Category Archives: Furniture

Now online: Hearthstone Historic House Museum

Fireplace at Hearthstone

Fireplace in Hearthstone parlor, with mantel carved by William Van Strattum and tiles painted by Frederika Crane.

Seven catalog entries for objects from Hearthstone Historic House Museum in Appleton are now online in the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database. Built on a bluff overlooking the Fox River in 1881, Hearthstone’s primary claim to fame is that it was the first home in the world lit by hydroelectric power.

This Queen Anne-style brick home was designed by William Waters, an architect based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Much of the interior woodwork, including the bird’s-eye maple mantelpiece shown above, was the handiwork of a young Appleton woodworker named William Van Strattum. Other works by Van Strattum at Hearthstone include two marquetry tables and an intricately carved wall pocket, which he is said to have made for his wife LuLu Lansing in 1884.

Crane's signature

Crane's signature on mantel tiles.

Noted Green Bay artist Frederika Crane painted the porcelain tiles that surround the parlor fireplace. The woman illustrated on the tiles is thought to represent Evangeline, the central figure in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1847 poem of the same name. Hearthstone also holds several more typical examples of Crane’s work in china painting, most notably a set of twelve dinner plates decorated with birds.

Detail, wall pocket, William Van Stratum

The prominent initials "LL" on this birch and oak wall pocket suggest that William Van Stratum carved the work as a gift for his future wife, LuLu Lansing.

The collections documented at Hearthstone complement two other collections in the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database: china painting by Frederika Crane from the Brown County Historical Society in Green Bay and other examples of Appleton’s late 19th century material culture from the History Museum at the Castle.

–Posted by Emily Pfotenhauer


A quick stop in Cameron

A heavily ornamented chest of drawers made in Norway and brought to Barron County by 19th century Norwegian immigrants.

In July, I spent two of the hottest days of the summer in the northwest part of the state.  My ultimate destination was the Stone Lake Area Historical Society, where I trained volunteers in scanning, photography, and cataloging to get them started on building a digital collection for Wisconsin Heritage Online. On the way to Stone Lake, I made a detour to the New Richmond Heritage Center to look at their decorative arts collection (items from that visit will be online soon). Between New Richmond and Stone Lake I stopped at the Pioneer Village Museum, operated by the Barron County Historical Society in Cameron.

An exhibition case of beadwork and other crafts made by Susie Cadotte, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe.

It was late in the afternoon by the time I got to Cameron, but museum director Caroline Olson met me at the gate and gave me a whirlwind tour of the museum complex–37 buildings including exhibit halls, a church, and several log dwellings and commercial buildings that have been moved to the site. Unfortunately I didn’t have the time to do my usual full object documentation, but I took lots of snapshots of interesting artifacts, both Wisconsin-made and not.

Andrew Peterson of Poskin, Wisconsin built the Ebenezer Lutheran Church in 1908 as well as the pulpit, altar, altar rail and pews. The church and most of its interior fittings were moved to the museum in 1972.

This chair, in the style of a traditional Norwegian kubbestol, is considered the literal county seat of Barron County. The museum label tells the story of the chair's role in the establishment of the community of Barron as the seat of county government: "This chair is known as the County Seat because it was within its seat that in 1874, County Clerk Woodbury S. Grover packed the meager records of this young county and on a cold winter night walked from Rice Lake to Barron, depositing them with John Quaderer, who owned the Quaderer House Hotel."

–Posted by Emily Pfotenhauer

Now online: Upham Mansion, Marshfield

The Upham Manufacturing Company figured prominently in Marshfield's economy and landscape. Detail, bird's-eye view of Marshfield, 1891. Wisconsin Historical Society map collection WHi-12477.

Fourteen catalog entries for objects from the North Wood County Historical Society in Marshfield are now online in the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database, including several examples of furniture produced by the Upham Manufacturing Company. Many of these pieces, including an extensive painted bedroom suite ornamented with resin moldings, were used by the Upham family and remain on view at the Upham Mansion, now an historic house museum operated by the NWCHS.

Detail of writing table on view in master bedroom, Upham Mansion, Marshfield.

The Upham name is central to the history of Marshfield. William Henry Upham came to Wisconsin from Westminster, Massachusetts in 1853. After serving in the Civil War and training at West Point, he settled permanently in the fledgling community of Marshfield in 1879, where he established a sawmill, furniture factory, general store, and the first local bank. In 1894, he was elected the 18th governor of Wisconsin. Upham’s role in the development of Marshfield is lauded in the Commemorative Biographical Record of the Upper Wisconsin Counties of Waupaca, Portage, Wood, Marathon, Lincoln, Oneida, Vilas, Langlade and Shawano (1898): “The citizens of to-day claim that Marshfield owes everything to Gov. Upham’s indomitable will power, enterprise and public-spiritedness, and that he may truthfully be called the founder of the town.”

Detail, "Chimes of Normandy" fretwork clock case, Fred Thuss, probably early 20th c.

The Upham Mansion is also home to many artifacts and archives from the broader community. One of the most intriguing examples of handicraft in the collection is an intricate fretwork clock case attributed to local resident Fred Thuss. The clock was created from a commercially published pattern known as “Chimes of Normandy.” The use of a scroll saw or jigsaw to create elaborate fretwork ornament for shelves, clocks, and picture frames was a popular pastime for both men and women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the Chimes of Normandy pattern appears to have been particularly popular among hobbyists. Not long after my visit to Marshfield, I found an identical clock in the collection of the Sheboygan County Historical Society. A Google search reveals that the pattern is still on the market today. The best-known version of the Chimes of Normandy is now in the collection of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York. In 1937, a young woman in Texas named Ernestine Guerrero used wood from federal food aid boxes her family received during the Depression to create a unique thank-you gift for President Roosevelt.

–Posted by Emily Pfotenhauer

Visit to Marshfield and Pittsville

I’ve worked on this project for more than four years and added over 1,000 artifacts to the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database, but it seems like I’ve still only scratched the surface of Wisconsin’s material past. I’m always happily surprised when I discover artifacts from a maker or manufacturer I haven’t documented before.

One of these happy occurrences came in Lake Geneva last fall at the annual statewide Local History and Historic Preservation Conference. Kim Krueger of the North Wood County Historical Society in Marshfield approached me after my presentation about Wisconsin Heritage Online. She was looking for a conservator who could help preserve a catalog from a local manufacturer. I couldn’t help much with the conservation question, but my ears perked up when I heard more about the catalog–it was from the Upham Manufacturing Company, a furniture producer in Marshfield around the turn of the 20th century. But the catalog wasn’t the only artifact from the company in the Society’s collections, Kim said. Their house museum, the Upham Mansion, still contains many of its original furnishings, including a large number of pieces made in the factory established by William Henry Upham.

I made plans to visit the Upham Mansion as soon as I could. At some point during the back-and-forth of planning emails, another serendipitous connection came up. A volunteer at the Upham Mansion, Chris Buchanan, is also the president of the Pittsville Area Historical Society, less than 20 miles south of Marshfield. Pittsville was once home to the Wisconsin Ceramics Corporation, better known as Pittsville Pottery, and the local historical society had recently received a donation of more than 100 works from the pottery assembled by a local collector. Did I want to add the pottery to the database too? Of course I did!

After spending two days in central Wisconsin last week, I now have lots of photos to process and should have the Upham furniture and Pittsville pottery–plus several other interesting artifacts–added to the database in the next several weeks.

–Posted by Emily Pfotenhauer

Now online: Langlade County Historical Society

Pillow sham made for Edward Drab, who served in the CCC at Elcho, Wisconsin in 1933. Embroidered slogan reads: "When we finish our part a new day will dawn." Property of Langlade County Historical Society.

The twelve artifacts I recently added to the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database from the Langlade County Historical Society in Antigo are an eclectic bunch that reveals the broad and deep histories we can discover from objects.

A group of beaded bandolier bags recently donated to the Society by a local collector does not have a specific Wisconsin provenance, but the bags’ designs and motifs show that they were made by Menominee, Ojibwe, and Ho-Chunk tribes in the Great Lakes region in the late 19th or early 20th centuries. Crafting these highly-prized elements of formal dress regalia required a substantial investment of time, materials, and skill. An exhibition of Great Lakes bandolier bags is on view at the Wisconsin Historical Museum in Madison through February 26.

A hand-knit vest and an embroidered pillow sham (above) an Antigo woman made for her brother when he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933 illustrates the pride many Americans felt when they had the opportunity to go back to work with New Deal programs like the CCC. Company 657, also known as Camp Elcho, was one of 76 CCC camps organized in Wisconsin in the 1930s. Camp workers undertook a number of public works projects including constructing roads and fire breaks, installating telephone lines, planting trees, and fighting forest fires.

Chest of drawers attributed to Francois Bernard, Appleton, 1853-1865. Property of Langlade County Historical Society.

The furniture in the Society’s collections reflects the two primary streams of furniture production in 19th- and early 20th-century Wisconsin: factory production and small-shop handcraft. A veneered chest of drawers attributed to the Antigo Furniture Co. and a rocking chair from the Crocker Chair Co. represent the maunfactured furniture turned out by numerous Wisconsin producers. Falling on the handcrafted side is a chest of drawers said to have been made by Francois Bernard, a cabinetmaker who left France for Appleton, Wisconsin in 1853.

Postcard depicting Deleglise cabin, Antigo, ca. 1930. Wisconsin Historical Society WHi-28359

This chest also tells an interesting story of the movement of people and objects over time. Its original owners were Francis Deleglise and his wife Mary Bor, who likely acquired the chest when they married and moved to Appleton in 1856. In 1877, Francis Deleglise surveyed and planned the city of Antigo, bringing his family there from Appleton in 1878. Family history states that the chest served as the altar for the first Catholic mass celebrated in Antigo, which was conducted in the Deleglise cabin in 1880. The chest still furnishes the cabin, which was moved from its original site to the grounds of what is now the Langlade County Historical Society in 1913.

I first got to know Langlade County Historical Society president Joe Hermolin more than a year ago when he partnered with Wisconsin Heritage Online (WHO) to digitize photographs in the Society’s archives produced by A. J. Kingsbury, a professional photographer who worked in the Antigo area in the 1910s and 20s. Some of Kingsbury’s most compelling photos depict Menominee and Ojibwe people in northeast Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Last winter, Joe and I worked with the Tribal Libraries, Archives, and Museums class at UW-Madison’s School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) to research and catalog these images, some of which are now available online. We’re planning to work with the class again this semester to continue to investigate this important collection.

–Posted by Emily Pfotenhauer.

Now online: Vilas Historical Museum

Chest of drawers, Carl Eliason, Sayner, 1920. Vilas Historical Museum.

This summer I spent some time in Wisconsin’s northwoods, including a visit to the Vilas Historical Museum in Sayner. Instantly recognizable by the huge figures of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox out in front, the museum houses a vast and impressive collection of local artifacts. Eight examples of local handicrafts from the museum’s collections are now online in the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database.

Sayner was home to Carl Eliason,  credited with inventing the world’s first snowmobile, the “Eliason Motor Toboggan,” patented in 1927.  In addition to his early snowmobile prototypes, the museum’s collections include a group of rustic furniture made by Eliason at the age of 21.

Other artifacts reflect the importance of the lumber and tourism industries in the northwoods, including folk art carvings made by men in local logging camps and summer camps in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Sign welcoming visitors to the Vilas Historical Museum.

–Posted by Emily Pfotenhauer

Now Online: Old World Wisconsin

Decorative carving, Amund O. Jorde, Town of York, Green County, ca. 1900.

Side chair collected from a Czech family in the Manitowoc area, probably second half of the 19th century. On view on the bedroom of the Sisel House.

48 artifacts from Wisconsin’s largest historic site are now online in the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database. First opened to the public in 1976, Old World Wisconsin is the world’s largest museum dedicated to the history of rural life. The development of Old World Wisconsin was one of the major undertakings of the Wisconsin Historical Society in the 1970s. Researchers traveled the state in search of buildings and artifacts to represent the groups of settlers that established farms and villages throughout Wisconsin in the 1830s up through the early 20th century, including Yankees, Germans, Norwegians and Finns. Bringing together Wisconsin’s architectural and material history into a vast outdoor park was the state’s central contribution to the United States Bicentennial celebrations in 1976, a time of great popular interest in American history–particularly the histories of local communities and individual families.

Wardrobe or schrank used by the Lange family, Dodge County, ca. 1848-1880. On view in the children's bedroom of the Koepsell House.

The artifacts that furnish the homes at Old World Wisconsin came from a variety of sources. Some were heirlooms donated by the descendants of early Wisconsin families, such as an unusual carving (above) by Amund O. Jorde of Green County, one of several examples of woodworking gifted to Old World Wisconsin by his great-granddaughter. Other furnishings came from Wisconsin antiques dealers who sought out handmade furniture, such as an unusual “Bohemian” chair (above) acquired by Jim Babcock. According to Babcock, who is currently the curator at the Hawks Inn Historical Society (another Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database participant), the chair was initially collected by another dealer directly from a Czech family in the Manitowoc area and passed through several hands before it came to Old World Wisconsin.

Only a few objects in the collections are original to the buildings in which they are now displayed. One standout example is a settee (below) from the Zirbel family, whose home in the Town of Herman (Dodge County) is now part of Old World’s Schulz Farm.

The chance to get up close and personal with the site’s artifacts led to a few exciting surprises. For example, when I pulled out a drawer in a wardrobe to look at how it was constructed, I discovered a whimsical handwritten inscription on the underside: Whoever gets me he will be good off. Henry F.–Dodge County, Wisconsin (and so forth). This was an exciting clue to the original owners of this massive piece of furniture (read the details here).

Adding selections from Old World Wisconsin’s collections to the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database happened in several stages. Last summer, I made several trips out to Eagle to dig through accession records and tour the site in order to choose the objects with the closest ties to Wisconsin craftspeople and Wisconsin families. Curator of Collections Ellen Penwell was an invaluable resource, allowing me up-close access to the collections on site and in storage. Laura Houston, an undergraduate intern in the UW-Madison Material Culture Program, was a patient photography assistant and note-taker. After collecting the data and images, I delved into primary sources–census records, marriage records, county histories, and more–to learn as much as possible about the people who made and used these objects. Chipsone Foundation research intern Rebecca Wangard conducted some important genealogical research and also did the photo editing and data entry necessary to prepare the catalog entries for posting online.

Settee used in the Schulz-Zirbel house, Town of Herman, Dodge County, second half of the 19th century.

As many of you may know, Old World Wisconsin has been in the news a lot lately. On June 21, the area was severely affected by a tornado and thousands of trees were downed or damaged (fortunately, the historic buildings were mostly unscathed and no people or animals were harmed). The site was closed to the public until July 24. A video about the site’s ongoing recovery is available here and the Old World Wisconsin Foundation has established a tornado relief fund to support the continued repair work.

Posted by Emily Pfotenhauer.