Join 3,434 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Prophetic Pictures from Menominie, WI
February 7, 2010 11:44 PM   Subscribe

Prophetic Pictures from Menominie, Wisconsin. In 1905, high school senior Albert Hansen took photogaphs of his graduating classmates at Menominie HS. Not as they were -- but as they believed, or hoped, or feared they would be in the decades to come. Dorothy M. Jesse was going to be a mathematician, and Fred Quilling a pharmacist. Alice M. Tilleson would be a prominent socialite, whose "eccentric ideas with reference to danger, force her to cling to that old fashioned vehicle, the automobile, instead of the new wheel-less aerial motor car." William C. Klatt, a future physician, would operate on disembodied heads. And Hansen himself was destined for the hobo's life. The Wisconsin Historical Society has the whole collection available online, together with the text from the yearbook and the truth, as best the Society could learn, of how the graduates' actual future compared with prophecy. (Spoiler: Fred Quilling really did become a pharmacist.) Just one of the many remarkable collections at Wisconsin Historical Images.
posted by escabeche (25 comments total) 70 users marked this as a favorite

 
This, friends, is pure, unadulterated awesome.
posted by koeselitz at 12:04 AM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


My last name is Hansen and it bothers me more than it should when this happens but: It's Albert Hansen, not Hanson.

Maybe the hate is because I have two brothers and don't like the references. Well I bet Albert wouldn't either!
posted by battlebison at 12:11 AM on February 8, 2010


I love this.
posted by empath at 12:29 AM on February 8, 2010


Fred had huge balls for a pharmacist.
posted by pracowity at 12:56 AM on February 8, 2010


Many thanks for this pleasant find.
posted by eccnineten at 1:20 AM on February 8, 2010


Menominie?

Doot doo, doo doo doo.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:29 AM on February 8, 2010 [10 favorites]


Darkroom manipulation was used to create the illusion of the separation of the patient's head from his body.

Phew!
posted by Faze at 3:43 AM on February 8, 2010


It's rather poignant how little of interest actually seems to have happened to them in later life.
posted by Phanx at 4:36 AM on February 8, 2010


I simply must point out: Hot For Teacher
posted by DarkForest at 4:36 AM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is pretty great, but I think the awesomest part is finding out that even in 1905 the Ultimate Future was the flying car.
posted by DU at 4:55 AM on February 8, 2010


It's rather poignant how little of interest actually seems to have happened to them in later life.

Graduated high school in 1905 (two years after, one year before, the births of my Grandmother and Grandfather), just as the US is finishing the war for the Philippines, arguably the its first (or second) Imperial war.

US enters WW1 in twelve years later, when they are about 30.

They're a bit too old to enjoy the Jazz Age, are about 42 when the Great Depression starts in '29.

54 or 55 when the US enters WW2, too old to serve unless they'd been Regular Army before the war, and few were.

58 when Truman and Oppenheimer raise two new Suns over Japan.

76 and retired when JFK is shot; they remember President McKinley's assassination in 1901, and the attempt on Teddy Roosevelt in 1912.

Beginning to die off now, but some will live to 82 to see Neil Armstrong walk on the Moon. And a few will live to 1976, for the American Bicentennial celebration.

Hansen will live spry enough to fly the Atlantic multiple times, until 1979, to age 92 or 93.
posted by orthogonality at 5:03 AM on February 8, 2010 [14 favorites]


I wonder how peoples attitudes towards the future change from then to now.
posted by mikepaco at 5:22 AM on February 8, 2010


Brilliant find. Thank you for this!
posted by zarq at 5:51 AM on February 8, 2010


" ... Paul Toft the light-hearted high school student, changed to a serious devout looking preacher who is diligently working for the revival of Mohammedanism."
This dude was trying to destroy the West. That's a pretty interesting life.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:08 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Menominie
Menomonie

Those darned vowels are pretty sneaky.
And Faint of Butt, that's exactly what I think of whenever I hear the name of the town.
posted by Vibrissa at 7:12 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


orthogonality: yeah, they must have read about some really interesting things in the newspapers - but the prophecies (well-executed little jokes) are about them as individuals, not about the history which occurred while they were getting married and moving to Wasau, or like Paul Toft, becoming a grocer who once spent some time in Seattle).
posted by Phanx at 7:16 AM on February 8, 2010


I'm glad that I didn't do something like this when I was in high school, as I'm still working on that whole "starship captain" gig.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:05 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Absolutely fascinating. Great work by the Historical Society in bringing these to light. Great post.
posted by Miko at 8:06 AM on February 8, 2010


Phanx: That's the interesting thing though, isn't it? They lived through what was arguably one of the most transformative periods in modern history -- perhaps history, period -- but most didn't end up with anything near the notoriety that some of the prophesies (which, to be fair, doubtless weren't meant to be taken seriously) predicted.

I think the lesson here is that history is what happens when you're getting married and having kids and moving to Wasau. Or, more generally, that the very great majority of people are at best passive participants in history, and that we rarely affect it in anything like the way we'd like to imagine ourselves doing at a young age. (I'd go further and say that many people who do actually affect history do so rather unconsciously at the time, and only in retrospect understand the significance of their actions; it's rare that a person has the opportunity to do something with the knowledge that it will be noteworthy later.)

On one hand it's possibly a little depressing if you haven't already come to that conclusion based on your own experience, but on the other it's hard to feel bad for someone who grew up in an era when the dominant form of transportation was probably the horse, and lived to make use of regular transatlantic jet aircraft service.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:12 AM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


the very great majority of people are at best passive participants in history

Oh, but that really depends on what you define as "history." These people aren't passive participants in history - they are history, part of the fabric of history. History isn't only famous names and cataclysmic game-changing events. It is made up of the accumulation of individuals and actions of everyday life. We aren't passive participants, we are active shapers of our own lives and experiences, making history constantly through our choices and actions. No less true for those folks. I really think whether they achieved fame or widespread significance is a separate question from the question of whether they influenced history. That, they all did.

It's this conviction - even recognition - that is responsible for the rise of the subfields known as social history and cultural history, as distinct from political or economic history, which were the prominent approaches prior to the 1960s. History doesn't have to be the history of fame or the history of power. It can be the history of what happened to people, and what they did about it.
posted by Miko at 8:20 AM on February 8, 2010 [11 favorites]


I absolutely love this. There's a sort of charming melancholy mixed with that 18-year-old optimism in these photos. Great post.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:00 AM on February 8, 2010


Shelia E is no Eva Charlotte Cook
posted by stormpooper at 11:13 AM on February 8, 2010


These people aren't passive participants in history - they are history, part of the fabric of history.

Indeed. The fact that none of these people became well-known politicians, or Olympic athletes, or otherwise world-renowned personalities, is kind of a comfort to me.

These photos and their descriptions tend to make me reflect on my ultimate mortality, as such. Moving to out of your little town, getting married, and having a few kids, while earning a living wage, and watching the world change from static black-and-white to technicolor is a dream for some people. Maybe even a dream of mine. Not to assume that their lives were easier, or simpler - no illusions there - but they have all done something I haven't: lived a full life, end-to-end. Maybe I'm looking at this a bit too existentially, though.

That said, what a wonderful and evocative set of photographs.
posted by jabberjaw at 12:27 PM on February 8, 2010


These photos and their descriptions tend to make me reflect on my ultimate mortality, as such. Moving to out of your little town, getting married, and having a few kids, while earning a living wage,
"Most everybody's asleep in Grover's Corners. There are a few lights on. Shorty Hawkins down at the depot has just watched the Albany train go by. And at the livery stable, somebody's staying up late and talking. Yes, it's clearing up. There are the stars doing their old, old crisscross journeys in the sky. Scholars haven't settled the matter yet, but they seem to think there are no living things up there. Just chalk ... or fire. Only this one is straining away, straining away to make something of itself. The strain is so bad that every sixteen hours everyone lies down and gets a rest."

"Eleven o'clock in Grover's Corners. You get a good rest, too."
posted by orthogonality at 1:12 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was browsing this far too early this morning, while on a train, and my first thought was: it could be mighty rough to see a picture of yourself at age eighteen as a Russian ambassador's wife when you were Mrs. Claude Phillips of Wausau, WI. I wonder if she has living great-grandchildren who caught a glimpse of the playful, dreamy girl she must have been?
posted by Countess Elena at 5:55 PM on February 8, 2010


« Older The Who Dat nation is composed of long-suffering, ...  |  Either they are high as a kite... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments