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President/Newsletter Editor Mark Gajewski contributed this column from snippets he noted in reading newspapers for the years 1854 and 1904.  These represent items beginning in the spring months of those years.

Years Ago

The years 1854 and 1904 were among the most momentous and tumultuous in Madison’s history. 1854 marked the arrival of the railroad, the birth of the Wisconsin Republican party, the Joshua Glover fugitive slave case, and construction of several buildings that still grace Madison - St. Raphael’s Cathedral, the State Hospital for the Insane (Mendota Mental Health Institute), South Hall, and the Spring Tavern. 1904 was memorable for the Capitol fire and the Red Gym caucus.


Coe and Robinson, having returned from California, sold shoes "at the sign of the Big Boot" on Pinckney. January 10, 1854

Lyman C. Draper and John W. Hunt were appointed by the executive committee of the State Historical Society to obtain portraits of all of Wisconsin’s governors (the portraits can be seen on the Society’s web site). The last portraits, those of Tommy Thompson, Wisconsin’s longest-serving governor (1987 - 2001), and Arthur McArthur, the shortest-serving (four days in 1856), were completed in 2002. February 4, 1854

C. R. Cooley Daguerreotypes on Pinckney Street. Likenesses of sick or deceased persons taken at their residences. February 24, 1854

Lots on the Square sold this week for $61 and $85 per foot front. March 2, 1854

In 1848 Catholics built the wood-frame St. Raphael's Church at 222 West Main Street. Two-thirds of the founding parishioners were Irish, and one-third German and Austrian. Within a year, parishioners added a brick section. In April 1854 they began construction on a massive stone structure, and on May 29 Bishop Henni came from Milwaukee to lay the cornerstone. The church was completed in 1863, and the distinctive spire was added in 1881, designed at no charge by architect Stephen Vaughn Shipman.

In late April proposals were received for a state lunatic asylum, today known as Mendota Mental Health Institute, to be located near Madison. Construction began in late August.

Charles E. Morgan erected the main part of what became known as the Spring Tavern just west of the springs called Dogeerah by the Winnebago in 1854. Bricks were made in the brickyard across the road to the west (many years later Nakoma Road was routed east of the house). Morgan sold his home to the Daniel Gorham family in 1860, and they owned it until 1922, when they sold it to UW professor Dickson. A frequent visitor to the inn was young Robert La Follette. Morgan, who later sold dry goods on the Square, died on May 20, 1904. His funeral, held in his home, was attended by Senator John Coit Spooner and former Senator William Vilas.

Months earlier, in 1853, Frederick Paunack, a stonecutter from Saxony, built the stone portion of the Plough Inn at what is now 3402 Monroe Street. Construction continued in 1854. As late as 1926, the red brick section had not yet been covered with stucco.


Russia and Japan are at war; fighting rages around Port Arthur on land and at sea. 1904

A $45,000 Carnegie Library will be erected on Carroll Street. January 7, 1904

Coach Andrew O’Dea begins winter crew practice on rowing machines on the top floor of the gymnasium. January 7, 1904

Cass Gilbert of St. Paul, architect of the Minnesota Capitol, is selected as architect for the new Madison High School, beating in-town rival Claude & Starke. (For the next few weeks there was heated debate over whether Madison could afford such a costly high school). January 10, 1904

Governor Robert La Follette says no state employees can accept free railroad passes. January 23, 1904

A log house on the Caesar estate in the 1400 block of University Avenue is to be torn down. Built in 1849, it has been owned by same family the whole time. The house sits on three acres; 247 feet on University Avenue and 560 feet running back to Linden Drive. Once there were several log homes in the area. January 23, 1904

Israelite Sues for Divorce. Lewis Kailin, 29, is suing his wife Sarah, 22, for divorce on grounds of cruelty, alleging she called him names and made him cook his own meals and wash the dishes. January 27, 1904

The Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association is dredging the Yahara River so that it can be used by boats to pass between lakes. Dredging should be completed by June 1. January 28, 1904

Senator John Coit Spooner defended the canal route through Panama in Congressional debate. February 19, 1904

Economist John R. Commons, "A Great Acquisition," has been called to the UW. February 24, 1904

L. F. Schoelkapf, auto dealer in the Dexter Curtis building on East Main Street, expects some delivery wagons to be replaced by autos in the spring, likely gas or electric instead of the cheaper steam. Ford and Columbia’s have both increased $50 over last year. Autos will be lighter than last year, when they were so heavy that tires kept exploding. This year’s models feature, for the first time, glass "fronts," canopy tops, and curtains for the sides and back of the passenger area. Bikes will also be popular, and will cost between $20 and $30. February 24, 1904

The City Council has accepted a donation of land by Maria B. Burdick on West Main Street around Monona Bay. It will become parkland. February 27, 1904

University Heights house and lot for sale, two blocks from the 7th ward school, $3,000. March 16, 1904

Daniel K. Tenney, who was not present, is nominated by the Republican caucus for mayor when no one else, including incumbent Mayor Groves, will run. William Dexter Curtis, the Democratic candidate, is endorsed by Republicans and runs unopposed. Mayor Curtis sets office hours from 10:30 to noon daily, except Saturday. March 29 - April 9, 1904

A phone booth has been installed in the men’s waiting room at the train depot. A caller can place a nickel, dime or quarter in the slot and "central" will hear by the sound of the bell just what amount of money was dropped in the box. April 1, 1904

The Badger Building at the St. Louis World’s Fair is now complete. The Forty Thousand Club is soliciting photos for the exhibition. April 10, 1904

Varsity Girl Hazed. Miss Isabelle Menzies has been in danger of serious sickness as a result of hazing at Chadbourne Hall. She was annoyed by girls who tied a string of cans to a fire escape so they rattled in the wind near her window. She complained and as punishment the other girls tossed her in a blanket and tied her up in the top story of the building. She suffered great physical and mental pains. April 22, 1904

The US now has title to the Panama Canal. April 23, 1904

The UW has 3,151 students in its jubilee year. April 24, 1904

Entertainment in 1854

Madisonians were treated to a wide variety of entertainment in 1854.Venues included Fairchild’s Hall, the Capitol, the Courthouse, and various churches.

February 21: at Fairchild’s Hall, MacEvoy’s Grand Combined Panoramas of Ireland and Niagra Falls offers views of the principal cities of Ireland painted on 20,000 square feet of canvas. Each view will be "accompanied by characteristic vocal and instrumental music on the piano, harp, and violin by the celebrated musical prodigies the MacEvoy children. Miss Kate, 8, the great dramatic wonder of the age, will appear as Barney Bralleghan, the Irish guide, and will sing several comic and sentimental songs." Admission 25 cents, children 15 cents, reserved 35 cents.

March 14: at Fairchild’s Hall, the Simoneands Grand Concert. Performers will include Professor R. D. Simonds; Miss Mary Anne Simonds, the musical phenomenon who sings the songs of Jenny Lind and others exactly as composed for them; Miss Harriet Simonds, soprano and master of the violoncello; and Master Mozart Simonds, the infant drummer, 4 years old. 25 cents.

March 28: Dr. Loomis, his wife, and daughter Miss Martha, the most wonderful clairvoyant, appeared at the Courthouse. After being put into a clairvoyant state, Martha was blindfolded, then read cards, told time, and described persons around the hall.

May 8: the Peck family, vocalists and German Bell Ringers, at the Courthouse.

May 13: the first traveling tour of the Great Allied Troupes - the magnificent equestrian establishment of E. F. and J. Mabie, and the grand caravan of wild animals of E. Ganung and Company. This circus promised to be much better than last summer’s - Barnum’s Menagerie.

May 24: anti-slavery lecture at the Courthouse.

June 12: Madison Musical Society performing at the Courthouse; all songs in German.

June 30: Orton’s Badger Circus.

July 4: Franconi’s Hippodrome, with 60 male and female charioteers. The performance was attended by 5,000 people. The day was hot and oppressive, the streets dusty enough to cause serious annoyance. There were a number of sideshows, and "pickpockets were unusually industrious. Otherwise, the day passed without incident, and with less noise and drunkenness than usual." One female rider fell under her horse and was bruised and cut.

July 14: Professor Sands, ventriloquist, at Fairchild’s Hall.

July 24: georamic views of New York City and the Crystal Palace.

September 14: the Madison Musical Society.

September 21: the Young Harmonias.

October 4: Frederick Douglas, "the celebrated colored orator," spoke twice at the Courthouse. He was an eloquent speaker and addressed one of the largest meetings ever convened in Madison. His speech was calm, clear and strong. He had "one of the finest voices we have ever heard for public speaking."

October 14: Mr. and Mrs. Connor, tragedian and actress, in the basement of the Baptist Church.

November 3: Bailey Troupe in the Wells Block hall formerly occupied by the museum.

November 4: the Bakers, vocalists, at the Baptist Church.

November 8: lectures by Professor O. A. Brownson of Boston in the Assembly chamber on the Mission of the United States.

November 18: lecture by Reverend J. Mitchell, agent of the American Colonization Society, on African Colonization, at the Methodist Episcopal Church.

December 4: lecture by R. B. Bement on conditions in Egypt and Palestine, at the Baptist Church.

December 15: ice skating races on Lake Monona. $12 was hung on a bush. The eight competitors skated half a mile, turned around at a stake, and skated back. The first to grab the money from the bush won it. William Clark beat George Stoner by a rod in one minute 56 seconds. A second race, for $5, was won by a German named Hendricks in less than two minutes. There were about 150 skaters on the lake that day.

December 29: a return engagement by the Simoneands at the Courthouse.

1854 Looking back 1904

The first primitive steamboat, the Experiment, operated by N. A. Brown, was observed on the lakes. In his newspaper ad, which began appearing in July, he noted that the Experiment was originally designed more for freight than passengers. "It makes no pretense to elegance, but affords comfortable accommodations." Rates: parties of 20 or more across the lake and back, 25 cents; to the furthest point on the lake with a 30 minute landing, 50 cents; across the lake to the nearest point with a two hour landing, 50 cents; a circuit of the entire Fourth Lake without stopping, 50 cents.

McBride’s Point, 64 acres in all, was sold for $6,400 to Chauncey Hall of Northampton, Massachusetts, who plans to erect a home there. May 2, 1854

Robert Sully wrote Lyman Draper of the Wisconsin Historical Society about his plan to copy his portraits of Black Hawk and Pocahontas, which are in the Virginia Historical Society, for the Wisconsin Society. He noted that twenty years earlier he had created his Pocahontas from fragments of what was considered to be an original portrait. "She was dressed in those fragments in the absurd costume of James the First." He proposed recreating the portrait for the Society in accordance with actual Indian character. Sully wrote that he was bored with the state of art in Virginia and planned to move West (he actually died a year later while on his way to take up residence in Madison). Sully accepted a commission to paint three portraits: Black Hawk, His Son, and The Winnebago Prophet. May 4, 1854

On May 24 Augustus A. Bird, one of the commissioners who erected the first Capitol in Madison, was awarded the contract for the UW’s second building, now known as South Hall. The first, North Hall, had been occupied in 1851. Bird and his partner Jonathan Larkin commenced work on June 5. At the time the UW’s master plan consisted of the future Bascom Hall with its grass mall, flanked by two buildings to its right and two to its left.

Can Madison Support a Band? A band was organized a year ago, but the people of Madison have not given one cent to support it. It has cost band members $1,200 for instruments and such. July 10, 1854

Mr. Kruer will begin publishing the Staats Zeitung, a German paper, next week. August 5, 1854

Samuel Marshall put iron railings on the steps of the State Bank in Bruen’s Block. "There should be iron railings along the sidewalk-level windows of all businesses so that no one will fall in." August 8, 1854

The Capitol grounds were improved by Jimmy Halpin. He graveled the walks, put up a small stone building to hold the standard weights and measures distributed by Congress, re-laid the steps on the west wing, built a house to store wood, and began planning an ice house. He was preparing to construct four-foot wide stone walks to three of the gates. Editors of the Wisconsin Patriot called for two or more fountains to beautify the grounds and provide a source of water to control fires.

William and Anna Vilas donated 25 acres of land to the city to create Henry Vilas Park in honor of their son. The gift is conditioned upon using $10,000 in other donations to improve the land and construct a drive through the St. Clara Academy grounds along the lakeshore. May 3, 1904

Madison renames the Ward schools. First - Washington; Second - Lincoln; Third - Brayton; Fourth - Doty; Fifth - Draper; new Sixth - Marquette; old Sixth - Irving; Seventh - Lapham; northeast district - Hawthorne. May 4, 1904

Rapidly growing east side suburbs want saloonkeepers to abide by the law. They want stalls removed from saloons. "Women of no character frequent these places." Residents intend to stamp out this evil. There are five saloons, all under the jurisdiction of Blooming Grove. May 22, 1904

Letter to the editor: eight of ten UW students smoke. Male smokers blow smoke into the faces of their dates without a second thought. They would be upset if someone blew smoke into the face of their mothers or sisters. Smoking will soon be the UW’s most pressing problem. May 22, 1904

The new Gisholt Machine Company foundry on East Main just west of Baldwin is nearing completion. May 24, 1904

The first horse-drawn city ambulance is being built by the Madison Carriage works for $650. It is painted white with battery-powered electric lights inside. The sick will no longer need to be transported in the police wagon, which is also used for drunks. May 24, 1904

The tongue of the city ambulance broke while it was being moved from the Madison Carriage works to the Kentzler stables. It was immediately returned for repairs. June 11, 1904

Andrew O’Dea’s contract as crew coach has been extended for three years at $1,000 per year. He makes another $1,000 from the physical education department. He is also involved in football. His younger brother, Pat, was UW’s most famous football player. Andrew, a native of Australia, has been here about ten years. He invented the "yarra yarra" stroke. May 25, 1904

Walter Pyre, who resigned his position at the UW three years ago to form his own traveling stage company, will be in Madison on June 4. Fola La Follette plays his lead female roles. Esmerelda and Prince Karl will be presented. May 29, 1904

South Madison is prosperous. All houses are filled, the shoe factory is in operation, the Madison Sanitarium is attracting visitors, and Lakeside Street is being paved with gravel to the rail line to eliminate a sea of mud. June 9, 1904

The Grand Army of the Republic encampment is being held in Madison from June 14 to 16. Meetings will take place in churches, the courthouse, and the Opera House. There will be a reunion on the Capitol lawn and a pilgrimage to Camp Randall, capped with a campfire at the Gym. June 12, 1904

Ringling Brothers World’s Biggest Shows featuring the theme "Jerusalem and the Crusades" is coming June 25. There will be a parade at 10 each day. The circus consists of 85 double-long cars, 1,280 people, 650 horses, 40 elephants, 108 cages, and 40 clowns. June 12, 1904

A proposed ordinance requires the laying of concrete sidewalks in front of businesses around the Square. William Vilas, owner of the Park Hotel and the Pioneer Block, is prepared to comply. However, he, like others, would like the city to grade and pave the street first. June 15, 1904

There are 45 cases of typhoid at the Insane Asylum. Authorities think it is caused by sewage in Lake Mendota. People should avoid bathing in the lake. June 22, 1904

Ten saloons were denied liquor licenses on June 25 because of gambling activity on the premises. However, after a vote by the full Council, all 95 saloons that applied for licenses received them. June 28, 1904

The Askew Brothers have launched a new unnamed boat. The currently operate the Tonyawatha, Alice, and Monona A. July 7, 1904

Many hoboes are living in a grove near the Northwestern Road coal sheds just east of the Yahara. July 7, 1904

Spooning on church steps is again becoming a popular pastime for young couples. Several months ago this nuisance became annoying and Chief of Police Baker instructed his men to arrest all young folks who loiter on the steps of churches and schools. July 28, 1904

W. Z. Mendelson Company, which sell shoes and clothing at 11 S. Pinckney, will give a free gramophone to the first 500 customers who spend $10 in the store, plus a free Busy Bee molded record. August 2, 1904