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Wisconsin Semi-Centennial Celebration 1898

Updated: Oct 14, 2022

Wisconsin became a state in 1848, and in 1898, semi-centennial celebrations were held in Milwaukee and Madison and probably elsewhere in the state.

In Milwaukee, the semi-centennial was celebrated with a festival that ran from June 27, 1898 to July 2, 1898. The July 9, 1898, issue of the The Newspaper Library reported on “The Milwaukee Carnival” in a two-page spread (see Figures 3 and 4). It was quite an event with bicycle and floral parades, a sailing regatta, a jubilee ball, and the dedication of a Civil War memorial named, The Victorious Charge. That statute stands to this day in downtown Milwaukee.[i]

Not surprisingly, businesses wanted to take advantage of the semi-centennial celebration, which is the genesis of this advertising cover. Cramer Engraving Company of Milwaukee was responsible for the cover cachet. You can just make out their name below the parade scene.

The design is a combination of the serious and the whimsical. The building on the left is Milwaukee’s City Hall, a beautiful building finished in 1895.[ii] I believe the figure stands for “Forward,” which is Wisconsin’s motto. In the upper right where the stamp goes (that is either US Scott number 252 or 267 depending on the watermark) is a clown and a policeman, the image of which is partially cut off on this cover. The lakefront also figures prominently in this cachet.

Businesses could have their name added to the left and in this case, the business is Kersting & Apel Company of Milwaukee. This firm was an importer and market maker of teas and coffee. It was a short-lived business. The name first appears in the Milwaukee City Director in 1897 and no longer appears after 1903.

The firm was operated by Edward Kersting and Andrew Apel. Mr. Kersting was born in Milwaukee in 1866. For reasons unknown, he relocated to Clinton, Iowa sometime between 1903 and 1910. He died in Clinton in 1936 but was buried in Milwaukee. Mr. Apel was born in Germany in 1870 and arrived in the US (New York was his first stop) in 1884. He became a naturalized citizen in 1892 in Milwaukee. He also relocated sometime after 1903 because by 1910 he was living in Minneapolis, where he died and was buried in 1930.

Kersting & Apel Co. mailed something in this envelope on June 1, 1898, to “J.W. Davis, Esq. Neosho, Wis.” The postmark is a Barry machine cancel with an oval postmark and diagonal line killers.[iii] You can make out the pin impressions on the back of the cover, which is one hallmark of a Barry machine cancel. The letter arrived in Neosho, about 48 miles northwest of Milwaukee, on June 2, 1898 (Figure 2).

“J.W. Davis” was Jasper W. Davis, born in 1856 in Rubicon, Wisconsin, not far from Neosho. He is actually listed in the 1900 Milwaukee City Directory as a vice president of Kersting & Abel Co. with a residency of Neosho. He is listed that way until the 1904 directory when he listed as a vice president of Apel-Davis Co., which presumably was a successor to Kersting & Abel Co. Mr. Davis is not listed in the Milwaukee City Directory after 1904, which is consistent with Mr. Apel moving to Minneapolis and the firm dissolving. Mr. Davis died in 1936 in Lake Mills, Wisconsin.

I wonder about the letter that was in this envelope. Was it a job offer to Mr. Davis? I’ll probably never know!

[i] The Victorious Charge - Wikipedia [ii] Milwaukee City Hall - Wikipedia [iii] The Barry Postal Supply Company provided post offices with cancellation machines from the early 1890s to the early 1900s.

Figure 1 - Front

Figure 2 - Back

Figure 3 - Page 1 of newspaper article

Figure 4 - Page 2 of newspaper article

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