Frank J. B. Duchateau was born in Green Bay on September 25, 1867 and would remain a lifelong resident of the city. He operated his father’s business, the A. Duchateau Company, a local distilling, import and wholesale liquor business. With Prohibition, however, the company turned to real estate. Duchateau also worked as a bank director, was a member of several fraternal and service organizations, and was an avid artifact collector. He also served for many years on the Neville Public Museum’s Board of Directors.
On January 19, 1902, Frank Duchateau was searching for artifacts near Red Banks, located along the southeast shoreline of Green Bay. While walking over a plowed field, Duchateau pulled a peculiar octagonal object from the ground. Immediately, he noticed the curious brass object was covered with French inscriptions. What he had discovered was an eighteenth-century French navigational instrument: a Le Maire Sundial Compass.
Twenty-five years later, On June 1, 1927, Frank and his wife, Mary, entered into an agreement with the Neville Public Museum to donate his extensive collection of “curios and memorabilia” which at that time consisted of approximately 12,000 objects. The objects in the collection include Native American artifacts, archaeological material, geological specimens, farm tools, kitchen tools, ceramics, firearms, shells, letters, deeds, documents, newspaper clippings, wills, tax receipts and a variety of miscellaneous objects. Duchateau and his family continued to add to the collection over the years.
One of the most notable objects in the Duchateau Collection is the Le Maire sundial, #D9184, on display in the museum’s Edge of the Inland Sea permanent exhibit. While seemingly insignificant compared to the thousands of other artifacts on exhibit at the Neville Public Museum, the artifact reminds us of a time when Green Bay, Wisconsin, was little more than a vulnerable, struggling outpost on the periphery of French territory in North America.
Frank Duchateau died in Green Bay in 1954.
Object story created December 2015.
- Obituary of Frank Duchateau. Green Bay Press-Gazette,1954.
- Neville Public Museum of Brown County, NPM Artifact ID Number (D_9184) Frank Duchateau Collection.
- Neville Public Museum. B2B 100th Commemorative Publication 1915 – 2015, 15-16.