Wisconsin’s Winter Storms

By Dennis Wilson

High winds, snow, ice, extreme cold: Today we have the means to moderate these curses of wintertime, but things were different in the “good old days.” Farm families spread across the vast American landscape knew the meaning of the word “snowbound,” and the struggles that term implied. We get blizzard warnings from The National Weather Service created by using supercomputers and satellites. The television weatherman gives us the definition of a blizzard: “sustained winds of at least 35 mph lasting for a prolonged period of time— typically three hours or more. A ground blizzard is a weather condition where snow is not falling but loose snow on the ground is lifted and blown by strong winds.” We settle in, turn up the gas furnace, flip on the television, and wait the weather out in comfort. Even those who must travel turn on the heater and the stereo, and drive in front wheel or four wheel drive vehicles on a modern highway usually cleared by large, powerful snowplows. It wasn’t that way in the past. People experienced the full force of nature.

Horses pulling log sleds

By 1870 Wisconsin’s population had grown to 1,054,670. Three quarters of its citizens lived on farms or in cities with a population of under 2,500. In the 1870’s and 1880’s winters were often extremely harsh. The “Little Ice Age” which had persisted from about the year 1300 was coming to an end. The winters in the years before the 20th century were characteristically colder and longer.

Read more

James Hibbard Publishes a New Article

James Hibbard portrait

“University Archivist James Hibbard has recently been published in the Wisconsin Magazine of History for his research on Francis Van de Wall. “The Civil War Photography of Francis Van de Wall” is an account of the late photographer from 1860-1867. Hibbard illustrates how Van de Wall improved his photography as well as how photos were taken during the Civil War.” — Taken from https://goo.gl/C0mFph

To read the article, visit the Wisconsin State Historical Society.


Madison Street, Lancaster, WI

A busy street lined with two and three story brick storefronts

A very clear 1930’s image of North Madison Street in Lancaster, Wisconsin. Is the little guy walking on the right Lancaster’s favorite short person, Col. Sammy Draper?

A Wintery Day in Lancaster, WI

A winter day in downtown Lancaster in days past. On the right is the old Mansion House hotel.

Horse-drawn sleds are parked along a snowy street in Lancaster, WI