The Neville Public Museum

The Neville Blog

Who is Ebenezer Childs?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016
The best part about history is that no matter how much you think you know, there’s always something more to every story.  We’ve been learning that lesson again herEbenezer Childs 1856  From the Wisconsin Historical Societye at the Neville Public Museum as part of our research into Fort Howard and the early foundations of Green Bay.  Wealth and power, marriage and divorce, drunkenness and defiance, and even an alleged affair and paternity scandal come together in the story of Ebenezer Childs.

Over a year ago, when we began our initial research for our exhibit Life and Death at Fort Howard, we naturally looked to our collections from the prominent “founding fathers” of Green Bay.  Men like Morgan L Martin, Henry Baird, and many members of the Grignon family were all connected with the first settlers in Green Bay.  However, we kept coming across a man named Ebenezer Childs, who was mentioned throughout many official records and personal correspondences, but who he was and what he did was never really explained.  Using books and articles that researchers before us had written we finally identified this character, and even found that he had written a very short autobiography.

Childs’ memoirs were the piece of the puzzle we needed…or so we thought.  He writes of his many exploits; some as simple as building the first framed home in Green Bay, building the first ox yolk here, partnering with John Arndt to build the first sawmill in the area, and even claiming to have brought the first piece of lead to Green Bay.  Other tales, such as how he eluded the authorities of the fort to illegally sell alcohol to the soldiers, survived harrowing journeys to St Louis and Madison, and outran tax collectors as a young man in his home state of Massachusetts are more fanciful.  However, in a letter to his lawyer, Morgan L Martin, we discovered a whole side of Childs’ life that he did not share in his remembrances.
Ebenezer signs the letter he wrote to his lawyer Morgan L. Martin in 1839.  This letter revealed an unknown part of his life and his connection to a prominent family in Green Bay.
As historians, the case of Ebenezer Childs reminds us of two things.  First, the process of doing history is messy and murky.  Researchers in the present day can only use the sources that have not been destroyed or lost.  Who knows how many stories, people, and events have been forgotten simply because no record of them survives?  The second lesson is that you can’t always believe everything you read.  Childs makes many claims in his own autobiography, but we can also prove he left many things out.  Neither a modern day Facebook profile nor a 150 year old autobiography can tell us the complete story of a person’s life, and it’s easy for the writer to embellish, omit, or simply misremember the facts.

Stay tuned for Part II of this blog, where we reveal the scandals that may have caused Ebenezer Childs to have been “erased” from history.  Or, even better, visit Life and Death at Fort Howard to discover what we know about Childs’ life.  And even better than that, visit us on Wednesday, August 17 at 6:00 p.m. for our Exhibits Exposed program, where we will share new information about Childs that has been discovered even after the exhibit opened along with additional artifacts and stories about the people of early Green Bay.

Frank Hermans of Let Me Be Frank Productions will be bringing the vivacious character to life this weekend only at the museum.  For more information and tickets visit Ticket Star.  

 

Ryan Swadley 

Museum Education

Public Archaeology at the Site of Fort Howard

Friday, May 27, 2016

On May 20th  and 21st I had the pleasure of leading a public archaeological survey at the site of the historic military site, Fort Howard, in downtown Green Bay. Thanks to special permission from Brent Weycker, owner of Titletown Brewery, we were allowed to set up a survey area behind the brewery along the railroad tracks.  Based on historic maps and previous research, this area is thought to be the location of the southeast section of the former fort.  

More than one hundred people came out both days to learn about the fort’s history and the technology being used to locate it.  Although we know the approximate location of the fort we do not know exactly where the stockade or any of the buildings stood.  The main technology used in the survey was the museums’ Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR). 

GPR is a technology that uses radio waves to “look” into the earth without digging.  The radio waves bounce off of buried objects and are captured on a computer chip.  After the survey area is mapped the data can be sliced in layers using special computer software.  This can reveal patterns that might give clues to the size and shape of buried features and how deep these features are located.

Over the course of the 2 days, 3 survey grids were collected with a total area of 5,433 cubic feet.  The depth that the GPR was looking was just over 6 feet deep.  After processing the data, it was clear that there is large amount of disturbance in the first 2 feet or so, likely from the past hundred years of railroad activity. However below 2 feet things got interesting. 

GPR Maps showing anomalies at 1.2 meters below the surface.  Red and Green shaded areas indicate buried objects / features.

Around 3 feet below the surface, a series of anomalies appeared in all of the survey grids we collected.  Once the grids were stitched together at the same depth, a pattern emerged that strongly points to these anomalies as being human-made and possibly associated with the historic Fort Howard.   At this time we cannot confirm that what the GPR is showing us is the fort but if there was to be a controlled archaeological excavation, we can recommend an exact location to dig.  Known as “ground truthing,” an excavation would prove if what we’re seeing are the remains of wall foundations or something else.  Aerial view of the Fort Howard Military Post prior to its demolition, ca. 1867

In the meantime, we hope to continue surveying the area behind Titletown Brewery, and hopefully beyond, in order to piece together a much larger understanding of Fort Howard.  If the patterns in the data below one meter continue, then it will make for a compelling case that we have located the foundations of the fort that made Green Bay American.  

I will be presenting the findings of our GPR survey at a special Hardcore History event on August 9th at 6pm.  If you want to learn more about the history of the site and Fort Howard’s influence on Green Bay visit our current exhibit Life and Death at Fort Howard open through April 2017! 

Kevin Cullen

Deputy Director

Mammoth Sculpture Naming Contest

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Meet the newest addition to the Neville Public Museum grounds!  This mammoth created by local artist Carl Vanderheyden, is made from recycled steel oil tanks and found objects.  These materials and the process create a signature style that can be seen throughout Brown County and across the nation.  In this sculpture, his largest creation to date, Vanderheyden captures the strength and movement of an extinct creature.  The mammoth joins our other outdoor sculptures including Mama and Baby Bones, our signature dinosaurs.  

We are so excited about this public art piece but it’s yet to be named.  We are opening naming up to our visitors!  All you have to do is take a picture of or with our mammoth and post it on a public Instagram account with the #NevilleMammoth.  Include your name suggestion and feel free to get creative!  Please be respectful of the artist’s hard work by not climbing or hanging on the piece.

Name suggestions will be taken until August 7th.   The top 5 names will be chosen and put to public vote in the month of August.  You can also submit your photograph and suggestion by emailing art@nevillepublicmuseum.org. 

We can’t wait to see your photos and name suggestions!

Local Protests of the Kent State Shootings

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

 Protestors gather in Green Bay 4 die at Kent StateRichard Nixon ran for President in 1968 with the promise that he would end the Vietnam War. However, on April 30, 1970, President Nixon announced on live television and radio that the United States would be invading Cambodia. This led to many protests on campuses across the country. Protestors at Kent State University in Ohio launched a demonstration on Friday May 1st including various types of rallies and speeches. That evening, socializing in downtown Kent quickly escalated into a violent confrontation between protestors and police which included building bonfires, stopping cars, throwing bottles at police cars, and breaking store windows. This prompted the Mayor of Kent, Leroy Satrom, to contact the governor of Ohio requesting assistance from the Ohio National Guard. On May 3rd, approximately 1,000 National Guard soldiers were sent to the Kent State campus and tensions remained high.   During an incident on May 4, 1970, members of the Ohio National Guard opened fire into a crowd of Kent State University demonstrators, killing four and wounding nine.

 

Demonstrators march in downtown Green Bay

This tragic incident caused more unrest across the country. Almost five hundred colleges were shut down or disrupted by protests. More than 100,000 people demonstrated against the war in Vietnam and the killing of unarmed students in Washington D.C. just five days after the shooting. The events at Kent State have been referenced in documentaries, plays, film and television, and music. One of the best known responses to the deaths at Kent State was the protest song “Ohio” written by Neil Young for Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Students march across the Claude Allouez Bridge from De Pere to Green Bay

Opposition to the Vietnam War and the events at Kent State led to protests here in Wisconsin as well. People in Green Bay also participated in demonstrations. These photographs were taken for the Green Bay Press Gazette on May 6, 1970 and show demonstrations in the area related to the Kent State shootings.  See more photographs at photos.nevillepublicmuseum.org.

Lure of the Ocean with Exhibition Director, Mike Rivkin

Friday, March 11, 2016

Last night the tour director of Lure of the Ocean, Mike Rivkin was able to visit the exhibit during its opening reception.  We had the opportunity to chat with Mike about his passion for the artwork    

How did you become involved with the SStanley Meltzoff Underwatertanley Meltzoff Foundation?

I’ve always been a fisherman by trade, frequently going on sea fishing trips. While attending school in New York in the Late 1970s I walked into a gallery hosting a show by Stanley Meltzoff. I was mesmerized by the pieces and began following Stanley’s work.  After selling my mail order business in 2004, I was looking to purchase an art piece and immediately remembered the work I had seen at Stanley’s gallery show. I went to the Stanley Meltzoff website to inquire about purchasing a painting. To my surprise, I actually received an e-mail back from Stanley Meltzoff himself. Sadly, Stanley passed away later that year; however, I became friends with his family and continued to purchase and collect Stanley’s artwork.
Secrets of Arcimboldo's Reef, Stanley Meltzoff
Which painting in the exhibition is your favorite?
All of the pieces in the exhibition are great but my two favorites are Bluefin Tuna and Ballyhoo and Secrets of Arcimboldo's ReefBluefin and Ballyhoo is one of Stanley’s most powerful works. The painting’s realistic representation of the Bluefin tuna as the apex predator that I know it to be makes it one of my favorites. I also enjoy Secrets of Arcimboldo's Reef because of its sheer beauty. It is a gorgeous representation of marine life and it is the personification of seeing this fish in person.

Why should people in Green Bay come to see Lure of the Ocean?

People should come and see this exhibit because although there are other marine artists, none of them are able to paint these fish as realistically as Stanley Meltzoff.  Meltzoff created his works with such realism that it is as if you are seeing them in their habitat. I understand that, here you are not near the ocean, but people in the area may never have the opportunity to see these fish in real life.  Coming to see Stanley Meltzoff’s work is about as close as you can get.

Bluefin Tuna and Ballyhoo, Stanley Meltzoff

 

One thing worth repeating is that he is not an artist nor does he consider himself an art specialist.  His is an avid lover of deep sea fishing and marine life.  This is what drew him into Stanely’s work and now he travels sharing these pieces of art with people around the nation.   See the works yourself and explore oceanic life through these inspired pieces.  Lure of the Ocean is open through May 8th.  

Is Barbie Crying?

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

 

Here at the Neville Public Museum we care for an extensive doll collection.  This collection houses dolls from around the world including Barbie dolls.  The Barbies in our collection range in date from the 1950s through the 1990s.  Through time the materials used to make barbies changed.  Here are a few examples from our collection.

This Barbie was received as a gift from the Neville Public Museum Corporation.  It was purchased from Georgia Rankin, a Barbie collector from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin in the 1960s.  The black and white swimsuit worn by the doll is the original outfit traditionally worn by dolls manufactured from 1959-1961.  

 

 

This picture shows one of the newer Barbies in our collection.  It's a part of the Hollywood Legends Collection/Collector's Edition and represents Glinda the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz.  

Although both of these dolls were manufactured by the same company, they were created using different materials.  This means we have to care for these dolls in different ways.  Glinda the Good Witch was manufactured in the 1990s and was donated in her original box.  The change in plastic used in manufacturing allows us to store the doll in regular collections storage.  

 

The Barbie from Georgia Rankin is not stored with the other dolls in our collection; she is actually stored in collections cold storage with lower humidity.  This is because the doll was made using earlier plastics. 

The plastics used for Barbie dolls manufactured in the 1950s and early 1960s used PVC, which is brittle.  In order to make Barbie flexible, they added a plasticizer when the doll was being molded.  As these dolls age, the plasticizer can ooze out of the doll and form a tacky slime across the surface.  This is why some dolls can appear to be wet.  Warm and humid environments can cause the oozing to occur earlier.  By storing some of our Barbies in cold storage we are able to slow this process and preserve them longer. 

James Peth, Research Technician 

Neville's Collection of Cat Art

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The arrival of Feline Fine: Art of Cats has us excited here at the museum.  Avid cat lovers have already shared almost 1,000 photos for our #NevilleCats Instagram contest!  Next week the top 12 photos will be chosen for a special photography exhibit in our lobby.    Other photos will be selected for digital display in Feline Fine!  

Beyond looking at all those cute cat photos, I wanted to know more about what type of cat art we had stored away in our collection.  I’m happy to share what I found!

Defiance by Rosetta (2000.42.1)

 

This bronze tiger was a part of a previous exhibit, Art and the Animal in 2000.  This piece has been exhibited across the country and has even been displayed in Italy.  The piece was purchased in honor of Neville Public Museum board member, Fred Baer.   Rosetta has four bronze sculptures on display in Feline Fine.  

 

 

Cat Figurine (1990.61.17)

This house cat figurine came to the museum in 1990 from the Hazelwood Historic House Museum.  It is a casting of a cat created in Boston in the first half

of the 20th century.  Our card catalog states the piece was “used by the Hazelwood caretaker”.   

 

 

 

 

 

Untitled by O. Dickenson, 1846 (1997.114.4)

 

This painting also came to the museum from Hazelwood Historic House Museum.  Hazelwood (built in 1837) was home to Morgan L. Martin and his family.  This painting comes from this home but it’s hard to say if it hung while the Martin’s lived there.  Either way it lends to our cat art theme! 

We have more cat themed fun coming up this spring, including two cat adoptions with the Bay Area Humane Society.  We are also partnering with Cats Anonymous and Bay Area Humane Society for our Exhibits Exposed on March 16th.  This event will feature the pieces mentioned here and our mummy cat!    

Also during the run of Feline Fine visitors can help out the Bay Area Humane Society and get half-price admission to the museum by bringing in any item (not just cat-related!) from the BAHS wish list.  Half-price admission with donation is available Tuesday-Friday from March 6th through April 17th! 

 

Lisa Zimmerman, Curator

An Undelivered Love Letter

Thursday, February 11, 2016
With the opening of Life and Death at Fort Howard right around the corner, I thought what better time than Valentine’s Day to share a love letter from Fort Howard written in 1826.  Unfortunately, this letter isn’t all hugs and kisses.  Lt. Loring’s “dear Caroline” never received this letter that was given to John Lawe for delivery. 

Caroline, the 16 year old daughter of the fort’s Commanding Officer, Major William Whistler, was being courted not only by Lt. Loring, but also Lt. Bloodgood.   In the end Caroline never received the letter and married Lt. Bloodgood.  This water stained letter in our collection is all the remains of Lt. Loring and Caroline Whistler's short lived romance.    

Read the letter for yourself below! 

  Letter to Caroline Whistler from Lt. Loring (Martin Papers)

 

Fort Howard, Sunday morning
My dear Caroline,
        
A short time before I left this place I mentioned to you that Mr. Bloodgood had said to me that he was desirous of speaking to me on a particular subject & that I thought it was concerning you and myself this turned out to be the fact for on the day previous to our regiment’s starting, he in conversation with me stated his feelings toward you & wished to know from me positively our situation in regard to each other, at the same time disavowing any wish to supplant me in your esteem or affection- he was so frank in his avowal & remarks- that I was led to declare to him what I did then & must still believe to be the fact- that I considered myself bound and engaged to you by every tie that could possibly bind a man of honor to the woman he loved & that nothing but your father’s consent was in the way of our being united before I left the bay- he appeared satisfied and requested permission to mention the conversation to your parents and yourself, as he thought it necessary to account you and them for discontinuing his visits and attentions which from regard to me he intended doing.  I told him I had no objection to his telling you what I had said- but being fearful that your mother would be offended and probably make your time more disagreeable, I requested him not speak to your parents on the subject & continue his visits as usual.


Yesterday he walked out with me and told me that he had spoken to you on the subject a few days after I left- & that you stated to him the amount of what follows-  “That you did not consider that there was any engagement between us- that I had formerly been very attentive to you, but for some time past had neglected you very much- that your parents had objected to your marriage with me & for this reason & your having been advised by your friends not to connect yourself with me, you had concluded that we never should be married & in fact considered me as only a common acquaintance”  

The above, Caroline, is as near as I can recollect the amount of what he told me- but I shall make no comment upon it for I cannot unless I hear from yourself believe that you are so much altered- there must have been some mistake.  

I must see you if possible Caroline & immediately, therefore I wish you to make some arrangement to pass the evening from home& inform me what I shall meet you- say at the doctor’s, or you might walk in the garden with Rachel and your Cousin Abbot-

Nothing that may happen will ever change my feeling towards you & believe me my dear girl,
        Yours as truly as ever,

        H.H. Loring

Lisa Zimmerman, Curator

The Murder of Lt. Foster and His Frock Coat

Friday, February 05, 2016
In our core exhibition On the Edge of the Inland Sea, you can get lost in all the stories and artifacts between the mastodon and the 1908 Holsman Car.  But one thing that caught my eye, even before becoming the curator, was a blue military coat tucked in a corner by the “Fort Howard” section of the exhibit.   Behind the Fort Howard in "On the Edge of the Inland Sea"coat is a sketch of a man pointing a musket at another man and below is a small label with a story.   The story of the coat’s owner's fate is captivating.  But the stories untold in the exhibit are even more remarkable.    

The first part of the story is what you find in the exhibit on the second floor of the museum.  The young U.S. Army lieutenant who wore this coat 185 years ago died in it. Lt. Amos Foster was shot and killed by one of his own soldiers, Private Patrick Doyle.   In February 1832, Doyle was detained in the guardhouse for being drunk and disorderly.   Alcohol consumption was a real problem at Fort Howard, especially since part of the soldier’s rations included two gills of whiskey or rum (the equivalent of four shots today).   After a few days, on February 7, 1832, Doyle persuaded a guard to escort him to the Lt. Foster’s quarters to talk to him.  After harsh words and a scuffle Doyle stole the guard’s musket and killed Lt. Foster.  Doyle was immediately arrested.  He was tried and sentenced to death in July of 1832.  It is said Doyle was hanged outside the stockade wall of the fort for all to see. 
Painting of Fort Howard from 1899 by B. Ostertac (#2704/1757)

My big question when I started to look at the coat more closely was how do we know?  How do we know what happened and the supposed words exchanged between Lt. Foster and Doyle?  How do we know this was Lt. Foster’s coat?  After I started pulling at this thread I found there is far more to this story than has been told in that label on the 2nd floor.  After digging through historical documents, different stories of the incident were revealed.  Interesting tales of Doyle’s time while he was incarcerated and even a ghostly haunting of the officer’s quarters are mentioned in people’s memoirs.  


Beyond historical documents the coat itself can tell you another part of the story.  It reveals Lt. Foster’s role in society while he wore it (a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Infantry based on the coat construction and rank insignia).  It can also share insight to his early demise.  We can clearly see where the bullet entered and exited.  We can see loss of wool from blood staining.  It is also probable the surgeon at the time, Dr. Clement Finely, tried to get at the wounds quickly.   The bottom 7 buttons appear to have been cut off, probably because they were buttoned at the time of the murder. 


   
 
The coat Lt. Foster was wearing when he was murdered on February 7, 1832 (#1988.78.1)
 Entry point of the bullet that killed Lt. Foster

Now if you look at the photograph of the coat on exhibit in our main gallery on the second floor, you may notice it has all of its buttons.  That’s because the one on exhibit there is a replica.  Why would we not put the real thing out?  Because of all the coat has been through.  It has been through 19th century Wisconsin winters, a gunshot, blood stains, and several years in an attic in Texas.  That is why the exhibit team is beyond excited to pull the real thing out of storage for Life and Death at Fort Howard.  Not only will the coat be displayed for the first time at the Neville, but the team has created exciting new ways of explore the coat and Lt. Foster’s story. 

There is so much more we can and will share about this special artifact but nothing beats seeing the real thing.  Life and Death at Fort Howard is open through April 9, 2017!

Lisa Zimmerman
Curator 

    

Exhibits Exposed

Tuesday, January 12, 2016
One of my favorite things about working at the Neville is that there is always something new to see or do at the museum.  This past year we’ve borrowed two great exhibits (Spies, Traitors, and Saboteurs and Extreme Deep:  Mission to the Abyss), developed a great exhibit about local history (Building Our Community: 100 Years of Architecture and Design), and hosted several art exhibits showcasing works from the region and beyond. 

When our team met recently to discuss ideas for 2016, one of our goals was to find new ways to provide our visitors with unique, one-of-a-kind experiences.  In response, we developed a new program series called “Exhibits Exposed,” which will take place the third Wednesday evening of each month, starting at 6:00.  In this program you’ll join one of our experts on staff for a tour of a featured exhibit, and learn some of the facts and stories that didn’t make it onto the labels.  Then, you’ll have a chance to view some iconic artifacts pulled from our collection that are usually not available to the public.

My colleagues and I are very excited for the chance to share these rarely-heard stories, and even more rarely-seen artifacts from the Neville’s amazing collection.   We hope you’ll be able to join us for these intimate and lively discussions.

 

 

Exhibits Exposed Schedule
January 20:  Iroquois Beadwork and Sisters in Spirit
February 17:  The Fur Trade in Green Bay
March 16:  Feline Fine and the Art of Cats
April 20:  Stories of Life and Death at Fort Howard
May 18:  Art and Artists of Green Bay
June 15:  The Ice Age is Coming
July 20:  Interstellar Overdrive – Eyes on the Sky
August 17:  More of Life and Death at Fort Howard
September 21:  Frozen Green Bay
October 19:  Haunted Wisconsin
November 16:  Holiday Memories

All programs take place the third Wednesday evening of each month at 6:00 and are free with regular museum admission.  Sessions will be capped to ensure a personalized experience; additional sessions will start on the half hour as needed.

Ryan Swadley
Education Specialist

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