Explore Milwaukee History through our MPL Digital Library
PRESERVE the past. ENRICH the present. ENLIGHTEN the future.
The Milwaukee Public Library (MPL) is committed to building strong communities and to inspiring them through providing access to resources and information. Public libraries have a responsibility to the people to provide open and free access to information to support vibrant communities. MPL digital collections provide unrestricted access to unique resources in our care, preserving the past while enriching the present, and enlightening the future.
The library’s collections contain historical content; therefore, some language, views, or ideas present may be out-of-date, offensive, or harmful. This may include content that is racist, sexist or bigoted. Discernment is left to the individual. For historic preservation, content is presented in an unedited format. Digitization and inclusion of resources in MPL’s collection is not an endorsement by the library or library staff of the values or views within a work.
The library is committed to open and free access of materials. For more information please see the MPL Collection Management Plan and statement on Race and Social Equity. For digital content questions, please contact DigitalLibrary@milwaukee.gov.
|Basilica of St. Josaphat Album, 1928|
Photo album featuring interior views of the Basilica of St. Josaphat, designed by architect Erhard Brielmaier and modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. In addition to various close-ups of the artwork, altar, and other architectural details inside the basilica, there is a page dedicated to Brielmaier and another giving a brief overview of the church.
|Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist Album, 1941|
This collection contains 12 black and white photographs of the interior of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist after it was restored following the fire that destroyed most of the building in 1935.
|CETA Arts Program Photographs|
The CETA photographs were commissioned by the Common Council's Special Committee on Public Information using federal funds. Students from the Milwaukee Center for Photography took pictures capturing “The Spirit of Milwaukee” from 1976 to 1981.
|Dr. James Cameron Pamphlet Collection|
The Dr. James Cameron Pamphlet Collection is made up of thirty-eight self-published pamphlets by civil rights activist Dr. James Cameron (1914-2006). Dr. Cameron was the only known survivor of a lynching and the founder of the America’s Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee, WI.
|General William "Billy" Mitchell Letters|
This collection includes handwritten letters written to and from General Mitchell from 1887 to 1901, including his time spent serving during the Spanish American War. Most of the letters were written from Mitchell to his father, John Mitchell, and his mother, Harriett Mitchell.
|Great Circus Parade|
Photos, slides and other ephemera relating to The Great Circus Parade. Materials come from multiple different collections held at the Milwaukee Public Library.
The Historic Menus digital collection includes a variety of menus from the Milwaukee area from the early twentieth century to the present.
|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.
|Irene Bishop Goggans Collection|
The Irene Bishop Goggans collection contains materials pertaining to the African American community in Milwaukee and across the country. Materials collected by Irene Goggans (1926-2017) are mostly from the 1950s to the early 2010s
|John F. Schrank Municipal Court Records|
The documents of the Milwaukee Municipal Court trial of John Flammang Schrank, including Schrank’s writings while in jail and written records of the physical examination of Schrank. Schrank attempted to assassinate Theodore Roosevelt in Milwaukee on October 14, 1912.
|Jones Island Album|
Photos from album entitled "Jones Island, March 1904 to April 1905". The photos were originally black and white but all have faded to shades of brown. They are mostly of Jones Island and the children who inhabited it. The photos were taken by one of their teachers, Flora Mae Karel (married name Templeton).
|Jones Island Property Survey|
In 1914, a property survey of Jones was conducted by the city of Milwaukee. The index cards in this collection are the field notes. They contain both genealogical information as well as sketches of the layout of each property, including any man-made structures. Digital Projects Librarian Jennifer Pahl conducted research using Milwaukee city directories, U. S. Census records, and other vital record
|Listening to Mitchell|
The digital form of 2014's Listening to Mitchell art project, which preserves images and stories of Milwaukee's own Mitchell Street
|Louise Perry Collection, circa 1975|
This collection consists of 83 black and white photographs taken of the Walker's Point neighborhood in the mid-1970s. The photos are of mainly commercial properties and residences on South 5th Street, South 4th Street, and West Florida Street, along with a few buildings on South 3rd Street. The photographer, Louise E. Perry (1923-2009), was a graduate of UW-Milwaukee who worked at Bell Middle Scho
|Milwaukee Brewers and Braves|
This collection contains various publications and ephemera, such as rosters, scorecards, and newsletters of Milwaukee baseball teams. Included are the Milwaukee Brewers (minor league), Milwaukee Braves, and Milwaukee Brewers (major league). Some sources contain offensive images and language; discernment is left to the individual.
|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.
The Milwaukee Leaders Collection began in 1989, as a photo exhibit at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Milwaukee Public Library Neighborhood Library.
The Milwaukee Maps collection was developed as a collaborative project between the American Geographical Society Library (AGSL) , located at the University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin, and Milwaukee Public Library. The maps in this digital collection are from the Milwaukee Public Library’s historic maps holdings, located in the Humanities Department of the Central Library.
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 Postcard Collection|
The Milwaukee Postcard Collection has images featuring Milwaukee architecture, businesses, bridges, churches, clubs, schools, fountains, harbor, rivers, parks, transportation, streets, and other areas of interest.
|Milwaukee Public Library Archival Records|
Milwaukee Public Library Archival Records contains the history of the Milwaukee Public Library system. Encompassing written records, photographs, and film the collection offers a look back at how the library has served the community of Milwaukee since its founding. This online portion of the collection contains a handful of PSAs, informational videos, and a partial episode of “Library Playhouse.”
|Milwaukee Public Library Autograph Collection|
Letters, photos and other ephemera from various authors, politicians, actors, artists, activists and other public figures. Highlights include President John Adams, activist Helen Keller, and composer Ludwig von Beethoven.
|Milwaukee Road Archives|
The collection includes archival finding aids for corporate records as well as 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 timetables, photographs, and drawings
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.
|Pfister Hotel Scrapbooks|
The digital collection contains scans from pages of three scrapbooks. The bulk of the materials date to the 1930s through 1950s, though many items are undated. Most of the materials relate to the management of the hotel, the hospitality industry, the Pfister building, and the Pfister employee culture. The scrapbooks were donated by Ray Smith, Jr., a former manager and president of the hotel.
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
|Richard Perrin Collection|
A collection of 173 black and white photographs of Milwaukee-area buildings, either taken by Richard Perrin or ones he collected from various sources.
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.
|Socialist Party Collection|
This collection contains photographs of various Milwaukee-area Socialists and activities, primarily from the 1920s-1940s, as well as a selection of Socialist publications. Some sources contain offensive images and language; discernment is left to the individual.
|Thomas Manz Slide Collection|
The collection contains black and white and color slides, mainly depicting streetcars and trains, primarily from the Chicago & North Western Railway (C&NW) and The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company (TMER&L). Also included in the collection are a small number of slides of the Milwaukee Harbor, the General Mitchell International Airport, and images of the Milwaukee lakefront.
|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.
|Wisconsin Concert Poster Digital Collection|
The Wisconsin Concert Poster Digital Collection includes posters advertising a variety of concerts, most of which took place in the early 1980s in and around Milwaukee. This collection highlights an important era in Milwaukee music history, when bands such as the Violent Femmes were getting started and playing in various venues throughout the area.
|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