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La Crosse County Historical Society discovers, collects, preserves, and shares the history of La Crosse County, Wisconsin.

Object Record

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Object Name Animal, Stuffed
Catalog Number 1986.044.01
Description Plush stuffed rabbit with red/orange trousers and orange/yellow tuxedo style jacket. White plastic eyes with long plush ears on a metal frame that are lined with pink velvet. Rabbit was made with excelsior stuffing or wood wool. Body under clothing is muslin not plush.
Collection LCHS Toy Collection
Provenance Form a conversation with the donor's daughter, Barbara Nestingen, in 2017. She stated that he received the rabbit in 1931, and that his father was a prosperous dentist in Westby, WI. The family was not much affected by the Depression.
Barbara and her sister Betsy recalled the rabbit well, as their father treasured him. It was kept in the attic most of the year and brought out in the spring.
She also stated that Howard Nestingen never served in the Indian Ocean, and that this was an error printed by the La Crosse Tribune and consequently repeated.
Date 1931
Dimensions H-35 inches
Height (in) 35
Dimension Details Feet are 7 inches long. Ears are 11 inches.
People Nestingen, Howard
Search Terms Toys
Rabbit
Stuffed Animals
Featured in Things that Matter
Notes Featured in Things that Matter

Howard Nestingen was a member of the Naval Reserves and commander of the Navy Reserve Officers School. In total, Nestingen was a naval officer for 38 years.

Nestingen was born in Westby in 1921, and he played an active role in the La Crosse area. He worked at Dairyland Power Cooperative, and he helped with the nuclear power plant near Genoa.

This stuffed rabbit was Nestingen’s as a child. He received the rabbit when he was about 10 years old, which dates the piece to the early 1930s.
The rabbit is white plush, with a suit of colorful wool felt; he has a dark orange pair of trousers, with a lighter orange tuxedo-style jacket. He has white plastic eyes and long ears that are lined with pink velvet. The rabbit is stuffed with wood wool.

With the rabbit’s style of clothes, he appears to be dressed in the style of Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” In the book, the rabbit appears wearing a waistcoat similar to the one worn by Nestingen’s rabbit.

Carroll’s fantasy novel was published in 1865. It was immensely popular, and it changed children’s literature by adding nonsensical amusement to the genre. Carroll’s story is about a young girl named Alice who falls through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world. The White Rabbit is the first character Alice meets, and he leads her into Wonderland. The rabbit appears periodically throughout the novel and acts as a guide for Alice.

The book’s protagonist was based on a young girl named Alice, and it’s believed that Dean Liddell, Alice’s father, may have been the inspiration for the White Rabbit. Similar to the rabbit, Liddell notoriously ran late, specifically to church services.

In the 1930s, the story of Alice remained popular, which explains why Nestingen had his own version of the White Rabbit. “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was republished a number of times during this era. A film titled “Alice in Wonderland” was released in 1933. The live-action, 77-minute film featured an all-star cast.

This article was originally published in the La Crosse Tribune.
Title: Howard Nestingen's White Rabbit
Author: Ivy King
Publish Date: October 10, 2017