Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Project Wisconsin

There's a cool site you should check out if you haven't already.  Project Wisconsin is making 365 logos for 365 Wisconsin towns.  Definitely worth a peek.  Here's some of my favorites:

Gotta represent my home town!  And they used Beloit College colors!

In reference to the Wisconsin Lottery and the high number of winning tickets in Fondy.

Pretty cool nod to our German heritage.
A cool nod to our Swiss heritage.
Rumor has it that UW Whitewater was inspiration for the iconic party film.
Pretty self-explanatory, I assume.

Hipster South MKE.

Sparta, home the Elroy/Sparta bike trail.  Very clever.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Wreck of the Rouse Simmons

Photo: Eric Nils Forsberg
Christmas in Wisconsin is a wonderful time.  Seasonal snowfall drapes the landscape in a beautiful blanket of white, making Wisconsin a picture-perfect setting for Christmas.  With Wisconsin's large German population, the traditional Tannenbaum (Christmas tree) became an icon of Yuletide celebrations (the Christmas tree didn't catch on in the rest of the United States until the late 1800's).  Naturally Wisconsin's plentiful evergreen forests became a primary source for Christmas trees all over the Midwest, and Wisconsin's waterways proved to be the most efficient way to transport them.

Photo: Fine Art America

The Rouse Simmons was a three-masted schooner built in 1868.  Despite being named after a Kenosha businessman, its home port was Milwaukee.  It was purchased by Charles H. Hackley for hauling lumber and moved to Muskegon.  Because of its combination of speed and capacity, it became a workhorse of Hackley's fleet and was soon making weekly trips to Chicago.

In 1910 Herman Schuenemann bought stock in the ship along with other businessmen from Chicago and Michigan.  Schuenemann and his brother August had been selling Wisconsin pines to the Chicago Christmas tree markets since the turn of the 20th century.  August drowned when his ship capsized off the coast of Illinois in a terrible storm but Schuenemann carried on the family business.  He started to sell his trees directly to customers off the deck of the ship, cutting out the middleman and lowering his prices.  His "Christmas Tree Ship" became famous by attracting customers with strings of electric lights and a decorated tree on top of the mainmast.  He soon was being affectionately known as "Captain Santa" and would often give away trees to needy families.

Of course, Wisconsin winters can be harsh and the winter of 1912 was especially rough.  Snow buried many tree farms and made transportation difficult.  But that wasn't going to stop the intrepid Schuenemann, who figured he could make a nice profit with the lack of competition that year.  He loaded the Rouse Simmons with 5,500 trees and headed to Chicago that November (it wouldn't be the last time the gales of November claimed lives off the shore of Wisconsin).

Photo: Wisconsinology
Many of the crew refused to board, citing the high water line due to the ship's over-packed hulls. But they shoved off at noon nonetheless, only to be at risk by nightfall.  Two crew members were sent to the deck to check on the cargo and we thrown overboard by a large wave and 60mph winds.  Trees were being thrown from the ship and Captain Schuenemann decided to seek shelter at Baily's Harbor in Door County.  The ship was spotted off the coast of Kewaunee, sails in tatters and flag at half-mast (signalling distress) but by the time a powerboat could be dispatched, the ship had been claimed by the icy winter water.

In a haunting turn of events, it was not the last time the crew was heard from.  A message in a bottle washed up on the shore near Sheboygan not long after the wreck.
Friday … everybody goodbye. I guess we are all through. During the night the small boat washed overboard. Leaking bad. Invald and Steve lost too. God help us.
 Captain Schueneman's wallet was found by fishermen in 1924, preserved in oilskin.  It wasn't until 1971 that the wreck was located by a scuba diver from Milwaukee.  Various pieces of the wreck have be reclaimed and are on display at the Rogers Street Fishing Village Museum in Two Rivers and the Milwaukee Yacht Club.  The tree business was continued by Schueneman's wife and daughter, but the practice of hauling by schooner was replaced by train and road by the 1920's.

Photo: Superior Trips
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Rouse Simmons.  The ship still lives on in Wisconsin memory, most notably as the musical The Christmas Schooner written by John Reeger.  It premiered at the Bailiwick Repertory Theatre in Chicago in 1996 and has enjoyed modest success in Chicago and Wisconsin.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Wisconsin on Screen: "Love Actually"

With Christmas coming, we decided to sit down and watch something as sweet as the hot cocoa and pie served for dessert.  Fortunately, the food was not as cloying as the sap flooding the TV screen.  But that didn't mean we didn't enjoy Love Actually.  In fact, we were surprised to be reminded that Wisconsin makes a cameo!

In the movie Colin (Kris Marshall), a bumbling British guy with lacking lady skills, decides that his English accent will put him in better favor with American girls.  Of course, he flies to Wisconsin.  Obviously, whoever made this film did little time researching the scene of Colin's arrival in Milwaukee.

Colin lands in "Milwaukee International" (which may come at a surprise for all of us who usually fly out of General Mitchell International Airport).  But that's just nitpicking.  The real shock came when he walks into a "typical Wisconsin bar" (a setting MTC is fairly familiar with).

Posters for the Chicago White Sox and bottles of Budweiser beer made it clear that this was no Wisconsin bar.  We were willing to give them the benefit of the doubt when we saw everybody wearing cowboy hats and boots -- there are certain bars like that, though rare.  Yes, we agree that the girls found in pubs all over Wisconsin tend to be this cute, but to serve Budweiser in the home of Miller and have White Sox plastered all over the walls of a bar in Brewers country is just wrong.  So, so wrong.

Had the producers been followers of More Than Curds, they would have seen the err of their ways.  Let's just ignore that the film was made nine years before this blog began...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wisconsin's Toyful Side

Dollhouse cabinet from Wisconsin Toy Co.
Photo: Tracy's Toys
 Thanksgiving is over and now all focus shifts to Christmas.  Christmas means many things in Wisconsin, which we will touch upon later in later posts, but throughout the United States, Christmas means toys.  Wisconsin isn't as famous as Denmark or Japan when it comes to the production of hisoric toys, but there are a number of iconic brands with a connection to our state.

Wisconsinites have been hand-making toys at home since the earliest inhabitants.  Native peoples in Wisconsin would make dolls and mobiles for cribs and Laura Ingalls Wilder talked about making dolls, toy boats, and puppets while on the prairie.  In the early 20th century, the Wisconsin Toy Co. made German-style dollhouses that were sent to little girls all over the country.  These were usually handmade and done with the utmost attention to craftsmanship and detail.

Kirsten, the Swedish American Girl doll
Photo: American Girl
This heritage made Wisconsin a natural fit for the now household name of American Girl. Founder Pleasant Rowland visited Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia in the early 1980's and was inspired by the way they made history accessible and fun.  Wanting to bring that same spark to girls all over the country, Rowland started American Girl dolls in 1986.  At the time, Pleasant Company in Middleton produced just three dolls: Kirsten Larson, Samantha Parkington, and Molly McIntire.  The idea was to make a doll that girls could relate to while discussing social issues like slavery, poverty, and war in terms that young girls could understand.  Since then, the brand has expanded to over 20 dolls, accessories, movies, magazines, and books.  Despite boutique stores in Chicago, New York, LA, etc., American Girl is still based in Middleton, Wisconsin.  Pleasant Rowland is a noted philanthropist in Madison and continues to champion education and outreach programs through the American Girl company.

Photo: Mattel
Another doll, albeit with a different reputation than American Girl, is Barbie.  Yes, that Barbie.  No, she wasn't created in Wisconsin, but she is from here.  In a fictional sense.  Barbie was created in 1959 by a woman from Colorado named Ruth Handler.  It didn't take long for Barbie to became an international phenomenon.  It is estimated that over 1 billions Barbie dolls have been sold worldwide, and that three Barbie dolls are purchased every second.  What does this have to do with Wisconsin?  In her fictional bio, Barbie was born in the town of Willows, Wisconsin (don't bother with a pilgrimage, it doesn't exist).  I can't say I'm proud that Barbie was 'born' here, but at least Ken isn't a Sconnie!  If you want to see some more authentic Wisconsin Barbie dolls, check out this Brut Brut! post.

Photo: Duncan
But Wisconsin is not just dolls.  Wisconsin loves crafts and we've made our name in some ubiquitous toys found in almost every home.  Yo-Yos are often a generic toy, rarely tied to any brand.  But if you did have to name the producer of the classic bauble, it'd probably be Duncan.  They are so closely linked to yo-yos that their website is  Although the company is from Ohio, Duncan set up their yo-yo factory in the small town of Luck, Wisconsin.  Luck was founded by Swedish loggers, and the town attracted Duncan due to the wide-spread availability of hard Maplewood, perfect for their trademark butterfly yo-yo.  Luck quickly became known as the Yo-Yo Capital of the World, and produced 3,600 yo-yos an hour in their heyday.  That's about 7.5 millions yo-yos a year.

Another childhood favorite are Shrinky Dinks.  Almost everybody in the 1980's had Shrinky Dinks, the bake-able plastic art medium.  The idea began as a Cub Scout project in Brookfield.  It was sold to Hasbro and entered the vocabulary of teenagers across the country.  If you're looking for an especially retro brand of fun, check out their website.  Rad.

As a boy, some of my favorite toys were Micro Machines.  These miniscule cars were licensed from Clem Heeden of Sturgeon Bay.  Produced by Galoob throughout the 1980's and 1990's, they sadly ended production before the millennium.  However, they did leave us with some great YouTube classics!

If you'd like to continue Wisconsin's toy making heritage, there are a number of toy makers in the state.  John Michael Linck makes traditional wooden toys here in Madison and there's always those Shrinky Dinks from North Lake!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Georgia O'Keeffe

Wisconsin has had a fair share of famous natives.  Frank Lloyd Wright has been the subject of a few posts on MTC, but there are so many other great Wisconsinites.  For example, the great Georgia O'Keeffe.

O'Keeffe was born in 1887 on her family's dairy farm outside of Sun Prairie.  The second of seven children, O'Keeffe showed an early aptitude for creativity.  By age 10, O'Keeffe and her younger sister were taking lessons from a local watercolorist.  She began boarding school in Madison, but the family relocated to Williamsburg, Virgina.  O'Keeffe, however, stayed in Madison to finish her studies and joined the family out east after high school, albeit not for long.  She returned to the Midwest to study at the Art Institute of Chicago before moving to New York to study at the Art Students League.  It was there that she won the still-life prize for her work Dead Rabbit with Copper Pot.

Photo: Wiki Media Commons
Despite the praises lauded on her, O'Keeffe left the world of fine art and moved back to Chicago to work as a commercial artist.  Languishing in her creative abyss, it wasn't until she met Arthur Wesley Dow in 1912 that she found inspiration again.  Through the guidance of Dow, O'Keeffe learned how to use painting as expression of an artist rather than the old methods pressed upon her at the art schools.  During this time she took a job at West Texas A&M University and fell in love with the American Southwest.

She first gained national attention when some of her charcoal drawings were shown by the photographer Arthur Stieglitz at his 291 gallery in New York in 1917.  They began writing each other and by 1918, O'Keeffe was back in New York focusing on her art full-time.  The two fell in love quickly, and starting living together.  This caused a bit of a stir as Stieglitz, 23 years her senior, was also still technically married. When his divorce was finalized in 1924, the pair quietly married.

Photo: Avery Margaret Designs
Photo: Scribble of Red
O'Keeffe became a favorite subject in Stieglitz's photography.  Many of her portraits were nude, and by the time her retired in 1937, O'Keeffe had been photographed over 350 times by her husband.  Surrounded by creativity, and spending summers in their idyllic upstate home, O'Keeffe began her iconic large-format nature paintings.  Petunia No. 2 became her first flower painting in 1924 -- a subject that came to define her as an artist.  However, when her Black Iris III was first showed, her critics claimed her work was too sexual.  She began to paint more literally to avoid the unwanted perceived undertones of her work and briefly focused on landscapes.

Photo: Wiki Paintings
Desperate to stretch her creative legs, she stopped summering at the New York house with the Stieglitz family in order to travel to Santa Fe.  There she went on long backpacking excursions with her friend Rebecca Strand.  They ended up renting a house in Taos and not long after, O'Keeffe decided to move there permanently.  She bought Ghost Ranch which became an artists haven, hosting the likes of Allen Ginsberg, and Ansel Adams.  By now her paintings were fetching the highest prices that any living artist has claimed and were being shown throughout the country in places like MoMA, Chicago Art Institute, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.  Her painting Summer Days made her internationally renowned and remains one of her most recognizable works.

In 1946, her husband died suddenly, forcing her to move to New York to settle the estate.  After traveling to clear her head, she painted her iconic Sky Above Clouds IV, inspired by the view while flying over clouds.  She continued to receive praise from her work and was elected to the  American Academy of Arts in 1962 and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1966.

Photo: Art Institute of Chicago
By 1972, O'Keeffe had lost most of her eyesight due to ocular degeneration and hired a young potter named Juan Hamilton to help around her estate.  She abandoned painting, but continued to do charcoal drawings and began working with ceramics under the guidance of Hamilton.

O'Keeffe died in 1986 at the age of 98.

She had decided to leave her entire estate to Hamilton, which was fiercely contested by her survivors.  Ultimately her estate went to the Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation (and when that closed in 2006, it went to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum).  In honor of her Wisconsin roots, Marquette Junior High in Madison was renamed Georgia O'Keeffe Middle School in 1993.  Her work still inspires artists and non-artists alike all over the world and she remains one of the most recognizable names in American art.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Saturday, October 27, 2012

John Steinbeck on Wisconsin

It is possible, even probable, to be told a truth about a place, to accept it, to know it and at the same time to not know anything about it.  I had never been to Wisconsin, but all my life I had heard about it, had eaten its cheeses, some of them as good as any in the world.  And I must have seen pictures.  Everyone must have.  Why then was I unprepared for the beauty of this region, for its variety of field and hill, forest, lake?  I think now I must have considered it one big level cow pasture because of the state's enormous yield of milk products.  I never saw a country that changed so rapidly, and because  I had not expected it everything I saw brought a delight.  I don't know how it is in other seasons, the summers may reek and rock with hear, the winters may groan with dismal cold, but when I saw it for the first and only time in early October, the air was rich with butter-colored sunlight, not fuzzy but crisp and clear so that every frost-gay tree was set off, the rising hills were not compounded, but alone and separate.  There was a penetration of the light into the solid substance so that I seemed to see into things, deep in, and I've seen that kind of light elsewhere only in Greece.  I remembered not that I had been told Wisconsin is a lovely state, but the telling had not prepared me.  It was a magic day.  The land dripped with richness, the fat cows and pigs gleaming against green, and, in the smaller holdings, corn standing in little tents as corn should, and pumpkins all about.

I don't know whether or not Wisconsin has a cheese-tasting festival, but I who am a lover of cheese believe it should.  Cheese was everywhere, cheese centers, cheese cooperatives, cheese stores and stands, perhaps even cheese ice cream.  I can believe anything, since I saw a score of signs advertising Swiss Cheese Candy.  It is sad that I didn't stop to sample Swiss Cheese Candy.  Now I can't persuade anyone that is exists, that I did not make it up.

Beside the road I saw a very large establishment, the greatest distributor of sea shells in the world--and this in Wisconsin, which hasn't known a sea since pre-Cambrian time.  But Wisconsin is loaded with surprises.  I had heard of the Wisconsin Dells but was not prepared for the weird country sculpted by the Ice Age, a strange, gleaming country of water and carved rock, black and green.  To awaken here might make one believe it a dream of some other planet, for it has a non-earthly quality, or else the engraved record of a time when the world was much younger and much different.  Clinging to the sides of the dream-like waterways was the litter of out times, the motels, the hotdog stands, the merchants of the cheap and mediocre and tawdy so loved by summer tourists, but these incrustations were locked and boarded against the winter and, even open, I doubt that they could dispel the enchantment of the Wisconsin Dells.

-John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley (1962)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Haunted Wisconsin: Jeffrey Dahmer

[WARNING: This post has extremely graphic descriptions of gore and violence.]

Dahmer.  The name alone sends shivers up the spine of anyone even remotely familiar with his crimes.  There is a debate as to whether Ed Gein or Jeffrey Dahmer is a more notorious killer in Wisconsin, but the unfathomable darkness in Dahmer's actions and their relatively recent dates make Dahmer the most reviled man in Wisconsin.
Jeffrey Dahmer in high school.
Photo: Wikipedia
Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer was born in West Allis in May of 1960 and moved to Bath, Ohio when he was eight.  According to the excellent graphic novel My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf, Dahmer was always considered an odd boy and rarely fit in with his peers at school but instead became somewhat of a mascot due to his strange and erratic behavior.  It was at this time that he started collecting roadkill and other dead animals to dissect in his backyard.  An unbalanced life at home combined with an isolated social life lead Dahmer to developing alcoholism months before even graduating.  After his parents divorced in 1977, and the summer after high school was when Dahmer began his sinister activities.  Just two weeks after graduation while his family was out of town, Dahmer picked up a hitchhiker, Stephen Hicks, and brought him back to his house for some beer.  Dahmer made sexual advances and Hicks attempted to leave the house before Dahmer bludgeoned hims over the head with a 10lbs. dumb bell.  Dahmer buried the body in their backyard and was never suspected of the crime.  It would be another nine years before he killed again.
Dahmer's first victim Stephen Hicks
Dahmer was accepted to Ohio State University, only to drop out during his first semester.  His father enlisted him in the army but again was discharged due to his alcoholism.  After a brief time in Florida "to escape the cold," Dahmer moved in with his grandmother in West Allis in 1982.  Living there for six months, his behavior grew even more strange.  His grandmother found a fully dressed mannequin in Dahmer's closet and reported strange smells coming from her basement, which were later revealed to be squirrels that Dahmer dissolved in acid.  He was arrested twice for indecent exposure (once for masturbating in front of two young boys).  And then in September of 1987, Dahmer picked up the 26-year-old Steve Toumi at a bar, only to later kill him that night--a crime that Dahmer claimed he had no recollection of.  It wasn't long after that that his grandmother coincidentally asked him to move out.  He found an apartment closer to his job at the Ambrosia Chocolate Factory and was left all alone.
The one that almost escaped, Konerak Sinthasomphone

With his new freedom (some say isolation) Dahmer's blood lust only increased.  Not after a week of living on his own, he was arrested for molesting a 13-year-old boy.  He was sentenced to probation and community service and registered as a sex offender.  But this did little to slow him down.  In the next three years, he killed ten more men after bringing them home for a one-night stand.  It wasn't until May of 1991 that Dahmer had bee caught--but in a painfully heart wrenching twist Dahmer evaded capture to kill again.

Konerak Sinthasomphone, the younger brother of the boy that Dahmer had molested three years previous, was found staggering down the street in a panic.  He was naked, heavily drugged, and bleeding from his anus. Two neighbors found the 14-year-old boy and called 911.  Dahmer caught up with Sinthasomphone and tried to take him back to his apartment but the women refused.  Two officers arrived on the scene where Dahmer convinced them that Sinthasomphone was his 19-year-old lover and they had an argument after a long night of drinking.  The two women, who knew Sinthasomphone, pleaded to the officers not to listen to Dahmers lies.  They briefly scolded Dahmer for the disturbance and went on their way.  The officers, one of which later became president of the Milwaukee Police Association, noticed a strange smell coming from Dahmer's apartment, but did not investigate.  Little did they know that it was the rotting body of Dahmer's previous victim Tony Hughes.  Sinthasomphone was killed and dismembered later that night in Dahmer's kitchen.

Dahmer's downfall, Tracy Edwards
By that summer Dahmer was slaying one man a week.  He killed Matt Turner on June 30, Jeremiah Weinberger on July 5, Oliver Lacy on July 12, and finally Joseph Brandehoft on July 19.  He was convinced that he could turn the men into his sex zombie.  He would drill a hole into their skulls and pour hydrochloic acid and boiling water into their frontal lobes...all while they were still alive and conscious.  On July 22nd, 1991 Dahmer repeated his tested method.  He lured Tracy Edwards back to his apartment and attempted to handcuff him.  Unfortunately for Dahmer, Edwards put up more of a fight that his previous victims and escaped the psychopath's clutches.  Dahmer tried to corner him in his bedroom with a butcher knife, but Edwards delivered a powerful haymaker, sending Dahmer reeling.  Edwards escaped and luckily flagged down officers on patrol.

Officers Robert Rauth and Rolf Mueller were greeted by a pleasant and cheerful Jeffrey Dahmer, but upon entering his home, they quickly made their arrest.  Inside, the mortified men found a 55-gallon drum filled with corrosive acid, photos of dismembered men hanging on the walls of Dahmer's bedroom, and a refrigerator containing four human heads, multiple hands and penises, and other body parts.  Later, as police worked to gather evidence in the apartment, an altar of human bones was found in the closet, multiple shoe boxes containing photos of dismembered men, seven more skulls, and a heart in his freezer.

The barrel Dahmer used to dissolve his victims corpses.  Photo:
Dahmer was charged with 17 counts of murder, which was later reduced to 15.  His trial began in January of 1992 and was over in two weeks.  He plead not guilty by reason of insanity but was found sane and sentenced to 15 life sentences, the maximum possible in Wisconsin.  He was later extradited to Ohio for the trial of Stephen Hicks, of which he was also found guilty.  Dahmer served his time at Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage.  In July of 1994, a fellow inmate unsuccessfully attempted to slash Dahmer's throat with a razor blade.  That November, Dahmer was beaten to death with a broom handle in the prison's gym.
Dahmer's capture in 1991.  Photo:

Dahmer's apartment building was purchased by nearby Marquette University and razed.  The University intends on leaving the lot empty to deter memorials or shrines to the hideous crimes committed there.  Most of Dahmer's family still resides in Ohio, except for his youngest brother David, who has changed his last name to live in anonymity.  Dahmer's estate was awarded to 11 of the victim's families who intended to auction it off.  The group Milwaukee Civic Pride raised over $500,000 to purchase the entire estate and destroy it.

He claimed that he never enjoyed the act of killing, that it was just a means to an end.  What Dahmer was after was the sexual charge of controlling somebody.  Consuming their flesh, attempting to make them into living zombies was just another way to be the one in charge.  

The name Dahmer will always be in the deep recesses of the state's psycheHe will always be part of Milwaukee lore and forever one of the darkest figures haunting Wisconsin.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Haunted Wisconsin: Julian Carlton

[WARNING: This post has extremely graphic descriptions of gore and violence.]

Frank Lloyd Wright c. 1914.  Photo: Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
Frank Lloyd Wright is one of Wisconsin's biggest points of pride.  His genius and influence is seen throughout the world.  But Lloyd Wright was known to be a hard taskmaster and his mistress Martha "Mamah" Borthwick was known to be just as demanding.  Enter Julian Carlton.

Wright's personal home, Taliesin, was completed in Spring Green in 1911.  Wright and Mamah moved that Christmas and began settling in, planning to wed once their respective divorces became final.  The couple loved the home and Mamah hired help to keep it running smoothly.  Julian Carlton, and his wife Gertrude, were brought into Taliesin in June of 1914.  Born in 1884 in Barbados, Julian was a hard worker but was often chided over fellow manservants.  Arguments between Julian and residents of Taliesin flared up, sometimes racially fueled, and Mamah asked Julian and his wife to leave.  At the beginning of August, 1914, Julian tendered his two-week notice and planned for his departure....

Martha "Mamah" Borthwick shortly before her death.
Photo: New York Times

August 15th was a seasonably warm and pleasant day so Mamah and her children opted to take their lunch outside.  This meant that his victims would be separated.  Julian prepared the deeds by dousing the rugs around the house with gasoline and locking the doors of the dining room, where the other workers were having lunch.  Lloyd Wright was in Chicago working on Midway Gardens and Mamah was having lunch in the screened-in porch with her children John and Martha.  Julian placed the soup bowls in front of the family, and as Mamah bowed her head over her lunch, Julian raised his axe and cleaved his way through her neck.  Mamah collapsed as blood poured from her neck into the broth in front of her.  Julian must have worked fast, because 12-year-old John was also found dead in his chair but the 9-year-old Martha rose to escape, sadly not fast enough.  Julian caught her outside and finished the job with a series of bladed blows to her delicate frame.

Inside, Taliesin foreman, Thomas Brunker, carpenter Billy Weston and his 13-year-old son Ernest, draftsmen Herbert Fritz and Emil Brodelle, and landscape designer David Lindblom were eating their lunch.  Upon hearing the screams outside, they curiously rose from their table to investigate only to find that the doors had been locked from the outside.  Working quickly, Julian lit fires he had prepared under the doors of the dining room.  Panic quickly set in and Fritz broke a window to escape, breaking his arm in the process.  Julian and his axe were waiting patiently for them outside, doing the devil's work one them one-by-one.  Fritz, engulfed in flames and screaming for his life, rolled down the hill and was presumed dead by Julian.  Weston was the next one to emerge from the window and was hit twice by the axe until Brunker climbed out and Julian moved to kill him.  He was found with a large wedge taken out of the top of his skull.  The young Ernest Weston was next, cold-heartedly killed as he watched his father burn at the bottom of the hill.  Finally, Brodelle was last out of the house and into the clutches of Julian and his axe, butchered like a steer in a slaughterhouse.
Julian Carlton after his arrest.  Photo: BBC

Despite the grisly scene, Weston and Fritz managed to escape slaughter as the fire department and Spring Green residents arrived to investigate.  They were greeted with the smouldering remains of the Taliesin, the stench of charred human flesh and blood flowing through the immaculate landscaping.  Julian himself was not on the scene, but hiding in a basement furnace room at Taliesin swallowing hydrochloric acid in an attempt to evade capture.  The townspeople were roaring to lynch him but authorities took him to the jail in Dodgeville.  Despite repeated interrogations Julian said little about the murders.  The hydrochloric acid Julian swallowed scarred his esophagus and he was unable to swallow.  It took him seven weeks of starvation to die in prison..

Frank Lloyd Wright received a telegram that day stating simply, "Taliesin destroyed by fire."  He arrived on the scene around midnight and later recalled how the building was "swept down and away in a madman's nightmare of flame and murder.... The great stone and tall on the hillside, their fireplaces now gaping holes."  Later he identified the "charred and axed remains of the victims" draped with white sheets as they lay in his aunt's home in Spring Green.

Aftermath.  Photo:

Wright eventually rebuilt the house as Taliesin II.  He spoke little of the tragedy for the rest of his life, but the murders that took place on that warm summer day have rocked the foundation of the small town of Spring Green and been a fixture of Wisconsin folklore for decades.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Horseradish roots

The horseradish flower
--> Despite its clumsy name and sinus-clearing properties, Horseradish is a root well established on Wisconsin menus and in Wisconsin kitchens. The first time one tries horseradish is, in my opinion, unpleasant. The bitter taste and mild pain associated with the plant can be shocking. However, slowly but surely, you’ll find yourself eating a piece of beef or a fried cheese curd, and you’ll realize that this treat would be so much better with a pinch of this mysterious accompaniment. This slow process of beginning to enjoy horseradish can quickly spiral into a love affair, if left unchecked.

Horseradish flavored items are common on Wisconsin menus, often paired with steak or roast beef per the German tradition. It is common in mayonnaise based dipping sauces (ie “aioli” for those of us who won’t call mayonnaise what it is). One of my favorites is The Old Fashioned's "Tiger Blue" sauce: a mix of blue cheese and horseradish-perfect for the fried cheese curds mentioned above. There are also numerous horseradish flavored cheeses that balance the punch of horseradish with the creamy Wisconsin mild cheddar or Monterey jack--I'd recommend the horseradish cheddar made by Great Midwest

Interestingly, while most of the world’s horseradish is grown in the southern Midwest around the St. Louis region, the single largest horseradish farm is operated near Eau Claire, Wisconsin and owned by Silver Spring, a mustard and condiment company. 

In my own home, I discovered my family’s unrecognized but ever-present love of horseradish. See our range of horseradish products below, and our delicious dinner of steak and jalapeno/bacon infused greens perfectly enhanced with some hearty horseradish sauce.

Left: standard horseradish, mixed with vinegar, Center: horseradish infused mustard, Right: Horseradish sauce, creamy, smooth and spicy all at once.

I chose the creamy horseradish sauce for this plate--FYI, the serving size above was not enough for this horseradish lover.
 As winter settles slowly but determinedly on the Wisconsin landscape, one will be sure to find the warming horseradish, in many forms, on plates around the state.


1. My parent’s house

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pumpkin Patches

 The dry summer has taken a toll on the fall apple crop in Wisconsin, but pumpkins are bigger and better than usual! I took a short drive south of Madison to the Eplegaarden Apple Orchard in Fitchburg, WI. They had one of the most impressive pumpkin crops I've seen in a long time.
Pick your own apple signage at Eplegaarden.
The raspberry patch and one section of the apple orchard.
In this barn, you can purchase apples and excellent, fresh-pressed apple cider.
The orchard is presently owned by Vern and Betty Forest, but the Epleaarden started out as an old norweigan farm. When you visit the orchard, you can take a look at the Wisconsin Sesquicentennial Barn that commemorates the state's 150th year of statehood.

The highlight of our trip to the Eplegaarden was definitely scouting out MONSTROUS gourds in the pumpkin patch. Because the pumpkin crop was so good this year, the orchard has an awesome deal where if you buy two pumpkins, your third one is free! I bought three pumpkins (totaling over 125lbs!!!) and it cost less than $40. I'm really pumped to carve these guys in another week or so!
 The orchard also has a fleet of weathered Radio Flyers that patrons can use to haul their spoils in from the field. The pumpkin patch has plenty of orange pumpkins, cool-looking warty green pumpkins, and big white "ghost" pumpkins. Happy carving!

The Eplegaarden is located at:
2227 Fitchburg Road
Fitchburg, Wisconsin

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Better Know A Town: Wisconsin Dells

H.H. Bennett's 1880's photo that brought the
beauty of the Dells to a worldwide audience.
Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Historical Society.
The Dells.

These two simple words can conjure up both happy childhood memories of water slides and pancake breakfasts while at the same time sending shivers to kitsch and tourist traps to the part of the brain that is responsible for shame in one's homeland.  But More Than Curds is here for you!  We know that the Dells will be forever linked with cheesy attractions (and not the good kind), but that doesn't mean that we can't try our best to but the Dells in good light.  So, MTC would like to inventive you to better know this town.

Wisconsin Dells is named after a series of geographical landmarks of the same name along the Wisconsin River.  These are narrow sandstone gorges that are unique to this area of Wisconsin.  The area has been inhabited for thousands of years and was settled by European peoples in the 1850's.  Originally named Kilbourn City, Wisconsin Dells was a lumber town until a railroad bridge that cross the Wisconsin River was erected.  As tourists trickled in to see the natural landscape of the Dells, the town eventually renamed to Wisconsin Dells in 1931 to be more closely equated with the tourist attraction that brought in so much money to the town.  Around that same time (1927), the man-made Lake Delton was constructed and the town of the same name was founded. Now, because of the seamless proximity of Lake Delton and Wisconsin Dells, the two towns are usually grouped together as simply "The Dells".

Since the 1950's, the Dells has been a family vacation hotspot.  After WWII, amphibious military landing craft, known as "Ducks", were used to give tours of the natual beauty of the area.  Soon tourist traps such as the Wonder Spot, Storybook Gardens, and Tommy Bartlett's Thrill Show brought in vacationers from across the Upper Midwest.  The 1970's saw the first of many waterparks open in the Dells, and more recently the town has been home to casinos and outlet malls.

To experience a non-kitschy Dells excursion, we took an easy 45-minute drive north from Madison and stopped for lunch at Moosejaw Pizza & Dells Brewing Co.  Since 2002, Moosejaw has been making "The Best Pizza In Town" and Dells Brewing Co. has been making an impressive 20 brews to wash it all down.  While we did not order the pizza (it was a Friday--we got the fish fry) we did get a sampler of the beer.  While most were ho-hum, the Raspberry Creme Ale and Coffee Stout were surprising.  Compared to New Glarus Brewery's Raspberry Tart, this one was great!  I'm not even a fruit-beer fan, I thought this was delicious.  Raspberry flavor came through well without being sugary, syrupy, or too tart.  This would make a great summer session beer.  And the coffee stout was the best I've every had.  On the nose and flavor, dark roasted coffee beans dominated this malt-forward brew.  Rich flavor with a full body that would be welcome all winter long.  Fun fact: Dells Brewing Co.'s Jamie Martin is the only female brewer in the state!

After getting our fill, we went to the Originals Duck Tours (the ones from the 1950's).  We had planned to go on one of the boat tours (which I personally think are better because of their route through the Upper Dells) but time and money constraints directed us to the Ducks.  It proved to be a fun and scenic way to spend an afternoon.  This one-hour tour will take you through the woods before plunging into the Wisconsin River, up to Lake Delton, then back through the forest.  The drivers have some pretty hilarious jokes (read: one-line groaners), and they're usually college-aged kids just trying to earn money for tuition.  Be sure to drop a buck or two in their tip jar at the end of the trip.  It is difficult to capture the gorgeous scene of the Dells, but check out some photos of the trip.

We learned three lessons today:
1) The Dells can be fun without being a parody of itself--don't fear piling into the station wagon next summer
2) The Dells may be even more beautiful in the autumn.
3) If worse comes to worse, at least they got a brewery!