Meandering around MilwaukeeOn August 4, 2021 by Elyse
In my [censored] years on this earth, I’ve been fortunate enough to crisscross continents and fly across oceans. Yet somehow, I’ve never visited Milwaukee, a city practically in my own backyard—until now. As you read this, I’m on my way there and intend to eat however much cheese it takes to become a certified cheesehead.
Rather than pick up a guidebook from Rick Steves or Celia Fiennes, I did my sightseeing research through the all-knowing historical newspapers. They assured me that even though Cream City isn’t known for stroopwafels, exquisite chocolate or coffee, I’m in for a gouda time. (If cheese puns aren’t your thing, you cheddar stop reading right now because there are plenty more where those came from. You’ve been warned.)
Milwaukee is punny.
No pun is too cheesy:
Milwaukee boasts of a haunted distillery, which is just the place where one would naturally look for spirits.– The Columbian, October 1, 1875
With all those old-fashioned spirits brooding about their unfinished business, I bet the cocktails have some extra bitters. (I know, that was bad, even for me. I can’t help myself!)
Milwaukee has my kind of people.
Milwaukee is this week the paradise of old maids. They are on exhibition there. Why old maids should draw or be regarded as an attraction is something extremely difficult to understand, but then Milwaukee is a peculiar city.– The Manitowoc Pilot, October 29, 1885
First of all, rude. However, as an old maid myself—by historical newspaper standards—at least I won’t be alone.
Milwaukee has an off-Broadway production of “Cats.”
Who needs theatrical extravaganzas when your city has “the first cat show in the West?” Considering my well-documented feelings about the “Cats” movie trailer, certainly not me. It’s just unfurtunate I missed the show by, y’know, 126 years.
In addition to an exhibition of cats there will be a parrot exhibition, in which there will be a competition between English and German-speaking parrots. A large preponderance of the parrots in Milwaukee speak German.– The Alma Record, March 29, 1895
Polly want, er, will einen Cracker?
Milwaukee’s cat show was a dignified and serious affair. No back-fence concerts were given and the visitors came away without a scratch.– The State Herald, May 10, 1895
I told you Milwaukee was punny.
The exhibition had a target audience:
Milwaukee’s cat and parrot show was a greater success than was anticipated. It was not supposed there were so many old maids in a town where marriage is so easy.– The Chicago Post, quoted in the Norfolk Virginian, April 18, 1895
I resent that kind of stereotyping, Chicago Post! I may be well on my way to being a crazy cat lady, but not all of us old maids are.
A Delaware man wants to build a home for old maids, but Milwaukee did better than that in giving a cat and parrot show.– The Chicago Post, quoted in the Evening Bulletin, February 1, 1896
Touché, Chicago Post. Still, my fellow spinsters and I got the last laugh: The mean-spirited Chicago Post went bust in 1932.
Milwaukee is haunted.
Good thing I’m not lac-ghost intolerant because distilleries aren’t the city’s only haunted places:
The Milwaukee common council will shortly be called upon to determine officially whether there is such a thing as a ghost. At Twenty-second street and Grand avenue there stands a vacant house which for years has been known as “the haunted house.”
All kinds of apparitions are said to have been seen in this place, and some of the most prominent men in the city. . . are willing to testify that the most outlandish and hideous noises proceed from this place almost nightly. J. H. White, who resides near the haunted house, has sent in a communication to the common council asking it to take official action to have this nuisance removed from the city.– The Topeka State Journal, June 21, 1898
Add ghosts to the list of species whose habitats are threatened by humans.
To be clear, this is a different haunted house:
Whatever is going on here is NOT helping the image of old maids in Milwaukee.
With cheese, cats, ghosts and puns on tap, my expectations for Milwaukee curdn’t be higher. The only thing I have to worry about? Rain.
You won’t find it in any historical newspaper, but once upon a time, two Chicago children eagerly looked forward to the one day a year when a family friend would take them for a boat ride on Lake Michigan. However, on a summer day in the 1930s, their mother, my great-grandma Bertha, happened to hear on the radio that it was raining in Milwaukee, a mere 90 miles north of Chicago. With visions of stormy seas and capsized boats, she forbade them from going.
According to family lore, not a drop of rain fell in Chicago that day. My grandpa and great-aunt never forgave her, and “it’s raining in Milwaukee” has become a family catchphrase.
Keep your fingers crossed for me:
Rain or shine, I intend to cheese the day! (I promise I’m done.)
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Welcome to Second Glance History! This blog seeks to uncover the people and the stories forgotten by history and give them another read through a modern lens. Join me every week as we examine the differences that divide and the common threads that connect the then to the now.