Yesterday’s Milwaukee

The Mysterious Oracle at the Soldiers Home Fair

The 15-day festival held in 1865 offered all the wonders and curiosities of the day.

By - Jul 8th, 2014 09:23 am
Mysterious Oracle

Mysterious Oracle. Image courtesy of Jeff Beutner.

The Milwaukee Soldiers Home Fair of 1865 had many offerings, as you’d expect of a 15 day festival. In addition to “souvenirs” from the recently ended Civil War there were goods like leather, music and furs, ice cream, and a Holland Kitchen for a light meal. There also was a side-show created by L.J. McCracken held in a tent outside the main building. Among the curiosities were an ancient Frenchman from Prairie du Chien plus a poodle that just happened to be colored red white and blue. All of the wonders and curiosities of the Midwest!

Not to be outdone, the main building featured a mysterious oracle whose booth is shown in this photograph. A palm reading is taking place. Stuffed snowy owls perched over the booth add to the fair’s exotica. An event like this had never been held before in Milwaukee.

Jeff Beutner is a collector of photographs, postcards and stereoviews of old Milwaukee. This column features these images, with historical commentary by Beutner.

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