Historical Society calendar celebrates county history, bicentennial


The Switzerland County Historical Society has created a new 2013 calendar that not only gives residents some great information about the county and its history, but also help raise awareness and funds for Vevay’s Bicentennial Celebration, which will be held in October of next year.

Soh Fong Ung, a resident of Versailles who is married to Switzerland County native Asher Cleeter, started a website called “Midwest Stories”, which highlights the many unique people and places who live in the Midwest area of the United States.

“She happened to be in the shop and bought some of my note cards that I make out of old stamps,” Martha Bladen said. “I found out from somebody that she’s posted about my cards on her website, so I went to the website and found them, and that’s how I got to know her.”

Martha Bladen said that Fong has come to be very fond of Vevay, and when she heard people talking about the upcoming bicentennial, she wanted to be a part of it.

“She came to me with this idea and she said that she would volunteer all of her work on this,” Martha Bladen said. “But she said that she would like to put together a calendar that tells about the history of the area, but try and do it in an ‘arty’ way.”

Martha Bladen said that she and Fong went through all sorts of things found in the museum’s collection: photographs, post cards, and other things; and also called on Jeni Scudder, who has a collection of historic post cards of Switzerland County.

“We worked out what we thought would be good themes that would kind of appeal to a wide range of people,” Martha Bladen explained. “Fong and I didn’t always agree on things. For example I thought historic buildings had to be in there, but she thought that lacked personality. She likes things with people.”

Martha Bladen said that the entire process was a long one, sorting through all sorts of images and then artfully putting them all together. Fong did a great deal of computer production on the project, bringing images together from different times in county history and melting them together into beautiful displays.

The historical society then decided to produce the calendars as a limited edition, only creating 500 of them to be offered for sale. The profits from the calendars will be used to a special bicentennial project.

“The history committee of the Bicentennial is planning to do an old fashioned tent Chautauqua, which will be held in the museum yard,” Martha Bladen said. “We’re focusing on a 1917 Chautauqua that was held in Vevay and where William Jennings Bryan was the speaker here.”

Martha Bladen said that the came across the famous orator’s speech here accidentally, as she was doing a search on Chautauquas.

“We were trying to decide what type of Chautauqua we wanted to have,” she said. “I talked with Barry Brown at the library, who helps us in searching for things, and he actually found an article where it said that William Jennings Bryan was speaking here. That was pretty significant, because in the research I had done, I found that William Jennings Bryan was the most popular Chautauqua speaker, and spoke at more Chautauquas that anyone else. The fact that he was in Vevay was kind of an interesting thing, so we’re making that our focus.”

In order to recreate the 1917 event, the History Committee will have to rent a large tent and chairs as well as hire performers – and the sale of the calendar will go towards those expenses.

“We know that there are many different events that will be going on that will need money, and that there will be a lot of fundraising going on,” Martha Bladen said. “We were just trying to be autonomous on this part, and if we sell all of our calendars, then we will be able to cover all of our expenses for doing the Chautauqua.”

Gracing the cover of the calendar is the steamboat, the “City of Vevay”, so everything from front to back centers on Switzerland County history.

The calendars are available at the Switzerland County Historical Museum gift shop and are $14.95. Switzerland County Historical Society members get a 10-percent discount. Word of the calendars is out, and Martha Bladen said that she’s already mailed calendars to people in other states who want the calendar.

The museum gift shop is open daily from noon until 4 p.m.

“We want it to be something that’s also a memory piece,” Martha Bladen said.