PRINCETON PIONEERS

Robin Miller, left, and Ellen Dreger look over the map of early Princeton created by the Princeton Pioneers, a Junior Historians club organized as part of LaVerne Marshall’s fifth- and sixth-graders at Princeton Public School in the early 1960s. The group won state awards for four consecutive years for their work recording the early history of Princeton.

I spent a couple of hours Friday skimming through copies of the Badger History newsletter, a Wisconsin Historical Society publication featuring the work of “Junior Historians” from across the state.

From 1960-65 no chapter was more involved or recognized in the Junior Historian program than the Princeton Pioneers, fifth- and sixth-grade students taught by LaVerne Marshall at the Princeton Public School. The Pioneers won the prestigious Maybell G. Bush Award for general excellence for four consecutive years.

The program emphasized local historical research. Students wrote articles, built dioramas, and presented short plays or performances. Princeton’s entries included three volumes of “Princeton in the Sands of Time,” a scrapbook of articles prepared by the youngsters through interviews and research.

I recognize the names of nearly all the authors of the Princeton Pioneers’ articles published in the early ‘60s: Jim Vining, Robin, Miller, Phil Wesner, Susan Hiestand and more. Hopefully the iPhone photos are legible for everyone.

I’d like to include a section on the Pioneers in my next book, so if any former Pioneers see this, please share your recollections of the class, teacher and research!

In the meantime, here’s background on the Junior Historian program and the Badger History newsletter.

Clifford Lord, director of the Wisconsin Historical Society, proposed a “Junior Historian” program designed to help teachers incorporate Wisconsin history in their lesson plans in 1946. He hoped to establish the program in honor of the Wisconsin Centennial in 1948.

The first teacher newsletter went out in September and the first issue of Badger History debuted in October. It cost 25 cents to join the program, which attracted 14,172 Junior Historians in its first year.

Standards for Badger History submissions included a complete list of sources, including names and addresses of people interviewed and dates and page numbers of newspaper articles cited. Teachers checked the articles for accuracy and originality before submitting them to the newsletter.

Five or more children were needed to form a Junior Historian chapter. Membership included a subscription to Badger History for each child and the teacher, a membership card and a charter. During the Centennial, the historical society set up a Junior Historians booth at the Wisconsin Education Association (teachers union) convention in Milwaukee.

The first Maybell G. Bush prize for general excellence was awarded in 1951. About six chapters won the Bush award each year. The first statewide convention was held in Green Bay in 1956.

The historical society changed the format of Badger History for the 1965-66 school year. The new 64-page newsletter featured full-color illustrations with information about Wisconsin history designed for the intermediate grades but no longer included writings of the Junior Historians.

The Princeton Pioneers’ research was used by area historians such as Elaine Reetz over the years and included in the quas qui centennial publication published for Princeton’s 125th anniversary in 1973.

The Princeton Pioneers after winning their third Bush Award.

Hopefully, someday the three scrapbooks compiled by the Princeton Pioneers – “Princeton in the Sands of Time” – and the Junior Historians’ other work will be found in a box somewhere in the Princeton Historical Society warehouse and again shared with historians, junior and senior.

One comment

  1. Great discovery, Roger! Fascinating stories. Those kids did a terrific job capturing the community’s history. Kudos to the teacher for inspiring her students.

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