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Poster Collections

The poster collections of the Milwaukee Public Library cover a variety of topics such as local history, film, travel, theater, World War I, and World War II. 

Film Poster Collection

The film collection is over 2000 black and white and color posters from 1929 to 1983, though the majority of the collection covers the 1940s and 1950s. All of the posters are 36” by 14” in size. The collection contains popular titles like Rope with James Stewart; Adventures of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn, and Henry V with Laurence Olivier, as well as many lesser known films. Some of the more famous actors and actresses present are Gregory Peck, Shirley Temple, Cary Grant, Loretta Young, John Wayne, and Audrey Hepburn.

Index to the Film Poster Collection.

Milwaukee and Wisconsin Poster Collection

The Milwaukee and Wisconsin collection is approximately 1,500 posters, dating from 1914 to 2003. Although eclectic, the primarily focus is on advertising Milwaukee events such as the symphony, ballet, theater, art exhibitions, and festivals. A secondary and much smaller focus is on advertising other events that took place in cities outside of the Milwaukee area.

Index to the Milwaukee and Wisconsin Collection

Milwaukee Lithographing and Engraving Company Collection

The Milwaukee Lithographing and Engraving Company collection consists of 239 posters, prints, cards, calendars and more. The company, established in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1852, was a printing and engraving firm that ran through the late nineteenth-century. Aside from having engraving and printing capabilities, the company specialized in the production of trade cards, labels, and showcards which advertised both local and national organizations, as well as the lithographing firm itself. Henry Seifert, the proprietor, and George Schoeffel, the Vice President and General Manager in the 1870s and 80s, were the firm's major figures until Henry Gugler and his son Julius joined the company in 1872. Six years later, the Guglers left the Milwaukee Lithographing and Engraving Company to start the H. Gugler & Son printing firm, which would become the Gugler Lithographing Company in 1883 after the passing of Henry Gugler. 

Index to the Milwaukee Lithographing and Engraving Company Collection

The Gugler Lithographic Company Collection

The Gugler Lithographic Company was founded in Milwaukee in 1878 by Henry Gugler and his two sons. They started small, printing items such as envelopes, checks, and stationary. By World War II, Gugler was one of Wisconsin's largest operating printing companies, printing everything from can labels to billboards. Sadly over time the Gugler company became less of a family business and was sold off in 1966 to Journal Communications. By 2005, the Gugler brand ceased to exist at all.

The Milwaukee Public Library is proud to have 1,136 posters printed by the Gugler Company, and a set of Gugler sample books are also available from our Rarities collection.

Index to the Gugler Lithographic Company Poster Collection

Index to the Gugler Lithographic Company Billboard Glossies Collection

The Historic Entertainment Collection

The Historic Entertainment collection contains almost 800 posters which date from the late 1800s through the early 1900s. Partnering with the Circus World Museum of Baraboo, WI, these beautiful posters were acquired in 1972 from a private collector. The Circus World Museum chose the majority of the circus related posters and the Milwaukee Public Library added the remaining items to its collection. Subject matters include plays, musicals, circus parades, and portraits of entertainers. This collection covers events that are on a national scale rather than focusing on just Milwaukee or Wisconsin. 

Index to the Historic Entertainment Collection

Other Poster Collections

Other poster collections are currently undergoing processing and may not be available for research at this time.

How to Access These Collections

Poster Collections are viewed by appointment only in the Frank P. Zeidler Room of the Central Library. All materials are requested and appointments are scheduled here. Same-day access cannot be guaranteed. All research questions should be addressed via e-mail to and will be answered in the order received.