Capital Times


Date: Friday, November 28, 1997
Section: Editorial
Edition: All
Page: 15A
Byline: By JohnNichols

If you collect a state paycheck -- or even if you surmise that Madison's high level of state employment might have something to do with the city's prosperity -- you'd best genuflect as you pass the State Capitol today.

This is the 159th anniversary of the first meeting of the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature in what was then the new Capitol in Madison.

We are party to this tidbit of information thanks to a new desktop calendar created by Ron Larson, the library director for The Capital Times and Wisconsin State Journal who has published several books of local history.

Larson brings years of research on Wisconsin politics, exploration, agriculture, business, inventions, the arts, sports, science, education and American Indian culture together to form one of the most useful pieces of sesquicentennial ephemera.

As the Badger state prepares for its 150th anniversary, Wisconsinites will be hit with a blizzard of information about their state's history -- facts and figures regarding everything from lieutenant governors to logging camps, from dairy production to disasters.

Larson's 4.25- by 5-inch perpetual desk calendar makes it all a little more manageable. Consider it an empowerment tool for the trivia-challenged.

For instance: Did you know that yesterday marked the 18th anniversary of Barbara Crabb's swearing in as the first ever female federal judge in Wisconsin? Or that next Monday marks the 43rd anniversary of the censuring of Wisconsin's Joe McCarthy by his fellow U.S. senators for ``contemptuous'' conduct?

By the way, Dec. 2 is the 328th anniversary of the arrival of Father Allouez at Green Bay, where the Frenchman laid the groundwork for establishing missions and an expanded colonial presence in Wisconsin. Oh, and Dec. 5 marks the 64th anniversary of the end of Prohibition, a step that sent 8,500 Wisconsin brewery employees back to work.

Larson's research is obviously thorough and, more often than not, intriguing. Sometimes his best revelations come on days when there is no anniversary of consequence. Seeded throughout the calendar on such dates are biographical details about Wisconsin's 42 governors (Walter Goodland was the oldest -- born at the height of the Civil War on Dec. 22, 1862, in Sharon, Wis., he died in office on March 12, 1947, more than a year after the end of World War II). There are also ``State Stats.'' (Bet you didn't know that during the Civil War, nearly 600 of Wisconsin's 9,000 American Indians fought with Wisconsin regiments.)

Larson's calendar is the product of painstaking research, utilizing newspaper files here at The Capital Times, documents from the State Historical Society and a host of publications -- from the Wisconsin Blue Book to ``Sifting the Winnowing.'' It is illustrated, appropriately enough, with photographs of Robert M. La Follette, Helen Mears, Chief Black Hawk and ``Old Abe'' -- the Civil War-era stuffed eagle that was a somewhat more dignified symbol of the state than the stuffed badgers that will be utilized as headgear when the UW Badger football team makes its next bowl appearance.

The pictures make the calendar attractive. But ultimately it is the factoids that make it so continually appealing. Everyone will have their favorite details, of course, but it will be hard to beat the news of Jan. 30, 1845.

It was on that day that the Legislature officially reconfirmed that the spelling of the state's name was ``Wisconsin'' -- not ``Wiskonsan,'' as was becoming popular at the time.

Illustration: ``Wisconsin History Day by Day'' by Ron Larson (above) is available in area bookstores or by contacting History Day by Day, 5403 Marsh Woods Dr., McFarland, WI 53558, or calling (608) 838-4279.

Memo: JohnNichols is an editorial writer for The Capital Times.

All content © Capital Times and may not be republished without permission.

All archives are stored on a SAVE (tm) newspaper library system from MediaStream Inc., a Knight-Ridder Inc. company.