1920’s Snowstorm

After this weekend’s continuing blizzard I reached into the Oldmilwaukee archives to find this picture from the late 1920s of kids walking to school after a snowstorm.


On This Day

In 1886 the Union Depot train station opened on December 19th to passengers on Everett Street between Third and Fourth streets. It was Milwaukee’s first grand railroad station and lasted until the new train station was built at 5th & St. Paul Avenue in 1965. It was torn down the following year in 1966.


When the Well for the Pabst Brewery Ran Dry

Breweries were always well known for the purity of their product and all the Milwaukee breweries originally used artesian wells to tap into a very clean source of water to brew beer. Of course those wells don’t last forever especially when the well is used heavily. The Pabst brewery well lasted until 1902 when it was forced to use city water drawn from the lake. This article tells about that problem and a little bit of the history of that spring.

Milwaukee Journal – June 12, 1902


Famous Springs Which Had a Reputation in the Days of the Indians Appear to Have Yielded All Their Resources to the Making of Beer and Another Supply is Needed.

The artesian wells which have for many years supplied the water for the famous products of the Pabst Brewery have failed and the company has petitioned the city authorities for water accommodations and will be supplied with a large main, which will be laid from Third and Prairie streets.

The springs at the brewery were famous long before the site was selected for the largest brewery in the world and the water which gushed from the earth there was known among the Indians as the great “Mankaki waters” at a time when the great northwest was a wilderness. The springs were enlarged by Jacob Best, founder of the brewery, and later the artesian wells were sunk as the flow from the springs was not sufficient to supply the greatly increased needs of the brewery. For nearly a score of years this water has been used to make the body of the Pabst beer and its purity and wholesomeness have been a great boon to the company. About one year ago the supply began to fail and it has been a great source of worry to the company, and at present a large quantity of city water is being used. Last month alone more than $5,000 worth of water was purchased from the city mains and as soon as the big 15-inch pipe which the city engineer will ask to be laid is tapped, the company will probably become the largest user of municipal water.


The Free Lunch Controversy of 1912

For a very long time in the late 19th century until Prohibition closed taverns in 1920, Milwaukee saloons were well known for providing large spreads of free food for their drinking patrons. The higher class taverns and hotel bars downtown served free hot lunches of sandwiches, ham, beef, and sausages with their 5 cent beers. These were extremely popular among the gentlemen of the time and places such as the Pfister bar, the Plankinton Hotel bar, the Gargoyle, and the Schlitz Palm Garden were busily packed by downtown clerks and business-men during lunch time. A man needed a drink at lunch to ease the pressure of the work-day and a healthy snack of sausage would make that glass of beer so much better. Extra salty ham or pretzels would require an extra beer or two to help wash it down. (Milwaukee Journal, March 13, 1952)

Today, although it is becoming harder to find, a rare few local bars have free happy hour spreads which bring back memories of the old days. Otherwise, you have to travel to Spain to get the traditional free tapas with your beer. A good spanish tavern will provide you with a small sandwich tapa or “cover” to keep the flies out of your beer!

Back in July of 1912, at Fred Smith’s saloon at 30th & Clarke, Alexander Polatsch stepped in with his last nickel for lunch-time beer and a snack. When he grabbed at the free plate of liverwurst with his dirty hands, proprietor Smith made a strong complaint and the two ended up in a fight. A passing patrol officer stepped in and arrested Alexander. At court the next day Judge Neelen fined the young man $10 and costs for disorderly conduct and pronounced, ” I wouldn’t eat any free lunch if I was starving. If a man is hungry he ought to buy a lunch. These fellows go there, and fill up on beer and eat a few bites of sausage and then delude themselves into the belief that they have had a square meal.” (Milwaukee Journal, July 25, 1912)

By the next day the Milwaukee Journal continued to try and feed the controversy that Judge Neelen brought to light. It interviewed several prominent Milwaukee men such as Pat Donahue of the Chamber of Commerce who stated, “Well, I’ll have to starve, that’s all.” Amos F. Gould, on the other hand said, “I don’t see of what benefit they can be to the saloonkeeper, when a man comes in and buys a 5-cent beer and then eats 35-cents worth of lunch. Those free lunches of limburger cheese and serve-a-lot sausage ought to be put just as far away as possible.” (Milwaukee Journal, July 26, 1912)

In the July 27th edition of the Journal, an article entitled “Alderman Denies Reporting Opposition to Free Lunch”, Alderman W. I. Greene of the 18th ward denied a rumor that he was going to introduce an ordinance into the council to abolish free lunches.

Although it might seem like a ridiculous idea, according to the American Brewer’s Review of September 1, 1909, Cleveland was working on passing an ordinance to abolish the free lunch. The article stated “It is intended to introduce an ordinance in the common council making illegal the supply of free food in any retail drink establishment. In case the Common Council refuses to pass such an ordinance on the ground that it would be unconstitutional, an appeal will be made to the city health office for the abolition of free lunch on the ground that it is unsanitary and a breeder of disease.” The law was eventually enacted for the entire state of Ohio limiting saloon lunches to pretzels, crackers, and cheese. The city of Los Angeles was also at the time working on a similar ordinance to abolish free lunches but in December of 1912 it was, “…defeated by a heavy vote.” (New York Times, December 4, 1912). Chicago enacted their anti free-lunch ordinance in 1917. San Francisco too enacted an ordinance abolishing the free lunch in February 1918. That ordinance stated:

Section 1. It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation engaged in the business of selling spiritous, malt or fermented liquors or wines or any admixture thereof in less quantities than one quart or to whom has been issued a Retail Liquor Dealer’s License by the Tax Collector of the City and County of San Francisco, to set up, maintain, conduct or carry any lunch counter, table, sideboard, buffet or other device whereon are kept, served, furnished, distributed or consumed any meals, parts of meals or articles of food for the free use of or gratuitous distribution to patrons of any such business.” (San Francisco Municipal Record, February 28, 1918)

Eventually, the larger battle against alcohol resulted in the Volstead Act, beginning on January 17, 1920 and saloons had the bigger worry of not being able to sell beer at all.


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

Thanksgiving Day in Milwaukee for 75 years Told by Newspaper Files


I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving Day! This was an article from the Milwaukee Free Press newspaper of 1910 which told many stories from 19th century papers, a few of which I reproduce here. The Free Press existed from 1901 until about 1918.

Milwaukee Free Press, Thursday, November 24, 1910

Thanksgiving Day in Milwaukee for 75 years Told by Newspaper Files

By Lucy E. Strong

Thanksgiving Day is an American institution, distinctively. There is none more American, not excepting the Indian or baseball.

And while baseball may have as firm a hold -almost- upon the nation as has Thanksgiving Day, it has not the dignity which a long, long, long, tried and true affection gives to Thanksgiving Day.

Since 1621, when Governor Bradford of the Massachusetts Bay Colony proclaimed the first Thanksgiving feast, turkeys and pumpkin pies, nuts, apples, mince pies and native wines have been consumed in festive quantities and prayers of thanksgiving have been offered once every year lest the people of this broad land forget the bounteous provision for them by the Father of us all.

The piece de resistance of that first communal celebration of Thanksgiving Day in Plymouth, when all the village gathered about one banquet board, was, perforce, turkey, and wild turkey at that, for no other meat was so easily obtainable. This primitive bird established himself on that occasion, nearly three hundred years ago as the bird of birds for the Thanksgiving feast, and to his barnyard descendants he has bequethed the proud distinction.

But while the custom of giving thanks for the blessings of the year prevailed in the early colonies it did not rapidly spread to other districts of the United States. So late as the 50’s Milwaukee papers are printed without any reference to a Thanksgiving proclamation or celebration and no notice is made of any church services or other events to differentiate the last Thursday of November from other days. But in the past half century the day has become better established as a national holiday with each succeeding observance and now it would be hard indeed to wean this nation from its custom, which has made the day pre-eminently one of family reunions and of pleasures, and although the religious observance is not so generally emphasized as in the past, still congregations of goodly size gather in the different churches.
In the 1860 Thanksgiving newspapers, mention was made of an ovation given Carl Schurz, upon his return to Milwaukee from a political campaign conducted in Indiana, Pennsylvania and New York.

A copy of November 27th, 1861 issue of a Milwaukee tri-weekly sheet, puts in agate all of its Thanksgiving “stuff”, which consisted of the proclamation of Governor Alexander W. Randall; everything else was seemingly crowded out by the war stories, given under such heads as “Fort Pickens Opens Fire on the Rebels!” “Bragg Take the Bombardment Coolly!” “Warrington Burned on the First Day!” “The Cause of Blenker’s Resignation Made Known!” “General McClellan Censures Him!” The next succeeding issue prints a front page story of a Thanksgiving function, described as “a public assemblage held in the Newhall house,” at which Judge John F. Potter, who was passing through Milwaukee en route for Washington D.C. to enter congress, made a speech.

In the editorial printed the next year on Thanksgiving, November 27, 1862 a portion reads: “We have two distinctly American holidays, Thanksgiving and July 4th.

“The one calls out universal jollification, shouting, hurrahs and the noise of gunpowder; the other gathers together the scattered members of families to unite in devotion.”

Still no mention of the day being set aside for football or theater is found.

In 1865 the first suggestion of Thanksgiving “sports” crept into the newspaper columns. The paper told the story of a race on the festive day between the tug “Muir” and the tub “Tifft” being respectively the property of Captain Porter and Henry Starkey.

An item in this issue from the “Associated Press reporter” says there is no doubt a law will pass congress enabling heirs of soldiers who died in southern prisons to collect commutations for rations during the time the deceased soldiers were confined in the prisons.”

Where Vice Runs Riot – Milwaukee Sentinel, April 1, 1894

Here is a late nineteenth century newspaper story when a moral battle was being waged in Milwaukee. Priests and do-gooders were trying to get the city to shut down “dens of vice and sin” in downtown but the battle was hard to fight as many politicians were either “on the take” or sympathetic to “business interests”.

Milwaukee Sentinel, April 1, 1894


Iniquitous Dens Licensed as Liquor Shops by Ald. Fehr and His Associates-Places Where Young Girls and Boys Go-Scenes Witnessed and Described by a Sentinel Man.

A good deal has been said of late about stall saloons. Many people no doubt have a very imperfect and indistinct idea of what these resorts really are. There are in fact places where liquor and refreshments are sold and where the privacy of “stalls” may be secured, which are among the most respectable of the saloons in the city. The term as it is used in the newspapers and as it should be understood does not apply to these places, but to the lowest kind of resorts, where men and women are received promiscuously, where young girls are often enticed-often the resorts of criminals, and as Father Keogh said, “if they are not houses of ill-fame in the worst sense of the word, they are the feeders for them.”

The police officers of the city made a directory of these disreputable resorts-it might have been considerably enlarged. The facts were presented to the Common Council as reasons why they should not be relicensed, yet a majority of the aldermen, including Herman Fehr, the Democratic nominee for mayor, voted to license nearly all of these places. Under the surveillance of the police many of these disreputable resorts have been a little more careful in conducting their places since then, and some of them have abandoned altogether the stall feature of their saloons. There is, however, much yet to be done if Milwaukee is to be purged of all these dives. Perhaps police vigilance as of late has been relaxed. A tour made by a Sentinel reporter through some of the blacklisted places certainly shows that there are many which never ought to have been licensed and which a reputable board of alderman surely will not again license.

A reporter was detailed to visit the stall saloons that were licensed by Ald. Fehr and his colleagues in the Common council last summer in the face of the protest of Chief of Police Jannsen and the opposition of many aldermen. The good work of the police, the obliquy of the reputation they required during the agitation last summer, or the hard times that set in, have militated against the success of the stall saloons that were duly licensed nine months ago not more than a dozen are now conducting business on the stall plan. Many of the proprieters either sold out their places, took out their stalls or went out of the business.


Prominent among the places that have been obliterated is that kept by H. L. Diederichs, on River street. This den was thus described by the police as one of the “lowest and toughest dives in the city.” Diederichs has gone out of the business and the old stand is now classified in the ledgers of the police as a straight house of ill-fame. There is no license there now, and pop and soda water are dispensed at the bar. When the reporter entered the place on his round the scene that the room presented was a hideous one. The air was as thick with smoke as was the air of the Liederkranz hall at 3 o’clock on the afternoon of the Democratic city convention. A crowd of men and women were standing at the bar. Dock men, railroad men, sailors and laboring men, with the clay soil clinging to their boots, were there, and for each man was a woman clad in garments that would pass for a Mother Hubbard. Along the wall were seated other women, some apparently “engaged.” others with their eyes on the door, waiting to get their claws on a bird of passage. Two new male arrivals-one tall and slender, the other short and fat, were seized on by correspondingly built sylphs in pink dresses, who expressed in various ways a perfect willingness to be entertained bibulously and musically.

Behind the bar-room were the stalls, and through the open doors came the sinister sound that the mixture of profanity and laughter in female voices makes. Nothing was sub rosa, and the girls exercised their wiles with brazen effrontery. The one redeeming feature of this establishment when it was at its worst was that there were no boys visible in the crowd, and that the women appeared to be quite capable of taking their own part. This picture applies to the place as it appeared last summer, when Diederichs kept it as a stall saloon, and the council voted to license it. Last night the character of the crowd was changed. It had diminished and the soft drinks were not very much sought after. The same gauzy costumes and painted faces were seen peeping out from every side as the outside door opened, but the stalls had vanished.


John Sheldon’s two stall saloons (located on Wells street and on Third street respectively) were next visited. These two places are giving the police more trouble now on account of their stall work than any others in the city. Eight girls were taken out of the two places within a week. The Wells street place is at 223 Wells. Entering the place from the street by the main entrance-it ought to be understood that there are many entrances to these stall saloons-the unsophisticated person would think he had made a mistake and entered some other saloon than the notorious place that Sheldon keeps. It is a little square room, the only furniture of which is a little bar, and ice-box and a lunch counter without any lunch on it. There is no one in the house apparently but the bartender, who furnishes any beverage that is desired by the customer. As one sips his liquor, resting his foot on the iron footrail, he enters into conversation with the bartender, who allows that business is dull and that politics have not helped things yet.


“Would you like to sit down?” asked the bartender suddenly, and with a view to investigating the mysteries of the stalls, the reporter consents. The bartender starts back and opens a door concealed by the ice-box, showing an entry. A little square room the size of a good sized dry-goods box, with a round table and four chairs, are at the end of the passage. The newspaper man and his companion take seats, and the bartender disappears with an order for drinks. As he disappears, however, there is a swish of skirts and two robust female forms appear. They are fat and once might have been fair, of the uncertain age. they looked very much alike. As they seemed to belong there, a question on the subject elicited the information that they had only just arrived through the “ladies’ entrance,” and that they had been on the lookout for a drink. Would they drink? Yes, but beer was not strong enough. What was their favorite? Cocktails. Ring the bell, and the bartender appears with “cocktails for the ladies.” He seems to know their drinks by intuition. The women thought they were talking to detectives, but their minds were disabused on learning that the visitors were politicians bound for the barbers’ ball. They had just arrived from Omaha, they said, and didn’t like Milwaukee. After a few minutes’ discussion with the women, in which it developed that they were not ingenue by any means, the reporter and his friend made their escape from the dingy hole, and the fat girls returned presumably to their loop-holes of observation to take notice of the next fly that would enter the spider’s web through the front door.

At Sheldon’s Third street place (No. 192) there were no girls visible. There were a couple of men outside the bar, one of whom wore the Fehr badge. The bartender said they were all going to vote for Fehr. The police took five girls out of the place during holy week.


Al Schissler’s place, at 236 Fourth street, was next visited. The number of stalls and rooms-the upper floor being occupied with private rooms which are kept by the saloon man for couples-is twelve, and from each is an electric bell which is connected with an indicator back of the bar. Above the indicator is a very good campaign picture of Ald. Fehr. Another is attached to a green and white Hazel Kirke sign on the side of the stall. The stalls are separated from the saloon and from each other by partitions eight or nine feet high. Two young girls were taken out of this place last week, the saloon being constantly under police surveillance. The stalls were partly occupied, as the ringing of the electric bell told frequently, although it seemed to be an off night for the sports. A voice, which seemed to be the voices of the half-drunken woman, came from one of the stalls in the phrase, “The h–l you did!” and other remarks that might have been well-timed and suited to the limited capacity of her companion. One of the men who stood at the bar as the reporter entered seemed to hear a voice that he knew, for he said, “I guess I’ll go in a minute,” and pushed into the stall. He was greeted in the ordinary friendly manner of the rough, “Hullo, you —- —- pup,” and seemed to like it, for the indicator bell rang and the bartender proceeded to fill and order for two glasses of bock beer.

In half an hour more people used the side door than the front door, and the patter of feet was heard on the stairway that led to the more roomy quarters above.


Schissler’s place is patronized as well in the day as at night. There are few hours in the day when couples are not seen by the neighbors wending their way along the street till they reached the corner when they separated, the girl going in by the private entrance on Cedar street and the man by the front door on Fourth. The reporters observed a childish couple-neither of the two apparently over 18-enter the place in this way not two weeks ago. It is charitable to hope that these meetings are harmless, and that the men and women and boys and girls who go there meet simply for political purposes or to drink a glass of beer together. It is an excellent place for one interested in the problems of nature to study the workings of the worst type of stall saloons that is to be seen in the city.


Mulcahey’s place at 174 Fifth street was quiet when the reporter reached it at 10:30. This is a small place, with stalls up stairs. The bartender bewailed the bad times, saying that the politicians had not been around since the caucuses. Just then there was a rap on the hall door and female voices were heard, ascending to the upper regions.


Joe Dalman’s place at 134 Third street, known as the Columbia, was doing a lively business that night, but the detectives spoiled it for the time being. As the reporter stood at the bar contemplating his face in the glass, two officer’s in citizens’ clothes came in. their mission was to take out two young girls whom they knew were there, but the girls escaped by the back door. The place is frequented, the officers say, by young girls and young boys.


Joe Streeter’s place at 86 Second street is a stall saloon, and is a convenient hang-out for the element of politicians that reside on lower Clybourn street. As the reporter entered the place a rather rocky-looking man was led in the side door by a fat girl with puckery eyes and raven-colored cuffs.

A number of other so-called stall saloons were visited where there was no “company” and a number of others where there were no stalls. “The Ko-Ko” at 41 Biddle street has been turned into a restaurant. The saloon kept by Joseph Preiss at 64 Johnson street was presided over by Mrs. Preiss. She said that she “had no girls anymore.” At the hotel of Christian W. Brink, 286 Fifth street, a pretty brunette in a loose pink gown was shaking dice with a stout built elderly man, at the bar, while Mrs. Brink stood at the bar and acted as an umpire. The girl told one of the party, who expressed a wish to make better acquaintance with her, that she expected to go to St. Louis Tuesday and would be unable to see him. The girl acted as cup-bearer and cigar-dispenser for the company in general, flitting around the saloon like a dragon moth. Another girl was visible in a rear apartment. She was similarly attired, but did not come out to join the company in the saloon.

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

The Milwaukee Ornamental Carving Company

This ornamental workshop was one of the large, early companies specializing in large sculptures in the city. It was founded by two German immigrants in 1886; Carl Kuehns and Otto Papke. Carl was a woodcarver and Otto was an artistic plasterer. Together they created numerous works of art and mixed with the large groups of German artists and artisans downtown.

The article mentions the work of the company included the lost statue of Germania that was removed from the Germania Building after the start of World War 1. Other sculptures that were done by Carl Kuehns include the Pabst statue of King Gambrinus, the statue of Aurora which was at the old Schlitz Palm Garden downtown, and he even carved circus wagons for Ringling Brothers.

The following article is from the Milwaukee Journal of February 17, 1906 and gives a general overview of the company.

The Milwaukee Ornamental Carving Company

While other cities are boasting of their magnificent statues along their boulevards, of their beautiful decorations in places of public interest, Milwaukee can go them one better by declaiming that the works of art about the city are the products of Milwaukee artists. When the city desires to erect a monument commemorative of some brave deed or historic event, Milwaukee artists are called upon to do the work. When the local citizen wants to build a structure calling for artistic interior decorations of bronze and stone, he can find the best workmen in this city.

The Milwaukee Ornamental Carving Co. is famous throughout the northwest for its artistic work. In a recent article the Western Builder says: “The firm has won high reputation of producing the finest kind of modeling, which, because of its trueness of detail, is recommended by many of the most prominent architects in the United States.”

The firm was organized in 1886 with C. Kuehns and O. H. Papke as proprietors. Mr. Kuehns is a sculptor of the highest ability, having been graduated with honors from the Academy of Arts in Berlin, Germany. The firm has done a great deal of work for the theaters, churches and public buildings of the city. Among the familiar local objects of art which are the products of this firm is the bronze statue over the entrance to the Germania building, three large reliefs in St. Stanislaus church, and other work of equal ability. The large Statue of Liberty in the old Exposition building was also the work of Mr. Kuehns. The trade of the firm is not confined to the local field. all the ornamental interior decorations in the residence of Col. W. H. Morgan of Alliance, O., were made by this Milwaukee firm. The firm also has produced artistic designs for a number of the largest cathedrals throughout the country, The firm employes nearly fifty skilled workmen in their special lines.