But will those activities be authentic? The Village Committee of the Door County Historical Society is committed to making history come alive, so it is very important to them that events scheduled at The Historical Village include activities that could actually have occurred in 1900.
Could there have been trombones in a rural village in 1900? Absolutely. Trombones were developed in 1791 during the French Revolution. These unique instruments with slides (rather than keys) became very popular in Europe and by the 19th century, trombones were essential instruments in brass and military bands.
European immigrants brought their most valuable possessions they moved to America. Even in rural areas of Door County, men brought out their instruments from the Old Country played in “town bands” which, while not always noted for musical finesse, were reportedly enthusiastic and loud, particularly if the performance followed or included liquid refreshment. Trombones certainly could have played part in an Ice Cream Social of 1900.
Ice cream was invented in long before 1900. We all know that the ice cream sundae was invented inTwo Rivers in 1881, and the hand crank ice cream freezer was available from the 1900 Sears Robuck or Montgomery Ward “wish books.” But what about the ice? As one committee member pointed out, electricity didn’t come to Sturgeon Bay until 1904 and it reached rural areas long after that. How would rural folk get the ice for a hand cranked freezer?
Well, Wisconsin winters are a pretty good source of ice, and truth is, ice harvest was once one of the major industries in Wisconsin. In the late 1800s, ice was a major export from Door County, with the meat packing plants of Chicago creating the greatest demand. (Chicago had its own ice in the winter, but due to sewage issues, their local ice was less than desirable.)
In the winter, thousands of men were out on the ice in Sturgeon Bay and also the inland lakes of Door County, sawing and removing large blocks of ice. The ice was stored in “ice houses.” Readily available sawdust (Sturgeon Bay had three large mills) was piled between ice layers for insulation which kept the ice cold well into the summer months. The ice was carried by boat to the cities. (Milwaukee also needed ice. It reportedly had several breweries.)
By 1900, the profits on ice had sort of melted away. Railroads tracks were built right up to the packing plants so meat packers were no longer willing to pay the fees to cart ice from the docks. Never-the-less, ice still was harvested in Door County for local use in “ice boxes.”
An icebox was the pre-electric appliance to keep food cool and most homes had them. The wooden exterior contained several compartments. One compartment housed a block of ice. The other, made of tin or zinc and insulated with cork or sawdust, was used for food storage. Of course, the ice invariably melted and one regular chore was to empty the drip pan. Some families had ice delivered by an ice man or purchased it in town, while others cut and stored their own ice. So, while ice cream making would have been a special event, it would have been possible on a rural farm.
Nan and Jerry Krause will assume the roles of the Warrens–the pioneer family that build and lived in the Warren House. The Warrens were involved in the Civil War, were keepers of the Cana Island Lighthouse, and were passionately involved in politics, the Temperance Union movement and in farming. Their home was the post office. This amusing and informative historical skit will be presented the porch of the Warren House at 2:00.
Monday through Thursday, free family programs on nature or history are offered by Joan Wilkie, the Summer Educator at Crossroads. These free hands-on programs are open to learners of all ages. Pre-registration is not required.
The Collins Learning Center and The Historical Village at The Crossroads, open daily from 1:30-3:30, are located at 2041 Michigan Street, just east of Sturgeon Bay (at the Intersection of Highway 42/57 and Michigan (County Highway TT).
Wednesday, August 8,
1:30 Family Program: Life in the Farmhouse
Visit a log home built in the 1870s. Explore a “keeping room” and summer kitchen and kids can try on some costumes. Bring your cameras. Meet at the Warren House in The Historical Village. Free.
Thursday, August 9
1:30 Family Program: Insect Safari
Search for the amazing insects of summer. Participants might find leaf hoppers, preying mantis, butterflies, grasshoppers and more. We will supply the nets for this capture/release activity. Meet at the Collins Center. Free.
Sunday, August 12
1:30-3:30 Sunday at The Village
“Meet the Warrens”, Bone Boys Concert and Ice Cream Social
All buildings will be open free of charge on Sunday but this week, the Warren House will be featured. One of the oldest homes built on Door County it now has been meticulously restored at the Historical Village. Jerry & Nan Krause will dress in period clothing and assume the roles of the people who lived in the home. The Krause’s presentation begins at 2:00. The Bone Boys (a trombone quartet) will provide musical entertainment and proceeds from an Ice Cream Social will help maintain the Village.
Monday, August 13
1:30 Family Program: School Days in 1900
“Schoolmarm” Joan Wilkie will hold class in the Vignes School. Learners of all ages are welcome to step back in history to the time when classes were held in a one room school. Meet at the School in the Historical Village. Free and open to the public.
Tuesday, August 14
1:30 Family Program: Butterflies Everywhere Hike to find butterflies, their caterpillars and the plants they love to eat. Meet at the Collins Learning Center. Free and open to the public.
Wednesday , August 15
1:30 Family Program: “A Country Store”
Visit the Greene General Store and learn about the storekeeper and his family, and find out what’s for sale in 1900. Meet at the Greene General Store in the Historical Village at the Crossroads. Free and open to the public.