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Posts tagged Lake Mendota

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From the Vaults & Back: Hot time summer in the city

By Megan Costello

As part of our project ‘From the Vaults & Back’, today I’m reviewing Ava Cochrane’s (BA’1909) scrapbook to find out what students did to stay cool at UW-Madison.

On hot summer days in Madison, Wis., UW-Madison students can be found along the Lakeshore Path or taking a dip in Lake Mendota. And if they can, students — like other Wisconsin residents — will travel up north to stay cool at lakehouses and cabins.

As it turns out, some things stay the same even more than 105 years later.

Ava Cochrane, who attended the university from 1905-1909, did quite the same as UW students today.

Her scrapbook at the UW Archives tells us she spent hot days on Lake Mendota or at Esther Beach on Lake Monona. She also traveled to Fox Lake, Wis., and spent her summer at the Portage Country Club where her family had a cabin aptly named…

"The House of Mirth"


From a page in Ava’s scrapbook, likely 1908.

Ava and her friends knew how to have fun during those hot days in the city. Many of her summertime activities involve the lakes.

They swam.

Ava with friends, likely at the Portage County Club in 1907.


And even before Hoofers, they sailed on Lake Mendota. 

"This has been a lovely, lovely day hasn’t it Char? Oh shush!" 


Ava with friends (second from left) on Lake Mendota in 1909.

They taught swimming lessons?

Ava demonstrating proper dive form (?) 

imageLikely in 1909.

They went boating.



And got into trouble.

"The canoe — sh….!"


"How I sailed a boat under the

supervision of BJ Ms. Inahram [sic] and 

almost tipped it over.

The drowning of Mary Fowler.

The canoe — sh—!”

As Vicki Tobias, the UW Archives Image & Media Specialist reminds us, for many young women at this time boating on the lakes was one of the few activities they could participate in without a chaperone.

It certainly seems that Ava and her friends were up to certain mischief on the lake, but not without a good deal of fun during those hot summer days in the city.

This project is part of a practicum conducted by School of Library & Information Studies master’s candidate Megan Costello. (You can follow her along as she documents some of the more candid snapshots at Megan in (UW)-Madison or on Twitter at @meggo_costello.)

Filed under SLIS UWArchives UWMadison WIHistory women's history Wisconsin Portage Madison UW-Madison AvaAndLucy summer Lake Mendota sailing

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UW Toboggan Run

UW Toboggan Run

Down Observatory Hill and out onto Lake Mendota, the first Toboggan Run on campus was built in the late 1880s by the UW Toboggan Club. The course was improved in 1911 to include a 600-foot wooden run and an additional 600-foot cleared path out onto Lake Mendota.


A more sturdy, concrete run was constructed in the 1930s, thanks, in part, to a monetary gift from the class of 1933 to the UW Hoofers Club. The new site included electric lights, a safety gate and an automatic toboggan release. 

The construction of Liz Waters Hall in the late 1930s put an end to this particular winter activity although you might say the tradition lives on with students sliding down the hill on cafeteria trays borrowed from the residence halls. 


For more information about UW-Madison campus history, visit or contact 

Want to see more FABULOUS historic campus photos? Visit the UW Digital Collections’ University of Wisconsin-Madison Collection

Photos show the UW tobogan run, c. 1911. Image #S07722 and #S07723.  

Filed under toboggan Observatory Hill slide winter Lake Mendota history US history Wisconsin UW-Madison student life

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"Lake Mendota is our Laboratory"

Arthur Hasler, (b. January 5, 1908 – d. March 23, 2001), was a world renowned limnologist, who enjoyed a 41 year career as a member of the UW-Madison faculty.  Born in Lehi, Utah, Hasler graduated from Brigham Young University in 1932, and earned a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1937.  He then joined the UW-Madison faculty as an instructor and achieved the rank of professor in 1948. 

During the 1940s Hasler spent time working in postwar Germany as a research analyst for the Air Force Strategic Bombing Survey.  While in Germany he developed a lifelong love for German language and literature, and was known to pepper his popular undergraduate lectures with lines from Goethe to convey to his students nature’s moral and ethical beauty. 

Hasler was best known for his research within the Department of Limnology.  Limnology, as Hasler describes in this clip, is “the science of lakes,” a field in which he and his students attempt to “unfathom the unknowns of the aquatic community.”

Hasler played a vital role in the construction of the Laboratory of Limnology on Lake Mendota and the Trout Lake Station on Trout Lake, continuing the legacy of limnology leadership of his predecessors E. A. Birge and Chancey Juday

In the late 1940s, Hasler began his seminal research on the homing behavior of salmon.  Hasler showed how “olfactory imprinting” allowed salmon to swim thousands of miles to spawn in the stream of their birth.  Hasler also researched land-water interactions that shed light on the impact of agricultural runoff on water quality in Lake Mendota.  His work with local politicians, civic groups, and the state legislature helped combat the effects of cultural eutrophication, the excessive loading of nutrients into lakes from urban and agricultural runoff, and was an example of effectively using science to guide public policy.   

Hasler and Fisherman

Dr. Hasler enjoyed a prolific career in and out of the university.  He advised 52 doctoral students, authored more than 200 publications and seven books, and served as Zoology Department chair in 1953 and 1955-1957.  Additionally, he served as president of the American Society for Limnology and Oceanography, the American Society of Zoologists, and the Ecological Society of America.   

In addition to his numerous honorary degrees and achievements, Hasler was inducted into the National Academy of Sciences in 1969, and in 1972 was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  He retired in 1978. 

If spawning fish has spawned a curiosity about limnology research, be sure to check out the UW-Madison Center for Limnology’s official blog.  For more information about Dr. Hasler’s background, work, and service, you can listen to over 4 hours of recorded audio interviews through the UW-Madison Oral History Program. The University Archives also maintains a sizable collection of Hasler’s papers

For more information about Arthur Hasler or UW-Madison history, visit

By Marcus Bacher for the UW-Madison Archives.


Arthur Hasler film clip from “The University Serves” (c. 1966).

Photo from the UW Digital Collections Center “The History of Limnology Collection.” Hasler and unidentified fisherman at the annual Madison Fisherman’s Association perchery, c. 1954-1955.

Filed under limnology Lake Mendota Arthur Hasler Edward A. Birge history US history university faculty lakes UW-Madison Wisconsin

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Venetian Night: A University of Wisconsin-Madison Tradition!

Venetian Night was an early University of Wisconsin-Madison campus traditions held from 1911-1930. Taking place in late May, the event commonly included both parades and décor contests of illuminated and decorated water floats with music performances and a fireworks display at the close.

For more information about all of UW-Madison’s past and present traditions and celebrations, contact the University Archives at

By Emily Eubanks for UW-Madison Archives. 

Filed under UW-Madison Venetian Night traditions Lake Mendota Water Festival history US history university student life Wisconsin lakes