The Library of Congress is a treasure trove of digital files that preserve the history of our country. I spent most of a day combing their files for the very oldest pictures of Wisconsin still in existence and they’re kind of amazing. Most of the pictures day from 1880-1910 and it’s amazing to see how much some places have changed and how some have stayed remarkably the same.
1. View of Trempealeau, 1874
The oldest photo I could find that wasn't just a sitting portrait.
2. Entering Green Bay, ca. 1880-1899
Wisconsin's first city has changed a bit in the ensuing century.
3. Devil's Lake , ca. 1880-1899
With all that's different in the rest of the pictures, that this view is basically unchanged over 100 years is kind of heartening.
4. Pitcher John Freeman on an 1889 cabinet card.
Not quite the same baseball cards you see today.
5. Looking out over Eau Claire, ca. 1880-1899.
This could be any town in America at the time and it's a totally unrecognizable view today.
6. White Fish Bay from the pier, ca. 1880-1899.
One of Milwaukee's most affluent suburbs, Whitefish Bay is spelled different and definitely doesn't have a pier.
7. Paper Mills on the Fox River in Neenah, ca. 1880-1899.
Mills and the paper industry shaped so much of our state.
8. Jaws of the Wisconsin Dells in 1894.
This makes me want to try to get a "now" picture of the same area. Other than some erosion, I'd assume the view hasn't changed much.
9. Girls of the paper mills in Appleton, ca. 1880-1899.
I can't imagine doing any type of labor in that much clothing.
10. The Narrows of the Dells , 1900.
Hard to believe this is now the Waterpark Capitol of the World.
11. Milwaukee City Hall ca. 1900
Most of the buildings around it have changed, and the road is now paved, but you could overlay this with a picture of City Hall today and you wouldn't see too much difference. It's too easy to overlook the awesome history in our everyday lives.
12. Pinckney Street, in Madison, 1901.
One of the four streets that create Capitol Square in Madison.
13. President Roosevelt's Western Tour. In a floral carriage in La Crosse 1903
It's impossible to imagine a President or any other high ranking official taking on a tour like this one and riding through small towns on a carriage.
14. Panorama of the Milwaukee lakefront from Lake Michigan ca 1904
Were it not well labeled, I wouldn't believe it. Is there anything here to recognize today?
15. Horsedrawn delivery carts leave Schlitz Brewery, ca.1900-1919.
The beer that made Milwaukee famous.
16. Corner of State and Grand Avenues in Beloit, 1908.
Beloit was a much busier and cosmopolitan town 100 years ago.
17. Pabst Building 1900-1915
This building has gone through quite a bit, but renovations turned it into condos and you can still see it near MSOE.
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