March 1, 2013
By Ron Winkler
Nearly seven decades of festivals and fireworks
Former Milwaukee Mayor Henry Maier referred to it as “the granddaddy of all city festivals.” No, he was not talking about Summerfest. He was referring to the South Shore Water Frolic, held for the first time in 1949 and every year since, with the exception of 1993. Summerfest debuted in 1968 and the ethnic festivals followed, all modeled on the success of the Frolic, especially with its lakefront location.
The South Shore Water Frolic evolved from an older festival, the South Shore Yacht Club’s old Hi-Jinks, a product of the 1930s. Hi-Jinks featured boat races, water stunts, swimming exhibitions, a beauty pageant, talent show, and doll parade. Sunday evening brought Venetian night, with decorated boats displaying strings of lanterns on their riggings. Fireworks marked the festival’s close.
Hi-Jinks was discontinued during World War II, but was resurrected by the Interorganization Council, comprised of a dozen civic, service, and fraternal organizations. The new event, named the South Shore Water Frolic, retained the same activities as the former Hi-Jinks, and was held for the first time in August 1949.
As the South Shore Yacht Club grew in size and expanded its mooring facilities, the Frolic’s water activities were discontinued and new events were staged on dry land. The parade was added and the beauty pageant became popular. Contestants were identified by the business names of their sponsors, displayed on their sashes Some may remember titles, sometimes approaching the ironic or mirthful, such as Miss BiltRite Furniture (1980), Miss Rich’s Auto Body (1987), and Miss Rudy’s Big Beer Bar (1977).
In its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, the Frolic attracted around 200,000 people. The spectacular fireworks that closed each day are still the most popular event.
The Frolic has had good luck with weather and has never been completely rained out, although rain has occasionally put a damper on part of the weekend’s festivities. The biggest problem faced by the Frolic is money, the majority being spent for insurance and fireworks. The Frolic almost scuttled in 1986 and 1990, but by 1993 the financial crisis forced its cancellation. Another problem that year was the lack of volunteers; although there were plenty of people willing to help, the bylaws of the Interorganization Council required volunteers to belong to a group within the council.
The event was back in 1994—the Bay View Lions Club, one of the Interorganization Council members, took charge, with assistance from the South Milwaukee, St. Francis, and Oak Creek Lions. There was a change in the bylaws that allowed nonmembers to work at the event and it was renamed the South Shore Frolics. The beauty pageant was dropped, the festival expanded to Friday evening with a fish boil, music, and a movie on the beach for children. A few years later, a mini-fireworks display was added on Friday night. Since that time, in a continuing effort to make the Frolics a family event, other activities have been added such as a classic car show, kiddy carnival, food vendors, and an arts and crafts show.
In the past, even when the festival competed against the Great Circus Parade, Bastille Days, and the Greater Milwaukee Open—sometimes all on the same weekend—it still held its own and today attracts about 50,000-70,000 people. That is quite an accomplishment, considering that volunteers do everything, and with funding coming from area businesses. Bay Viewers can be proud to have Milwaukee’s original festival, which in 1954 inspired former Milwaukee Mayor Frank Zeidler to remark, “New Orleans has its Mardi Gras and St. Paul its Winter Carnival. Here in Milwaukee we can take pride in our city’s largest outdoor event, the South Shore Water Frolic.”
August 1, 2012
The Bay View Historical Society is seeking volunteers to donate a few hours of time at the Beulah Brinton House, 2590 S. Superior St., Saturday, Sept. 8.
Volunteers are needed to help with yard work, small repair jobs, window washing, and paint touch-up. Work begins at 10am. Sign up for the task you wish to help with when you arrive.
The Beulah Brinton House is owned by the Bay View Historical Society. It is the former home of Beulah Brinton (1836-1928), who welcomed immigrant families into her home in the late 19th century and early 20th century. She shared her library with them, taught them skills such as reading, cooking, and sewing and helped them to assimilate.
The historic home, built in 1872, serves as the society’s headquarters and houses its archives. The house is also used for educational and social activities that honor the legacy of Beulah Brinton.
For more info about the Sept. 8 work project: call Donna:
(414) 324-5690 or email@example.com
July 2, 2012
Bay View writer Anna Passante has published Dick Wiken, Milwaukee Architectural Sculptor. Wiken graduated from Bay View High School in 1931. Self-taught, he was an established, well known architectural sculptor by the 1950s, respected for his work in wood, stone, and metal. Many examples of his work survive in the Milwaukee area, in Fond du Lac, Marshfield, and in Guaymas, Mexico.
To purchase the book or for more information: (414) 482-1781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
December 30, 2011
By Anna Passante
Ambrose F. Ferri of Waukegan, Ill. died this past October of heart failure at the age of 92. He was a survivor of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, while serving on the USS Vestal. Ferri grew up in Bay View. In a phone interview this past summer, Ferri recounted his memories, including exploits of mischief perpetrated by him and his buddies.
Born Oct. 29, 1918, in Rockford, Ill., when Ferri was 4 his family moved to Bay View’s Little Italy. He attended Dover Street School and Trowbridge School and played at the former Wentworth Street Playground (2500 block) and the Pryor Street Playground (now Lewis Field). He graduated from Bay View High School.
To go for a dip in the lake, young Ferri and friends descended the stairs at the foot of E. Russell Avenue and swam off the piers in their birthday suits. Katie Canning, a former Bay View resident, remembers standing with her friends on the hill, spying on the boys swimming naked. Miss Elizabeth Morgan, a Trowbridge School teacher known as “straight-laced,” lived on the hill and chased the girls away. One time, Ferri recalled, a patrol officer caught the boys climbing the stairs. With bodies dripping wet, they denied the charge of unlawful swimming. Luckily, Ferri recalled, they got off with a warning.
Spending money was tight in the Depression years of the 1930s, but a paper route earned Ferri a few dollars. He also sold the Milwaukee Sentinel in front of the drugstore at the southwest corner of S. Delaware and E. Pryor avenues, whose name he did not recall. Business was good, since it was a streetcar stop.
Ferri also made money by going door-to-door on Saturday evenings to collect weekly dollar streetcar passes. Though they may have been used for the entire work week, the passes didn’t expire until midnight on Saturday. Hence, the teenage Ferri realized they had value to those slightly elder “young fellas,” who used the streetcar to pick up their Saturday night dates. Ferri, the young entrepreneur, resold them the passes for 10 cents each.
Ferri recalled that some earnings were spent at the Lake and Avalon movie theaters. The show began with a newsreel, then “funnies,” and finally the main movie. At the conclusion the ushers escorted everyone out of the theater before ushering in the next group of moviegoers. Ferri and friends would hide at the rear of the theater to see the films a second time.
Another bit of mischief was to get a free ride on the streetcar. Some of the boys entered through the front, paid their fare, and then ran to the back door to let their friends on. Sometimes they got caught.
A bit of the mischievous may be glimpsed in the likeness of Ferri sculpted by a former Bay View High School student, Dick Wiken, who assisted the art teacher after he graduated. Ferri sat as Wiken’s model in a high school art class. At the time Ferri was 15. Entitled Little Italy, the sculpture was exhibited at the 1933 Wisconsin Painters and Sculptors exhibition and the 1935 Bay View Art Exhibit. Wiken became a well-known architectural sculptor. The whereabouts of the sculptured head is unknown.
At age 20 Ferri joined the U.S. Navy and in 1941 was serving as a third-class petty officer on the USS Vestal, a repair ship attached to the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor. Ferri was on the Vestal during the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The Vestal sustained some damage during the attack but did not sink. Seven crewmembers were killed.
After his discharge from service, Ferri married Ruby Nasett and bought a house on S. Superior Street near Potter Avenue in Bay View. In 1953, Ferri was called back to service for the Korean War and remained in the Navy until his retirement in 1966. He was residing in Waukegan, Ill. at the time of his death.
December 1, 2011
By Anna Passante
Three fires ravaged St. Aemilian’s Orphanage, but after each fire the orphanage rose from the ashes like the mythical phoenix and was reborn. Surprisingly no one was injured or killed in any of the three fires. The Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, who ran the orphanage, probably attributed the lack of injuries or fatalities to the orphanage’s namesake, St. Aemilian, the protector of orphans.
The first fire took place in the spring of 1855, a year after St. Aemilian’s had moved from downtown Milwaukee (E. Wells and N. Van Buren streets) to the grounds of the newly built St. Francis Seminary on present-day S. Lake Drive. (At the time the site was in the Town of Lake, but in 1951 was incorporated as the city of St. Francis.) A carpenter started this fire while heating glue. It was devastating. Only a few walls remained, with a damage estimate of $2,000.
The second fire happened 40 years later, starting in the printing office on Dec. 11, 1895. Foreman Joseph Leutcher and several of the orphan boys were finishing up a printing job, and around 6pm one of the boys tipped over a kerosene lamp. Town of Lake fire engines No. 7 and No. 12 responded to the blaze, as well as two engines from Bay View. By 8pm, nearly the entire population of St. Francis and several hundred people from Milwaukee were at the fire scene.
Students and priests set up a bucket brigade. Staff, students, and volunteers threw bedding, bedsteads, dressers, and clothing out the windows. Bystanders, often hindered by deep snow, carried the articles to safety. Water from the orphanage’s artesian well was used up in the first hour, so the firefighters connected their hoses to the well at the nearby St. Francis Seminary. Fanned by high winds, the fire threatened the seminary and convent buildings as well as the nearby village. Luckily, the wind shifted, sparing these buildings. By 2:30am the fire was out. The main building, the chapel, and the print office building were totaling destroyed. All that remained was the 1894 addition.
Damage totaled $60,000, insurance covering $53,000. All of the 26 staff and the 224 resident boys escaped unharmed.
Rebuilding started immediately. A new main building and chapel were connected to the surviving building and dedicated on June 28, 1896. The cost was $40,000.
The younger children were fed at St. Francis Convent, and sleeping quarters were set up for the orphans in the seminary gymnasium. Shortly after, the orphans were moved to a former Lutheran Seminary building owned by the Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese at 60th and Lloyd streets in Milwaukee and later to a summer camp, Camp Villa Jerome, at Friess Lake. Land for a new orphanage was purchased in 1937 at 89th and West Capitol Drive in Milwaukee, but it took nearly 20 years for a new building.
In 1989 St. Aemilian merged with Lakeside Children’s Center and is now called St. Aemilian-Lakeside. Presently the center provides foster care, education, and mental health services to children, families, and adults.
Nothing remains of the old St. Francis orphanage except for two old pillars along the St. Francis Seminary driveway that stand sentry at the old entrance to the asylum.
November 1, 2011
By Anna Passante
Row houses, a group of connected townhouses, were popular in Chicago and New York City in the 1890s, but the trend never caught on in Milwaukee. One of the few examples in Milwaukee, however, is found in Bay View at 2553-65 S. Logan Ave.
Built in 1894, each of the five units has about 1,500 square feet of living space. Local contractor Anton Stollenwerk designed and built them at a cost of $6,000. He owned the property until 1902, when he lost it due to bankruptcy.
A wooden roller skating rink once occupied the site and was razed to make way for the houses. In 1902 a group of investors bought the row houses, and in 1921 Spanish-American War veteran Herman Taubenheim and his wife Anna bought them and lived in the unit addressed 2559 until about 1941. According to the present owner, Betty Ruehl, Taubenheim’s unit was the fanciest of the four, with ornate woodwork and decorative doorknobs.
Each unit is identical in floor plan, Ruehl said, with a living room, dining room, a wood-carved open stairway—plus a maid’s room on the first floor. The second floor has three bedrooms. The master suite stretches across the front of the unit and includes a small separate sitting room. Ruehl has owned the row houses since 1977.
November 1, 2011
By Anna Passante
Fraternal organizations were plentiful in Bay View during the late 1800s. The first to organize in Bay View were the Freemasons, followed by the Odd Fellows, Good Templars, and many others. The main attraction of these men-only clubs was the opportunity to engage in social and recreational activities.
The roots of Freemasonry extend back to the medieval stonemasons who built the great cathedrals of Europe. In order to protect their trade secrets, these men formed a primitive trade union consisting of groups they called lodges. Later, those outside of the stone trade were allowed to join.
In 1843 the first Freemason lodge was established in Milwaukee, located downtown, and in 1869 a second lodge opened on Milwaukee’s south side at Second and Oregon streets. By 1872 Bay View-area Masons desired their own lodge, and they enlisted the help of the Freemasons who worked at Bay View’s Milwaukee Iron Company. In September 1872 the Lake Lodge #189, 22 members strong, met for the first time at Puddler’s Hall, 2461-63 S. Clair St.
Most members of Lake Lodge were small businessmen or workers at the Milwaukee Iron Company. Prominent Bay View members included lawyer Theobald Otjen, hardware store owner Charles Lenck, mill puddler Jacob Bullock, and blast furnace builder John Meredith.
Historically, nonmembers have labeled Freemasonry as a “secret society” that conceals their activities and inner functions by the use of secret oaths, passwords, signs, and handshakes. According to Michael Clinnin of the Lake Lodge, the original medieval-era Freemasons felt a need to keep their cathedral construction techniques a secret within their lodges. “Without any of the security or verification methods we have today,” said Clinnin, “they used secret signs and handshakes to identify each other.” (Present-day Masons use security measures, such as ID cards and computer passwords. Freemasonry is no longer seen as secretive, Clinnin said, and it is difficult to hide your affiliation. “Everyone would see you go into the lodge, attend a funeral, or march in a parade.”)
In 1887 Bay View Freemason member Gustave Kuehnel built a three-story Queen Anne style building at 2234-38 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Kuehnel, a druggist, had his drug store on the first floor and lived on the second. Lake Lodge moved from Puddler’s Hall to the third floor of this building, which still exists today.
For 20 years the Lake Lodge met at the Kuehnel location. In 1908 a new building was constructed at 2535 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., designed by architect Charles L. Lesser in the Classic Revival style.
The lodge met here on the second floor, but due to the lack of parking and the inconvenience of a second floor meeting room, in 1963 Lake Lodge built a new building at 1235 E. Howard Ave., where they remain today. According to Clinnin, the Lake Lodge presently has 350 members.
September 1, 2011
For nearly 142 years Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish has served the Catholic community of St. Francis, Wis. When Sacred Heart was founded in 1869, St. Francis was not a town, but rather a settlement or neighborhood in the former Town of Lake. The settlement took its name from the nearby St. Francis Seminary, which was established in the area in 1854. It would take until 1951 for St. Francis to secede from Town of Lake and incorporate as a city.
The first Sacred Heart church building, built in 1872. ~image from Sacred Heart of Jesus Golden Jubilee Souvenir Book, 1869-1918
The first Sacred Heart church building, built in 1872. ~image from Sacred Heart of Jesus Golden Jubilee Souvenir Book, 1869-1918
Influx of Catholics
In 1854 the Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese completed their seminary on 48 acres of Town of Lake land, situated along the Lake Michigan shoreline on present-day S. Lake Drive. That same year St. Aemilian’s Orphanage moved from downtown Milwaukee to the seminary grounds, and the children of the settlers attended school at the orphanage.
Sacred Heart’s second schoolhouse, built in 1872. ~image from Sacred Heart of Jesus Golden Jubilee Souvenir Book, 1869-1918
In 1866 the settlers got their own schoolhouse, a converted house, located on the site of present-day St. Thomas More High School. A professor from the seminary, Rev. J. A. Birkhaeuser, came to the school every day to give the children instruction in religion and other subjects.
As the number of Catholic settlers increased, seminary rector Dr. Joseph Salzmann invited the settlers to attend Mass at the seminary chapel. By 1868 there were enough settlers to form a congregation, and on Dec. 29. 1868, the Sacred Heart of Jesus Congregation was founded. Reverend Kilian Flasch was appointed as pastor.
Kilian Flasch, Sacred Heart’s first pastor, 1868. ~photo from Sacred Heart of Jesus Golden Jubilee Souvenir Book, 1869-1918
With Flasch as their spiritual advisor, the settlers continued to attend Mass at the seminary until 1872. That year the congregation purchased three acres of land from the seminary for $300 at the present-day intersection of E. St. Francis and S. Kinnickinnic avenues. A Gothic Revival style wood frame church was built at a cost of $2,000. Architect Victor Schulte, a resident of Town of Lake, designed the church. Schulte had also designed St. John’s Cathedral, Old St. Mary Church, Holy Trinity Church, and the St. Francis Seminary. The new Sacred Heart Church measured just 90 feet by 35 feet. It seated 100.
Sacred Heart’s 1888 school building with the 1909 addition. ~photo from pre-1920 photo souvenir album
The second Sacred Heart church building, built in 1886. ~photo from pre-1920 photo souvenir album
Growth & New Construction
By 1886 the parish had outgrown its church building. The old wooden church was sold to George Goelz for $200. It was replaced with a new brick church designed by Adolphus Druiding of Chicago. Built at a cost of $14,000, it measured 104 by 45 feet.
Two years later the school building suffered the same fate. It was sold to John Grobschmidt for $200 and replaced by a new brick building at a cost of $3,500. There were two schoolrooms on the first floor and the two rooms on the second floor served as a residence for the nuns, who taught at the school. A four-room addition, a duplicate of the old section, was built in 1909. A new rectory was built in the 1890s at a cost $4,000.
Sacred Heart Cemetery Mortuary Chapel, since razed. ~photo courtesy Archdiocese of Milwaukee
A cemetery was established just west of the church, and the first burial took place in June 1876. Before this, settlers were buried near the St. Aemilian’s Orphanage, and in 1888 those bodies were re-interred in the seminary’s cemetery located in what is now known by locals as the Seminary Woods. In 1914 architect Peter Brust, a parish member, designed a mortuary chapel (since razed) for Sacred Heart’s cemetery.
Due to increased membership, in 1961 a new church/school combination building was constructed to replace the old 1886 church, which was razed. In the new (present-day) building, the church and rectory were on the first floor and the school on the second and third floors.
While increased membership in 1886 and 1961 led to expansion, in 2011 the opposite occurred. Declining membership resulted in a need for a smaller church. Presently the church sanctuary is being downsized, the former classrooms are being turned into senior apartments, and an addition extends northward into the former parking lot providing additional senior rental units.
July 31, 2011
By Anna Passante
Submarines in Bay View
For a number of decades sailboats, ferries, submarines and other watercraft have been moored along Bay View’s beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline. Hold on a minute! Submarines? Yes, submarines! During the 1950s and 1960s the Bay View shoreline was host to two submarines, the USS Tautog and the USS Cobia. They were docked at a pier located at the foot of E. Russell Avenue and served as training ships for the U.S. Navy.
USS Tautog docked on the Milwaukee River near the Broadway Bridge. ~photo courtesy the Milwaukee Public Library Historic Photo Collection
The USS Tautog was one of the most famous U.S. submarines in World War II, sinking 26 Japanese ships. Its first action was the shooting down of a Japanese plane at Pearl Harbor. When the Tautog was decommissioned in December 1945, plans were to use the sub as a target for atomic bomb testing at Bikini Atoll. That plan was cancelled. Instead in December 1947 the Tautog arrived in Milwaukee and was docked at the Marine Terminal on the Milwaukee River near the Broadway Bridge, where it served as a training ship for the Naval Reserve. At the time, the Milwaukee Naval Reserve Center administrative offices were located on N. Water Street. In 1953 the Reserve Center moved to a new building in Bay View at 2401 S. Lincoln Memorial Dr., and the Tautog was towed (minus its propellers for safety reasons) to the Russell Avenue pier.
By September 1959 the Naval Reserve decided to replace the Tautog with the Cobia, which had more modern equipment. The two vessels were docked side by side at the Russell Avenue pier and a brief ceremony celebrated the transfer of training duties from the Tautog to the Cobia. “Symbolizing the transfer was the formal lowering of the colors on the Tautog and raising of the colors on the Cobia,” reported the Milwaukee Journal.
Postcard image of the USS Cobia docked in Manitowoc. ~image courtesy the Milwaukee Public Library Historic Photo Collectio
Attempts were made to preserve the Tautog, but failed due to the Milwaukee’s Common Council’s refusal to allocate city funds for such a project. The Tautog was sold to Bultema Dock & Dredge Co. of Manistee, Mich. and was scrapped. However, some parts were salvaged, including the Tautog’s periscope, which is on permanent display and in working condition in the Little Lakefarer’s Room at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc, Wis.
Like the Tautog, the Cobia saw much action during World War II, destroying 14 enemy vessels. The Cobia was decommissioned in May 1946 and was placed in reserve, but in July 1951 it served as a training ship in New London, Conn. In September 1959 the vessel was transferred to Milwaukee’s Naval Reserve Center in Bay View. According to a 1963 Milwaukee Sentinel Jaunts with Jamie column, the Cobia “was equipped to train men for undersea warfare…simulating dives and other maneuvers required of active units of the fleet.”
In February 1960, the Cobia and the Tautog made the news. Both subs were moored at the Russell Avenue pier when a snowstorm with 60-mile-per-hour gale-force winds partially tore loose both subs from their moorings. Reservists rushed to the scene. Eight pilings had been ripped loose and the cables holding the subs snapped like strings, according to the Milwaukee Journal. Two regular Navy trainers and a Naval Reservist onboard the Cobia were stranded with no heat or light. No one was on the Tautog, which was awaiting its final journey to be scrapped. A Coast Guard tug stood by, ready to rescue the stranded men if needed. The three men had telephone communication with the shore until the cable broke. “We do not believe we are in any danger,” said Quartermaster William Floyd in a Wisconsin State Journal article. “If we did, we’d jump off when the wind rolls the ship against the finger pier.” Floundering in 24 feet of water, both subs were in danger of being smashed onshore. The Cobia’s generator finally started and light and heat were restored. Ten men boarded the Cobia using a ladder and secured the subs. There was little damage to the subs, but much damage to the mooring dock.
Postcard image of the USS Cobia docked in Manitowoc. ~image courtesy the Milwaukee Public Library Historic Photo Collection
By the late 1960s, the city of Manitowoc was on the prowl for a Manitowoc-built submarine that would serve as a museum and memorial dedicated to the people who built, sailed, and lost their lives on ships. The U.S. Navy offered Manitowoc the USS Redfin, built in Manitowoc, but the city couldn’t afford the towing cost of $75,000. When the Navy offered them the Cobia (although built in Connecticut) for free, they accepted. The Cobia was struck from the Naval Register and towed from Bay View to Manitowoc, arriving there in August 1970. It is now part of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum of Manitowoc, docked on the Manitowoc River on permanent display. Daily tours are given. The museum boasts that the Cobia houses the oldest operating radar set in the world. To add to its glory, in 1986 the Cobia was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
June 30, 2011
By Anna Passante
Dr. Paul A. Lewis. ~image courtesy Paul A. Lewis II
To most people, Lewis Playfield on E. Pryor Avenue is just a small park popular for baseball and football. But its name honors a courageous early 20th-century medical researcher.
The playfield was named for Bay View native Dr. Paul A. Lewis, who died of yellow fever on June 30, 1929, while studying the disease in Bahia, Brazil. Originally known as Pryor Avenue Playground, the Milwaukee Common Council renamed the playground in June 1932 “in honor of the public services of Dr. Paul A. Lewis, who gave his life in the interest of medical research…”
(THEN, left) Dr. Paul A. Lewis’ childhood home at 2519-21 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. ~photo courtesy Carlen Hatala, city of Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission
(NOW, right) After Clinton Lewis’ death in 1930, Paul’s sister Marian, also a physician, took over her father’s practice and did an extreme makeover of the family medical office and home on Kinnickinnic Avenue. ~photo Anna Passante
Born in 1879, Lewis was the eldest son of Dr. Clinton H. Lewis, who practiced medicine at 2519-21 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. The building was also the family residence where Clinton and wife Caroline raised five children.
Paul Lewis attended the Milwaukee Public Schools, most likely Dover Street School and South Division High School. (Bay View High didn’t open until 1914.) He attended the University of Wisconsin, the College of Physicians & Surgeons in Milwaukee, and earned his medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania in 1904. In 1906 he married Louise Durbin, then had two children, Hobart D. and Janet.
Paul Lewis’ passion was the medical laboratory, and he intended to spend his life as a bacteriologist. In 1906 he held a teaching fellowship at Harvard Medical School and in 1908 joined the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. In 1910 he left Rockefeller to become the director of the Henry Phipps Institute at the University of Pennsylvania-Philadelphia and also taught experimental pathology at the university. Lewis never practiced medicine as a physician either in Milwaukee or out East.
In 1916, while he was at Phipps, a polio epidemic broke out in New York City with over 9,000 cases and 2,343 deaths. Nationwide, there were 27,000 cases and 6,000 deaths. Lewis worked with Dr. Simon Flexner to find a vaccine for polio. Together they proved that a virus caused polio and developed a vaccine that protected monkeys from polio 100-percent of the time. But it wasn’t until 1954 that Dr. Jonas Salk successfully developed a vaccine that prevented polio in humans.
Lewis was highly regarded in the research field, especially by Flexner who was quoted as saying, “Lewis was the smartest man I ever knew.” And the world of 1917 needed smart researchers, for during that year a worldwide influenza, of pandemic proportions, broke out. Also known as the Spanish Flu, this disease killed an estimated 20 to 100 million people over three years. A number of researchers, including Lewis, worked feverishly to develop a vaccine, and, by 1920, a number of different vaccines were administered, including Lewis’. The death toll dropped, but it is unclear if the drop was the result of these vaccines or the fact that the virus had weakened dramatically by that time.
Dr. Lewis researched polio, influenza, tuberculosis, and yellow fever, the last of which claimed his life in 1929. A telegram reporting his death read: “Typical yellow fever. Probably laboratory infection.”
Lewis was a quiet man, not very sociable, unlike his wife who loved societal gatherings. Lewis wanted to be in the laboratory, not fundraising for research projects. Grandson Paul A. Lewis II, son of Hobart, was told very little about his grandfather. However, Hobart did tell his son this story: “Someone came to visit my parents,” related Hobart. “Upon leaving, the person said to my mother, ‘I have met some quiet people in my day, but your husband isn’t quiet, he is silent.’”
In 1923 Lewis returned to the Rockefeller Institute to work on a cure for tuberculosis, but he produced little of significance in the lab and was in danger of losing his position. In an attempt to redeem himself, Lewis volunteered to continue the yellow fever research of Dr. Hideyo Noguchi, who at the age of 28 died of the disease in May 1928 in Ghana, Africa.
Instead of Ghana, Lewis continued Noguchi’s yellow fever research in Bahia, Brazil. Unfortunately, Lewis contracted yellow fever and died on June 30, 1929. A telegram reporting the death read: “Typical yellow fever. Probably laboratory infection.” Lewis’ wife Louise requested that the body be shipped to Milwaukee. Seventeen family members attended Lewis’ burial at Forest Hills Cemetery in Madison, Wis.
It is unknown how Lewis contracted yellow fever, since he reported no research details, and his lab notes provided no information about his laboratory procedures.
~photo courtesy Carlen Hatala, city of Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission
The Rockefeller Institute paid the Princeton University tuition for Lewis’ son, Hobart, who was 20 at the time of his father’s death. According to Paul A. Lewis II, after her husband’s death, Louise resided in Merion, Pa., and never remarried.
Hobart went on to make a name for himself in the literary world. In 1960 he traveled with Richard Nixon during his presidential campaign as a journalist for Reader’s Digest. Hobart went on to serve as the chief editor for the magazine from 1964 to 1976. He recently died on April 1, 2011, at the age of 101.
May 29, 2011
By Anna Passante
Orphan boys working in the asylum garden. ~photo courtesy The New Assisi Archives, Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi
In order to survive financially, orphanages back in the early 1900s relied heavily on orphan labor, and St. Aemilian’s Orphan Asylum in St. Francis, Wis. was no exception. Household and gardening chores were all part of the orphans’ routine. However, on the morning of Thursday, Feb. 21, 1929, a simple chore took a turn from the routine at St. Aemilian’s. That morning four orphans, sent to the basement to sort cabbages, came upon a white paper bag. What was in the bag would cause the deaths of two of the boys and consequently turn the orphanage’s world upside-down.
The paper bag was half full of what looked like cookie crumbs, and this sweet-tasting substance was shared among the four boys that morning. The four—Philip Giganti, 13; Joseph Djeska, 12; and brothers Frank and Paul Novakovich, 13 and 12 respectively—joined the other boys in the cafeteria for a lunch of beans and sauerkraut. The four boys became so violently ill that Dr. Joseph Lettenberger was called. After an examination, the boys were sent to bed with the instruction that they be given no food.
The next day Giganti was found dead. Shocked, the nuns who ran the orphanage (the order of St. Francis of Assisi) questioned Djeska in hopes that he could shed some light on the cause of death. Djeska told Sister Superior Mary Amabilis about the paper bag. According to Djeska, each of the four boys ate some crumbs, but he and Giganti ate the most. The two Novakovich brothers corroborated this story.
Djeska died the next day. According to Amabilis, before he died Djeska urged her to tell Frank Novakovich “to tell the truth.”
Dr. Edward L. Miloslavich conducted autopsies and found “irrefutable evidence of arsenic poisoning,” reported the Milwaukee Sentinel. That opinion was corroborated by Peter Sampson of the Sommers Chemical Laboratories who conducted a chemical analysis of the boys’ stomach contents.
Brothers Frank and Paul Novakovich, who survived the poisoning, in an undated and unidentified photocopy of a news clipping.
The Novakovich brothers recovered and were questioned by authorities. The poison paper bag, the brothers said, was of a white, kraft-paper type. Orphanage officials insisted that such bags were never used at the orphanage. The boys’ claim that the bag appeared new and that its contents were loose caused the district attorney office investigators to conclude that the bag had come onto the institution grounds very recently. If the bag had been there a long time, the investigators speculated, the absorption of moisture from the concrete floor would have caked its contents.
Sister Amabilis claimed that arsenic was never used at the asylum “for rat poison, use in garden spraying, or any other purpose,” reported the Milwaukee Journal. A rat did get into the basement vegetable bin a few months back in December, she admitted, but a small piece of bacon was spread with a rat poison consisting of a phosphorous paste, not arsenic.
St. Aemilian’s pictured in a 1910 postcard from the author’s collection.
An intensive search was made for the bag. The Novakovich brothers told investigators that Giganti had thrown the bag away after lunch on Thursday, during recreation time. Neither the bag nor any trace of arsenic was found on the property.
“Was it an act of a maniac or was there malicious intent?” asked Father Joseph F. Kroha, the orphanage superintendent, in a Milwaukee Journal article. The investigators ruled out orphanage staff. “Since not the least breath of suspicion, culpability, neglect, oversight, or forgetfulness can be attributed or traced to any of the sisters and the working men at the institution, the inference naturally arises that the bag gained entrance into the institution from the outside,” reported the Journal. The investigators later officially ruled the deaths as accidental.
The funeral was held in the orphanage chapel on the following Monday, Feb. 26. It is unknown if any family members attended. Giganti’s father lived in Milwaukee and Djeska’s parents were circus acrobats.
Father Kroha officiated at the funeral Mass and in his sermon referred to the poison deaths as “a very sad occurrence,” according to the Milwaukee Journal. Kroha also asserted, according to the article, that the undue publicity of the case was “salacious, scurrilous, and libelous filth thrown at a Catholic institution.” Inferences by the media that “the boys might have been poisoned by food at the orphanage were libelous,” Kroha said. Though the origin of the poison was still a mystery, in his sermon Kroha contended “that boys as old as the two victims should not have eaten anything of which they knew nothing.”
The two boys are buried side by side in the St. Francis Seminary Cemetery in Section D to the right (south) of Archbishop Frederick Xavier Katzer’s monument in a section where St. Aemilian’s and St. John’s for the Deaf children and staff were buried. It is an open grassy area with no grave markers.
One of the two extant pillars of the old St. Aemlian’s orphanage. ~photo Katherine Keller
Drawing of the orphanage pillars done by the late Bay View artist George T. Burns for the Bay View Historian, April 2009.
May 1, 2011
By Anna Passante
1890s photo of brewery, at the present-day site of 2428-32 S. Burrell St., a few blocks south of Lincoln and east of Howell avenues. ~photo courtesy John Munzinger
In the 1890s, Bay View’s Munzinger Brewery may have been small potatoes in the world of Milwaukee beer greats such as Miller, Pabst, Schlitz, and Blatz. But Munzinger Brewery succeeded in carving out a niche in the brewing industry, producing a German specialty beer called weissbier.
Christian H. Munzinger, Jr. was born Dec. 27, 1856, and grew up on a farm in Oak Creek Township (on the site of the former AC Delco) with his 11 siblings. His father, Christian, Sr., a farmer in Bavaria, Germany, immigrated to America in 1847 at the age of 31.
In 1885 Christian, Jr. purchased property for his brewery at present-day 2428-32 S. Burrell St. from Bay View residents Christian and Annie Otjen and Christian and Anna Bech, for $800. Munzinger opened his brewery on that site in 1890, and also lived at this location. His first products were soda water and ginger ale.
In 1892 Richard Koethe joined Munzinger’s business and the company began using bottles lettered MUNZINGER & KOETHE. The company produced weissbier made of wheat and barley. The English translation for weiss is white, hence weissbier is also called “white beer.” The Great American Beer Book describes weissbier as an effervescent, light-colored beer with a sharp yeasty or “bready” aroma.
Munzinger’s weissbier was so charged with carbonation that when the bottle was opened, the cork would pop out just like a champagne bottle.
A second stage of fermentation took place after the beer was bottled, so the bottles and tops had to be extra strong. Weissbier was so charged with carbonation that when the bottle was opened, the cork would pop out just like a champagne bottle.
The brew came in pint-sized, deep-amber-colored bottles, which prevented light from spoiling the beer. The bottles had a center embossing (raised lettering) that identified the brew as coming from Munzinger’s brewery. The Cream City Glass Company in Milwaukee produced the bottles.
Koethe remained in the business with Munzinger for only one year. Then in May 1895, Munzinger sold half interest in the business to George Fred Gerlinger for $1,000. The name Koethe was ground off the bottles, and the bottles were then lettered MUNZINGER & GERLINGER. Bottles during that period were deep amber, deep olive amber, and aqua-colored.
In 1895 Munzinger & Gerlinger produced weissbier, soda, mineral waters, cider, ginger ale, and Wisconsin birch beer. It is not known exactly how many barrels the company produced, but according to the Register of U.S. Breweries of 1876-1976, the company produced no more than 500 barrels per year. In December 1896, Gerlinger sold back his half share of the company to Munzinger for the original amount of $1,000.
By 1900 Munzinger’s company was known as C.H. Munzinger, and employed five people. According to Ron Winkler in a September 2007 Bay View Historian article, the brewery used spring water that flowed under the property. Bottles used by Munzinger during this period are marked WF&S, for the William Franzen & Son glass company in Milwaukee.
In October 1892, Munzinger took out a $3,000 mortgage, held by Olive H. Lewis, with terms of five years for repayment at 6-percent interest. Munzinger defaulted on this mortgage and Lewis sued Munzinger in Wisconsin Superior Court in December 1899. Lewis won a judgment of $3,225 for the principal and interest. A sheriff’s sale took place on Sept. 23, 1901, at which time the brewery was sold for $2,700, with Munzinger responsible for the paying the shortfall. According to Munzinger’s nephew, John Munzinger, the Graf Beverages Company bought out the Munzinger Brewery inventory. The old brewery building on Burrell Street was torn down in 1905, and two buildings are now at that site, a duplex built in 1906 and a single-family home in 1926.
City directories show that Munzinger worked as a carpenter and a concrete worker from 1906 to 1910 and during that time was living at various locations on Burrell, Austin, and Smith streets. Munzinger died Sept. 9, 1915, at the age of 59. He never married. His nephew John Munzinger and niece Kitty Munzinger Dinauer both reside in the area.
Bottle Making in Chase Valley
In 1880 Enoch Chase opened the Chase Valley Glass Company on Lincoln Avenue near the Kinnickinnic River and made bottles for Milwaukee’s breweries. A year later Chase sold the company, and it became the Wisconsin Glass Company, which also produced drug bottles and window glass. Over the years the company changed hands, becoming Cream City Glass Company from 1886 to 1892, the Northern Glass Company from 1892 to 1893, and the William Franzen & Sons Company from 1893 to 1920.
Weissbier is a type of a malt liquor made of wheat, barley, and malt. It was first produced in England and became popular in Germany in the 16th century. In the first half of the 19th century many U.S. breweries produced it, but output was small and most was bottled beer. Today a number of American microbreweries produce weissbier, with local Sprecher Brewery producing Hefe Weiss. According to Mike Roman, owner of Bay View’s Roman’s Pub, unlike their German counterparts, American brewers add lemon to their weissbier.