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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Gus the Horseshoer: 1936

Gus the Horseshoer: 1936

April 1936. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. "Houses at Detroit and Van Buren streets near the electric railroad." 3x4 nitrate negative by Carl Mydans. View full size.

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902 Hibernia / Detroit Street

Wright's Directory for Milwaukee in 1888 has a listing for a resident at 902 Hibernia--a news carrier.

The revised version of the Milwaukee Interurban around 1930 planned to be below grade west of Eighth Street. Previously, the interurban used the Clybourn Street streetcar tracks west to 35th Street and turned south a bit, where it entered its own private ROW south of the Marquette Stadium neighborhood and then over a very long trestle over the Menomonee River to connect to its older tracks east of County Stadium/Miller Park around 45th Street and Canal.

However, the Abel and Bach (fancy) luggage factory that took up the space between St Paul and Clybourn at Tenth Street refused to sell its land south of Hibernia for that. [I doubt Abel and Bach was also a tannery, but it could have been. Milwaukee already had plenty of tanneries.]

As to Detroit Street around 1900... That particular street was primarily occupied by Sicilian immigrants back then--with a very high murder rate. This can easily be verified reading through several websites, including those about the Balestreri/Balestrieri family genealogy, among others.

Desilu could have used Detroit Street for an Untouchables episode. Also, that area around Detroit Street was the last in Milwaukee to install indoor plumbing.

Hibernia Street

The location of this excellent picture is actually about a mile west of the stated location in Milwaukee. We are looking west along Hibernia Street towards Tenth Street. Just out of the picture to the left is the huge freight terminal of the Milwaukee Electric system (later Aldrich Chemical). This building stood until just a few years ago, surrounded by freeway ramps in the middle of the Marquette Interchange. Everything you see in this picture is gone today, the last of Hibernia Street being removed in the early sixties to make way for the freeway.

This is Hibernia Street

I found this picture by searching "Milwaukee" on this great site. The caption "houses at Van Buren & Detroit street near the electric railroad" got my attention, as there has never been an "electric railroad" (other than streetcars) anywhere near Van Buren & Detroit Street (now E. St Paul Avenue). The caption on the Milwaukee Journal photo posted by "Nuclear_art" said that the building was near 10th & Clybourn; this made more sense, as the Rapid Transit tracks were on an elevated structure at that point & swung over Hibernia Street. So, it would appear that the photographer is standing at about the line of 9th Street (Gus's address is 902)looking west. This entire area is buried deep beneath the Marquette Interchange today.

Milwaukee progress

Thanks to the map that JeffK provided I got a better mental picture of this location. Decades ago I did some work at the nearby Milwaukee Tallow Company which helped produce an acrid stench that permeated the neighborhood. I think the building JeffK points toward is the same one as the former Mamie's Grotto located at 625 E. Detroit Street seen here. I grew up in Milwaukee and cannot recall ever hearing of Detroit Street. That is undoubtedly due to it being changed to E. St. Paul Avenue according to the data shown here. With the Horseshoer photo being taken in April 1936, the Chevrolet sedan shown on the left side of the photo was new at the time. It is certainly years newer than the other cars parked on the street which have squared corners on their roofs.

"Communist Pranksters"

From the Milwaukee Journal of October 1, 1939:

Learn something new with every picture

I'm always impressed by Dave and the rest of the Shorpy community. "Free Thaelmann!" seems accurate.

During the Cold War, Ernst Thaelmann became a hero to the USSR, which might be why I hadn't heard of him until today. It's an interesting story, though, as the movement to support him seems to have been supported by a counterculture, complete with controversial demonstrations. To wit, as the Hindenburg prepared to set an endurance record in 1936, "a red biplane flew over the hangar trailing a pennant which read: 'Fight Fascism--Help Free Thaelmann.'" (NYT). NYT also had a 1934 headline, "ANTI-NAZIS BREAK INTO HARVARD YARD" about Thaelmann supporters.

In 1925, Thaelmann had come in a distant third in the German presidential elections (as reported by the Lake Region Times, 4/30/1925).


How dare you paint over a priceless and historic photograph. Have you no shame?

Tachan tachan...

Coloreado por Paco.
Colage y acuarela.

The smells

I imagine the folks living between the tannery and horseshoer had very few visitors.

Free Thaelmann!

Free Ernst Thaelmann?

He was an anti-fascist, anti-Nazi Marxist. He ran against Hitler in '32 for German president. When Ernst lost to Adolph, he tried to organize a general strike and coup against Hitler the next year and when that failed he was jailed by the Gestapo. He died at Buchenwald in August, 1944.

Thaelmann had his 50th birthday in April of '36 and it apparently drew worldwide attention. Milwaukee's large German/Polish immigrant population (except for the Swede, Peterson the Horseshoer) should have made Thaelmann's Nazi imprisonment a local big deal.


Blues Brothers, too!

This is essentially where the Blues Brothers "ran off the road" and flipped their old Police Interceptor Dodge. I was in the neighborhood, in college, the day of the filming.

Free ______!

"Free Mumia"? Very cutting edge for 1936!

On a more serious note, Detroit Street has been renamed St. Paul Street, and there's not a lotta tanning or shoeing going on there these days.

View Larger Map

High Water

Would it be possible to get a close up of the water tower on the tannery? I can't make out what it says. The exclamation point indicates that it's very important.

[Well isn't that interesting. "FREE XXXELMANN!" Maybe starting with a T. Who will be the first to solve this Shorpy mystery? - Dave]

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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