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Corn Palaces and Butter Queens Cover

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Corn Palaces and Butter Queens

A History of Crop Art and Dairy Sculpture

Pamela H. Simpson

Teddy Roosevelt’s head sculpted from butter. The Liberty Bell replicated in oranges. The Sioux City Corn Palace of 1891 encased with corn, grains, and grasses and stretching for two city blocks—with a trolley line running down its center. Between 1870 and 1930, from county and state fairs to the world’s fairs, large exhibition buildings were covered with grains, fruits, and vegetables to declare in no uncertain terms the rich agricultural abundance of the United States. At the same fairs—but on a more intimate level—ice-cooled cases enticed fairgoers to marvel at an array of butter sculpture models including cows, buildings, flowers, and politicians, all proclaiming the rich bounty and unending promise held by the region.

Often viewed as mere humorous novelties—fun and folksy, but not worthy of serious consideration—these lively forms of American art are described by Pamela H. Simpson in a fascinating and comprehensive history. From the pioneering cereal architecture of Henry Worrall at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition to the vast corn palaces displayed in Sioux City, Iowa, and elsewhere between 1877 and 1891, Simpson brings to life these dazzling large-scale displays in turn-of-the-century American fairs and festivals. She guides readers through the fascinating forms of crop art and butter sculpture, as they grew from state and regional fairs to a significant place at the major international exhibitions. The Minnesota State Fair’s Princess Kay of the Milky Way contest, Lillian Colton’s famed pictorial seed art, and the work of Iowa’s “butter cow lady,” Norma “Duffy” Lyon, are modern versions of this tradition.

Beautifully illustrated with a bounty of never-before-seen archival images, Corn Palaces and Butter Queens is an accessible history of one of America’s most unique and beguiling Midwestern art forms—an amusing and peculiar phenomenon that profoundly affected the way Americans saw themselves and their country’s potential during times of drought and great depression.

Creating Old World Wisconsin Cover

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Creating Old World Wisconsin

The Struggle to Build an Outdoor History Museum of Ethnic Architecture

With its charming heirloom gardens, historic livestock breeds, and faithfully recreated farmsteads and villages that span nearly 600 acres, Old World Wisconsin is the largest outdoor museum of rural life in the United States. But this seemingly time-frozen landscape of rustic outbuildings and rolling wooded hills did not effortlessly spring into existence, as John D. Krugler maintains in Creating Old World Wisconsin. As dozens of historic buildings were transported in the 1970s from various locations throughout the state to the Kettle Moraine State Forest, researchers, curators, and volunteers launched a massive preservation initiative to salvage fast-disappearing immigrant and migrant architecture. Researchers, curators, and volunteers created a backdrop against which twenty-first century interpreters demonstrate nineteenth- and early twentieth-century agricultural techniques and artisanal craftsmanship. The site, created and maintained by the Wisconsin Historical Society, offers visitors a unique opportunity to learn about the state's rich and ethnically diverse past through depictions of the everyday lives of its Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, German, Polish, African American, and Yankee inhabitants. Creating Old World Wisconsin chronicles the fascinating and complex origins of this outdoor museum, highlighting the struggles that faced its creators as they worked to achieve their vision. Even as Milwaukee architect and preservationist Richard W. E. Perrin, the Society's staff, and enthusiastic volunteers opened the museum in time for the national bicentennial in 1976, the site was plagued by limited funds, bureaucratic tangles, and problems associated with gaining public support. By documenting the engaging story of the challenges, roadblocks, false starts, and achievements of the site's founders, Krugler brings to life the history of the dedicated corps who collected and preserved Wisconsin's diverse social history and heritage.

Dakota Cover

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Dakota

The Story of the Northern Plains

Norman K. Risjord

Dakota Life In the Upper Midwest Cover

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Dakota Life In the Upper Midwest

Samuel W. Pond

In 1834 Samuel W. Pond and his brother Gideon built a cabin near Cloud Man's village of the Dakota Indians on the shore of Lake Calhoun--now present-day Minneapolis--intending to preach Christianity to the Indians. The brothers were to spend nearly twenty years learning the Dakota language and observing how the Indians lived. In the 1860s and 1870s, after the Dakota had fought a disastrous war with the whites who had taken their land, Samuel Pond recorded his recollections of the Indians "to show what manner of people the Dakotas were . . . while they still retained the customs of their ancestors." Pond's work, first published in 1908, is now considered a classic. Gary Clayton Anderson's introduction discusses Pond's career and the effects of his background on this work, "unrivaled today for its discussion of Dakota material culture and social, political, religious, and economic institutions."

A Damned Iowa  Greyhound Cover

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A Damned Iowa Greyhound

The Civil War Letters of William Henry Harrison Clayton

William Henry Harrison Clayton was one of nearly 75,000 soldiers from Iowa to join the Union ranks during the Civil War. Possessing a high school education and superior penmanship, Clayton served as a company clerk in the 19th Infantry, witnessing battles in the Trans-Mississippi theater. His diary and his correspondence with his family in Van Buren County form a unique narrative of the day-to-day soldier life as well as an eyewitness account of critical battles and a prisoner-of-war camp.

Clayton participated in the siege of Vicksburg and took part in operations against Mobile, but his writings are unique for the descriptions he gives of lesser-known but pivotal battles of the Civil War in the West. Fighting in the Battle of Prairie Grove, the 19th Infantry sustained the highest casualties of any federal regiment on the field. Clayton survived that battle with only minor injuries, but he was later captured at the Battle of Stirling's Plantation and served a period of ten months in captivity at Camp Ford, Texas.

Clayton's writing reveals the complicated sympathies and prejudices prevalent among Union soldiers and civilians of that period in the country's history. He observes with great sadness the brutal effects of war on the South, sympathizing with the plight of refugees and lamenting the destruction of property. He excoriates draft evaders and Copperheads back home, conveying the intra-sectional acrimony wrought by civil war. Finally, his racist views toward blacks demonstrate a common but ironic attitude among Union soldiers whose efforts helped lead to the abolition of slavery in the United States.

Dane County Place-Names Cover

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Dane County Place-Names

Frederic G. Cassidy; New introduction by Tracy Will; New foreword by David Medaris

Dane County Place-Names is an entertaining record of the heritage of Dane County, Wisconsin’s capital region, from its earliest days through the 1940s. This classic work by the late lexicographer Frederic G. Cassidy is back in print for new generations to enjoy. Cassidy applied his insightful eye to the origins and evolution of local names that reveal a colorful history: Whiskey Creek, Brag Hollow, Marxville, Pancake Valley, Halunkenburg, Skunk Hollow, and Tipple School. This edition features a new introduction by local historian Tracy Will and a foreword by Isthmus journalist David Medaris.

Danes and Icelanders in Michigan Cover

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Danes and Icelanders in Michigan

Immigration of Danes and Icelanders to Michigan began in the 1850s and continued well into the twentieth century. Beginning with their origins, this book takes a detailed look at their arrival and settlement in Michigan, answering some key questions: What brought Danes and Icelanders to Michigan? What challenges did they face? How did they adjust and survive here? Where did they settle? What kind of lasting impact have they had on Michigan’s economic and cultural landscape? Extensively researched, this book examines the public and private lives of Danish and Icelandic immigrants in Michigan, drawing from both individual and institutional histories. Shedding new light on the livelihood, traditions, religion, social life, civic organizations, and mutual benefit societies, this thorough, insightful book highlights a small but important population within Michigan’s borders.

Daring to Be Different Cover

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Daring to Be Different

Missouri's Remarkable Owen Sisters

Doris Land Mueller

 In the 1800s, American women were largely restricted to the private sphere. Most had no choice but to spend their lives in the home, marrying in their teens and living only as wives, mothers, and pillars of domesticity. Even as the women’s movement came along midcentury, it focused more on gaining legal and political rights for women than on expanding their career opportunities. So in that time period, in which the options and expectations for women’s professional lives were so limited, it is remarkable that three sisters born in the 1850s, the Owen daughters of Missouri, all achieved success and appreciation in their careers.

 

 

Doris Land Mueller’s Daring to Be Different tells the story of these exceptional sisters, whose contributions to their chosen fields are still noteworthy today. Mary, the oldest, followed a childhood interest in storytelling to become an internationally recognized folklorist, writing about the customs of Missouri’s Native Americans, the traditions of its African American communities, and the history of St. Joseph’s earliest settlers. The middle daughter, Luella, became a geologist, breaking into the “old boys club” of the nineteenth-century scientific community; her book, Cave Regions of the Ozarks and the Black Hills, was for over fifty years the only reference to include Missouri caves and is still a valuable resource on the subject. And the youngest Owen girl, Juliette, was a talented artist who painted images of birds and studied and wrote about ornithology. An ardent conservationist, Juliette was an animal advocate during the early days of the humane movement.

 

 

Through a compelling narrative driven by thorough research, Mueller showcases the different personalities of the three sisters who all eschewed marriage to pursue their callings, putting their accomplishments in context with the place and times in which they lived. With family stories, illustrations of early St. Joseph, and images of the Owen family to enrich the story, this book pays tribute to the Owen sisters’ contributions to the Show-Me State. The latest addition to the Missouri Heritage Reader Series, Daring to Be Different will appeal to anyone interested in Missouri history and the early years of the women’s movement.

The Daring Trader Cover

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The Daring Trader

Jacob Smith in the Michigan Territory, 1802-1825

Kim Crawford

A fur trader in the Michigan Territory and confidant of both the U.S. government and local Indian tribes, Jacob Smith could have stepped out of a James Fenimore Cooper novel. Controversial, mysterious, and bold during his lifetime, in death Smith has not, until now, received the attention he deserves as a pivotal figure in Michigan’s American period and the War of 1812. This is the exciting and unlikely story of a man at the frontier’s edge, whose missions during both war and peace laid the groundwork for Michigan to accommodate settlers and farmers moving west. The book investigates Smith’s many pursuits, including his role as an advisor to the Indians, from whom the federal government would gradually gain millions of acres of land, due in large part to Smith’s work as an agent of influence. Crawford paints a colorful portrait of a complicated man during a dynamic period of change in Michigan’s history.

The Dead End Kids of St. Louis Cover

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The Dead End Kids of St. Louis

Homeless Boys and the People Who Tried to Save Them

Bonnie Stepenoff

Joe Garagiola remembers playing baseball with stolen balls and bats while growing up on the Hill. Chuck Berry had run-ins with police before channeling his energy into rock and roll. But not all the boys growing up on the rough streets of St. Louis had loving families or managed to find success. This book reviews a century of history to tell the story of the “lost” boys who struggled to survive on the city’s streets as it evolved from a booming late-nineteenth-century industrial center to a troubled mid-twentieth-century metropolis.
To the eyes of impressionable boys without parents to shield them, St. Louis presented an ever-changing spectacle of violence. Small, loosely organized bands from the tenement districts wandered the city looking for trouble, and they often found it. The geology of St. Louis also provided for unique accommodations—sometimes gangs of boys found shelter in the extensive system of interconnected caves underneath the city. Boys could hide in these secret lairs for weeks or even months at a stretch.
            Bonnie Stepenoff gives voice to the harrowing experiences of destitute and homeless boys and young men who struggled to grow up, with little or no adult supervision, on streets filled with excitement but also teeming with sharpsters ready to teach these youngsters things they would never learn in school. Well-intentioned efforts of private philanthropists and public officials sometimes went cruelly astray, and sometimes were ineffective, but sometimes had positive effects on young lives.
Stepenoff traces the history of several efforts aimed at assisting the city’s homeless boys. She discusses the prison-like St. Louis House of Refuge, where more than 80 percent of the resident children were boys, and Father Dunne's News Boys' Home and Protectorate, which stressed education and training for more than a century after its founding. She charts the growth of Skid Row and details how historical events such as industrialization, economic depression, and wars affected this vulnerable urban population.
Most of these boys grew up and lived decent, unheralded lives, but that doesn’t mean that their childhood experiences left them unscathed. Their lives offer a compelling glimpse into old St. Louis while reinforcing the idea that society has an obligation to create cities that will nurture and not endanger the young.

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