Monday, January 31, 2011

Today in History: The Milwaukee Bridge War

Despite studying history for some time now and then I occasionally come across a story that surprises me. For a couple years my family lived in the Milwaukee, WI area and I even had the pleasure of visiting the city. It was enjoyable to walk around, meet the people, and see the sights. It never crossed my mind that the founding of the city had such a unique story. 

In 1818, a man by the name of Solomon Juneau traveled down from Montreal, Canada. He helped found a town on the site of a trading post located on the east side of the Milwaukee River known affectionately as Juneau's Side and eventually Juneautown. Realizing the times were changing Juneau focused his efforts away from the fur trade, which dominated the area, and turned his attention toward real estate, building the settlement to a thriving town. Some years later a ruthless businessman named Byron Kilbourn, originally coming from Ohio, had worked as a government surveyor in Green Bay and personally staked out some land on the west side of the Milwaukee River. Like Juneau he saw the potential of the area as a possible port city for Lake Michigan which spills eventually into the Atlantic Ocean. The land Kilbourn staked out however was actually owned by the Potawatomi. After some secret dealings, Kilbourn snuck the land it into a federal survey and was able to take control of the area in 1835. Quickly the area grew like Juneautown and became known as Kilbourntown. 

Because of their close proximity and shared river both towns immediately developed a rivalry. Byron Kilbourn worked really hard at trying to isolate Juneautown so Kilbourntown would be the thriving metropolis. However in 1845 the Wisconsin legislature required the people of the area to build a draw bridge over the Milwaukee River because the original ferry system was not accomodating the growing population. Kilbourn and the people on the west side saw the bridge as a violation to their independence they had been trying to build for the last decade. Juneautown showed excitement for the bridge and the possibility of growth for their community as a result of it. Tensions between the two cities had been mounting over the last decade and the bridge construction brought all of it to a head. In May of 1845 Kilbourn made the decision to drop the west side of the bridge in the water. As a result, a mob of Juneautowners formed looking to fight for this bridge and stand up for their rights as a town. Violence was pushed off for a few weeks until Juneautown members destroyed two smaller bridges in an attempt to cut off the west side, Kilbourners. The goal was to give them a taste of their own medicine. Skirmishes broke out between the two sides with surprisingly no deaths. Eventually hostilities ended between the two sides and a call for corporation started. Even the founders realized that the only way their towns were going to survive is if they worked together. On January 31, 1846 the towns of Juneautown and Kilbourntown unified to create the City of Milwaukee. Solomon Juneau stepped in as the first mayor of the great city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Secret Societies

I recently picked up a copy of U.S. News & World Report's edition of Mysteries of History: Secret Societies. This has really been an excellent read and something I would suggest everyone taking the opportunity to pick it up. You won't find any in-depth analysis but it gives you a nice taste of various secret societies and clubs, some in existence for centuries. I highly suggest picking this up and taking the opportunity to read through it. My favorite portion so far has been learning about the Skull and Bones Society. Reading the little bit about it has made me want to research more on its founding and purpose. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

100 year-old Whisky is Discovered

30 year-old single malt whisky can cost an individual as much as $200. I wonder what a bottle of 100 year-old whisky would cost then. Well three bottles of whisky that were abandoned in the Antarctic ice has been sent back to Scotland and its original bottler for testing. Found among the belongings of explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and the British Antarctic Expedition of 1907, the bottles were apparently completely frozen in the minus 30 degree temperatures yet the whisky was still in liquid form. It is believed the whisky was bottled somewhere around 1896 or 1897. Analysts will apparently spend the next few weeks examining the whisky even tasting it to see how well it preserved over the last century, what a tough job that must be.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sentiments for Alexander Hamilton

It is well recorded that Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton were hated political rivals. To believe these two men had anything more than casual respect for each other may be over stating it. When Hamilton was killed in duel with Aaron Burr in 1804 few would have expected Jefferson to be anything but delighted that his biggest rival in the political arena had met his demise. If one were to examine his scrapbook of poetry you would learn something totally different.

Wafted by our nation's sigh,
Thy soul is gone to realms above, 
To meet its Washington on high,
Kindred souls! pure as the dove.

Spirit of the heavenly regions, 
Crown'd with never-ending fame,
List and hear how earthly legions
Consecrate they deathless name.

From that blest, that holy dwelling, 
Where, midst fields of glory bright,
Thou the sacred anthem swelling,
With white-rob'd ministers of light.

Behold the patriot's bosom burning,
The virgin's tears descend for thee;
Columbia's sons indignant mourning,
The soldier of humanity.

Vengeance lights each honest feature, 
Gainst the dark, malignant hand,
Who coldly shot a fellow creature,
A man belov'd by all our land.

Our empire's union's great defender,
Lies mouldering in the silent tomb,
Its foes will now strive hard to rend her;
Uncertain is our nation's doom!!

Great Hamilton! they country's story
To latest time will clearly prove,
How great thy worth and martial glory,
Embalm'd with all Columbia's love

Jefferson is surprising us by including this poem in his scrapbook. He is showing that despite having Hamilton as a bitter rival he maintained respect for him as a patriot and leader in the country.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Our Nation Divided: Commemorative Stamps

On April 12th of this year the United States Postal Service will issue their 150th Anniversary Stamps of the Civil War. The first battles of Fort Sumter and First Bull Run are commemorated first in this series. The series will last until 2015 with one kind of sheet be issued each year. For anyone out there who is a Civil War collector or general enthusiast should try to get a hold of these when you have the chance.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ancient Medicine May Be Revealing

In 1989, the ship Relitto del Pozzino, which sank off the Italian coast in 130 B.C., was recovered with many important artifacts on board. One of which was believed to have been a physician's chest and inside that chest a vial of dry pills. Robert Fleischer, an evolutionary geneticist, examined them under a microscope and revealed they were compacted vegetation in a pill form. The pill contained carrot, radish, wild onion, celery, cabbage, alfalfa, oak, and hibiscus. This discovery is the first ever archaeological remains of ancient medical practices open up a whole new realm of information about that period. Read the full article...
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