Nearly 20 years after its rediscovery, mystery surrounding long-lost Pow Wow Days button solved

By Jalen Maki

Tomahawk Leader Editor

TOMAHAWK – A mystery surrounding a long-lost button with Tomahawk ties has finally been solved – nearly two decades after its rediscovery.

On Nov. 10, 2005, while in the process of relocating his cottage from Clear Lake to Half Moon Lake, Bill Sparr spotted an object in the sand where the cottage’s porch had been. Picking the item up, he discovered it was a button.

On the button were a Native American woman and the words “C of C,” “Pow Wow Days,” and “Tomahawk, Wis.”

Also printed on button were the dates July 3, 4, 5 and 6.

Nearly 20 years after it was rediscovered, a mystery surrounding this long-lost button has been solved. Photo by Jalen Maki.

Sparr knew the button was from a past 4th of July celebration in Tomahawk – for decades referred to as Pow Wow Days – but he did not know what year the button was from.

Despite making inquires with the Tomahawk Area Historical Society and the Tomahawk Regional Chamber of Commerce, as well as submitting a Letter to the Editor to the Tomahawk Leader in an effort to learn more about the button’s origin, Sparr was ultimately unable to unearth any more information – that is, until this year.

Local historian and Historical Society member Elaine Koth, while researching 1952 issues of the Leader, discovered that Sparr’s mystery button was, in fact, from 1952 – the inaugural year of Pow Wow Days in Tomahawk.

The button was one of 5,000 brightly-colored booster buttons made that year. An article in the May 3, 1952 issue of the Leader explained that the buttons were sold for $1.00 apiece as an advertising campaign for Pow Wow Days, then organized by the Chamber.

The buttons were distributed from the Chamber’s Information Booth to local businesses to be sold.

Mrs. Arlette Hoffman led the button sale. She was assisted in distribution by Duane Krull, Robert Voelz, Gene Urban, Clarence Anderson and Lester Dean, according to the Leader article.

“The buttons will admit the bearer to all Pow Wow Days events, which will include street dancing every evening, the Order of the Arrow Indian pageant, a Paul Bunyan program depicting early Tomahawk history, the W.O.A. boat races, ‘Festival of Music Under the Stars,’ and the several other entertainment activities and displays,” the article stated.

Tomahawk’s first Pow Wow Days celebration also featured concessions and a carnival on Railroad St. between Somo Ave. and W. Wisconsin Ave., as well as a 4th of July parade honoring Tomahawk-area native Sgt. Einar H. Ingman Jr., who had been awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman in 1951.

A total of 73 units took part in the Pow Wow Days parade, which would become a staple of Tomahawk’s annual Independence Day celebration in the decades to follow.

The Pow Wow Days button will be displayed at the Tomahawk Area Historical Society museum, 18 E. Washington Ave., open from 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

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