Welcome to the web site chronicling the History of the Gay/ Lesbian/ Bisexual/ Transgender Community
INTRODUCING: the publication of "LGBT Milwaukee", written by local author Michail Takach with foreword by Don Schwamb of the Wisconsin LGBT History Project.
Published by Arcadia Publishing & the History Press as part of the 'Images of Modern America' series, the book, believed to be the first comprehensive social history of LGBTQ Milwaukee ever published, traces the rise and fall of over six dozen landmark bars, gathering places and pride celebrations. With contributions from many local elders and icons, LGBT Milwaukee celebrates the resilience, determination and unity required to bring a community out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
The new book complements this web site by presenting new facts and rare photographs discovered by Michail Takach in his "spare time". Together, the book and this web site are about the men and women who have made today's LGBT community what it is, and the places and events that got us where we are today.
An index to the book, and links to reviews and interviews with the author, is available at this link: Book Index.
The History Project
The beginning of the History Project goes back many years, with individual efforts of a great many people in storing documents and memorabilia of LGBT life in the Milwaukee area, whether it be social life, businesses (bars, restaurants, etc.), or groups such as PrideFest and the Community Center. A few organizations made some efforts to collect and preserve materials. But the real beginning of this project was an effort connected with PrideFest which sought to bring together and display photos, archives, and memorabilia for a His/Herstory display at the festival in 1995 and 1997.
After a hiatus, PrideFest 2001 again opened a history display, which was very well received. The 2002 festival attracted even more interest, and sparked an idea by several people to make a more concerted effort to collect and maintain historical materials. Between 2002 and 2003, a small group of people conducted a project to gather Verbal Histories of notable people. Much of the impetus for the current effort stems from the knowledge that a large amount of the most important material relating to gay and lesbian history may be on the verge of destruction at the hands of people unaware of its value to us as a community. The people who created and led the earliest organizations and businesses are reaching the ends of their lives (someone who was 35 when Stonewall occurred in 1969 would be almost 70 years old when this project became an organization in 2003, and over 80 today).
Also in 2003, Don Schwamb began gathering information and documenting it for this web site. To date, he has been the primary driver of this web site, creating and maintaining the pages. As of July 2016, he had created some 1,500 web pages and linked over 20,000 images to those web pages.
In 2009, Jamie Taylor started a private Facebook page, to stimulate discussion and collect contributions of photos and memorioes. Shortly thereafter, Michail Takach, who had long been interested in local LGBT history, joined the effort, and began much more extensive research into the pre-1970's LGBT scene. The "LGBT Milwaukee" book mentioned above is just his first compilation, and he continues to contribute additional information to the Facebook group and this web site.
A major effort is underway to gather remaining archival meterials from people and organizations while they still exist. In cooperation with the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, these items are being deposited into the UWM Archives where they are cataloged, stablizied, and preserved for future study and reference by the public. Also read about that effort on the main Project page.
The Web Site
Meanwhile, others in the community are working to collect information to form the background for present and future displays, and to form an overview tapestry of all things gay and lesbian from the past. We have created five categories to help organize this story: People; Organizations; Businesses; the Media; and Events. Each of these areas has its own section on this web site (see links on the left), and as we collect materials, we attempt to categorize and display them in this open fashion. (Note that, especially on this web site, we may edit certain materials to obscure names of living persons who may object to appearing in a public forum for privacy reasons.)
Finally, we are stitching together a Timeline to allow comparisons of people, organizations, businesses, media, and events over time. The first draft of a Timeline was unveiled at PrideFest 2005 at Festival Park on the Milwaukee lakeshore, and has been a favorite each time it has been displayed (about every 2 to 3 years).
Curious what's new on the website? Check out the "What's New" page!
We Welcome Community Input
We welcome your contributions of information for this site. It is very much a work in progress. For example, we may have quite a few detailed history pages for bars, but few for other businesses or media. These will be filled in and fleshed out over time. Feel free to browse the various sections and pages herein, and send us any corrections or additions. If you have any information which might help us, please send us an email. If you have materials or archives or memorabilia to donate, contact us also.
Email us at:
(Please note that we will often use the terms “gay” and “lesbian” by themselves on this site. Our purpose in doing so is not to exclude bisexual, transgender, or any other persons, but to reflect accurately the historical period in question. For example, the National Gay Task Force did not add “Lesbian” to its name until 1986. Historians of bisexual activism have noted that many of the earliest “gay liberation” activists during the 1970s were bisexuals who saw no reason at the time to distinguish their bisexual identity from the gay liberation movement. Only later, when some “gay rights” activists began to use the term “gay” in a more exclusive manner, did bisexual activists and lesbians also begin wide use of exclusive terminology to represent themselves. So please look upon use of the terms as an evolution that is not always easily distinguishable at any one point in time.)
Licensed under Creative Commons
All contents on this web site is hereby licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License as "Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike", and may only be used under the terms of that license or any later version of a Creative Commons Attribution License. Under these licensing terms, you may Share the information (copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format) provided you (a) give full credit to this web site and its sources; (b) you may not use the material for any commercial purposes; and (c) if you remix, transform or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.
PDF files are used extensively on this site. To view them,
Credits: concept and format by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: July-2016.