Books ON WISCONSIN
When I was in second grade, I had a teacher who used history class to teach us about Wisconsin. We spent the school year learning cool stuff about our state. We were lucky enough to have lots of field trips to all sorts of historical places and important Wisconsin places. It was that school year when I learned about the Milwaukee Historical Society and the Wisconsin Historical Society.
Even at that age I thought it was great that a group would take over buildings and preserve them so future generations could learn from them and appreciate them.
The Wisconsin Historical Society also publishes books and sponsors other media to help people learn about our state. Recently, they sent me some books so I want to share a bit about them because I think they are great reading.
MILWAUKEE MAYHEM: Murder and Mystery in the Cream City’s First Century
by Matthew J Prigge
More than 80 tales of Milwaukee’s past split into chapters by the type of incidents they were: Murder, Accidents, Vice, and Secrets. I found this extremely interesting for a number of reasons. One is that as much as times change some things don’t; people still do dumb and evil things.
When they many of these events took place, detectives had a lot fewer resources than now. There were also less people keeping track of everything. Prigge scoured old news articles and to flesh out all the stories so he could give us the full picture. Make no mistake, this book shows a darker part of Milwaukee’s past. Fires that got out of control, murderers that stalked the streets and people who just did not want to follow the laws of the land. I was fascinated by all of it and have gone back and re-read a number of the stories. If you are a fan of true crime, a history buff or a Milwaukeen who wants to know more about your city, this is a great book.
This is a DVD of a special that ran on PBS and it compliments the book of the same name. Michael K Bridgeman takes us on a tour of 6 unique and impressive homes here in Wisconsin. Wadsworth Hall in Lake Geneva, Havilah Babcock House in Neenah, Villa Louis in Prarie du Chen, Island Of Happy Days in Birchwood, The Brooks Stevens House in Fox Point and Wingspread in Wind Point.
Bridgeman gives the history of each home, who built them, who lived there and why they were built the way they were. One of the homes is a Frank Loyd Wright, and the one in Fox Point was decades ahead of its time as its owner was a designer and engineer during the peak of Art Deco.
Every home here is beautiful and the footage does a wonderful job of showing their inner and outer beauty. I love DVDs like this and will re-watch often. I also now want to go and visit some of these sites.
TAVERN LEAGUE: Portraits of Wisconsin Bars
by Carl Corey
This is a coffee table photo book, and the photos are breathtaking. If you have ever spent time in a bar, and I don’t mean a hip club or overly stiff place filled of suits, but a real neighborhood bar, then you will love this.
Corey went all over the state and took shots that capture a moment in time in these timeless places. Some show the warmth and camaraderie of a cozy bar, others seem kind of sad and lonely. They are all a part of Wisconsin culture as we Wisconsinites tend to spend a lot of time in bars. And again, this has given me a bucket list of some places I would like to visit.
MILWAUKEE IN THE 1930s
Edited by John S Buenker
During the depression the Government in an effort to create some jobs hired writers and artists and photographers to put together some books to help promote cities. The book for Milwaukee has been re-released and it is fascinating.
The book is split up by neighborhoods, thirteen in all. These include maps of the areas at the time and highlights things of historical importance. My neighborhood was interesting as some streets are now gone, and some street weren’t there. Boys Tech High School which later became a part of the Milwaukee School system and is now Milwaukee Tech once trained students in trades so they could get jobs right out of high school. Over on National Avenue is a location known as the birthplace of the first automobile.
The really great part of this book is a look at how this city was in the 1930s because as this we hoping to promote tourism it hits some things about the city that are pretty awesome. I love my city and learning so much about its history has been terrific and gives me a lot to talk about with friends from out of town and even natives.
I suggest anyone who love Milwaukee pick up this book.
Jen here. Some kids from high school told me they were going to take me to the “The Witch House” in Fox Point one week end. I envisioned a spooky, Gothic manor tricked out in dark stone. Instead they drove me to this house by the lake people with statues. “That’s not witchy! That’s art!” Kids can be idiots.
Mary Nohl (1914–2001), was an outsider artist and a delightful human who constructed huge concrete busts, creature statues and driftwood thingies that populated her yard. Even the fences had faces. They encircled her a small but colorful cottage cottage where she spent most of her life. If you’ve only driven past, this book shows you the charming inside you’ve always wanted to see.
A book not from The Wisconsin Historical Society but about Wisconsin:
STAGING THE GREAT CIRCUS PARADE by Jim and Donna Peterson
This last book is from a different publisher, Arcadia, a company that puts out great books that are aspects of different cities. Milwaukee must have at least 15 all of which are interesting. We also buy them whenever we spend time in a city.
This one is a collection of memories and photos from a couple who for years volunteered to help put on the Circus Parade and also help out at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo. I loved the parade and saw many in person. I also went to the lakefront to see the circus wagons and have been to Baraboo quite a few times. What is nice about this book is that its not just a collection of cool pictures of wagons, but of people actually facilitating the parade and setting things up. It is really an insider’s look at this national treasure. I have at least five other books on the parade and this is my favorite
And if you feel the urge to go looking around Milwaukee or Wisconsin, ENJOY!