Friday July 25, Appleton WI
Of our two remaining full days in the Fox River area, today was likely to be the coolest and most likely to produce rain. We decided to visit two museums in the area and hold off on two of our planned outdoor activities until Saturday.
Our first destination was the Paper Discovery Center in Appleton. We had been told that the center had downgraded it’s museum aspects and increased its display purposes for younger people. We still found the displays informational although basic. We managed to make a sheet of paper each from scrap paper and newspaper. You can observe the results in the photo.
The Fox River is not a long river. It flows for less than 200 miles, beginning in central WI. It flows into Lake Winnebago by Oshkosh and out again at the northern end of the lake at Neenah. It continues to Green Bay and thus into Lake Michigan. The last 40 miles from Neenah to Green Bay drops over 150 feet in elevation. This drop produced rapids and as European settlers arrived, the opportunity for hydroelectric power and industry. The country’s first hydropower plant producing power directly into residential homes occurred here. The combination of the electricity generated by the Fox and the logging industry in Wisconsin gave rise to a major papermaking presence along the Fox River.
Wisconsin is the number one paper making state in the U.S. and about 50,000 people work in this industry in the Fox River Valley. However, changes in the use of technology and new competition from China are creating a downsizing phenomenon. There is still a legacy of pollution to clean up along the Fox River also. The Paper Discovery Center, though, focuses on how paper is made.
So we followed trees from the cutting and debarking into finished product. The displays were basic, focusing on one type of product, toilet tissue. We learnt that paper can be made from numerous fibrous products including elephant dung. Since elephants eat so much grass, their dung can be used to make paper. That was tidbit #1 for the day. The second is that each person in the U.S. uses 750 pounds of paper per year.
The museum is based in a former paper mill which closed a few years ago. It is located on the Fox River by the dam which provided hydropower. On the river today were a number of pelicans, evidently relatively new arrivals to the Fox River in the last years.
Our second stop was the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass in Neenah. The museum is home to one of the finest and most representative collection of glass paperweights in the world. The museum had descriptive information about how the decorative items were placed inside of the paperweights. There are three main styles of paperweights; millefiori, sulphide, and flamework. Millefiori interested me the least. It reminded me of rock aggregate inside a paperweight dome. Sulphide can be described as the art of placing a porcelain cameo inside the dome. Flamework seems to offer the greatest diversity of color and styles with a multitude of decorations inside the dome.
The museum also has ongoing displays of Germanic glass and victorian glass baskets. I thought the baskets quite colorful and artistic. The best thing I remember about the Germanic glass is that some of the glasses were made for groups to pass the beverage around. These large items can easily hold a half gallon to a gallon of milk.
Most of the exhibits started from collections begun by local residents of some wealth. The special exhibit focused on glass styles developed through the Bullseye Glass Co. in Portland OR. Two of its founders were from WI. Bullseye has become a major force in training glass makers and in developing new styles and methods in glass making.
On our way back to the Residence Inn, we stopped by the Tayco Street Bridge museum. This is described as one of the smallest museums in WI. The museum is housed in one of the four towers initially used to support the lift bridge. It tells the story primarily of the lift bridges that have been located on this site along with some wall displays of transportation in the Fox River valley. I found the wall displays set in a type style and font size difficult to read but the bridge was told via video.
Dinner was with Judy and Phil at Cy’s, a restaurant in Neenah serving excellent Thai food.
Ed and Chris July 25 10:15 pm