April 1922 Cattle Fair

One hundred years ago this month, several weeks after the Great Ice Storm, the Princeton Republic reported that a writer representing the Milwaukee Sentinel was visiting the city for the April Cattle Fair, traditionally one of the busier markets of the year.

Princeton Republic, April 6, 1922 – “Miss Pettibone, correspondent for the Milwaukee Sentinel, is in the city taking views of our streets and the Fair Day.”

Harriet N. Pettibone’s article turned into a two-page spread in the Sentinel’s Sunday Magazine on April 16, 1922. In my opinion, it is the most colorful, most-detailed story ever published on the monthly Cattle Fair, which was the city’s calling card for over a century. It also provides a nice introduction to early 20th century community leader Julius E. Hennig, whom we will profile in Part II of this post.

The author should be given a measure of poetic license in a feature story, but we need to correct Ms. Pettibone’s most glaring error: “In the 40s, the little hamlet of St. Marie stood at the foot of a mill ditch tapped from the McCann river. Near the old canal gushes a fragrant stream, the remnants of a holy spring. A cross nearby, although not formally blessed by the pope, nevertheless unofficially marks the spot where Father Marquette paused to baptize some sturdy Sioux warriors.”

I bet Jule Hennig and the locals chuckled or groaned when they read that paragraph.

Where to begin. The mill ditch, of course, runs from the Mecan River to the Fox River in Princeton; nowhere near St. Marie or the Marquette spring. Any cross nearby was there to mark the spot where Marquette tasted the water of the holy spring, and Marquette did not report baptizing any Sioux warriors during his stop at a city of Mascouten, Miami and Kickapoo Indians on the Upper Fox in 1673.

(I recently read another version of the Marquette-Joliet journey to the Mississippi that claims a nun saved Marquette’s life at the Mascouten city when she stepped in front of a frightened Indian’s arrow intended for the Black Robe. A nun! How did she get there? Yes, the Legend of the Cross is 25 percent fact and 75 percent fantasy, but we’ll leave that for another post.)

For the most part, in my opinion, Pettibone did a fine job capturing the scene of a cold, blustery April Cattle Fair. The scans below are provided by the Milwaukee Public Library. (You can adjust page size – percentage – at top and use the bar at right edge of image to scroll down.)

Here’s an interesting postscript to our story.

Harriet Nixon Pettibone was a granddaughter of civil engineer Luman Pettibone, who was in charge of building the first railroad in Illinois, from Chicago to Rockford, completed in 1852. Harriet grew up in Burlington, Iowa, attended the University of Wisconsin where she was quite active in sorority life, graduated in 1920 and began her newspaper career.

Wisconsin State Journal, March 4, 1918 – “Misses Nancy Ambler, Helen Rundorf and Elizabeth Penrose of Rockford college were guests over the weekend of Misses Harriet Pettibone and Nellie Stevenson at the Chi Omega house, 615 North Henry Street.”

Harriet later joined Theta Sigma Pi, a honorary and professional journalism society and good gateway to a writing career for young women. She graduated in 1919.

The Capital Times, Jan. 8, 1920 – “Miss Harriet Pettibone, who received her degree in journalism last June, has been writing special articles for Iowa newspapers and has had articles in recent numbers of the Ladies Home Journal, the American Magazine and System.”

On June 2, 1920, The Capital Times in Madison reported Harriet was editor of the Woman’s page at the Milwaukee Journal.

The article she wrote about Cattle Fair listed her as a Correspondent. On May 1, 1922, shortly after her visit to Princeton, the Capital Times reported she was on staff at the Sentinel.

Harriet married merchant Fred Clinton of Appleton in 1925. According to the 1930 census, Fred, 50, was a real estate agent and Harriet, 33, was a reporter for a daily newspaper. They resided on North Terrace Avenue. She also wrote for the Wisconsin Leader, remained active as a sorority alum for at least a decade, and worked with the League of Women Voters.

During the Great Depression, Harriet was in charge of the Works Progress Administration projects to employ women in Milwaukee. The very successful program for unskilled women, especially the Milwaukee Handicraft Project, received national attention. I read about it in “Replacing Welfare for Work in the WPA,” a 1997 lecture by Lois Quinn at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Harriet Pettibone Clinton, 1935

Harriet recorded her first year with WPA in a 42-page book, “The First Year of Women’s and Professional Projects. Milwaukee, Wis.,” which was printed in 1936 and is available online or the UW-Milwaukee library.

Quinn described Harriet as “a feisty former newspaper woman.”

Ever the journalist, Harriet’s administrative reports, according to Quinn, included headlines, such as: “They Are New Women,” “Checks for Thanksgiving,” “Costume Pageant Given before 60,000 People,” “Enrollments in College Art Courses Rise Following WPA Handicraft Exhibits in Schools.”

Harriet passed in 1975 in Milwaukee.

Thanks for caring and reading about local history.

This photo shows Water Street during a Cattle Fair day in the early 1900s. It accompanied a feature story about Cattle Fair in the Milwaukee Sentinel in April 1922.

NEXT: More about Julius E. Hennig

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