Milwaukee Public Library Historic Menus Digital Collection

Everyone has a favorite restaurant they remember from the past. If you could look back at the old menu it would take you back to those favorite memories of eating there and other happy thoughts that take you back to a special time. This was what the Milwaukee Public Library has done with its latest digital collection. This unique collection includes Milwaukee-area menus from the early 1900s up to the present.

The Historic Menus digital collection includes a variety of menus from the Milwaukee area from the early twentieth century to the present. The physical menus are part of the Local History Pamphlet Collection in the Humanities Department. There are menus from special events, beer gardens, and many different types of restaurants. Many of the menus included here were collected by Milwaukee Public Library staff members, who likely used them to get takeout lunches when they were working. Other menus were donated or collected specifically for the pamphlet collection.

See the Historic Menus Digital Collection here!

Also, if you stop by the Central Library between now and March 18th, look at the displays on the 2nd floor outside the Humanities Room to see some of the menus from the collection.


AMA – Ask Me Anything

Here’s your chance to ask questions or tell a story, preferably related to Milwaukee history! I encourage you to participate!

You must be registered and logged in to leave a reply. This will keep out the spammers selling viagra and watches. If you can’t see the comment box, then click on the “Ask Me Anything” headline. The comment box should appear at the bottom of the page.


The Milwaukee Industrial Survey

The Wisconsin Historical Society started a project late in 2015 to research and document Milwaukee industrial architecture, retaining the engineering and planning firm of Mead & Hunt. The idea behind the project is detailed in the following summary from the report they produced.

Milwaukee has historically been Wisconsin’s largest industrialized city. As industry left the city, scores of industrial buildings were left behind, vacant and underutilized. The availability of federal and state historic tax credits has made these buildings attractive candidates for rehabilitation and reuse. However, an impediment to the use of the tax credits has been the limited information on which buildings meet National Register criteria, one of the requirements of the tax credit program. To address this need, the Wisconsin Historical Society undertook a comprehensive architectural and historical study of Milwaukee’s historic industrial buildings. The intent was to create a record of Milwaukee’s industrial heritage as embodied in the remaining industrial buildings that would serve as an incentive for building owners and developers to reinvest in Milwaukee’s historic building stock, thereby increasing property values, creating new retail or housing opportunities, promoting green architecture, and attracting people back to devalued areas of Milwaukee.


The value in rehabilitating former industrial buildings can be seen in the success of the Third Ward which prior to its development starting in the late 1980’s was solely a warehouse and light-manufacturing district. One of the last buildings in the ward that remains functioning as light industrial is the Hoffco Shoe Polish Factory at 125 N Water St. In the mid-80’s before the transition, the ward was half-empty with many of the light-manufacturing businesses moved out of state. Commission Row on Broadway was the busiest part of the neighborhood with several fruit and vegetable wholesale businesses distributing their goods throughout the day.

The final report was finished late last year and was unveiled at an event at the Pritzlaff Building on January 19th. The 160-plus page document is available online through the Wisconsin Historic Society website and details the many types of industrial buildings to be found in Milwaukee, a history of the various industries and their development, and a complete list of industrial buildings in the city. This is an amazing tool for developers, researchers, and the public to gain an understanding of this underappreciated type of building.

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 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.