Milwaukee Public Schools leading to some other questions

One of my long term projects is on the Milwaukee Public schools.   This is going much slower than I thought, only because there is so much interesting material that diverts me away from where I am supposed to be working.

I have been given a copy of an image that is of unknown location, year, and significance, but thought that someone could give me some information on it.

The picture is attached and shows children and their teacher wearing cold weather coats, hats, and blankets on their laps.  In the background, there are two men just right of center in the photo.

It appears to me that the classroom does not have a wall in the back, but the print quality is pretty poor.

I am going to guess that the picture was taken in the 1890s or so.

Does anyone know anything about this photo?  I cannot find a copy of it on the Internet and because of the two men in the background who look like they are of some import, I do not think that this is the normal photo showing children undergoing horrible conditions to inspire the public to act, such as the famous Breaker Boy photos of children working in the coal industry or pictures of street orphans in NYC.

When I attended John Marshall High in Milwaukee, I vaguely recall our senior history class text stating that schools in the 1890s in some of the eastern coast region had enrollments of up to 10,000 or 12,000 students!  I don’t know if I am remembering that anywhere near being accurate, as Marshall’s enrollment when I was there was over 3,900 and it seemed pretty big.

The photo makes me wonder if this was taken at one of those schools where the numbers of children were rapidly increasing and this was the temporary solution to that, while walls were going to be added or a room was being built elsewhere.

Could anyone enlighten me on the photo, including a source for a better copy? I would also love to hear whether those gigantic schools did exist.

Thank you.


Comments (3)

  1. I remember reading that at times, with increased immigration the schools would get very full. Also the 1890’s was a time when the school district had a huge building program to adapt to higher student populations. If you look at many of the old school buildings that remain they are from this time period. During those years, as the buildings were being constructed, the administrators had to find unique places for students. For awhile the new City Hall made space for classrooms on the upper floors.

    This picture does not look like it was in the City Hall but someplace with outdoor access. I can’t envision what it might be. Maybe they were occupying rooms in a school under construction? That would be unheard of today but back then, they had to do what they had to do…

  2. just1paul

    If we look closely at the desks, there are “runners” that the desks are attached to that looks like they may be moved around based on needs. Looks like like outside on some building “porch”

  3. The columns and the ceiling remind me somewhat of the Central Library which was opened in October 1898. The fencing is a little odd and I’m trying to picture where there would have been an open courtyard like that. Prior to the new addition being built there was an open light well which may have had an arrangement like that.

    This may have been a parochial school which would open up many other possibilities such as St. John’s downtown.

Leave a Reply