troubles for a few moments. Nearly everyone loves ice cream.

From the 1930s to the 1970s, the Dolly Madison Dairy of La Crosse made ice cream in many flavors and distributed it all over the area.

This package once held a half gallon of ice cream that was made and packaged by the local dairy about 1960. Round and made of cardboard, it is imprinted with a brown woodgrain background with the iconic red “Quality Chekd” symbol.

Located at Front and Main streets in downtown La Crosse, the Dolly Madison Dairy began in 1919 as the Tri-State Ice Cream Corp., a company formed from two earlier companies.

In 1939, the company’s name became Dolly Madison, in honor of President James Madison’s wife, Dolley, who was the first person to serve ice cream in the White House.

In 1944, Dolly Madison Dairy joined the Quality Chekd group, a cooperative of 26 Midwestern dairies that was organized to assist those companies as they competed against larger national brands of ice cream.

By 1964, Dolly Madison employed 90 workers who processed and provided home delivery of milk and other dairy products. The company shipped its line through much of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois and operated branches in Eau Claire and Reedsburg.

The company’s plant on Front Street remained active during the record flood of 1965, but shortly after that the operations were moved to Gateway Industrial Court.

The company soon became a part of Marigold Foods and later was absorbed by Kemp’s. Dolly Madison Dairy is last listed in the 1979 directory.

It’s August, and even though you can’t buy your favorite Dolly Madison flavor anymore, enjoy a scoop of this frozen treat.

This article was originally published in the La Crosse Tribune on August 3, 2019.

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

Trane Company Safety Glasses

Copyright La Crosse County Historical Society

Copyright La Crosse County Historical Society

Amy Vach

Catalog Number: 1986.035.01

More than 300,000 employees each year are sent to the hospital due to eye injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And 90% of these injuries would have been preventable if the employee had been wearing protective eyewear.

These might look like ordinary glasses, but they are not.

While they look a bit different from today’s variety of safety glasses, that is indeed what they are.

These glasses used by Trane employee Marvin Bremer feature thick lenses that are almost circular and temple tips that contour around the wearer’s ear. The glasses, made by American Optical Company, are signified by the initials AO on the lenses.

In 1971, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was created to circumvent accidents in the workplace. However, by the 1940s, most companies made safety glasses mandatory for employees working in woodworking and machining.

How do we know that these safety glasses were used by Bremer?

In 1986, Gene Gunderson, the supervisor of safety and health at Trane Company, donated these safety glasses to La Crosse County Historical Society.

In addition to donating the glasses and their metal case, Gunderson also donated the tool order slip and carbon copy that Bremer completed to check out the department-owned glasses.

The details on the receipt indicate that Bremer checked out these glasses the same year that he started working at Trane Company. In 1956, Marvin Bremer moved his family to La Crosse and began working at Trane. Bremer worked as a machinist in the tool and die department at Trane Company for 30 years.

This article was originally published in the La Crosse Tribune on July 28, 2019.

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