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City of Appleton Firsts, from Settlement to Present Day


The first airmail service from Whiting Airport (between Appleton and Menasha) left on December 15, 1928. According to the book Appleton Postal History, it was carried by a Ford Tri-Motor plane and the return air mail left Los Angeles December 19. The first Air Mail Flight out of Appleton Airport was on July 2, 1959.


1911, Appleton resident Fred Felix Wettengel had guaranteed an aviator named Calbraith Perry Rogers $2,000 to do exhibition flying over Appleton. On September third of that year, over 3,000 people appeared to watch Rogers’ aeronautic feats in a Wright bi-plane, and many were taken up as passengers.

Automobile Ordinances

The first laws governing the uses of automobiles in Appleton were passed by the City Council in 1924.


In 1881, James Carter ascended in the balloon City of Paris, taking it from Telulah Park to an area near downtown Appleton.

Baseball Team

In 1867, Appleton’s first baseball team was organized. Their first team name was “Excelsior,” later changed to “The Badgers.”

Brick Building

The first brick building in downtown Appleton was constructed in 1857 by J. W. Woodward, at the northeast corner of College Avenue and Oneida Street. The building still stands and has been incorporated into the Avenue Mall.


The first bridge over the Fox River in Appleton was constructed in July, 1851 by the Appleton Bridge Company.

Bus Line

The Fox River Bus Line first began service in Appleton on May 24, 1924.


The first business in Appleton was the Lawrence Hotel, owned and operated by John F. Johnston.

Catholic Church

In 1859, Irish immigrants organized St. Mary Catholic Church in Appleton. The second Catholic Church was founded in 1868 by German immigrants.

Catholic Mass

Paul Grignon’s home White Heron was the site of the first Catholic Mass celebrated in Appleton. Father Bonduel of Poygan officiated in 1848.

Chamber of Commerce

On September 9, 1874, the Appleton Chamber of Commerce began operation under President A. L. Smith.

Christmas Lights

The first Christmas lights appeared on College Avenue in 1908.


Appleton’s first church was the First Congregational Church, founded in 1850.

City Directory

The first Appleton City Directory was published in 1874.

City Plan

Appleton’s first city plan was prepared by Leonard S. Smith in 1922. It called for the construction of a Cherry Street (Memorial Drive) Bridge, the consolidation of railroad depots, and additional park lands.

Class at Lawrence University

On November 12, 1849, Lawrence University began a course of pre-college level instruction with a class of 35 students.


In July, 1852, the first Outagamie County Court convened with Judge P. H. Smith presiding. The first Circuit Court sat in October of that year with Judge T. V. Howe presiding. The first Municipal Court started in 1907 with Thomas Ryan as the Judge.


The first Outagamie County Courthouse was constructed In 1855, on the same Walnut Street site as the present courthouse.


The first dam on the Appleton portion of the Fox River was constructed by Tracy Gingham in 1849.

Electric Central Station

On the evening of Saturday, September 30, 1882, two mills of the Appleton Paper and Pulp Company, and Hearthstone (home of H. J. Rogers), became the first buildings in the world lighted by electricity generated from the Edison hydroelectric central station.

Electric Street Lights

College Avenue was first lighted by electric street lights in 1912. The lights were financed by the merchants on the Avenue, who also paid the $5 monthly salary for a tender to turn the lights on and off each night.

Electric Street Railway

The first electric street cars began operating in Appleton on August 16, 1886. Appleton was the first community in the nation to have electric street cars. The cars ran until 1930.


On August 29, 1848, John F. Johnston, his wife Janette, and their two children, William and Marion, moved into a small half-finished cabin on the land being cleared near Lawrence University, on what is now the north side of Johnston Street. The Johnstons became the first family to live in what would become Appleton.

Fire Hydrants

Appleton’s first fire hydrants were installed in March, 1890.


The Reverend Asa B. Randall presided at the first funeral in what would become the city of Appleton on October 15, 1849. The funeral was for the child of H. N. Day.

Gas Street Lighting

Gas lamps were first used to light the streets of Appleton in the autumn of 1877.

German Language Newspaper

The first issue of the Appleton Volksfreund, a German language newspaper, was published in March, 1871, and soon became the largest German language paper in the state. The Volksfreund ceased publication in 1932.

German School

A German language private school began operating in 1859.

Golf Course

Reid Municipal Golf Course, Appleton’s only public golf course, opened in 1941.

Grist Mill

The first grist mill opened in Appleton in 1853.

Graduating Class of Lawrence

The first bachelor’s degrees were conferred by Lawrence University in 1857. The first graduating class consisted of four men and three women.

High School

Appleton’s first high school was established for students in the second ward in 1876. The first class of ten students graduated in 1878.


Appleton’s first hospital was the Prescott Hospital, established at the northwest corner of Drew and Fisk (now Franklin) Streets some time in the 1880’s.


Appleton’s first frame house was constructed in 1848 near Lawrence University.

Large Screen Theater

The Big Picture Theater of Adventure & Discovery, the area’s first large-screen film theater, opened in downtown Appleton in March. Due to low attendance, the theater closed in the fall of 2006. (Post-Crescent, 10-7-2006, A-1)


In 1887, Mrs. George C. Jones established a reading room over Pardee’s Grocery Store on College Avenue, creating Appleton’s first community library. The site is now a part of the former Avenue Mall, currently the City Center.

Lutheran Church

The first Lutheran church, St. Paul’s, started in 1867.


The first mail was delivered to Appleton in 1849.


The first mayor of the city of Appleton was Amos Story, who served one term, from 1857 to 1858.

Middle School

Appleton’s first middle school was St. Joseph’s Catholic School, which opened in the fall of 1987.


In February, 1858, during a drunken barroom brawl, John Hogan of Greenville smashed a “heavy sledge stake” against the head of James Duggan of Appleton. This incident became Appleton’s first murder.


The Outagamie Museum was established in the former Masonic Temple building on College Avenue in 1984.


The Appleton Crescent, a Democratic paper, was first published in February, 1853, with 88 subscribers.


The first Grand Opera performed in Appleton was “Marthe” by the Redpath Opera Company at Bertschy’s Hall in July, 1875.

Paper Mill

In 1854, C. P. Richmond started Appleton’s first papermill. Limited to wrapping paper at first, the mill was able to produce newsprint in 1857. It was the first paper mill on the Fox River.


In 1881, the city of Appleton purchased a large block of land north of the Lawrence campus for $13,000. That land became Appleton’s first park, City Park.

Parochial School

Father Louis Dael of St. Mary’s Catholic Church organized Appleton’s first parochial school in 1862.


Appleton’s first community swimming pool opened on W. Water Street in 1916. Erb Park Pool opened in 1941 and Mead Park Pool in 1961. (Post-Crescent, 8-31-1920, p. 6, and 6-19-1929, p. 11)

Post Office

The Appleton Post Office opened in March, 1849, under Postmaster John F. Johnston.

President of Lawrence University

The first president of the Lawrence Institute was William H. Sampson, who took office in 1849. The first professional educator to guide Lawrence was Dr. Edward Cooke, who began college-level instruction when he became president in 1853.

Radio Station

Appleton’s first radio station was WHBY, which went on the air with 50 watts in 1924. The station was licensed in 1925.


The Chicago and Northwestern Railroad became Appleton’s first railroad when it was extended from Neenah and Menasha into Appleton on February 27, 1861.


The first sawmill in Appleton was constructed by Tracy Gingham in 1849.


The Township of Grand Chute organized School District No. 1 in 1851, and hired Daniel Huntley as the first teacher at a monthly salary of $28. The school opened that autumn in a building on the northwest corner of Oneida Street and College Avenue, with a class of 60 students.

Shopping Mall

In August, 1954, the Valley Fair shopping mall opened. It was the first totally enclosed shopping mall in the world.


Lewis Schintz and Henry Cole became Appleton’s first soldiers when they volunteered for military duty eight days after the fall of Fort Sumter on April 20, 1861. Two bands and a large, enthusiastic crowd saw them off to the Civil War.


In 1856, the steamship Aquilla was the first to make the trip from the Mississippi River to Green Bay by way of the Wisconsin River and the Fox. On that voyage, it became the first steamship to pass through Appleton.


The drygoods store of W. S. Warner was Appleton’s first retail business.

Sunday newspaper

On September 24, 1961, The Appleton Post-Crescent began publishing a Sunday edition, the first Sunday newspaper in Appleton.

Sunday School

In September, 1849, Methodist volunteer Henry L. Blood started Appleton’s first Sunday school at the Lawrence University Chapel.


Appleton’s first tannery opened in 1860.


Appleton was linked by telegraph to Green Bay and the outside world in August, 1862.


In 1877, Alfred Galpin, an Appleton banker, constructed a telephone line between his home and office. This was only one year after Alexander Graham Bell invented the device and, according to some reports, was the first telephone in Wisconsin. Druggist L. N. Benoit then installed telephones in his store with connections to doctors’ offices. By 1878, Benoit had a switchboard linked to 25 phones around the city. It was the first switchboard in Wisconsin. In 1881, Benoit was bought out by a precursor to the Wisconsin Telephone Company.

Television Station

Appleton’s first television station, WXGZ, channel 32, began broadcasting on March 9, 1984.

“Test Tube” Tree

In April of 1969, Dr. Lawson Winton cloned the world’s first test-tube tree, a triploid quaking aspen, at the Institute of Paper Chemistry.


Appleton’s first theater with a stage was known as Bertschy’s Hall, located on the second floor of the Bertschy Building on the northwest corner of College Avenue and Appleton Street (where Bank One is today). Herman Erb bought the building and remodeled it into a real opera house at a cost of $10,000. The grand opening was held in December, 1882.

Veterinary Stable

Appleton’s first veterinary stable opened in 1869.

Village President

John F. Johnston was the first president of the village of Appleton.

Vocational School

In 1912, Appleton’s vocational school opened. It was the first school in the nation built exclusively for vocational purposes.

Woman Alderman

Dorothy Stillings became the first woman alderman when she was elected to represent Appleton’s 11th Ward in a 1952 special election.

Woman Mayor

In 1980, Dorothy Johnson became the first woman elected as Appleton’s mayor.

Woolen Mill

The first woolen mill in Appleton opened in 1861.


Appleton’s YMCA was founded in 1888 by Frank Harwood and other community leaders.