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Showing 41-60 of 68 entries

Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra

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…
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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.…
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Milwaukee Musical Society

This poster from 1851 advertises an upcoming Milwaukee Musical Society performance.
The Milwaukee Musical Society, established in 1850, represented the city’s rich German heritage and the spirit of GEMÜTLICHKEIT. 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 much of the club’s sheet music and…
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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…
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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…
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Milwaukee Repertory Theater

The Milwaukee Repertory Theater performs Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" annually. This photograph is from the company's 1979-1980 performance.
The Milwaukee Repertory Theater, 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 600-plus performances that the Rep stages annually. The Rep produces eleven plays a year as well as the annual seasonal play, A Christmas Carol. The…
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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…
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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…
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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…
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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…
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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…
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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 90s. 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.…
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Members of the Polish Legion of American Veterans from Woodrow Wilson Post No. 11 lead a parade procession.
Milwaukee has a long tradition of parades, starting with the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, which first occurred before Wisconsin was a state in March 1843. This parade, honoring Milwaukee’s Catholic and Irish heritage, was conceived and led by Father Martin Kundig, the leader of the Catholic Church in Milwaukee. The current iteration of the holiday…
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Performance Venues

Built in 1896, the Alhambra Theater was demolished 1961. It is pictured here in 1936.
Milwaukee has entertainment venues for everything from theater to live music. Their diversity creates an interesting architectural landscape. The German brewing industrialists established the first performance spaces in Milwaukee and would eventually help Milwaukee become “an important musical center for the Midwest” during the latter half of the nineteenth century. The Stadt Theater, built in…
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Polish Fest

Two children, dressed in traditional attire, dance at Milwaukee's Polish Fest in 2012.
Milwaukee’s first Polish Fest was a four day event held in 1982 over Labor Day weekend on the city’s Summerfest grounds. Organized on a shoestring by Conrad Kaminski and Adrian Choinski but with the enthusiastic involvement of hundreds of volunteers, it and the 1983 Polish Fest that followed were enormous successes, attracting nearly 50,000 patrons…
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Popular Music

Photograph of a German community band and orchestra in Blatz Park in 1914.
Milwaukee has been a vibrant, distinctive center for popular music since the earliest years of the twentieth century. Styles widely popular with performers, listeners and dancers in Milwaukee changed with different eras, but live music remained essential to local cultural life—deriving from the gemütlichkeit principle of well-being through balanced work and recreation instilled by the…
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Two dancers participate in a powwow at Milwaukee's annual Indian Summer Festival.
The powwow has a prominent role in Milwaukee’s cultural life through the Indian Summer Festival, founded in 1986. The contest powwows in the Indian Summer Festival take place over three days and bring in hundreds of Native Americans each year from across the country, as well as many non-native spectators. The term powwow likely comes…
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Since 1988, Milwaukee's annual PrideFest has become an ever-growing staple to the city's festival scene. This neon display is from the 2018 celebration.
PrideFest Milwaukee is an annual summer festival celebrating local LGBT community and culture. It has roots in the Pride celebrations held in New York and elsewhere in June 1970 to mark the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Milwaukee’s earliest Pride event was held in January 1971 and included a small rally at the Milwaukee…
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Public Art

Postcard published between 1907 and 1915 featuring the bronze statue of George Washington located on W. Wisconsin Avenue.
In its broadest sense, public art is an expression in art of any kind existing in public space. This entry describes only standing works of art in the open air. All public art is meant to encourage community engagement. It can include non-objects such as dance and theater; however, those expressions, as well as pieces…
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Public Libraries

This postcard features the Wauwatosa Public Library, founded in 1886, as it appeared in 1908.
Over 40 public libraries have been established in the Milwaukee metropolitan region since 1878, when the Milwaukee Public Library first opened its doors. Early library development in the region took place during the American Public Library Movement, which swept across much of the United States, including Wisconsin, in the late 19th through the early 20th…
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