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Digital Collections

Explore Milwaukee History through our Digital Collections...

Milwaukee Public Library is a treasure trove of unique local history collections.  The library is digitizing much of this content to bring these collections right to your living room.  Stroll down memory lane with a look at the old Milwaukee Journal's Remember When photo collection or browse the Historic Recipe File for old Milwaukee favorite recipes to whet your appetite.

Historic Recipe File

These clipped recipes form the nucleus of the Historic Recipe File digital collection. Many of Milwaukee's favorite foods appear in the recipes in this collection. This collection provides a fascinating glimpse into the local and ethnic foods that were popular in Milwaukee from as long as 50 years ago.

Horace Seaman Wisconsin Infantry Collection

The Horace Seaman Wisconsin Infantry collection is made up primarily of photos from Colonel Horace M. Seaman’s service with the Wisconsin National Guard. The majority of the photos come from his service with the 4th Wisconsin Infantry in the Spanish-American War of 1898.

Milwaukee County Marriage Certificates

In the 1960s a box of marriage certificates created between 1822 and 1876 was found at the Milwaukee County Courthouse. The certificates and accompanying documents were filmed in 1966. The Milwaukee Public Library owns a set of this microfilm, which was digitized in 2009 to create this online collection.

Milwaukee Historic Photos

The collection represents the start of the process of making historic photos of Milwaukee available online. The photos from this collection are from the Milwaukee Public Library’s historic photograph collection.

Milwaukee Historic Trade Card Collection

Featuring business cards from Victorian era Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Leaders

The Milwaukee Leaders Collection began in 1989, as a photo exhibit at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Milwaukee Public Library Neighborhood Library.

Milwaukee Mayors

The collection is an adaptation of a volume of images and information collected by library staff to form the Biographical Sketches of the Mayors of the City of Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Road Archives

The collection includes indexes to the small selection of employee records that are part of the archives of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railway, which designated MPL as their official archives in 1981. Other material housed in the Milwaukee Road Archives includes corporate records, photographs, and drawings.

Milwaukee Waterways

These photographs are from the Port of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Public Library Historic Photo Collection, and the Great Lakes Marine Collection of Milwaukee Public Library and the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society. A matching grant from the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program helped preserve these photographs and make them available on line.

Remember When

A popular feature of The Milwaukee Journal from 1963 through 1994 prepared by library staff to highlight Milwaukee's past as preserved in the Historic Photo Collection


Information on more than 10,000 Great Lakes vessels dating from 1815 to the present. A database of the Great Lakes Marine Collection of the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society and the Milwaukee Public Library.

Special Collections Finder

The Library houses many extensive special collections in its archives. These finding aids describe MPL’s special collections. Not all of the Library's special collections and archival materials currently have finding aids, and more finding aids are in development.

Wagons of Milwaukee Businesses

The Wagons of Milwaukee Businesses album came to the library from the estate of Theo. Habhegger, a Milwaukee manufacturer of short turn wagons. The album consists of 37 sepia-toned photographs of wagons, mostly belonging to various Milwaukee area businesses, from the early 20th century.

World War I Military Portraits

World War I Military Portraits is comprised of more than 32,000 photographs, typewritten volumes, and service records. The items were compiled from collections of the American War Mothers Milwaukee County Chapter and the Milwaukee County Council of Defense. These items contain a wealth of genealogical information and provide a candid look into soldiers’ ideas and perceptions of the First World War