Shadow box?s origins a mystery
An ornate shadow box found in the attic of a Weyauwega home some 40 years ago has its new owner hoping to learn the story behind its glass.
Tracy Schmidt, of rural Waupaca, bought the shadow box last year.
She discovered it at Krueger & Krueger LLC, in Iola, where she works.
“It was sitting in a corner,” Schmidt said. “It was somewhat haunting.”
Inside the shadow box are two crosses, three small ribbons and two plaques, all attached to a velvet background.
Each plaque says, “Our Darling” and is under a cross.
“I saw it. I felt bad about it,” Schmidt said. “It looked like some type of memorial. I decided to research it because of my interest in antiques.”
The shadow box was in the store for a couple weeks before Schmidt saw it.
She purchased it on Halloween and began researching it.
“I tried to research it. I discovered the two crosses are coffin crosses,” Schmidt said. “It is a true Victorian shadow box. It is quite old.”
Schmidt said it could date back to the late 1800s.
“I’d like to find who these children were, their names and how or why they died,” she said. “It bothers me that there is this memorial to these two children, and they’re nameless.”
Schmidt hoped to learn more about the shadow box from the person who sold it to Kurt Krueger, of Krueger & Krueger.
However, like Schmidt, its previous caretaker also simply found it intriguing.
Sharon Wohlt was about 20 years old when she discovered the shadow box in the attic of her parents’ house.
That was about 40 years ago.
At the time she found the shadow box, her parents, the late Sam and Mabel Goetsch, had lived in the house at 313 E. Main St. in Weyauwega for several years.
Wohlt was cleaning out the attic when she found the shadow box.
“It looked like a couple babies died,” she said.
She remembers the locks of hair by the ribbons. Eventually, the hair disintegrated.
While the shadow box did not have a connection to her family, Wohlt thought it was an interesting piece.
For more than 40 years, she kept it.
Last fall, she decided to take it to someone familiar with antiques.
“I didn’t want to take it apart,” Wohlt said. “As far as I know, it’s never been touched. I never opened it up.”
She said the shadow box did not hold any sentimental value to her.
Furthermore, like when she originally found it, the shadow box was simply sitting in her attic.
She decided to sell it to Krueger.
Schmidt said it is difficult to find information about a shadow box like this, because people often kept them in the family and handed them down to younger generations.
“I don’t know if one was a boy and one was a girl,” she said. “One cross is more feminine with flowers. The other has a book.”
Another part of the mystery is why there are three ribbons but only two crosses.
Schmidt noticed an outline of another cross in the velvet, in between the two crosses which are in the shadow box.
Members of the Weyauwega Historical Society are also trying to help solve the mystery.
Thus far, members traced previous owners of the home to Martin and Rose Vey, who purchased the house around 1941. They bought the house from Ed Radtke, who was a plumber.
Radtke may have been the original owner.
Schmidt said shadow boxes are made for a variety of reasons including weddings, deaths and hobby themes.
She hopes to trigger memories about who lived in the Weyauwega home and the names of the children memorialized in the shadow box.
Schmidt, the mother of two young girls, would like to then loan the item out to a local museum or historical society so “it could serve the purpose of being a fitting tribute to someone.”
For now, the shadow box is living in an 1800s refinished trunk in her home.
“I’m now the caretaker of the box,” she said.