Downtown 1958

Downtown 1958

Friday, October 24, 2014

Menasha Girls Are....


August 21, 1886 Oshkosh Northwestern
Partisan comments from a local newspaper; very nice.  But wait!  What was that last part?!  Readers, take caution.   While I'm not exactly sure what that meant 128 years ago, I'm hoping the author meant "tomboys."  Today, that could mean something else entirely!   Ah, the evolution of language. 

Happy weekend! 

Thursday, October 23, 2014


I found this page in the 1923 version of The Nicolet, Menasha High's yearbook.  I was taken by the phrase, "civic biology," which aroused my curiosity. 
As it turns out, "civic biology" was the shorthand term for a curriculum based on A Civic Biology: Presented in Problems, a biology textbook written by George William Hunter, published in 1914. From what I've read, it was a nationally known book, used in school districts all over the country in the early 20th century. 

It is the book which Tennessee required high school teachers to use and is best known for its section about evolution that was ruled by a local court to be in violation of the state Butler Act.  The Butler Act was a Tennessee law which prohibited public school teachers from denying the Biblical account of man's origin. It was for teaching from this textbook that John T. Scopes was brought to trial in Dayton, Tennessee in the famous Scopes "Monkey" Trial pitting William Jennings Bryan against Clarence Darrow.

If things had been different and Menashans had been a bit more intolerant, who knows?  We might have been thrust into the national spotlight instead of the small town of Dayton, Tennessee.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

1st National

With the news that the old First National Bank is to come down, I thought this photo was timely.  Most of us think of the four columned bank when we picture the First National.  But this building preceded it in 1887 and has resided next to the more familiar columned version ever since its 1916 debut. 

Notice the second floor office of J.M. Pleasants, attorney.  He was the brother of yesterday's subject, Ellen Lee Pleasants Banta. 

 June 30, 1887 Oshkosh Northwestern

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ellen Banta

Ellen Lee Pleasants, born March 7, 1866 in Virginia, was affectionately known as "Nellie," and was the wife of George Banta, insurance agent, and (later) publisher.  Based in Madison, George frequently travelled to Menasha on business.  But upon meeting Nellie, he moved permanently to our city and they married in June of 1886. 

It was not until 1901 that Mr. Banta decided to make a business of his printing hobby. In that year the George Banta Printing Company was incorporated, with a capital of $4,000.  But George, who suffered from ill health, essentially had to relinquish control of his firm from 1904 to 1911 to tend to his health in Arizona and other environs upon the advice of his doctor. Meanwhile, Nellie remained in Menasha and ran the day-to-day operations.  Her deep involvement in the firm in its early years was, in no small measure, a significant factor in carrying the business through the lean years and contributed to its evolution into a multimillion dollar corporation.

Upon George Banta's death in 1935, Nellie assumed the presidency until her own death in 1951.

(A side note, it was Ellen's older sister, Luci Lee who was convinced Elisha D. Smith to form a public library in Menasha and became its first librarian.) 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Railroad Bridge

October 19, 1861 Menasha Weekly Manufacturer
In February 1861, the Chicago & North Western Railroad was extended from Oshkosh to Appleton.  Its original path was along the west shore of Little Lake Butte des Morts, bypassing Neenah and Menasha.  Eventually, the villages of Neenah and Menasha were allowed to pay for the right of way, grading, ties, and bridges to induce the railroad to reroute the line across Doty Island.  That would then necessitate building a railroad bridge across Little Lake Butte des Morts for the railroad to continue its journey northward.
That first railroad bridge across Little Lake Butte des Morts had 115 supports spaced about 10 feet apart.  Menasha provided $12,000 in municipal bonds for the project.  This wooden bridge served unitl 1909 when the railroad announced its plans to double track the main line from Fond du Lac to Green Bay which meant the bridges would then have to be rebuilt using steel and concrete.   

Friday, October 17, 2014

Herziger Farm

This photograph shows the Louis Herziger truck farm around 1911; Louis had purchased the farm just four years before. The farm was on the south side of Nicolet Boulevard across the street from Smith Park in Menasha.  The farm was parceled into 38 lots for sale in 1928.
Photograph courtesy of the Neenah Public Library

August 20, 1928 Appleton Post-Crescent

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Armory Football

As an extension of yesterday's post about the armory, I came across this photo of the Company I football team of 1907.  The funny looking things hanging around their necks are leather nose guards.  Before face masks became prominent in the 1950s, it was the only protection against a bloody (or broken) nose.  Compare this to the blog post of 9/22 about Menasha regaining football in the early 1920's: