Explore the history of Manitowoc and the surrounding communities through a wide selection of images, historical texts, and maps and plat books that date back to the mid 19th century. Whether for historical or genealogical research, school assignments, or business or civic presentations, this collection provides an in-depth look at Manitowoc’s rich history.
About Hermann C. Benke
Though he was only lived in Manitowoc for a short time, Hermann C. Benke documented the city and surrounding county in portraits and postcards for 20 years. Benke was born in Zempelburg, Germany, in 1869. His family immigrated to the United States in 1872, eventually settling in Kansas. Hermann finished school and became a teacher at age 17, with photography as his hobby.
In 1894, Benke moved to Wisconsin to teach. During summer breaks from school teaching he traveled around Manitowoc County taking photographs of families and businesses. When he moved to Manitowoc, Benke took advantage of the penny postcard craze and made a suitable living photographing the city’s scenes and events and then printing postcards. When a convention was in town, he would photograph the parade or city decorations and have postcards available for attendees the next day.
Benke’s legacy now rests in the images he captured of Manitowoc County at the turn of the century. Some grace the walls of the Manitowoc County Courthouse, while others continue as avidly-collected postcards. For a more in-depth biography of Benke, see Hermann C. Benke, Manitowoc Photographer. His short autobiography, Life sketches, 1869-1946, is also available in Manitowoc Public Library’s Manitowoc Collection.
About Francis M. Kadow
Francis M. Kadow was born in 1899 and grew up in Manitowoc. He left school at age 16 to help his father run the Mikadow Theater, which opened in 1916. He eventually owned and operated both the theater and the radio station WOMT, headquartered on the second floor of the theater. The radio station went on the air in November 1926; it was the third radio station in Wisconsin at the time. The call letters WOMT stood for “World’s Only Mikadow Theater.” The station broadcast the news every hour on the hour, taken largely from the United Press wire service teletype, the first one ever installed at a radio station. Kadow was also an amateur photographer and took photos of Manitowoc that are included in this collection. Francis Kadow sold WOMT in 1966 and died in 1973. His tombstone in Evergreen Cemetery has an old-fashioned radio microphone carved on it.
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Searching the Collection
In addition to the pre-selected searches available at the top of the page you can search by keywords for items in the collection.
There are many different subject headings to search by in the collection. These would include:
- Subjects, for example: Carriages & coaches
- Family names, for example: Torrison family
- Business names, for example: Schuette Brothers
- Street names, for example: South Eighth Street (Manitowoc, Wis.)
- Places, for example: Washington Park (Manitowoc, Wis.)
- Decades, for example: 1890s
- Oral History Recordings: personal narratives
An “atlas” search is available to search items by county. Look for this button at the top of the page. You can also search by the name of the city or town as a subject search (for example: Mishicot, Wisconsin).
Full Text Histories:
Get a more in-depth look into Manitowoc’s history through the Manitowoc Public Library’s historical texts. Learn more about different aspects of the county’s history, from farming and education to the impact of World War II. You can view any of the books simply by clicking on the title.
- History of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin / edited by Louis Falge. 1912.
- A History of Manitowoc County / by Ralph Gordon Plumb. 1904.
- History of the City of Manitowoc, Wisconsin from 1850 to 1860 / by Caroline Hubbard. 1904.
- History of the City of Manitowoc : its pioneers and early industries prior to 1850 /by Otto Gass. 1903.
- Official program of Manitowoc County Centennial, June 28-July 5, 1936.
- Manitowoc the city of opportunities. 1929.
- Manitowoc 1870-1920 : jubilee and homecoming. 1920.
- Manitowoc and Two Rivers’ part in the World War / compiled by the Wisconsin News. 1919.
- Riverview Poultry Yards. 195?.
- Twentieth century malting methods / William Rahr Sons Co. 1909.
- Story of a century, 1848-1948: Manitowoc County during Wisconsin’s first hundred years. 1948.
- In remembrance of the 75th anniversary, Manitowoc-Gjerpen-Valders congregations. 1925.
- Neshotah : the story of Two Rivers, Wisconsin /written and compiled by Evan Gagnon. 1969.
- Early days in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, 1848-1900 / by Arthur H. Lohman. 1909.
- Glimpses of our heritage : Town of Centerville and Village of Cleveland / edited by Barbara Ertel. 1976.
- St. Nazianz, 1854-1954 / the St. Nazianz Centennial Committee. 1954.
- Yellowbird : a true tale of the early settlement of Town Schleswig, Manitowoc County, Wisconsin / by Henry Goeres ; translated from the German by Paul Dachsel. 1900.
- History of Reedsville to 1976 / Dorothy Zarnoth, editor. 1976.
- Wisconsin domesday book. Town Studies (Newton). 1924. pp. 84-89.
- Manitowoc County Historical Society Occupational Monographs v.1-76. 1967-2001.
- Pioneer courts and lawyers of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin / by James Sibree Anderson. 1921.
- A centennial history of the Manitowoc County school districts and its public school system, 1848-1948 / ed. by Jos. J. Rappel. 1948.
- Soil survey of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. 1931.
- Manitowoc County, Wisconsin agricultural statistics / Wisconsin Crop Reporting Service. 1940.
- Manitowoc County agriculture / Wisconsin Crop and Livestock Reporting Service. 1954.
- Wisconsin rural resources : Manitowoc County / Wisconsin Crop and Livestock Reporting Service. 1956.
Plat Books and Maps:
Each of the links below allows you witness the growth of Manitowoc County since 1851.
- Plat map of the Town of Centerville, 1851. 22 x 28 cm. map.
- Manitowoc County 1872 Plat Map Index / by Robert A. Bjerke. 1985.
- An illustrated historical atlas of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin 1878 / G. V. Nash. 1878.
- Manitowoc County 1878 Plat Book Index/ by Robert A. Bjerke. 1992.
- Manitowoc, Wis. 1883. 17 x 23 in. map. 1883.
- Plat book of Manitowoc and Calumet Counties, Wisconsin 1893 / by C. M. Foote. 1893.
- Manitowoc County 1893 Platbook Index / by Robert A. Bjerke. 1991.
- Standard atlas of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin 1921 / Geo. A. Ogle. 1921.
- Atlas of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin 1922 / comp. and published by the Jerry Donohue Engineering Company. 1922.
- Atlas of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin 1936 / compiled and published by the Jerry Donohue Engineering Company. 1936.
- Plat Book of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin 1947.
- Official County Plat Book and Rural Directory of Manitowoc County Wisconsin 1958.
- Manitowoc County, Wisconsin official farm plat book and directory 1962.
- Manitowoc County, WI Cemetery Locations / Richard Cote.
Oral History Recordings
In the 1970’s, Wisconsin Public Radio, along with a local group, interviewed over 40 Manitowoc County residents. Copies of those interviews have been digitized to preserve this interesting personal history of Manitowoc County.
The Manitowoc Local History Collection is collaborative project completed by the UWDCC and the Manitowoc Public Library.
The Manitowoc Local History Collection was funded, in part, through 2005, 2006, and 2007 Library Services and Technology Act(LSTA) grant. This grant provided financial support for public libraries to digitize and make available online, their local library resources. For more information about LSTA grants in Wisconsin, contact the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Division for Libraries and Technology or visit the LSTA grant Web site at https://dpi.wi.gov/pld/lsta.
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Copyright © University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents.
These materials may be copied freely by individuals or libraries for personal use, research, teaching (including distribution to classes), or any “fair use” as defined by copyright laws. Fair use is specifically an American legal doctrine that is not found in most other national copyright laws. The British commonwealth nations have a concept of “fair dealing” but it is much more restrictive in scope. Our reserve policy, for example, is based on “fair use” in U.S. copyright law. Please include this statement and author or photographer attribution with any copies you make. The materials may be linked to freely in non-commercial, non-subscription Internet editions created for an educational purpose.
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