Yesterday’s Milwaukee

Postcard of Milwaukee, 1900

One of the earliest postcards done of the city shows Downtown along the river.

By - May 13th, 2014 11:12 am
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Early Postcard

Early Postcard

Postcards, although already common in Europe, were a novelty when introduced at the Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893. From there, it took a few years before views of Milwaukee were published. The first were produced in 1897 by the American Souvenir Card Co. which produced a series of 12 lithographed views of the city. The next year a local competitor would appear, E.C. Kropp who during his career would produce hundreds of local views. Still later came the “real photograph” —  a view that used photo paper and would be produced in much smaller quantities. The earliest that can be found date from 1905 or later.

But the view illustrated here is a rare exception. This is a view taken from just north of the west end of the Michigan St. bridge and looking northeast. It is likely an amateur photograph and the sender conveniently dated it at March 21, 1900. The blue color is real as this is a cyanotype. These are far less common than the black-and-white photographs that predominated at the time.

This view focuses on two of the city’s most prominent landmarks, the Pabst Building to the right, and City Hall to the left. The iron bridge is Wisconsin Ave., and had been constructed in 1882 so it was relatively new.

The Pabst Building, a 14-story, neo-gothic high-rise built in 1891, was the tallest building in Milwaukee until City Hall was built four years later. Many may remember the Pabst Building, as it stood till 1981, when it was replaced by the 100 East Building, which still occupies the site

Photographic postcards would never be as common as lithographed ones, but to the collector they offer more rarity and subjects that were overlooked by competitors. Many more will appear in this column.

Jeff Beutner is a collector of photographs, postcards and stereoviews of old Milwaukee. This column features these images, with historical commentary by Beutner.

3 thoughts on “Yesterday’s Milwaukee: Postcard of Milwaukee, 1900”

  1. Noel Fliss says:

    Actually, the image was taken by the Detroit Publishing Co., one of many taken around the country around 1900-1901. The image has been cropped, but the original can be found on the Library of Congress web site at or by locating the Detroit Publishing Co. Collection and then searching for Milwaukee. And there are many more, all excellent.

  2. Noel,

    I don’t believe those are the same photo. Although they do look similar, the angles appear to be slightly different. One confirming aspect to me is the number of awnings of the building to the south of the Pabst building. Jeff Beutner’s image has far more.

  3. Noel Fliss says:

    Jeramey, you’re correct. Strikingly similar, but they were taken at two different times. Not only the differing awnings, but now on closer look the clock on City Hall has been replaced. In the postcard, it is completely white. In the Detroit Publishing image, the clock has a dark center…

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