I got a great surprise in the mail last week – a DVD called “Wisconsin Hometown Stories – Manitowoc/Two Rivers” (watch the full video online). It had a note from the producer, David Hestad of Wisconsin Public Television, thanking me for allowing them to use some images from a circa 1905 catalog I own (Hamilton Manufacturing Company, see this page to access the full PDF).
Nice surprise. First of all, people don’t always follow through on their word 6 months after they’ve promised “I’ll send you a DVD when its ready.” But this guy did. A bigger surprise was how great the program was when I popped it in and watched it.
The show, part of a video series called “Hometown Stories,” tracks the development of two towns on the shores of Lake Michigan over about 150 years. In a fun, watchable, human way, it tells the story of 1) early settler days 2) the lumber, shipbuilding and lake navigation industries in the 1800s, 2) woodworking, wood type manufacturing and furniture making at the turn of the century 3) the manufacturing of finished aluminum products like cookware; and 4) submarine building (and other ships) for WW2 and beyond.
Unlike many documentaries which drone on with talking heads, this video really put the story together through great images, research, and the voices of people who actually lived through it, and gave the sense of the evolution of two communities and their people, not just their industries.
Why does this not surprise me? Because these “Hometown Stories” programs are a joint venture with The Wisconsin Historical Society, which has been cranking out some of the highest quality historical web microsites for years. They are a three-time member of our Hall of Fame, for their fantastic “Tall Tale Postcards,” “McCormick International Harvester Collection,” and “Wisconsin Historical Images” online exhibits. And we did a great interview of vintage postcards a while back with one of their volunteers, Ann Waidelich.
So hats off to Wisconsin Public TV and the Wisconsin Historical Society for all they’re doing to preserve these great stories and the antique and vintage artifacts that help tell those stories. And thanks for the DVD!