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"Milwaukee in the 1930s" - from which this 1938 parade photo comes - is a fascinating snapshot of Milwaukee 80 years ago. (PHOTO: Wisconsin Historical Society)

Last-minute wishlist solutions: The gift of Milwaukee history

There is nothing like the holidays in Milwaukee. VISIT Milwaukee is here to share your top shopping destinations, must-see holiday shows, where to meet Kris Kringle and local gifts you can't resist. Tune in all month long and 'tis the season!

The popularity of Facebook groups like "Old Milwaukee" and OnMilwaukee's own urban spelunking series – and the related weekly radio spots on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee – shows that Milwaukeeans have a passion for their city and its history.

Indulge that passion and curiosity about Brew City's past with a gift rooted in our collective story. Here are a few ideas...

"Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods," by John Gurda

(PHOTO: Stacy Swadish)

This lavish, 466-page tome is an in-depth look at Milwaukee, neighborhood by neighborhood. Not only is it packed with the kind of detail and insight you expect from the doyen of Brew City history, John Gurda, it's loaded with great photos and the classic Milwaukee neighborhood posters by artist Jan Kotowicz. Read more about it here and then order it here. Note that Gurda's classic "The Making of Milwaukee" is a perennial gift favorite, too.

Historic Milwaukee

Historic Milwaukee hosts a Holiday Walking Tour on Saturday, Dec. 3 and a German Christmas Tour on Dec. 17, but tickets have been going fast. If it turns out to be too late for those, HMI has plenty of great architecture and history tours and you can see them all here. Best of all, you can buy gift cards in a couple denominations, as well as a variety of books, posters and other items in the HMI online shop or its bricks-and-mortar location at 235 E. Michigan St., Downtown.

"Milwaukee in the 1930s: A Federal Writers Project City Guide," edited by John D. Buenker

Written in the 1930s as part of the Depression-era Federal Writers Project, this in-depth Cream City guide sat unpublished until this year, when Buenker prepped it for publication, adding a series of contemporary images to help illustrate the text. From Downtown sights to neighborhood parks and more, this snapshot of the city as it was about 80 years ago makes for fascinating reading.

A night in a Milwaukee mansion

Any fan of Cream City history would revel in the chance to spend a night in a gorgeous mansion, like the Brumder (pictured above) or The Manderley. Luckily, both are now lovely beds and breakfast. The Brumder boasts a lower-level theater and a stellar morning meal, while The Manderley just up the street is a beautiful Queen Anne mansion loving restored by a charming couple.

Membership has its privileges

(PHOTO: Milwaukee County Historical Society Facebook)

Consider something that's a gift not only to the recipient but also to a hard-working Milwaukee history institution. Join the Milwaukee County Historical Society (pictured above) for $40 ($35 for seniors and students; $75 for a family) and the recipient gets free admission to the historical center and free use of the library, a discount on items in the museum store, discounted admission to events, the Milwaukee History Now newsletter and Milwaukee History magazine and a reciprocal benefit program that includes historic sites in 43 states. Or consider a membership at the Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear. A variety of membership levels offer different benefits. You can see the options here. Details on Historic Milwaukee Inc. memberships, which also make a great gift, are here.

Boy Blue or Dutchland Dairy tee

(PHOTO: Matt Mueller)

Bygone Brand has a series of T-shirts featuring Milwaukee classics, including the old Moon Fun Shop on Wisconsin Avenue, Insurance Liquidators, the Boy Blue soft serve ice milk chain, the Stone Toad rock and roll club, the Milwaukee Road, Muskego's DandiLion Park amusement park, Howe's Potato Chips and more. My favorite is the Dutchland Dairy shirt featuring Milwaukee frozen custard pioneer Joe Clark's dairy maid, though folks watching their fat intake might prefer the Boy Blue.

Shameless self-promotion

(PHOTO: Lori Fredrich)

Because I've written four books about Milwaukee, and I'll someday send my kids (hopefully) to college someday, I'd be remiss if I didn't suggest that you consider a book about "The Milwaukee Police Station Bomb on 1917," detailing the biggest loss of life in a single incident in U.S. history until Sept. 11, 2001, set right here in Milwaukee; or an in-depth look at "Milwaukee Public Schoolhouses," which I wrote in an attempt to share my passion for the city's beautiful old school buildings; or "Hidden History of Milwaukee," a collection of the best of the early years of the Urban Spelunking series; or the new "Milwaukee Frozen Custard," co-written with Kathleen McCann, which traces the history of frozen custard from its debut in Brooklyn to Milwaukee, where it has become the delicious stuff of legend. The book also includes a guide to current stands in Milwaukee and beyond as well as a look at many of the classic and dearly departed custard stands.


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