70th Anniversary of the 1947 Blizzard

Stop by the Central Library between now and February 11th to see the exhibit on the famous 1947 blizzard. The display is on the 2nd floor near the Frank Zeidler Humanities Room and includes photographs, newspaper articles, and other mementos from the Library’s collections.

It’s a Wonderful Life was playing at the 3,000 seat Alhambra Theater in Downtown on January 28th, 1947. Paperboys delivered The Milwaukee Journal after school. The front page carried the U.S. Weather Bureau (renamed National Weather Service in 1970) forecast of “an inch or so of snow” for Wednesday, January 29th.

City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works (DPW) Bureau of Street Sanitation employees started work at 7:00 p.m. as a light snowfall began and prepared for late evening and overnight street sanding. The light snowfall ended about 2:45 a.m., which led sanitation supervisors to conclude that this was the forecasted inch of snow. They decided not to mount plows on garbage trucks and sent them on their morning ash (coal) and rubbish collection.

It started to snow about 8:30 a.m. as people went to work and children walked to school. By 10:00 a.m., it was obviously a blizzard with thunder snow and wind gusting up to 60 m.p.h. After street sanding and ash and garbage pickup for 17 hours, DPW workers were sent home at Noon to rest and told to return for 10:00 p.m. snow plowing. Most wouldn’t be able to return to work that evening.


Milwaukee Public Library Echo Newsletter Index

The staff at the Central Library Frank P. Zeidler Humanities Room have compiled a searchable index for issues of Historic Milwaukee, Inc.’s Echo newsletter. This database lists articles from the newsletter’s inception in 2004 until the most current issues. Physical copies can also be seen in the Humanities Room.

Search the database here!

East St. Paul Avenue – Mid 1960s

The third ward in the mid 60’s was in the process of being lopped off from downtown by the construction of 794. This picture looks east from Water Street when that process was beginning but it shows the buildings that still remain on the south side of the street. Of course, the landscape has changed. The VA Regional Offices were headquartered in the Mayer Building where West Elm now is. Where Collectivo Coffee is, there was a family diner, Dan’s Restaurant. Further down at Broadway where Cafe Benelux is located was a small one-story tavern, Hess’s Tap.


Pabst Truck Early 1950s

Looking east on Florida Street from 6th Street sometime in the early 1950s.
Pabst Truck

Lecture – When Milwaukee Had Rapid Transit

Photo Courtesy of WE Energies

Commuters drive on it every day.

The Marquette Interchange rises above its uncompleted subway entrance. Larry Sakar, author of Speedrail: Milwaukee’s Last Rapid Transit?, will present a history of Rapid Transit interurbans in the Milwaukee area until service ended 65 years ago.

Please register online at mpl.org or call (414) 286-3011. Street parking is free on Saturday, but time limits apply.

Saturday, June 25
2:00 – 3:00 PM

Milwaukee Central Library
Centennial Hall, Loos Room
733 N. 8th St.

Terra Cotta Walking & Biking Tours


Ceramic artist and terra cotta historian, Ben Tyjeski will be offering tours this summer to promote and raise money for a book that he is writing about Milwaukee’s Terra Cotta golden age. He knows the subject well and is an accomplished artist with the medium as can be seen by looking at his portfolio. His knowledge of the architectural uses and history in Milwaukee is second to none. Ben has thoroughly researched the subject and will explain the details of the artistry in many of the city’s most unique buildings. Three special tours will be given that delve into some of the best examples that can be seen.

JUNE 26, 11am-12pm
Distance: less than 1 mile.

​July 24, 11am-12pm
Distance: 1.75 miles.

August 14, 11am-12pm
Distance: 1 mile.

Please sign up in advance as space is limited. The tours are free but donations will be accepted and will go towards the publication of the book.

Photos courtesy of Ben Tyjeski

2016 Zeidler Memorial Lecture at Central Public Library


2016 Zeidler Memorial Lecture
Conservative Counterrevolution – Challenging Liberalism in 1950s Milwaukee

Sunday, April 10th at 3pm in the Centennial Hall of the Central Public Library, 733 N. 8th St.

In the 1950s, Milwaukee’s labor movement and Socialist mayor seemed to embody a dominant liberal consensus that sought to expand the New Deal. Based on her new book Conservative Counterrevolution: Challenging Liberalism in 1950s Milwaukee, Dr. Tula Connell will explore how business interests and political conservatives arose to undo that consensus, and how the resulting clash both shaped a city and helped redefine postwar American politics. A book signing sponsored by Boswell Book Company follows the event.

The free program includes an interactive panel discussion featuring:
Mike Nichols, president of the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute
State Rep. Fred Kessler, colleague and admirer of former Mayor Frank Zeidler
Joanne Williams, moderator, host of MPTV’s Black Nouveau program.

September 20, 1946 – Nat King Cole Takes Milwaukee


Before he became the iconic musician known around the world, Nat King Cole and his trio toured in the mid 1940’s. The post-war era, in particular, was amazing in Milwaukee, which became a stop for many singers and musicians who would later become household names. The King Cole Trio already had a huge hit in 1945 with “For Sentimental Reasons” and was booked on September 20, 1946 in the Circle Room of the LaSalle Hotel on North 11th Street and Wells street. In a series of events which, at the time, probably seemed common, the show was broadcast live on WEMP at 10:30 that night. The show was also recorded and can be heard in its entirety on Youtube. The sounds of clinking glasses and the chatter of some lucky Milwaukeeans’ grandparents are too awesome.

The hotel still stands as Cobeen Hall at Marquette University and why there isn’t a plaque for this show, only heaven knows.


Blatz Gum 1927

In the middle of Prohibition what was a brewery to do to keep in operation? I would not have guessed making grape flavored gum but you gotta do what you gotta do!

Just a note to stop by the Milwaukee County Historical Society to see their fantastic Brew City Mke exhibit. Going on now through April 30th.


Black History Month – The Star Trek – Milwaukee Connection


Charlie Washburn became known in the late 1960’s with his first job as a second assistant director for the original Star Trek series. His work with the series made him an essential part of the team so that he eventually was brought back as an assistant director several episodes of the Next Generation in 1987. His IMDB page shows the wide variety of films and tv shows for which he worked.

Although he was originally from Tennessee and received a degree from Kentucky, he came to Milwaukee to visit an old professor. While here he liked it and stayed for awhile to attend the University of Wisconsin and then the Milwaukee Institute of Technology where he found a love for directing. He went on to work on a master’s degree and taught telecasting in Syracuse before he headed to LA to become a director’s apprentice. After 400 days of apprenticeship he became a member of the Director’s Guild and began his career, the first African-American to be admitted and graduated from the apprenticeship program. He started with Star Trek in 1967 and quickly became a part of the team. He later went on to continue making his mark on Hollywood.

Charlie Washburn died on April 13, 2012 in Hollywood.