In the preface to Madison: An Illustrated Sesquicentennial History, Volume I, 1856-1931, Stuart Levitan writes, "The past matters because the past lives." That is also the first line of this week's cover story, derived from the book. "Turning Points" gives evidence to this thesis, as Levitan cites eight incidents and decisions that have had an enduring effect upon the fate of Madison and its citizens.
The book itself is a fascinating ramble through the attic of Madison's past. It provides many more than eight references to names, schemes and enterprises that present-day Madisonians will react to and remark to themselves, "So that's why such and such is called that." Or "That's why that's like that." And the great strength of the book is the "Illustrated" in its title. Full of period photographs, documents and maps, it visually takes us back to the times it recounts.
Among the maps you'll find Isthmus' small contribution to the work. Our graphic artist David Michael Miller created a series of decade maps contemporaneous to the times. You will recognize his handiwork from the great maps he has made over the years that have appeared in our Annual Manual, as well as in the weekly Isthmus.
In the preface to his book, Levitan makes reference to the fact that he has lived in Madison for 31 years. I was surprised by that; I recall seeing his byline in The Capital Times as its Washington correspondent before 1975. I do remember, upon meeting him sometime in the '70s, being surprised by his youth. But Madison is as much in his veins now as if he were born here. You can tell that by the love and effort evident in the book.
Published by the University of Wisconsin Press, Levitan's work makes its appearance just in time for the holiday shopping season. The author will be making a number of public appearances in support of the book in the near future. They are listed in the article. You might want to show up and thank him for this latest paean to our favorite city, and let him bask in the repose that follows a job well done. He soon ends his extended leave from his regular employment and returns to work as a mediator for the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission.