Monday, September 13, 2010

Old World Wisconsin

-Fred L. Holmes writing in the preface to his Old World Wisconsin (1944):

Through many questionings and wanderings in my native state, I have formed an appreciation, beyond ordinary measure, of the people who are Wisconsin. To know them from their racial backgrounds through their New World cultures is to understand more clearly the reason for our hegemony in the family of states. They came from youthful, youthful stock of many Old World nationalities--seekers after freedom in religion and government; pursuers of opportunities; men and women of pioneering strength and courage, anxious to weave their lives into the warp of national existence. Wisconsin history has been enriched by them.
Wars become universal innovators.  During centuries of peace, customs change but little.  Religion, language, and habits strive to keep alive the past.  While sojourning among the Wisconsin people of racial memories, I have listened to the legends of lands across the sea as handed down from mouth to mouth, from generation to generation; visited scenes of their high emprise and holy devotion; observed customs that time has seen practiced through many decades; enjoyed the pageantry of ancient drama.  No other state has gathered in a melting pot such a diversity of rural and urban foreign groups. With them I turned the pages of living history.
Each little transplanted group has its own individuality.  Ways of dress, eating and worship are all different.  My own wanderings through Europe have been taken by the vicarious method of trodding the byways of newer Wisconsin. The wings I saw and the voices I heard in these Old World-New World communities are here told against a background of Yankee advance.

Holmes' book is still in print as a paperback: link


  1. It strikes me as odd that Holmes used the word "racial" where we would now use the word "ethnic". Nowadays, people wouldn't distinguish what Holmes is describing as different racial backgrounds, i.e. the English, the Dutch, the French, the German, the Poles, the Italians, etc. Sure they're different ethnicities, but according to the US Census, they're all one race.

    As I work through this book, I'm going to be on the lookout for the words racial and ethnic. Evidently they meant different things in 1944.

  2. When Islam rules in Wisconsin there will be only one color. Green, the color of the One True Prophet.

  3. I would have loved to see Wisconsin in 1944, or any state for that matter. Just the chance to see a place where there is no Facebook - or even Blogspot. These days in America, if I want to see culture I go look at people dress up the way they did 100+ years ago. Or I get some general Tso's chicken. Kidding.... But the "authentic" corners of the world are either inaccessible now or incredibly dangerous. Granted, I'm not talking about Europe anymore - more like Malinowski in the Trobriands (sans racist rantings).

  4. LL: Wisconsin will never submit nor render unto Caesar that which is Cheezers. Wisconsinites are well aware of the situation in neighboring Dearbornstan and Twinneapolis and will defend the Heimat. It's Chicago and that easy access (non natural barrier) which has always been problematic for those of the Wisconsin race. Illini (especially under the future rule of Rahmses of Chicago) is the greater threat.

  5. Candle! {hugs}

    I love how you drop "Malinowski in the Trobriands" which I had to Google just to get up to speed on. Are you some sort of closet anthroapologist? I'm am sincerely impressed.

    I also gather from your remarks on the down upon homogeneity. What are your views on pasteurization?

  6. Lol, I got my BA in anthropology :) I wrote a paper on Malinowski's diary. Also, I am susceptible to flattery...

    Pasteurization's great, it keeps milk drinkable so it can get to market :) I used to drink it almost straight from a cow as a kid though, when I visited my great grandfather.