Edwardian Era in Sauk County

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In 2014, the Van Orden mansion celebrated its 110th birthday. The stylish and beautiful home of Jacob and Martha Van Orden was completed in 1904, just after the end of the Victorian era and during the rein of King Edward VII of Great Britain. Edward, the son of Queen Victoria, began his rein after the death of his mother in 1901. The Edwardian Era officially lasted until 1910 with the death of Edward but frequently is extended up until WWI.

The Edwardian period, which also opened the 20th century, saw numerous technical and social advances in all fields of endeavor. Female servants still worked for families who could afford their services. Domestic staff were provided with food, clothing, housing, and a small wage. However, fewer young ladies entered the domestic trade during this period, as they were finding better paying employment elsewhere.

According to Arthur Marwick, the most striking change of all the developments that occurred during the Great War was the modification in women's dress, "for, however far politicians were to put the clocks back in other steeples in the years after the war, no one ever put the lost inches back on the hems of women's skirts."

Edison’s phonograph was a popular form of entertainment, and electricity began to supplant the smoky flickering gas lights of the previous era. The Van Orden mansion was built with both gas and electrical supplies, one of the few residences to boast such modern conveniences at the time. Indoor plumbing was installed in the mansion when many still made that long trip to the outhouse. The telephone became a necessity in many homes, and the automobile was seen on streets in both large and small communities.

The Van Orden mansion was on the cutting edge of technology when it was built. It boasted speaking tubes between various rooms, and an electric call system that signaled when the maid was wanted by the master or mistress.

The Van Orden mansion has been the headquarters of the Sauk County Historical Society since 1938, when it was purchased by the Society.

An Edwardian exhibit is currently on display at the mansion. It may be seen on Fridays and Saturdays, between May and October.