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The Monowheel

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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 J

A Fort Howard Christmas

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200 years ago a cheerful holiday feast was held just across the street from the museum near Leicht Park at Fort Howard.   Once a fort officer, Col. McNeil (later commander of Fort Howard 1824-1825), found out how important it was to the French residents of the area to celebrate Christmas, he planned an elaborate party.   The officers invited the French, the Americans, and native people living in the area.   The 4’ o’clock dinner is said to have fed a hundred people.   The evening included a feast of fish, bear, and porcupine along with a dance that lasted late into the night.   An Invitation addressed to Mrs. Lawe for a ball at Fort Howard in 1820. A local land surveyor who attended the fort’s Christmas dinner/dance in 1823 describes the evening...    The hall was well filled… men and women, were attired in all the grades of dress, from the highest partisan down to the buck-skin coats, pants, petticoat, and moccasins of the aboriginals.   Yet as no one of the elite thought himsel

Attack on Pearl Harbor and a Wedding Dress

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 “December 7, 1941 A Date Which Will Live in Infamy” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt The United States entered World War II after a devastating attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. The war affected everyday life in the United States, this wedding dress is one example. Katherin Pierick Williams wore this dress when she married U.S. Navy photographer Alan North Williams just three weeks after the attack.   Williams was at Pearl Harbor during the attacks. He survived and even took photographs of the events. The dress is part of the Neville Public Museum’s collection and the photographs are cared for by the Wisconsin Historical Society. You can see the two together and more stories like this in “Guns and Gowns” open through February 2021. This war changed the entire structure of the fashion industry.   Paris fell to the Germans in 1940 and no longer inspired American and British designers.   Britain, feeling the harsh effects of the war, struggled to design n

Keeping the Holidays Alive

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Each year the museum puts together holiday displays from our collection of figurines that once decorated the windows at H.C. Prange Co. in downtown Green Bay. Dolls of Christmas Past are displayed in vignettes on our stage and Snow Babies play outside our gift shop.  One thing you may have noticed in recent years is that the museum decided not to have our dolls move.  After extensive review of the dolls’ conditions the decision as made to not plug them in for a variety of reasons.  As with all our exhibits, when they are completed we inventory and do condition reports before returning the artifacts back to storage. After Holiday Memories in 2016, we did an extensive condition report of the artifacts. In looking closely we discovered evidence of stress. Piles of rust at the feet of some of the figures are a clue that something was happening internally that we cannot see on the outside. Rust is caused by corrosion, a natural process where metal is gradually destroyed. Running the d

Green Bay’s First African American Football Player

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Bob (Robert) Mann became the first African American player to play in a regular season game for the Green Bay Packers in 1950. Mid-season in 1950, a line coach for the Packers called Mann and asked him to play. He said no. They called again. This time they were successful in recruiting the receiver to Green Bay. Mann arrived on Saturday and played on Sunday. But before that, Mann was one of the first African American players signed to the Detroit Lions. He played with them for two seasons. In 1949, during Bob Mann’s second season with the Detroit Lions, the team played the Philadelphia Eagles in New Orleans. Southern tradition banned African American players from playing at the stadium. Mann and his teammates Mel Groomes and Wallace Triplett were not allowed to play. After discussion with the league, the Lions’ head coach Bo McMillin was given the option to break the color barrier. He refused. Instead of playing alongside their teammates, Mann, Groomes, and Triplett listened to the

Native American Heritage Month: Purcell Powless

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Purcell Powless (1925-2010) served as Oneida Tribal Chairman during one of the most progressive eras for the tribe. He ran for the position and won in 1967 because he saw an opportunity to make a difference in his community. He served in this position until 1990 at which time he retired. During his tenure, he completed several projects that have had a lasting impact, including work on the Oneida Casino, the Radisson Hotel, the Irene Metoxen Moore Community Center, and the Head Start and Tribal School System. The work Purcell and his counterparts accomplished is astounding. The era of change fostered a higher quality of life for the community. While Purcell received a lot of praise for his work on the council, he never took all the credit. He is remembered as a very humble man. He often credited the women around him for the wonderful things that were happening in the community and recognized the women around him for their hard work and dedication. Purcell believed that women were the

Native American Heritage Month: Rev. Cornelius Hill

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Rev. Cornelius Hill (1834-1907) is one of the most prominent figures in the Oneida Nation’s history. He is known not only for the titles he held (Chief and Reverend), but for the work he did in his community. Cornelius became Chief of the Bear Clan when he was only 13 years old but did not join the council until he was 18. Chief Hill was the last bloodline Chief of the Oneida. In the early 1800s, the Oneida were moved to this part of the country from New York. After the Civil War, talks of movement began again with the U.S. government wanting the Oneida to move farther west past the Mississippi River. Cornelius, as a leader and council member, spoke out against this in 1864. “Progress is our motto, you who labor to deprive us of the small spot of God’s footstool will labor in vain. We will not sign your treaty; no amount of money can tempt us to sell our people…” – Rev. Cornelius Hill In 1895, he became the first Oneida Deacon in the Episcopal Church. He also studied to become orda