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.

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.


The Original Polar Bear – James G. Brazell

As many get ready to dip into the icy lake for the New Year’s Day tradition, we should look back at the hardy men and women of yesteryear who began the annual tradition. According to a Milwaukee Sentinel article from February 16th, 1919, printer James G. Brazell was the originator of the swim, starting it in 1910 and swam every Sunday through the winter. His compadre and fellow pioneer polar bear was Frank Sutter. By 1919, even women like Amy Jacobs, the “Nymph of Boreas”, jumped into the water for a swim. During the great Milwaukee blizzard of ’47 Brazell jumped with wild abandon into the dark waters of McKinley Beach.

The sport grew slowly, like an icicle from the roof, but popularity waned by 1928 when Brazell was the only one to hit the waters. Before he kicked all the no-shows out of the club he critiqued, “Some people like to brag about their hardiness, but it’s a different thing when they are called on to prove it!”

Read Jim Stingl’s column from December 30, 2008 for more history of the swim.


Central Library History of Movie Theaters

On display at the Milwaukee Central Library outside the 2nd Floor Humanities Room are artifacts and items from Milwaukee’s movie theaters. The display includes photos, postcards, Orpheum Circuit (vaudeville) playbills, Saxe theater chain newsletters and sheet music from the Milwaukee Public Library’s collections & staff loans. This display intersects with the 100th year anniversary of the Downer Theater.

Stop by and see this magnificent collection. As always the Public Library does a great job of displaying these little seen items.


Lecture on the New Deal


Professor Gray Brechin of the University of California, Berkeley, will deliver the 2015 Frank L. Klement Lecture on October 28, 2015. Brechin, a geographer, is one of the founders of the Living New Deal Project, an interactive map tracking thousands of New Deal projects throughout the United States. His lecture is entitled, “Recovering from the Depression: The Living New Deal Project Uncovers a Lost Civilization Built Eighty Years Ago, And What We Can Learn from It Today.” It begins at 4:00 PM and will be held in Beaumier Suites BC in the lower level of the Raynor Library. For more on Gray Brechin, go to his website.

Marquette University Raynor Library
1355 W Wisconsin Ave
Wednesday, October 28, 4:00PM