Milwaukee’s Gilded Age

Milwaukee has had a long history of political struggle between various groups of haves and have nots. Opposing groups have always had battles to fight, some bloody and others simply fought in the voting booths. There have been periods of peace but overall those have been few. Historian Greg Afinoguenov, wrote this paper a few years ago dissecting and analyzing the city’s political history in a nutshell. It is an interesting read and gives a fresh perspective on some issues we still wrestle with.

Milwaukee’s Gilded Age and Aftermath


Layton’s Legacy Talk at UWM

Layton’s Legacy: A Historic American Art Collection, 1888-2013

Meet Authors Eric Vogel and John Eastberg

Authors Eric Vogel and John Eastberg will discuss their recently published book on Layton, as well as sharing information on the research process and the materials they used from the UWM Libraries.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Special Collections, 4th Floor
UWM Golda Meir Library
2311 E. Hartford Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53211

Free and open to the public. Visit the UWM website or Layton’s Legacy website for more details.

Layton's legacy book cover high res

Chudnow Museum Lecture

I have an upcoming lecture next week at the Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear. The lecture will be about some of the buildings featured in the Missing Milwaukee book. It will be a fun event with a Powerpoint slide show.

RSVP for a spot today because seating is limited. Admission to the event is only $2 for students and $3 for adults and includes a tour of the museum which is well worth seeing.

There is free parking in the lot and the doors will open at 5:30pm for the lecture at 6pm.

There are half a dozen books still for sale in the gift shop at the $15 price to be signed at the lecture. Hope to see you there!

Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear
839 North 11th Street
Milwaukee, WI 53233


Layton’s Legacy

A great new book about Milwaukee philanthropist and patron of the arts, Frederick Layton is now out on the shelves. Historians John Eastberg and Eric Vogel have done an outstanding job in bringing this important history of the Layton cultural legacy to print.

From the Press Release:
New Book Entitled Layton’s Legacy – A Historic American Art Collection, Sheds Light on Milwaukee’s Noteworthy Cultural Arts History

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – If you ask any Milwaukeean if they’ve traveled on Layton Avenue, most will reply, “yes.” However, very few will know anything about the man whose name is attached to this busy street. This may be in part because when Frederick Layton died in 1919, he left behind no offspring, and some of his greatest gifts, the art gallery and art school named after him, were demolished years ago. The nationally renowned Layton Art Gallery building was torn down to make room for a parking lot in 1957. The Layton School of Art closed as well to make room for a freeway that was never built. Luckily, six of the school’s faculty members went on to found the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, and the core collection of the original Layton Art Gallery can still be seen today at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Because of the recent discovery of Layton family papers, travel journals, and vintage photographs, the critical role that Frederick Layton played in developing the city’s love for fine arts and culture can’t be overlooked.

There are also two upcoming events surrounding the book’s release:

Sunday, September 29, 2013 at 3 p.m.
Boswell Book Signing
2559 N. Downer Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53211

Friday, October 18, 2013 from 6 – 8 p.m.
Gallery Night Presentations (a 20 minute video on Frederick Layton will air and then be followed by a book signing and then repeated throughout the night)
MIAD Board Room off of the Brooks Stevens Gallery,
373 E. Erie, Milwaukee, WI 53202

Missing Milwaukee Walking Tour

Join me on a walking tour of downtown’s missing buildings as featured in my book, Missing Milwaukee on June 27th. Books are not included in the price but will be available for sale at the beginning of the tour.

Missing Milwaukee Tour
Thursday, June 27, 5:30pm

Join the author of Missing Milwaukee: The Lost Buildings of Milwaukee on a tour of the vanished buildings in Milwaukee’s downtown. The tour will include images of what was once there and the history of why it no longer is.

Call 414-277-7795 with any questions.

$10 HMI Members
$20 Non-Members

Reservation and Advance Payment by Check or Credit Card is Required
Reserve a spot today!

Mondo Milwaukee Tour

Learn all about Milwaukee’s scandalous and hidden past with the Milwaukee Boat Line! Join historian and author Matthew J. Prigge for the Mondo Milwaukee Boat Tour from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Thursday, June 27 at 101 W. Michigan St.

The tour will include all-true stories about such topics as the old downtown vice and brothel districts, the deadliest disasters of the lake and rivers, the years when the Milwaukee mafia ruled the Third Ward, and a long-forgotten mass grave on the city’s waterfront.

“Mondo Milwaukee will give a history of the city that often goes untold. We’ll see infamous sites and hear bawdy tales of Milwaukee’s past,” said Prigge. “This is something that has never been attempted before and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Prigge is a PhD student in the history program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) and has spent the last three summers leading tours of the city for the Milwaukee Boat Line. He has published extensively on off-beat topics of local history, including pornographic theatres, UFO sightings, Depression-Era terrorism, and early-1900s transvestitism.

The tour is for adults only. Tickets cost $15 each. They can be purchased online at or dockside the night of the tour. Visit for updates.

For more information, contact Matthew J. Prigge at 920-901-4866 or at

Upcoming Library Presentations

The Central Library has a few upcoming programs of interest:

House History – An overview of resources the library has to research your house history. Space is limited so call now if you are interested – 414-286-3011
Saturday, May 4 – 9:30 to 11:30am, Richard E. and Lucile Krug Rare Books Room

1890s Library Design Competition – John Chojnacki will talk about the design competition held by the City of Milwaukee in the early 1890s for the Central Library. He will show the different designs submitted by various architects.
Saturday May 11 – 10:30 to 11:30am, Meeting Room 1
This program has unfortunately been canceled. Sorry!

The Voice of Germania – Historian John Eastberg will offer a look in the world of Milwaukee publsiher Geroge Brumder, a 19th century immigrant to Wisconsin who, by 1910, became the nation’s leading publisher of German-language literature. Call 414-286-3071 to register
Saturday, May 18 – 2:00 to 4:00pm, Richard E. and Lucile Krug Rare Books Room

Matthew Prigge Lecture

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee doctoral student Matthew J. Prigge will present a lecture about the incredible tale of Cora Anderson, a Milwaukee woman who passed for nearly a decade as a man named Ralph Kerwineo. As Kerwineo, Anderson lived openly with her partner, Mamie White, and was able to obtain “men’s work” and make a steady living for herself and White. In 1914, ‘Kerwineo’ left White and legally married a younger woman, driving White to expose her former partner to the police. The arrest of Anderson/Kerwineo set off a tumultuous week in which Anderson told her fantastic tale and the nation gaped in wonder at the “Girl-Man of Milwaukee.”

The lecture will take place 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 30 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Student Union, 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd., Wisconsin Room, Second Floor.

This event is co-sponsored by the UWM Department of History and the Milwaukee Historical Society.

Milwaukee Civil Defense

The late 1950s was a time of fear far beyond what we experienced post 9/11 and still today. The Cold War and nuclear armageddon hysteria was reaching its climax all across the country. The Civil Defense Administration spent untold billions building fallout shelters and mobilizing local governments for evacuation plans.

Milwaukee, as an industrial center was a potential target of Soviet long range bombers and later ICBMs. On July 20, 1956, the first of many large scale civil defense exercises was planned across the entire country. Two nuclear bombs, each with the equivalent of 100,000 tons of TNT were “dropped” on Milwaukee in the simulation. Evacuation plans had already been drawn up the previous year as shown in the map below. The day of the simulation at 2:10pm, Conelrad (Civil Defense Radio Network) halted all radio and television broadcasts to explain the exercise to citizens. The emergency government of Milwaukee including Mayor Ziedler had evacuated to St. John’s Academy in Delafield. The exercise was meant to acquaint civil and military leaders as well as the public with the realities of survival from a nuclear war. Approximately 180,000 people were anticipated to die in the Milwaukee area from the bombs.

The result of the simulation was a large push for building more public and personal fallout shelters and stockpiling them for survival in the aftermath. Evacuation plans were solidified and signs were placed along the routes to clearly mark where people were meant to escape. Even before this in the early 1950s, schools had naive educational programs to teach their students survival, including “Duck and Cover”.

The Neenah Historical Society will begin an exhibition on May 1st about personal fallout shelters and plans for surviving nuclear holocaust.

Charles Whitnall Lecture

Historian Katherine Kaliszewski will be giving a lecture on the subject of her thesis, Charles B. Whitnall at the UWM Union this Thursday, April 18th at 2pm. Stop by and learn some insight about the father of Milwaukee’s park system.