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Digital Collections

Milwaukee Waterways

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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.


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More Information

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 has 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.

Sponsored by funding from: 

[Wisconsin Coastal Management Program]
[National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration]


Order Information

Copies of the images in this collection may be purchased. Orders must be placed online, using the online order form. The images are delivered in digital format via CD as 300 dpi TIFs. Due to the large size of each of the files, we offer CD-Rom but not e-mail delivery of images. The cost is $10 per image, plus tax for Wisconsin residents (shipping of CD via standard mail is included). You will be billed approximately one month after delivery of your order, and may pay by personal check or money order. Turnaround time is five business days, with rush service available for an extra fee. [Rush charges are 20% of order total from in-state requesters, 50% of order total from out-of-state requesters. Calculated after tax.] To order a photo online you will need the photograph title and Object File Name number.

Important Copyright Information

By providing or allowing reproduction of materials from the collections, the Milwaukee Public Library does NOT grant permission to publish or exhibit. Reproductions are provided for personal research purposes only. They may not be copied or distributed. Written permission to publish must be obtained from copyright or literary rights owner and from the library for any publication or commercial use of copies. The researcher is responsible for compliance with the US Copyright Code (title 12 USC) and privacy rights outlined in Title 45 CFR 46. For information on permission to publish, please contact the Humanities Department at 286-3061.



Order Form

Price of $10 includes copy, mail or pickup at any desk requested; price is per item.

Please note: Due to the large size of each of the files, we offer CD-Rom but not e-mail delivery of images. Not all Internet service providers permit handling of files this large.

Orders require an accurate Relation Number and CD Location in order to be processed.

Mailing Address
Billing Address (If Different Than Mailing Address)
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