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Book explores Whitewater's industrial roots

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Kayla Bunge
October 26, 2008
— Bo McCready could have written about something more popular, more modern, more widely understood.

But he thought better of it.


McCready instead dug deep into the history of his hometown and unearthed a gem of a story: In the mid-1800s, Whitewater was a booming manufacturing town, but by the early 1900s, it was reduced to a struggling farming town.


"I wanted to know what happened," he said. "It seems like it should have been the opposite."


McCready, 20, set out to solve the mystery, and his research became the basis for not only his senior honors thesis but also his first book, "Early Whitewater Industry," which hit store shelves Tuesday.


"It's really exciting," he said. "I knew at some point in my career I wanted to publish a book ... My thesis was approaching book-length, and I thought there was no harm in pitching it (to a publisher)."


McCready said it was his undergraduate history professor at UW-Madison who pushed him to write his thesis about something obscure.


"You don't want to write about something that's been written about a hundred times," he said. "The way you get noticed is if you say something people haven't said before. And I thought local history was a way to do that."


Whitewater's story, according to McCready's thesis, "From Factories to Fields: The Rise and Fall of Whitewater, Wisconsin, 1837-1900," is this:


Whitewater became a booming industrial town—anchored by its largest manufacturers, Esterly Harvesting Machine Company and Winchester and Partridge Wagon Works—after the coming of the railroad in 1852.


But in the early 1890s, both companies abandoned Whitewater. The wagon factory closed in 1890, after the death of one of its founders, and the farm implement factory closed in 1892, when it moved to Minneapolis.


The population plummeted, and Whitewater leaders were unsuccessful in bringing other manufacturers to town amid the Panic of 1893, which was the worst economic crisis to strike the nation to that point.


McCready said he had to do a lot of work on his thesis—including additional research to support almost 200 photographs—to make it suitable for publication as a book, particularly the kind of book Arcadia Publishing was interested in putting out.


"I had to distill down the thesis," he said. "There was a lot of information, a lot of charts and graphs that didn't have a place in the book."


He said it was difficult to whittle away at his academic writing.


"I negotiated to get as many words in as possible," McCready said. "I wanted as much analysis in the book as they would allow."


He said the process was laborious but worthwhile because his book covers a piece of history that's been overlooked for decades by veteran academics studying de-industrialization.


BUY THE BOOK

Bo McCready's book, "Early Whitewater Industry," is available online through amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and arcadiapublishing.com.


The book also is available at these Whitewater locations:


-- Whitewater Historical Society Museum, 301 W. Whitewater St.


-- Home Lumber, 499 W. Whitewater St.


-- Reynolds Pharmacy, 175 W. Main St.


-- McCullough's Pharmacy, 1173 W. Main St.


-- Daniels Sentry, 1260 W. Main St.


-- Winchester True Value Hardware, 1415 W. Main St.


-- The Fuzzy Pig, N8660 Clover Valley Road.


-- UW-Whitewater bookstore, Moraine Hall, Starin Road.


IF YOU GO

What: Book signing and premiere of "The Esterly Manufacturing Company," a 30-minute film based information from Bo McCready's senior honors thesis about early Whitewater industry.


When: 6-7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5, Whitewater High School auditorium, 534 S. Elizabeth St., Whitewater.


What: Book release and signing


When: 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15, Irvin L. Young Memorial Library, 431 W. Center St., Whitewater.



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