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About this collection

Milwaukee Waterways illustrates the role Lake Michigan and Milwaukee's rivers have played in the history of Milwaukee. Pictures of the harbor and ships from around the world loading and unloading materials show the variety of materials that passed through the Port over time. Other pictures illustrate the role the rivers played in the commercial development of the city. Aerial views of the harbor and rivers and lakefront show the changing uses of the water and land.

Milwaukee was founded at the site where three rivers; the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic, flow into Lake Michigan. Milwaukee began as a Great Lakes port in 1835, when the first commercial cargo vessel arrived and is still a busy port today.

The photographs are from three collections. The Port of Milwaukee has an extensive collection of historic photos of the Port and the vessels and people connected with it that illustrates the role the Port played in the economic and social history of Milwaukee. The majority of the photos in this database are from that collection. Milwaukee Public Library has a Historic Photo Collection of over 50,000 photographs of Milwaukee dating from the late 19th century to the present. A number of those photos relating to the lake, the port, and the rivers are included.

Other photos are from the Great Lakes Marine Collection of Milwaukee Public Library and the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society. In addition to the photos included here the Marine Collection has files on over 10,000 Great Lakes vessels, books and journals on the Great Lakes and subject files that contain data on Great Lakes shipping companies, shipyards, ports, lighthouses and other topics. The Wisconsin Marine Historical Society and Milwaukee Public Library received a matching grant from the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program to preserve these photographs and make them available on line.

Additional comments, corrections, or insights to these historic photos are always welcome.

 

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