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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.
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.
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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Anyone interested in any other use of these materials, including for-profit Internet editions, should obtain permission from the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries; and the Manitowoc Public Library.