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Guide to the Harry J. Hirshheimer Papers, 1840-1948 (bulk 1852-1920) MSS R

Guide to the Harry J. Hirshheimer Papers, 1840-1948 (bulk 1852-1920)


Summary Information

Harry J. Hirshheimer was born in La Crosse in 1871. The son of prominent La Crosse businessman, Hirshheimer was well known as a local historian. He collaborated with Albert H. Sanford in writing A History of La Crosse 1841-1900, and died in 1952, shortly after the book’s publication. These papers constitute materials collected by Hirshheimer while working on his book,  The History of La Crosse 1841-1900, and while doing research for his radio broadcasts on local history and his papers presented to the La Crosse County Historical Society.
Collection Title
Harry J. Hirshheimer Papers
Date of Materials [bulk]
Bulk, 1852-1920
Date of Materials [inclusive]
Hirshheimer, Harry J., 1871-1952
Call Number
0.8 cubic feet
Physical Description
2 archives boxes
Language of Materials
La Crosse Public Library Archives

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Harry J. Hirshheimer Papers, MSS R, La Crosse Public Library Archives, La Crosse, WI

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Harry J. Hirshheimer was born in La Crosse in 1871. The son of prominent La Crosse businessman Albert Hirshheimer, Harry soon became involved in his father’s plow manufacturing business. He became vice-president when the La Crosse Plow Company was incorporated in 1893. After his father’s death in 1924, Harry became president of the company until it was sold to Allis-Chalmers in 1929.

Hirshheimer was well known as a local historian. The La Crosse County Historical Society, of which he was a member and an officer, published many of his papers on La Crosse history. He collaborated with Albert H. Sanford in writing A History of La Crosse 1841-1900, and also created a detailed card index of La Crosse newspapers that were published between 1852 and 1935. This index is now located at the Archives Room in the La Crosse Public Library.

Harry J. Hirshheimer married Azalia West in 1894. They had one daughter and three sons. Hirshheimer died in 1952.

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Scope and Contents

The papers deal primarily with La Crosse history. The information was collected by Hirshheimer while researching his book A History of La Crosse 1841-1900, and while working on his radio broadcasts on local history and his papers presented to the La Crosse County Historical Society.

The collection has been divided into nine main subject areas: Biographical Materials, Business and Industry, Events, La Crosse, City of, La Crosse County, Newspapers, Organizations, Settlers and Pioneers, and Transportation. The remaining materials of the collection have been placed under the Additional Topics subject heading. Materials have been arranged alphabetically by subject and chronologically within each subject.

BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS include some correspondence as well as extracts from newspapers and essays written about the individuals. Further information on M. M. Pomeroy may also be found in the NEWSPAPER section.

The BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY materials deal primarily with the businesses and industries of the La Crosse prior to 1900. Some of the more detailed sections are; Early La Crosse Businessman which lists the names of businessmen in La Crosse for various years and gives a breakdown of businessmen from certain ethnic groups; the Ice Business section which gives statistics on the amount of ice packed, sold and lost, and the section on Manufacturing in La Crosse, 1853-1880 which lists the types of businesses and industries in existence at that time and the companies that were involved in these markets in La Crosse. Further information on the lumber industry may be found in the TRANSPORTATION materials under Packet boats, Rafting and Steamboats.

Materials in the EVENTS series are, for the most part, made up of extracts from newspaper advertisements and accounts of the particular event. The information on circuses and lotteries is particularly complete. Materials on circuses list the names of circuses that appeared in La Crosse from 1857-1885 and gives some of their main attractions. Found in the section on Lotteries and Gift Concerts are listings of prizes that were offered as well as ticket prices and number of tickets sold.

Materials concerning the CITY OF LA CROSSE consist of information taken from newspapers and written Essays. The La Crosse Economy section includes statistics on the cost of living, fuel costs, building costs and the manufacturing climate in La Crosse. The information found in the Water Works section and Fire Department section often overlaps since their development coincided with one another. How streets were laid out and how many got their names can be found in the Street and Street Lighting section.

How coulees got their names and where they are located can be found in the LA CROSSE COUNTY materials. Also included is information on early La Crosse census dealing primarily with total population figures and population figures for various ethnic groups in La Crosse county. This series also contains a small amount of information on early elections and political candidates in the county and some financial records, list of teachers, and school curriculums from early La Crosse schools.

The materials on NEWSPAPERS include various advertisements that have been extracted from early La Crosse newspapers. The section on the La Crosse Democrat and the  La Crosse Republican focuses mainly on M. M. Pomeroy and feuds between the two newspapers in the 1860’s.

Information available on ORGANIZATIONS has been divided into four organizations; Kriege Verein, Masons, Old Settler’s Association and the Rescue Hose Company. Of these, the Rescue Hose Company materials are most complete, with membership lists and charter members, some minutes from meetings and a rather extensive written history of the organization. The materials on the other organizations contain mainly membership lists and officers.

A detailed account of a trip from Friesland, The Netherlands to La Crosse, Wisconsin in 1853 can be found in the SETTLERS AND PIONEERS series. Also available is an essay on Dutch, German and Scandinavian settlers in La Crosse from 1853-56.

The TRANSPORTATION series has been divided into three main headings; Packet boats, Rafting and Steamboats, Railroads, and Street Cars. Packet boats, Rafting and Steamboats is further divided into the Davidson Line, McDonald Brothers, Miscellaneous, Rafting, Rate wars, River Traffic and H.T. Rumsey. The Davidson Line, McDonald Brothers and H.T. Rumsey were all river transportation companies. Materials on these companies consist of brief histories of the businesses, lists of some of the boats owned by each company and some information on the competition involved in their type of business. Further information on the competition that took place on the Mississippi can be found in the Rate War section.

The Rafting section deals mainly with how the river was used in the lumbering industry in the mid to late 1800’s. The section on railroads includes essays on railroads that were planned and built, as well as railroads that never left the planning stage from 1852-1885. Materials on street cars consists of a brief history of street cars in La Crosse from 1878-1924, plus a newspaper clipping on the La Crosse City Railway Company from 1903.

Materials that do not fall under any of the nine main subject headings have been placed under the ADDITIONAL TOPICS subject heading. The section on Newspaper Extracts, Obituaries and Marriages lists the information alphabetically by first letter of the last name. The research paper by A.H. Sanford is entitled Interpretations of the Ordinance of 1787 and was written in 1894 while he attended Harvard. The open files consist mostly of miscellaneous notes that were written by Hirshheimer about his radio broadcasts and his work with the La Crosse County Historical Society. They also include some small amounts of information relating to La Crosse.

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Arranged in nine series:

Series 1. Biographical Materials

Series 2. Business and Industry

Series 3. Events

Series 4. City of La Crosse

Series 5. La Crosse County

Series 6. Organizations

Series 7. Settlers and Pioneers

Series 8. Transportation

Series 9. Additional Topics

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

La Crosse Public Library Archives 1986 September

800 Main St.
La Crosse, Wisconsin, 54601
(608) 789-7136

Access to Materials

Materials in this collection are available for patron use.

Acquisitions Information

Transferred from the La Crosse County Historical Society

(Accession No. 1984.010)

Processing Information

Processed by Bill Petersen, September 1986

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Controlled Access Headings

Geographic Name(s)

  • La Crosse (Wis.)--Biography
  • La Crosse (Wis.)--History
  • La Crosse County (Wis.)--History

Personal Name(s)

  • Hirshheimer, Harry J., 1871-1952

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OCLC Number


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Collection Inventory

 (Series 1) Biographical Materials 

Box Folder

Anderson, Mons, 1860-1861 

1 1

Black, Ole and Johanna, 1850 

1 2

Calvert, Robert, 1876-1916 

1 3

Elwell, 1852-1854 

1 4

Hirshheimer, Albert, 1840-1924 

1 5

Lincoln, Elsie, 1886-1889 

1 6

Liverman, Moses, 1863-1903 

1 7

MacKenzie, Charles, 1850 

1 8

Novak, Matthias, 1867 

1 9

Pomeroy, M. M., 1860-1868 

1 10

Salzer, Benjamin, 1876 

1 11

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 (Series 2) Business and Industry 

Box Folder

Advertising, 1850s-1890s 

1 12

Bentley, C. S., 1858 

1 13

Board of Trade, 1863 

1 14

Brewing industry, 1853-1905 

1 15

Early La Crosse businessmen, 1851-1890 

1 16-17

Flour mills, 1850-1906 

1 18

Ice business, 1850s-1890 

1 19

Lumber industry 

Box Folder

Pioneer sawmills, 1852-1890 

1 20

Sawyer and Austin Sawmill, 1886-1898 

1 21
Box Folder

Manufacturing in La Crosse, 1853-1880 

1 22

Market Square, 1868-1921 

1 23

Miscellaneous manufacturing, 1853-1905 

1 24-25

New industries in La Crosse, 1880-1905 

1 26

Oyster business, 1869 

1 27

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 (Series 3) Events 

Box Folder

Calico Ball, 1858 

1 28

Circuses, 1857-1885 

1 29

County Fair, 1858-1909 

1 30

Lotteries and gift concerts, 1855-1877 

1 31-32

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 (Series 4) City of La Crosse 

Box Folder

Economy, 1885-1905 

1 33

Fire Department, 1857-1913 

1 34

First things in La Crosse, 1842-1890 

1 35

Government, 1857-1858 

1 36

Streets and street lighting, 1848-1897 

1 37

Trees and parks, 1854-1932 

1 38

Water Works, 1857-1910 

1 39

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 (Series 5) La Crosse County 

Box Folder

Census materials and poll list, 1850-1900 

1 40

Coulees, 1846-1860, 1946 

1 41

Elections, 1861-1890 

1 42

Schools, 1867-1894 

1 43

Advertisements, 1852-1870 

1 44

La Crosse Democrat and  La Crosse Repulican, 1860s 

1 45

Miscellaneous, 1851-1920 

1 46

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 (Series 6) Organizations 

Box Folder

Kriege, Verein, 1888-1907 

2 1

Masonic Temple dedication, 1902 

2 2

Old Settler's Association, 1848-1881 

2 3

Rescue Hose Company, 1868-1891 

2 4

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 (Series 7) Settlers and Pioneers 

Box Folder

Account of a trip from Friesland, Netherlands to La Crosse, Wisconsin, 1853 

2 5

Dutch, German, and Scandinavian settlers, 1853-1856 

2 6

Miscellaneous, 1849-1855 

2 7

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 (Series 8) Transportation 

Packetboats, Rafting, and Steamboats 

Box Folder

Davidson Line, 1857-1890 

2 8

McDonald Brothers, 1856-1900 

2 9

Miscellaneous, 1853-1879 

2 10

Rafting, 1860-1900 

2 11-12

Rate wars, 1860-1861 

2 13

River traffic, 1863-1915 

2 14-15

H. T. Rumsey, 1857-1872 

2 16
Box Folder

Railroads, 1852-1885 

2 17

Street cars, 1878-1924 

2 18

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 (Series 9) Additional Topics 

Box Folder

Congregational Church, 1855-1878 

2 19

Fur, game, and fish, 1842-1904 

2 20

Indians, 1862-1881 

2 21

Jackson County 

2 22-23

Menus, 1871-1908 

2 24-25

Music, 1885-1893 

2 26

Newspaper extracts, obituaries, and marriages, 1852-1900 

2 27

Passenger pigeons, 1842-1899 

2 28

Plat book record extracts, 1843-1880 

2 29

Real estate sales, 1880-1883 

2 30

Register of Deeds extracts, 1848-1879 

2 31

Research paper by A. H. Sanford, 1894 

2 32

Baseball, 1867-1939 

2 33

Sports, 1856 

2 34

Tennessee Valley Authority (T.V.A.) newspaper clippings, 1948 

2 35

West Salem newspaper clippings 

2 36

Wisconsin place names and origins 

2 37

Open file 

2 38-39

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