Walter Pelzer

Date in History: 20th century

In the 1920s, Fort Atkinson teenager Walter Pelzer often sat in a downtown storefront rapidly and skillfully sculpting animals from the clay that he had dug from the banks of the Rock River. Large crowds gathered to marvel and watch the young man work.

After graduating from Fort High in 1930, Walter began working at the Milwaukee Public Museum where he was able to develop his childhood fascination with animals and sculpture. Pelzer would go on to become Chief of Taxidermy at the museum, retiring in 1972. His crowning achievement was the 1966 Plains Indian bison hunt diorama, which drew worldwide praise for its brilliant design and execution. With that one exhibit, Walter Pelzer put the Milwaukee Public Museum into the top echelon of natural history museums.

This historic document aired on the radio as an Historic Minute on 03/07/2005.

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