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Milwaukee Ballet Company

Debuted in 1977, the Milwaukee Ballet Company's annual performance of "The Nutcracker" remains a community favorite. This photograph is from the 2017 season.
The Milwaukee Ballet Company formed in 1970, joining several other resident performing arts groups and rounding out Milwaukee’s cultural repertoire. The idea for a professional local company originated with Roberta Boorse. Boorse, a former guest dancer for the ballet and part-time instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, ran her own dance academy in West Allis… Read More

Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra

The Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra performs for an audience gathered on a Villa Terrace patio.
The Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra (MCO) grew out of the Villa Terrace Serenades, an outdoor summer series that began in 1970 at the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum. Stephen Colburn, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s principal oboist, organized and conducted those programs, which featured his fellow MSO wind players. In 1974, Colburn launched the MCO as a… Read More

Milwaukee Children’s Choir

On May 18, 2019, the Milwaukee Children's Choir celebrated its 25th anniversary with a special concert held at St. Sebastian Parish.
Founded in 1994 by former music educator and Vice President for choral publications at Hal Leonard Corporation Emily Holt Crocker, the Milwaukee Children’s Choir (MCC) is a music education and performance non-profit organization serving children and youth from the ages of four to eighteen in the Greater Milwaukee area. MCC includes six choral divisions: Songbirds,… Read More

Milwaukee County Zoo

One of Washington Park's first popular animal exhibits was Monkey Island, illustrated on this 1927 postcard.
The Milwaukee County Zoo is considered among the nation’s finest zoological attractions. Located just off of Interstate 94 and Interstate 41, the Zoo offers over 3,100 animals in naturalistic exhibits along with many amusements and special events. Visitors particularly enjoy the Zoo’s annual Halloween event, Boo at the Zoo, and the Sunset Zoofari, an evening… Read More

Milwaukee Diaspora

A crowd of people gather outside the movie theater in Ripon, Wisconsin to welcome home Milwaukee native and Ripon College alumnus Spencer Tracy in celebration of his 1940 movie "Edison the Man."
Milwaukee has produced a number of noteworthy people whose careers shaped the United States and beyond. The members of this “Milwaukee Diaspora” were born in the Milwaukee area but made their greatest contributions after they moved away. Any such list is naturally subjective, but the following sampling of famous Milwaukeeans was chosen because they were… Read More

Milwaukee Highland Games

A group of people, some of whom are dressed in traditional kilts or tartan sashes, are bound for the Highland Games in 1909.
The Milwaukee Highland Games is one of the city’s oldest and longest-running ethnic FESTIVALS. Organized by the St. Andrew’s Society in 1867, the festival took place in Mitchell Grove. Throughout the late nineteenth century, festival attendance steadily grew, peaking in 1892 at 25,000. Competitors from around America traveled to Milwaukee to participate in traditional Scottish… Read More

Milwaukee in Popular Culture

Known only as "The Girl from Milwaukee," this woman toured the vaudeville circuit around the United States as a singer during the early twentieth century.
Milwaukee’s emergence as a prominent American city coincided with the advent of modern popular culture in the late nineteenth century. As the city achieved national visibility, its popular identity shifted in ways that reflected historical developments, the demographics of the city, and evolving notions of the American Dream. Throughout most of its history, however, Milwaukee… Read More

Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra

Established in 1900, the Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra continues to perform throughout Milwaukee and around the world today.
The Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra, originally established in 1900 as the Bonne Amie Musical Circle, claims to be the “oldest fretted-instrument organization in the country.” It was one of over twenty such groups established in Milwaukee around the turn of the twentieth century, when mandolins peaked in popularity. In spite of the group’s preference for popular… Read More

Milwaukee Midsummer Festival

1941 photograph of crowds lined up around the twin Ferris Wheels at Milwaukee's Midsummer Festival.
Mayor DANIEL HOAN declared the week of July 16, 1933 the “Milwaukee Homecoming.” Inspired by ethnic festivals he observed on a recent trip to Europe, Hoan transformed the upcoming Elks National Convention of 1933 into a similar gathering in Milwaukee. Convention organizers opened activities to all Milwaukee citizens as well as to the visiting Elks.… Read More

Milwaukee Musical Society

This poster from 1851 advertises an upcoming Milwaukee Musical Society performance.
The Milwaukee Musical Society represented the city’s rich German heritage and the spirit of Gemütlichkeit. It was established in 1849 and first performed in 1850. The amateur musical group operated under the direction of Austrian political refugee Hans Balatka until he left for Chicago in 1860. Internal divisions, financial issues, and a fire that destroyed… Read More

Milwaukee Public Library

Photograph featuring the Milwaukee Public Library Central Library on Wisconsin Avenue.
Early migrants from the northeastern United States and from Germany were responsible for the creation of libraries in Milwaukee. In 1842, Philetus C. Hale, originally from Massachusetts, opened the first bookstore in Milwaukee as well as the city’s first subscription library. Subscription libraries were a type of social library common throughout the eastern United States… Read More

Milwaukee Public Museum

Exterior view of the current Milwaukee Public Museum, which opened downtown in 1963.
The Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM) officially opened its doors to the public in 1883, during a time when Milwaukee, like many other American cities, began to place great value on museums. At its inception, MPM laid claim to a varied collection of approximately 20,000 objects, most of which had originally been in the collections of… Read More

Milwaukee Repertory Theater

The Milwaukee Repertory Theater performs Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" annually. This photograph is from the company's 1979-1980 performance.
Milwaukee Repertory Theater, long known as “the Rep” for short, is the largest non-profit theater in Wisconsin and is nationally recognized for its innovative programming. Around 200,000 people attend the 700-plus performances that the Rep stages annually. The Rep produces fifteen plays a year, including the annual seasonal play, A Christmas Carol. Milwaukee Repertory Theater has… Read More

Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra performs inside Uihlein Hall in September, 1969.
The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO) was part of a post-World War II cultural renaissance in the city, when it earned national and international renown. Numerous attempts to establish a professional local orchestra dated as far back as the 1890s. Individuals from throughout the Midwest formed “pops” style ensembles, but support for these organizations waned. With… Read More

Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory (The Domes)

Photograph featuring the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, commonly known as The Domes.
The Domes are considered by many to be the gem of Milwaukee’s nationally recognized PARKS system. The current structures were preceded by a glass-encased conservatory built by the City Park Commission in 1898 on land purchased from the MITCHELL family. It was replaced sixty-one years later with a new facility designed by local architect Donald… Read More

Movie Theaters

This 1940 photograph showcases the ornate marquee of the Warner Theater on Wisconsin Avenue.
Between 1920 and 1950, many Milwaukee residents went to the movies once or twice a week. In the years before television sets became available for the home, going out to a movie was the number one form of leisure-time entertainment. With nearly ninety cinemas in the downtown and outlying areas, many moviegoers were able to… Read More


Black Cat Alley, featuring murals from a diverse array of artists, has transformed an underused alley into one of Milwaukee's most popular places to visit.
Murals in their modern form, which evoke both artistic and social functions, have been integral to the process of placemaking in Milwaukee. Murals of many kinds, including community-activism murals, artistic murals, and historic murals, all communicate the personalities of locations through the use of images that are meaningful to the communities surrounding them. Whether created… Read More

Music Performance

Group portrait of the UWM Symphony Band taken in the 1960s.
Now dominated by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee’s music performance scene grew out of a diverse array of amateur programs rooted in the city’s immigrant heritage. In the mid-twentieth century, some musical groups professionalized, with leading musicians shaping the artistic direction and making Milwaukee home to nationally important music. But space remains for amateur performers… Read More

Old Settlers’ Club

This is the front cover of a program for a dinner held by the Old Settlers' Club at the Plankinton House in 1906. The program contains a list of members, toasts, and even the menu of that evening.
In the 1860s, as Milwaukee’s original founders passed away, a group of early settlers came together to revive their former ties and preserve the area’s history. On July 5, 1869, the group held its first meeting, inviting any citizen of “good moral character” (later only men could belong) who had settled in Milwaukee prior to… Read More

Panorama Painting

With the Atlanta Cyclorama behind them, a group of German panorama artists stand on scaffolding in their Milwaukee studio in 1886.
The production of panorama paintings—usually very large paintings hung in purpose-built rotundas—debuted in Scotland and London in the 1780s and 1790s. The craze for such huge works, often of land or cityscapes, spread to the Continent and then to America. Panoramas became one of the most popular forms of public art in the nineteenth century.… Read More