We often talk about Wisconsin, Door County, and Ephraim history in terms of image and text-based artifacts, like photographs, diaries, scrapbooks, and postcards. A project called Wisconsin 101: Our History in Objects is sharing Wisconsin history in a different way – through three-dimensional artifacts. Specifically, it focuses on objects which tell distinctly Wisconsin stories, like the Babcock Butterfat Tester or Old Abe, the Live War Eagle. Anyone can propose an object to be included on the Wisconsin 101 website, with object categories like Arts & Leisure, Education, and Transportation.
When selecting an object to submit from the EHF collections, our biggest challenge was answering the question, “Which objects tell compelling stories about Door County’s history?” While every artifact in the collection has a story to tell, we needed to find an object that shares something unique to Door County, but with statewide significance. After much discussion, we settled on this Cherryland t-shirt.
What stories can this t-shirt tell? First, it represents Door County’s agricultural history. With a landscape ill-suited to most crops, early grower Joseph Zettel found unexpected success with cherries, and a new industry was born in the county. At its peak in the 1950s, Door County produced up to 50 million pounds of cherries.
With the dramatic increase in production, local labor simply could not keep up, leading to the growth of migrant labor in the cherry industry. Workers came from a variety of places, including Texas, Mexico, Jamaica, Barbados, and even German POWs during WWII.
A third story this t-shirt tells is the growth of Cherryland and cherry tourism. As cherry production grew, the desire to capitalize on the county’s new reputation resulted in marketing campaigns, festivals, and slogans with a cherry theme. Today, cherries still make up an important part of Door County tourism.
You can read more about the Cherryland t-shirt and the stories it shares about Door County’s cherry history at www.wi101.org/objects/cherryland-t-shirt.
-Guest Blogger Emily Irwin