The Neville Public Museum

The Neville Blog

H.C. Prange Co.: Bringing Back a Memory

Wednesday, November 30, 2016
I took my position as an intern hoping to grow and learn more in the field of museum work. I was blessed to do more than I ever expected at my first internship. During my time at the Neville my main task was to create and set up two photography exhibits, but I also completed many research requests as well as scanning photos for future exhibitions.

One of the two photography displays I created was During the Winter which features photographs of the H.C. Prange Co. department store. Coming into this process I had no idea what the store was, since the last store closed the year I was born. But after doing research and talking to members of the Neville staff and family members I was awed by the impression the store left on its visitors. H.C. Prange Co. was known for its magical window displays, especially during the holiday season.

Here are some of my favorite photos including H.C. Prange Co. and other winter scenes.

This window display is unique in that it is just spreading Christmas cheer and is not trying to sell specific products. 17.2006.10 Collection of the Neville Public Museum of Brown County This is one of the many window displays that featured animals having a joyful time in the snow.  17.2006.16  Collection of the Neville Public Museum of Brown CountyThis is a photo of H.C. Prange Co. in Green Bay in the 1970s decorated for the holiday season. 18.1988.612  Henry Lefebvre Collection of the Neville Public Museum of Brown CountyHorses and sleighs are not as easy to park as automobiles. At least it appears to be the case in this early 20th century image of the parking lot at H.C. Prange’s department store.  45.2004.100 Collection of the Neville Public Museum of Brown County 

I was able to learn so much about Green Bay’s pastime and the wonderful holiday joy the department store was able to spread.  Being able to set up the two exhibits was far more than I imagined doing. I am thankful that I was able to learn how to handle objects and photographs, scan photos, and prepare them for display. I even learned some history of Northeastern Wisconsin.

Explore Holiday Memories and During the Winter now through January 15, 2017!

Marissa Schroeder
Intern
UW-Whitewater

H.C. Prange Co. Mirror

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

This past JulPhoto Karl Vieau on Facebook y museum staff came across an interesting post on Facebook.  Karl Vieau, a former H.C. Prange Co. employee shared this photo of what looked like a circus mirror.

 

Karl asked "Does anyone remember the circus mirror on 2nd floor mezzanine, kids department at the H.C. Prange store downtown Green Bay?"

 

If you know anything about the museum’s holiday displays, you know we are home to more than 50 figurines that once graced the Washington St. windows at H.C. Prange Co. in downtown Green Bay.   Each year the museum puts together holiday displays with these figurines. The connection to the museum was obvious to us and to Facebook commenters.  Museum Director, Beth Lemke commented herself inviting Karl to contact her about moving it to the museum.  

 

After meeting with Karl it was clear how special this piece was to him and his memories of H.C. Prange.  He graciously donated it to the museum for our holiday display.   Now you can see the mirror for yourself right outside the Children Only Shop at the museum.  Dana Ostrenga bellying up to the fun circus mirror at H.C. Pranges Co., March 14, 1980

 

Holiday Memories is open November 18th through January 15th! 

 

 

The Monowheel Returns

Friday, September 30, 2016

 Working in a museum, I get to see plenty of interesting artifacts.  Some are more widely recognizable and well researched and others are much more mysterious.  One of our mysterious artifacts is this object- the wooden monowheel.    While there are other monowheels in collections across the country, this is the only known one made of wood rather than metal.  

What is a monowheel?

This rare artifact is a self-propelled mode of transportation, much like a unicycle.  The big difference is the rider sits on the wooden seat inside the big wheel.  The rider uses the hand cranks to move the inner smaller wheel which transfers motion to the larger outer wheel with the stars.  

What do we know about the monowheel?

This monowheel was collected by Frank Duchateau in the early 1900s.  He donated it to the museum in 1943. According to a letter received by Duchateau in 1922, the monowheel was made by a Mr. Rowe in the 1860s.  It was first exhibited at the old museum on the corner of Jefferson and Doty Streets and was kept on display when the museum moved here.  In 2014, the monowheel was conserved and traveled to Madison and Appleton to be included in the exhibit Shifting Gears: A Cyclical History of Badger Bicycling.

What don’t we know about the monowheel?

We know a little about the monowheel but we are still missing some key pieces of information.  Why did Mr. Rowe create the monowheel?  What was it used for?   Are there other pieces like the monowheel in other collections? 

The answer to all of these questions is – we don’t know.   We can speculate what the piece was used for but without more information we can never be sure.  However, just because we cannot be sure does not mean the monowheel is not important.  This one-of-a-kind artifact is an excellent example of how the museum has collected, displayed and cared for artifacts throughout the last century.  

The monowheel is now back at the museum and on exhibit in On the Edge of the Inland Sea.  Check it out for yourself!

Lisa Kain
Curator 

We're on Snapchat!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Exciting news! We’re on Snapchat!  Follow us by entering username NevilleMuseum or use our Snapcode!

You can expect to see artifacts, exhibits, historic photos, and events like you’ve never seen them before!  Get behind-the-scenes sneak peeks, see artifacts that aren’t currently on display, and see how we put a new twist on the museum!  







Reviving Rahr's Beer

Friday, September 16, 2016

Quietly sitting on a shelf in the Neville Public Museum’s permanent collection was a bottle of Rahr’s “Old Imperial Pale Beer.”  Known as the
 Aristocrat of Beer, this bottle caught my eye because it had never been opened.  This meant that its contents could be examined to see if it harbored live yeast cells that might be coaxed out of hibernation. I had met Professor David Hunnicutt, a microbiologist from St. Norbert College and got to talking about this possible project. He was willing to give it a try, provided all the permissions were granted from the museum to release the bottle and its contents.  On Friday September 9, 2016 we opened the bottle in the Microbiology and Immunology lab at St. Norbert College. 

The History of Rahr's Brewery

One hundred fifty years ago, Henry Rahr established a brew house on the corner of Main Street and N. Irwin Avenue in Green Bay known as the East River Brewery. It would become the largest and most well-known historic brewery in Green Bay. Following the death of Henry Rahr in 1891 the business was passed to his sons Henry Jr. and Frederick and became Henry Rahr & Sons Co. Prior to Prohibition (pre 1920) Rahr’s was producing 60,000 barrels of beer per year.  After Prohibition was repealed in 1933, the brewery was back in business and began pumping out “Standard,” “Special,” “Belgian” and “Old Imperial Pale Beer.”  In 1966 the company was sold to Oshkosh Brewing Co. Exactly 100 years after opening, Rahr’s Brewery was shut down.  The brewery buildings were demolished, leaving no trace behind except for Rahr’s merchandise, barrels, and bottles.

The Experiment 

Wearing a white lab coat, Professor Hunnicutt was ready to extract the roughly eighty-year-old beer from the bottle. Under a ventilation hood, I carefully pried the cap off and immediately heard the release of carbon dioxide.  This meant the bottle was properly sealed and its contents unspoiled. Stepping back, Dr. Hunnicutt and microbiology senior Alex Hupke inserted sterile pipets and transferred the beer into test tubes with various sugar solutions to invoke the yeast to regenerate. A portion was then decanted into a cylinder for testing the remaining sugars in the beer using a hydrometer.  Surprisingly, the resulting measurement of 5 °Plato (1.018) meant that a fair amount of sugar remained in the beer that was not fermented. The color of the beer appeared a little darker than expected, a deep yellow to light amber color. The odor exhibited a yeast and malt profile which was also a great sign as no sour aroma was detected.  Upon the writing of this article, the results of yeast growth are yet to be confirmed, but our fingers are crossed that something is still viable and therefore usable to ferment a new batch of beer.  If so, we’ll be using this (or a combination) of yeast in a forthcoming Neville Cellar Series recipe, that will be a clone of the Rahr’s “Old Imperial Pale Beer” developed in collaboration with Hinterland Brewery. Details can be found here: http://www.nevillepublicmuseum.org/neville-cellar-series 

Kevin Cullen
Deputy Director 


Our Mammoth Sculpture Has a Name!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


Thank you to everyone who voted on the name for our new mammoth sculpture!  After over 800 community votes our sculpture has been named Tundra!  

Tundra was created by Carl Vanderheyden in collaboration with John Koester and is made from three recycled 250 gallon heating oil tanks from the Green Bay area. Tundra stands 7 feet tall and weighs 750 pounds.  

We would like to extend a special thank you to the Romaine & Mary Schanock Family Foundation and Renco Machine Company for making this project possible.  


What’s the 411 on these ‘90s toys?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

In the last three weeks interning here at the Neville, I have been working on cataloging a collection donated by the Colburn family. ThNPM #2016.6.4e donor’s grandfather, Enos Colburn, served as President of the City Board of Park Commissioners in Green Bay from 1938 until his death in 1945. Colburn Park was renamed after Enos Colburn in 1956 in remembrance of his dedication and services to the environment.

Within the donated collection were two Beanie Babies, which were of particular interest to me. One can only imagine how silly I felt wearing gloves to hold a Beanie Baby that was ‘born’ just a year after I was! But using gloves to hold any object within the museum’s collection is best practice used by all museums no matter how old the object is. Although I felt odd using gloves to hold the Beanie Babies, I understood it was necessary for the object to stay in a condition that can last another 100 years.  It’s hard to think of our everyday objects as historical because we don’t consciously think that we are currently creating history.

Everyday objects such as Beanie Babies made history with their release in the early 1990s. The first Beanie Baby™ was released in 1993 and ultimately began the trend that had people collecting as many as they could get their hands on. The craze escalated when Ty Warner, owner of the company that distributNPM #1995.24.8bed the Beanie Babies, began to retire certain Beanie Babies. By 1995, this strategy pushed Beanie Babies as the most wanted toys in the country.

Along a similar vein would be the collecting of Mattel’s Barbie ™  Dolls. The Neville has a wide-ranging collection of dolls including many Barbies. One particular Barbie, the Masquerade Ball Barbie is 1 of 8 donated to the museum for an exhibit in 1995. The donor, Georgia Rankin collected around 2,000 Barbie Dolls between 1959 and 2000. Rankin said her reason for collecting the dolls stems from her belief that the dolls replicate how real world fashions change and teaches young girls they can grow up to be anyone they want to be.

Museums collect objects that tell a story about our history. Both Beanie Babies and Barbies reflect social movements before 2000. These kid’s toys were a large part of people’s lives and by keeping a couple of Beanie Babies and Barbies in the collection here in the Neville we have a part of that moment in history. If the object has made a large impact on the world, that is something that should be preserved for future generations to observe.
Visit the Neville Public Museum to see Beanie Babies “Speedy” and “Erin” from the Colburn collection and more from the 1990s.

Kylie LaCombe
Intern, University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point

Why Was Ebenezer Childs Left Out of Green Bay History?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Last month in Part I of this blog we introduced the colorful character of Ebenezer Childs.  Early in our research for Life and Death at Fort Howard we encountered this larger-than-life figure who was apparently involved in many of the “firsts” in Green Bay’s history.  Childs’ memoirs have been used as a source by countless researchers studying this time period, but no one has taken the time to learn more about Childs himself.  Unlike many of his contemporaries, Childs is unknown in Green Bay today and very little was written about him by the people that worked and lived with himLetter from Childs to his lawyer accusing his wife of having an affair (May 28, 1839), Neville Public Museum Collection .  

One of the unfortunate truths about working on exhibits like Life and Death at Fort Howard is that, eventually, you have to stop researching and start actually building the exhibit.  Our team had moved on to researching other aspects of the Fort Howard story when our Research Technician, James, made an unexpected discovery about Childs. 

This discovery was a letter written by Childs which was sent to Morgan L. Martin, his attorney.  (Read the letter here)  In the letter we learned that Childs had married into the prominent Grignon family and that his wife had recently given birth; however, Childs alleges that he is not the father of his wife Margaret’s child.  He names a man who he believes to be the father, and reveals that “one thing is certain… I can never live with my wife anymore.”  This revelation was shocking, as Childs had never mentioned a family in his memoirs.  We later found a reference to the Childs’ wedding in another source, but otherwise this letter was the sole indication that Childs had ever been married.

Recently we had a chance continue researching more about Childs and his life after Green Bay.  We utilized the Area Research Center at UW-Green Bay and were able to find marriage and birth certificates that back up the contents of this letter, along with a Childs v. Childs divorce file.  During the divorce Margaret Childs wrote a scathing and lengthy statement alleging that her husband was often intoxicated and “neglectful”.  

This letter may explain why we know so little of Childs; we can only assume that the divorce was an embarrassment to all involved, and after Childs left Green Bay it is reasonable to assume that it was not a topic of polite conversation.  Perhaps the residents of Green Bay avoided speaking of Childs, and that is why his name has not made it into the history books until now.  It is also quite possible that he was intentionally omitted from the record, essentially “erasing” him from history.

The thing that attracted me to Childs in the beginning was the sheer outrageousness of his claims mixed with an element of mystery.  As we continued to uncover his story, however, I began to think;  Is it really my place to expose this incident in the life of a man who lived 150 years ago that he himself would have preferred to stay secret?  As a historian I try to use the stories of the past to make sense of the present.  Ebenezer Childs was truly a “founding father” of Green Bay, and he deserves to be remembered as such.  Understanding this chapter of his life not only explains why he hasn’t been viewed in this light until now, but explains the decisions he made after his time in Green Bay.  It also reminds us that there are always two sides to every story and that as historians all we have to work with is what has been left behind.

Ryan Swadley

Museum Education

 

*Within two years of his divorce Ebenezer had left Green Bay, served as a state legislator, and spent his final days in La Crosse.  Further research will need to be done regarding Margaret and Louis, but it appears Margaret never remarried and lived near Kaukauna for the rest of her life.  We have not yet found any records of Louis.

Green Bay Ranger Coat Leaves for Conservation

Monday, August 15, 2016

You may have recently seen this coat in Life and Death at Fort Howard but you won’t find it there anymore.  Thanks to a grant from the Green Bay and De Pere Antiquarian Society, thMorgan L. Martin's Green Bay Ranger Coat,  ca. 1840 is week the coat is being sent to the Midwest Art Conservation Center for conservation.   But what makes this coat so special? 

This coat dates back to the 1840s and belonged to Morgan L. Martin.  Martin held several different posts in Green Bay including Indian Agent, Judge and Captain of the Green Bay Rangers.  This is Martin’s Green Bay Ranger jacket.

The preservation of this artifact is important not only because it belonged to Morgan L. Martin (1805-1887) but also because of its association with the Green Bay Rangers.  Martin came to Wisconsin in 1827 and became a prominent civic leader in the area.  In 1836, Governor of the Wisconsin Territory, Henry Dodge created an organized militia.  Gov. Dodge claimed that there was danger in the defenseless borders of the territory and that there were threats of armed conflicts with natives.   He proposed that there should be one company of cavalry troops in each territorial county.   March 5, 1837 may have been the first commissioning of a Wisconsin militia field commander as Dodge designated Morgan L. Martin as Captain of the Green Bay Rangers.  The Rangers were a mounted rifleman unit.  This is also believed to be the birth of the Wisconsin National Guard.  

This Green Bay Rangers co Areas of loss on the exterior of the coat tails at has been in the museum’s care since 1935.  While we’ve taken care of the coat for over 80 years, time sometimes takes its toll on textiles, leaving areas of loss (the holes you see).  Conservation will keep these areas from getting bigger and preserve the structural integrity of the jacket.  The conservation team will also create a pattern of the coat which will help us create a replica in the future.  Both the conservation and pattern help us preserve this piece of Green Bay history for future generations. 

This project would not have been possible without the Green Bay and De Pere Antiquarian Society.  We thank them for their shared interest in preserving our local history.  The coat will return to Life and Death at Fort Howard in January 2017!

 

Lisa Kain

Curator

The Moon: A Dangerous Place?

Monday, July 18, 2016
The moon seems like such a familiar place these days.  We know how big it is, what it is made of, the atmosphere around it and its relationship to the Earth.  Now think back fifty years.  Scientists during the 1960s had no idea what the moon was like.  Was there a solid surface?  Was there a layer of dust on that surface?  If there was a layer of dust, how deep was that layer?  Was it a couple of feet deep or a couple of hundred feet deep?  If the United States was going to send a man to the moon, these were the kinds of questions that needed to be answered.

Segment aired on WBAY in September 1963, Neville Public Museum Collection 

I had the opportunity of working with the film held in the museum’s collection.  Here I was able to see just how unknown the moon was and NASA's thoughts on their ten year plan and budget for sending a man to the moon.


NASA spent billions of dollars making and launching rockets, satellites, space probes and space crafts into space in order to gather information.  Every one of their programs was essential to the United States’ goal of a landing a man on the moon.  Each program was made to teach the scientists something new about space and the moon.  

Space Programs:
Mercury: 1958-1963
Project Mercury was for sending a man into the Earth’s orbit.  This would help scientists learn how the Earth’s atmosphere works and how to send a man into space and return him safely.  Alan Shepard was the first American man to be launched into space and John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth.
Astronaut John Glenn  responds to letter from a local resident, Neville Public Museum Collection
Echo: 1960
The Echo project was used for improving communication knowledge.  

Gemini: 1961-1966
The Gemini Project was intended to learn space travel techniques that would help with the actual moon landings.

Lunar Orbiter: 1966-1967
The Lunar Orbiter Program was a handful of unmanned space crafts sent to the moon to take pictures and help narrow down landing spaces for the future Apollo missions.

Surveyor: 1966-1968
The Surveyor Program’s mission was to send satellites to land on the moon.  This would help determine the kind of surface there was on the moon so then when the time came to send astronauts there, they would know they could land safely on the surface.

Apollo: 1961-1972
The Apollo Program’s purpose was to use all of the information gathered from the previous programs to send a man to the moon, walk on the moon and then return safely home.  On this day in 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts landed and walked on the moon.  In 1971, Apollo 15 astronauts were able to drive on the moon.
1971: Apollo 15 astronaut standing next to the Lunar Rover Vehicle on the moon. Neville Public Museum Collection #7636

It is hard to think that the moon was once an unknown, scary place to not only the public but to scientists as well.  Years and years of intense research went in to determining if space travel was even possible and if a moon landing could be on the long list of future goals.  Fortunately, with dedicated scientists constantly researching, the United States was able to remove the fear of the moon and send astronauts to walk on it.  Since then, NASA has been developing new technology to further their knowledge of space.  This technology is how we are able to learn information about the planets, stars and galaxies and how we are able to view amazing pictures of the incredible Space.


Visit Eyes on the Sky: July 16-November 6, 2016

Andrea Schroeder
UW-Green Bay Intern

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