Something Rotten at the State Capitol – Literally!

You never know what you’re going to turn up in the Odd Wisconsin Archives. I had to laugh at the story about the “cache of decaying venison and sturgeon” stored a basement room of the Capitol wreaking havoc on the olfactory sensibilities of our distinguished lawmakers. And, funnier still, was that it was of their own doing. Brings new meaning to the contention that there’s something rotten in politics.

In the early 1930s, lawmakers decided to hold wardens accountable for the proper disposal of confiscated animals. A new provision was inserted in the legal code requiring that seized fish and game be sent to the state Capitol. And so there a captured sturgeon was soon deposited, unpreserved, in a basement storage room.
Ever dignified, members of the Supreme Court initially ignored the stench rising up the elevator shaft from below. But as it intensified, the justices decided that laws about abating a public nuisance trumped those about confiscated game….
Many lawmakers were said to be so scarred by the stench that they swore off sturgeon altogether, even giving up caviar. In an effort to avoid another incident, the law was changed and conservation wardens were once again entrusted with selling confiscated sturgeon locally.

Image: Capitol East Gallery, 1934, from the Wisconsin History Society Image Archive