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1934 Green Bay, Wisconsin, Tercentennial Celebration

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Wisconsin 1934 centennial medal:

1934 Green Bay, Wis., Wisconsin Tercentennial, Jean Nicolet, Bronze 37mm Unc. A bronze medal commemorating the 300th anniversary of the coming of the first white man to Green Bay, Wisconsin, 1634 - 1934.


In 1634 Jean Nicolet crossed Lake Michigan and landed at Red-Banks (near Green Bay), thus becoming the first white man to explore Wisconsin. (Found in Bloomington, IL)

The tercentennial (300th anniversary) of Nicolet's landing at Green Bay was celebrated in 1934. . .While it is the size and shape of a coin, I feel that it fits more into the relic category due to the historical context of it.


President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the keynote speaker at the Wisconsin Tercentennial celebration on August 9, 1934. Evidently Mr. (or Mrs.) D. Prescott was so moved by Pres. Roosevelt’s speech that he purchased this official souvenir to commemorate the event. H&K Unlisted, Bronze / R 37, TC-219792.


I was born 30 miles from Green Bay in a small town called Kaukauna. My Grandfather and Father both worked at the Paper Mill on the Fox River. That’s why I write this story.


. . .The spirit of rejoicing, an overtone from the contemplation of significant achievement, is the more urgent from the seeming shortness of the period of civilization building. Wisconsin people look back a hundred years, recall that plans for a territorial organization were then only beginning to be formed, and assume that date as the starting point in the state’s development. In this attitude there is a certain fundamental justice, as we shall see, but the story in its completeness is much more involved and infinitely more romantic.


The Tercentenary Observance

To prove this it is only needful to recall the tercentennial, celebrated at Green Bay in the summer of 1934. That event contemplates a Wisconsin which came to the knowledge of civilized man three centuries ago and thenceforward was continuously interesting to Europeans from religious, commercial, political, military, mining, and colonizing points of view. If the land had merely been seen by its original explorer and then disregarded for two centuries, the Green Bay celebration would hardly have been justified, but when the visit of Jean Nicolet has as sequel the coming of Perrot to organize the Indian trade, of Allouez to found a mission, Louvigny and LaPerriere to conquer hostile savages, Joliet and Marquette, to prosecute interior discoveries; when English followed French and Americans English in a fateful if uneven succession, then the discovery of the Wisconsin terrain three centuries ago is seen to be an event of genuine historical significance, about which all the people of the state, young and old, without exception, should be informed.



Jean Nicolet greeting the Menominee Indians. Painting by Edward William Deming. Courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS).




Jean Nicolet was an engaging young Frenchman of Cherbourg, who adventured to Quebec in 1618 at the age of twenty. Samuel de Champlain, his patron, governor of the French colony, had use for a bright, capable man like Nicolet and promptly sent his out among distant tribes of Indians to learn their language and mode of life. In that service he spent nine years, making himself an expert in the language and lore of the Algonkins (sic). It was doubtless a hard service, but it won him the honorable office of interpreter and agent.


The last three years had been spent among the Nipissings on or near Lake Huron. Here was the crossroads of the wilderness. The Ottawa River, Lake Nipissing, and French River had become the regular channel of trade between Quebec and the upper Great Lakes. It was by that route that Ottawa Indians of the far northwest, with greet fleets of bark canoes, carried their furs to the French metropolis, while the Hurons at the south end of Georgian Bay received through the same channel French traders and missionaries. The Nipissings’ country, in effect, was the listening post from which to eavesdrop upon the savage as well as the civilized world. It is practically certain that Nicolet there obtained some knowledge of the more distant tribes south, north, and west as well as general notions of the routes of travel and of the distances that would have to be covered in order to visit them.


The record of what now took place has been preserved solely because the Jesuit missionaries were in the habit of sending Relations of events transpiring in the new world to the heads of their order in France. . .


For these reasons, and especially because the interest his visit (Jean Nicolet) created was never permitted to die or to be lost, the state is under deep obligations to the people of Green Bay for causi9ng the tercentennial of Nicolet’s visit to be adequately observed.


This was done in a variety of ways: Through the issuance by the Post Office Department of a special commemorative three cent stamp, bearing Edwin W. Deming’s painting of Nicolet’s landfall; by a visit to Green Bay on August 9, 1934, of President Franklin D. Roosevelt; by a Fox River Valley parade on the opening day, July 7, and the religious observances on July 5.






Please share any like medals/history.


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