This Week in Wisconsin History

March 25 – 31

By - Mar 28th, 2012 04:00 am
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“Old Abe,” the mascot of the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. (Photo: State Historical Society of Wisconsin)

March 26, 1881: Old Abe, the bald eagle mascot of Company C in the Wisconsin 8th Regiment, dies from smoke inhalation after a small fire at the State Capitol. Veterans across the state volunteered as pallbearers at the funeral and debates followed about Old Abe’s final resting place. The eagle was eventually mounted and displayed at the Capitol, until its remains, along with the entire Capitol, were destroyed in another fire in 1904.

March 27, 1969: The Madison Firefighters Union goes on strike after a year-long dispute after Madison police officers were granted a larger pay raise than the firefighters, who had traditionally earned the same salary. Five minutes after the 257 firefighters walked out, Fire Chief Ralph A. McGraw declared a state of emergency for Madison, shutting down schools and putting neighboring volunteer fire departments on alert until the strike ended three days later.

March 27, 1972: Over 150 welfare recipients and their children protest in the Department of Health and Social Services office in Madison to protest inadequate payments. The protesters, organized by Wisconsin chapters of the National Welfare Rights Organization, demanded special needs funds for families with dependent children and payments to cover the entire cost of utility bills. The protest stemmed from a change in the state law in 1969 which eliminated any special needs payments to qualifying families.

March 28, 1954: The recall campaign against Senator Joseph McCarthy begins in Sauk City. The Joe Must Go club, a grassroots campaign headed by Leroy Gore, editor of the Sauk-Prairie Star, fell short of the required 403,000 signatures due to lack of funding and organizational problems.

March 30, 1968: The Milwaukee NAACP calls off its demonstrations to develop a new strategy after more than 200 nights of peaceful protests and countless rejections by the City Council to their proposed fair housing ordinances. A week after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was passed, prompting the Milwaukee Common Council to pass an open housing ordinance.

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