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The History of Rahr's Brewery
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Last March I was offered the amazing opportunity to join the staff of the Neville as the Research Technician. From helping launch our online image collection Snapshots in Time, to planning youth and adult programs, and to working with our team on the upcoming Life and Death at Fort Howard exhibit, I’ve learned a lot about the museum itself and about the community of Green Bay. Being from the Madison area I was aware of the Neville and the role Green Bay played in state history (and of course the Packers), but over the past 8 months my family and I have come to learn what a great place to live this really is. I’m excited to share that I’ve recently been offered the chance to continue my career path here at the Neville by moving into the Education and Events Coordinator position. I look forward to many more years of providing my friends and neighbors with the types of experiences that make the Neville such a valuable and unique resource.
In this new role I hope to support the Neville’s mission of “Bridging Communities, Connecting Generations” by finding the best ways to serve the many groups and audiences we have here in Brown County. In the coming months we will be rolling out a handful of new program series’ for kids, families, and adults, and will continue to make changes to our school and youth programs to better fit the needs of educators. We’ll also be developing programs for scouts, planning summer camps, and making ourselves available for outreach education beyond the museum’s walls. I look forward to continuing to be part of the exhibit design team where I’ll work to develop interactive and hand’s-on elements for our exhibits that will bring them to life for visitors of all ages.
I can’t say “thank you” enough to my colleagues, new friends, and the community of Green Bay for being so welcoming to my family and me. I can’t wait to return the favor through my work here at the Neville Public Museum.
Ryan Swadley, Education and Events Coordinator
Approximately 71% of Earth’s surface is covered with water and yet only about 5% of it has been documented by humans. Water is vital to life as we know it, yet, we know so very little about what exists in our oceans, seas, or lakes. Similarly, we know little about how these water systems behave, effect climate, or what secrets they harbor. Fortunately, over the past century scientists and explorers have begun to access the mysterious depths of our oceans and Great Lakes thanks to advances in technology.
At the Neville Public Museum, we are revealing these mysterious worlds through exhibits and public programs. Whether it is shipwrecks, submarines, or sea creatures that interest you, we invite your whole family to come and participate in this exciting adventure taking place in downtown Green Bay. The following exhibits and programs are being offered at the museum.
September 19, 2015 – January 6, 2016
Come face-to-face with the last frontier - the deep sea. Meet Alvin, JASON and Remus, state-of-the-art robotic explorers that will take you on extreme deep adventures. There you’ll discover bizarre fish and tour sunken ships.
Shipwrecks of the Fox River
September 19, 2015 – January 6, 2016
This exhibit displays through photographs the removal of nine tugboats, barges and dredges that were extracted from the Fox River between 2013 and 2014. For more than three-quarters of a century, these workhorses of Green Bay’s early shipping days lay sunken in the Fox River Shipwreck Graveyard.
Navigating our Waterways
September 19, 2015 – January 6, 2016
This series of photographs and historic shipping ledgers illustrates the variety of vessels that worked Green Bay’s waters in pursuit of commerce and recreation. Whether they were schooners, tug boats, barges, or freighters, they all played a role in the development of this city’s landscape.
Saturday, October 17, 2015 11 am - 3 pm
All Hands on Deck for Hands-on Fun! Science activities, crafts, demonstrations, and games will be available at the museum for all ages. Learn about Scuba Diving and Wisconsin’s shipwrecks, Listen to pirate-themed stories and meet Pirate Pete for photo opportunities. Regular admission rates apply.
This series evening lectures brings some of the leading experts in their fields of Great Lakes research to the Neville Public Museum. These lectures are free and begin at 6pm.
October 6: Deep Water Archeology by Tamara Thomsen, underwater archaeologist for the Wisconsin Historical Society
October 13: The Great Lakes: Their Future by Val Klump, Director of the Great Lakes WATER Institute
October 20: Climate Change and the Great Lakes by Julia Noordyk, Coastal Storms and Water Quality Specialist
Saturday October 10th (10am – 4pm)
This annual event brings together underwater archaeologists, maritime historians, and divers, for a day of presentations about maritime history and underwater archaeology in Wisconsin waters and beyond. Registration is $20 and is open to the public.
Kevin Cullen, Deputy Director
Preservation of historic buildings is a tough task that takes the cooperation of the Historic Preservation Commission and building owners. On Tuesday night a group of Green Bay residents experienced this first hand when they joined Alderman Mark Steuer for a special walking tour of the Fort Howard neighborhood after his talk on Architecture, Planning, and Politics at the museum.
Walking through the old homes in the different districts in Green Bay is a nostalgic experience that can speak to the building of our city and the development of our community. During the walk on Tuesday night, Steuer and company spoke with homeowners and were even invited into the original Blesch home in the Fort Howard Neighborhood on N Oakland Ave. This Greek Revival style home, built in 1905, is a rare find in Green Bay. The current homeowners spoke of the challenges in owning a historic home. When the home was bought in foreclosure a few years ago the homeowners had to go before the planning commission to talk about the repairs they were taking on.
Another home which has gone through a similar transformation is the old Joannes home on S Madison St. in the Astor Neighborhood designed in 1902 for Mitchell and Fannie Joannes. This Queen Anne style home, which was previously used as a multifamily home, was bought and renovated to reflect its original design. A 360° virtual tour of this home can be found in the current exhibit Building Our Community along with the original designs and floor plans.
There’s no shortage of beautiful historic buildings in our community. After collecting designs, histories and photographs of these structures with the help of the Berners-Schober Architectural Firm we decided to put together walking tours that people can do on their own to enjoy these historic buildings outside of a museum gallery. We hope that one beautiful day you’ll take a tour of Downtown, the Allouez Neighborhood, the Astor Neighborhood, or the Fort Howard Neighborhood and enjoy the historic beauty that surrounds us in Green Bay.
You can download these tours on our website or visit our Google Map site here. You can also find them and many more buildings in the current exhibit Building Our Community: 100+ Years of Architecture & Design in Brown County open through March 26, 2016.
Upcoming Building Our Community Events
August 5th- More dates TBD
$30 members, $40 non-members
August 11th at 7pm
This summer the Neville Public Museum is proud to host two amazing temporary exhibitions; Spies, Traitors, and Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America on loan from the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C, and Building Our Community: 100 Years of Architecture and Design in Brown County, which was created in collaboration with architects from Berners-Schober Associates.
As if the exhibits weren’t enough, the Neville is providing the following free public programs that explore the themes within our galleries in greater detail!
Architecture, Planning, and Politics
Tuesday, July 14, 2015, 7:00 p.m.
Alderman Mark Steuer will discuss the development of the Fort Howard and Broadway districts, and the efforts of the Historic Preservation Commission to protect and maintain the city’s historic structures. After the program join Mark for a walking tour of Fort Howard!
America's Most Infamous Terrorist Organization Goes Mainstream: The Ku Klux Klan Marches Down Pennsylvania Avenue
Tuesday, July 21, 2015, 6:00 p.m.
Join UW-Baraboo/Sauk County professor Mike Jacobs for a presentation about the Ku Klux Klan, America's most infamous and formidable terrorist organization. During the 1920s the KKK tried to cast itself as the true expression of American patriotism and the American people. Millions of people agreed - joining the organization and diversifying their activities beyond their reputation of intimidation and violence.
Fear, Freedom, and Foreigners: Close to Home
Tuesday, July 28, 2015, 6:00 p.m.
Wisconsin reflected locally the national issues that this series, SPIES, TRAITORS, SABOTEURS: Fear and Freedom in America explores. Dean Strang, J.D. will present one of these local stories. A 1917 trail of Italian alleged anarchists in Milwaukee, in the first fearful days off this nation's fighting in WWI, became a proxy proceeding for the deadly, unsolved bombing of Milwaukee's central police station. That nearly-forgotten bombing killed more American police officers than any other act of terror until September 11, 2001.
Green Bay Architectural History
Tuesday, August 11, 2015, 7:00 p.m.
Drawing on the architectural and engineering firm's 117+ year history, several members of Berners-Schober will hold a panel discussion on significant Green Bay structures. The panel will include Ian Griffiths, Libby Parrish, Derek Gruber, and Kristin Pritchard, along with other firm members who were involved in researching their current Neville exhibit featuring the firm's buildings. They will discuss the chronology of Green Bay's development through the work of the firm, and answer questions on historic business, public, and residential buildings.
A couple weeks ago, we had an interesting luncheon program here at the museum. It featured a presentation on underwear…Victorian era underwear to be exact. The Victorian period ranges from 1837-1901, beginning at the time of Queen Victoria’s reign and lasting until her death. When we think about this time period we often think about the big dresses but what we overlook is how much is going on underneath.
As the staff was thinking about this unique topic, our director decided this would be a great opportunity to display some artifacts from our collection that aren’t usually exhibited. So we pulled these four pieces from storage for the program and our blog readers will get to view a special bonus artifact not featured in the program!
Object #375/248: This bustle is a great example of a “man” made bustle from ca. 1880. During the late 1800s men realized that there was money to be made in the ladies undergarment business and thought they could create a better bustle. This spring bustle is made of the same springs that would be found in a bed or other furniture.
Object #7220/3075: This bustle was meant to create the “swan” shape that was popular towards the end of the Victorian era ca. 1890. It is padded with horsehair which you can actually see poking out in the image. These types of bustles were mass produced.
Object #4192/1928: These drawers date to ca. 1850 and are handmade. They are typical of the time in that the crotch is open but unique with the use of suspenders on the garment (drawstrings are more typical).
Object #11,838/1984.82: These undergarments were worn next to the skin to protect the outer garments from body oils and sweat. The frills and decorative nature of this garment was most popular during the 1870s.
Bonus: Skirt Supporting Corset
Object #4194/1928: Later in the Victorian era pieces of undergarments were combined into one piece, like this one. This particular garment from ca. 1870 acted as a corset and a bustle to add lift to the skirt.
The Neville would like to thank Leslie Bellais, curator of social history at the Wisconsin Historical Society for her entertaining presentation and her help in spotlighting the special history of these artifacts.
- A Night at the Museum 2017
- EQUATE: Green Bay Public Schools Student Art
- Why Does the Museum Have an Emmy?
- Keeping the Holidays Alive
- Beneath the Courthouse Dome
- The Face of Morbid Curiosities
- Vietnam Flight Suit Wins the Artifact Tournament
- Artifact Tournament Championship
- Our Brown County Artifact Tournament Round 2
- Our Brown County Artifact Tournament
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