The Wisconsin Society of Automotive Historians (WSAH), in addition to being a chapter of the Society of Automotive Historians (SAH), is a non-profit organization affiliated with the Wisconsin Historical Society. The Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS) was established in 1846, two years before Wisconsin became a state.
While the majority of our members are Wisconsin residents, that is certainly not a requirement; we have members from other states and welcome inquiries and membership from anyone, anywhere. The purpose of WSAH is to preserve, advance, and disseminate knowledge of the history of the automobile in Wisconsin, in the United States, and worldwide.
WSAH meetings are held three times a year, with established sites for the official Annual Meeting at the lola Car Show in July, at the Hill & Valley Antique Car & Americana Show in Cross Plains in September, and The Wisconsin Automotive Museum in Hartford, home of the Kissel, in April. Other activities are varied and scheduled as they come about.
One of our major activities, and our primary fund-raiser, is our involvement with the Iola Car Show where we are paid for our efforts along with more than 135 other non-profit organizations whose members volunteer to put on the show. Since 1991 we have planned and staffed the Theme Exhibit section of the show, which involves displaying 200-300 vehicles, including up to 50 for a special exhibit inside the Theme Exhibit Building and Tent. We also select vehicles for the official poster and sell a variety of promotional and collectible items on behalf of the show. Our combination sales table and WSAH table is located in the Theme Exhibit Tent where we display our SAH/WSAH banner, promote WSAH membership, and field questions about the show and automotive history.
For several years we have given monetary support to the Wisconsin Automotive Museum, have donated to various Wisconsin historical projects, and have sponsored benches for the lola Car Show. We published the book Wisconsin Cars and Trucks: A Centenary and produced the video A Walk through Automotive History with Chet Krause. The late Chet Krause was the founder of Krause Publications and the Iola Old Car Show.
We have completed the first of our planned video recordings and interviews of significant people, places, and vehicles related to Wisconsin automotive history. Our first subject is Gene Grengs of Eau Claire, WI, who owned movie theatres and began collecting and restoring cars with his grandfather while he was quite young. Gene is very knowledgeable and hands-on. He has several Packard’s, including the speed record-setting Packard Panther Daytona. He has two Stanley steamers, including what might be the very last one made in 1924, a Model T made on the last day of production, Cord, Auburn and Pierce-Arrow automobiles, and a ’57 Corvette fuelie, among others, in his 40-plus car collection, down from about 100 at one time. Please click on the Gene Grengs Video link below.
We have started a member interest/information project and are considering electronic publishing on demand for our book, Wisconsin Cars and Trucks: A Centenary.
The WSAH logo was created in 1979. The “Spark” steam vehicle, developed by Dr. J.W. Carhart of Racine in 1871, is thought to be the first automobile in Wisconsin and, some say, in the United States. The silhouette of the Spark in our logo was drawn from an early photograph and is set within an outline of Wisconsin.
For inquiries, please contact:
Ken Nimocks, WSAH president
October, 2018 WSAH Special Election Results
2018 WSAH Fall Meeting
The WSAH Annual Autumn Meeting was held on Saturday, September 15, 2018 at Baer Park in Cross Plains, Wisconsin in conjunction with the 36th Annual Hill & Valley Antique Car & Americana Show. Eight officers, directors and members were in attendance, plus two guests.
Jim Morris and Jessica Zdanowicz have completed scanning all 41 issues of the previous WSAH newsletter, The Spark, and all issues of the current newsletter, the Carhart Chronicle. Jim and Jessica have posted these scans to the WSAH website for ready access by members and website visitors alike.
Joe Kapler, Curator of Cultural History at the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS), was a special guest at the meeting and gave a detailed presentation outlining how the WSAH can be more involved with the WHS. Joe’s presentation included a description of their large new building and the types of artifacts that the WHS is seeking as donations. George Tesar circulated a list he had prepared of the items, which includes automobiles, motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, small and stationary engines, tractors and light-to-heavy equipment, parts, tools and related memorabilia such as magazines, sales literature, repair manuals, and company records from both large and small concerns. The Society is not short of space, according to Joe, and the WHS wants to digitize printed and photographic artifacts while retaining the originals. The WSAH has long been affiliated with the WHS.
Michael Keller affirmed by email that he wants to step down as the WSAH Vice President. Michael feels there are others who do much more and are more deserving of the position. A successor is in mind, and an email will be sent to all members for input. The election will likely be handled by email without waiting until the next Chapter meeting.
Jim Morris will check with the Milwaukee Public Museum about the possibility of the WSAH having a meeting there in early December and being able to view the Schloemer Motor Wagon exhibit, for which the Chapter made a sizable donation in 2015. The Schloemer Motor Wagon was one of the first gas-powered automobiles in America.
2018 Iola Car Show and WSAH Summer Meeting
The Iola Car Show has been growing and evolving for 46 years. The 300+ acre show grounds hosts 4,200 swap meet spots, a Car Corral of some 1,000 vehicles and 1,600 campsites. Upwards of 2,200 show cars are displayed each year, with 200 selected for the annual Special Exhibit. Some 120,000 enthusiasts descend on this village of 1,100 residents for three days, with the dedication of thousands of volunteers making one of the largest car shows in the Midwest a continuing success.
For 2018 the WSAH continued an annual tradition, dating from 1991, of staffing the Special Exhibit of the 2018 Iola Car Show, July 12th through July 14th.
The Special Exhibit displays upwards of 200 vehicles selected to represent annually designated themes. In past years the Special Exhibit Tent has featured approximately 50 of those 200 vehicles which exemplify the themes of the year, as selected by the Iola Car Show staff and WSAH members. The other 150 vehicles in the Special Exhibit have been displayed just outside the Tent.
This year the themes were Movie Cars and Service Vehicles. The vehicle selections were made during the months preceding the show by the Iola Car Show staff working with WSAH members Ken Nimocks, Jim Morris and Don Gullikson. This year most of the specially selected vehicles were displayed, for the first time, inside the Special Exhibit Building, just north of the Special Exhibit Tent.
During the three day show, chapter members manage the parking and display of the vehicles for the Special Exhibit and staff the WSAH table in the Tent. Chapter members sell Iola Car Show memorabilia in support of the show, answer questions, and engage show attendees about the WSAH. The WSAH banner is on prominent display at the chapter table in the Tent. The Iola Car Show pays the chapter for providing these services, which is a primary fund raiser for the WSAH.
The annual WSAH Summer Meeting, held in conjunction with the Iola Car Show, took place on Friday, July 13th, at 2:00 in the Special Exhibit Building. Ten members were in attendance. Discussion included honorary member designations, newsletter expenses, and WSAH relations with the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS). George Tesar reported on his second visit to the WHS. George was appointed as the WSAH Liaison to the WHS, and plans to make a return visit to the Society, with David Tesch, to explore with the WHS staff specifically how the WSAH can be of assistance to the WHS.
2018 WSAH Spring Meeting
Thirteen WSAH members and two guests gathered at the Wisconsin Automotive Museum in Hartford, WI on April 28 for the chapter Spring Meeting, hosted by museum Executive Director Dawn Bondhus Mueller. www.wisconsinautomuseum.com
The annual donation by the chapter to the Wisconsin Automotive Museum for 2018 was approved. Dawn distributed copies of the new full color double-fold marketing flier recently issued by the museum with the sponsorship of WSAH annual donations.
Chapter webmaster Jessica Zdanowicz continues to scan back issues of the chapter newsletters, The Spark and the Carhart Chronicle, on to the WSAH website for easy access by members and website visitors alike.
George Tesar recently visited the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison and told of their need for assistance in organizing the automotive related sections of their collection.