The Marathon County Historical Society now has a presence in the online museum of state history, Wisconsin 101: Our History in Objects. Archivist Ben Clark compiled the history of the Employers Mutual Audiometer, and the “exhibit” is now live here at the Wisconsin 101 website.
Employers Mutual was the first workers compensation insurance company in the U.S. It was founded in Wausau in 1911 just after the state legislature passed the first workers compensation law to be declared constitutional. It was the birth of a new industry, and Employers Mutual Liability Insurance Company of Wisconsin, later renamed Wausau Insurance, led the way. Employers Mutual also instituted a campaign to increase workplace safety, since fewer injuries meant less money paid out in claims. The Audiometer pictured on the WI 101 website was used by Helen Onyett in the mid-to-late 1960s to test the hearing of employees hired by Employers Mutual policyholders. The insurance company developed one of the first hearing-loss prevention programs, and used such devices to test the hearing of workers in noisy shops and factories.
Wisconsin 101 co-director Tom Broman visited the Marathon County Historical Society in July of this year to describe the project during a History Speaks presentation. Wisconsin 101 offers a new perspective on state and local history by using artifacts to tell stories about the past. It is a collaborative public history project, meaning that nominations for additional objects for the site are welcome.
For more information, please call the Marathon County Historical Society at 715-842-5750 and check out the WI 101 website.