Fox Footprints: local history

The Appleton Public Library is very interested in preserving local history and collecting our shared stories. Here you will find unique photos and stories, updates on our projects and information on our programs in local history and researching your family history. If you have a great photo or story, let us know!   -Diana

A Stone of Hope

A Stone of Hopeis now at the Appleton Public Library. Created by the History Museum at the Castle, this exhibit illustrates Black history in the Fox Cities from the 1700s to the present using illustrated panels and a kiosk with stories told by local residents.  Visit the main floor of the Appleton Public Library to view until September 14, when this pop-up exhibit moves to the next venue.


If this display inspires you to research your own family history, please continue upstairs to the Wisconsin Collection.  There you will find local histories, city directories and other materials on people who lived in this area.  The Appleton Public Library also has databases and indexes that will help you find information on your old house, newspaper articles from the Appleton Post-Crescent, and much more.


Fireworks, picnics and cookbooks

Independence Day always makes me think of picnics, fireworks and family as we celebrate the beginning of our nation.  One way to combine those is to make a delicious dish to share during these events.

Located on the second floor of the library, The Wisconsin collection provides a variety of materials—everything from local history to local and state documents to cookbooks.  Yes, cookbooks!

Currently some of our older local cookbooks are highlighted in a display behind the antique desk.  Over the years various organizations have published compilations of recipes from their members, for example the Post-Crescent or the Foxy Ladies.

Some of the more unusual or older items need to stay in the library, but we do have a variety of local and regional cookbooks that you can check out.  Browse the ones on the desk or check the shelves at WI 641.5.

 Farm Recipes and Food Secrets from the Norske Nook

Two of my favorites are Farm Recipes and Food Secrets from the Norske Nook by Helen Myhre with Mona Vold, and the award-winning The Flavor of Wisconsin:  An Informal History of Food and Eating in the Badger State by Harva Hachten and Terese Allen.

The Flavor of Wisconsin

Sanborn maps!

Have you discovered the terrific collection of historical maps available through the Wisconsin Historical Society yet?  Among others, it includes a large collection of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.  They are meticulously detailed snapshots focused on the business district of an area.  Originally created to help insurance agents determine the degree of fire hazard associated with a particular property, they are now a goldmine for researchers and historians.  These maps include physical characteristics of each building, including size, building materials, windows and doors.  They document street names, property boundaries, fire hydrants, water and gas mains and the names of most public buildings, churches and companies.  Rivers, canals, railroad corridors and similar features are also noted.  Some maps also include large portions of residential areas, where individual homes are recorded with as much precision as large factories.   We are fortunate enough to have copies of the 1883, 1886, 1891, 1895, 1901, 1911 and 1924 Sanborn maps in our collection here at the library, but now you can peruse most of these online as well.  Check it out!

Peshtigo Fire

Fall is suddenly here.  The trees are turning and leaves are falling.  Once Halloween is here, the rest of the year goes by in a flash.  I'm going to try to slow things down a bit and pay more attention to October.  Certainly we're all familiar with the Great Chicago Fire and Mrs. O'Leary's cow.  That fire began on October 8, 1871 and burned for two days.  It destroyed 3.3 square miles of the City of Chicago.  There are volumes and volumes written about that fire.  But there was another disastrous fire that started on the same day here in Wisconsin.  It burned over 1800 square miles and took between 1500 and 2500 lives, but is largely forgotten in many quarters.  It was described as a firestorm; a wall of flame, a mile high, five miles wide, traveling 90 to 100 miles per hour.  The flames even jumped the waters of Green Bay to reach the peninsula.  There hasn't been much written about it.   William F. Steuber, Jr. used the tragedy as the basis for his prizewinning novel, The Landlooker.  What does survive is an eyewitness account from Father Peter Pernin.  He was the parish priest for Peshtigo and nearby Marinette.  His account is called "The Great Peshtigo Fire, an eyewitness account" and it can be found here at the library.  Check it out!

Music! Music! Music!

Appleton Field Artillery BandIt's hard to believe, but summer is already winding down.  Tonight is the last summer concert by the Appleton City Band.  Rumor has it, there will be ice cream.  7 o'clock at Pierce Park. This is a local band made up of your friends and neighbors.  Some are music professionals, some are teachers your kids have at school, some are community members who just play for fun.  It is a local treasure in which we can all take pride.  It also has a long history.  At one time, it was basically the pictured Field Artillery Band.  The library has acquired this terrific photo, but there is no identifying information on it.  Do you know anyone who might be in it?  Do you know someone else who might know someone in it?  We'd like to get the men identified, and hope you can help!  Click on the photo to see the full image.  Hope to hear from you soon, and see you tonight at the park!

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