From murder and matchstick men to all-consuming fires, painted women, and Great Lakes disasters--and the wide-eyed public who could not help but gawk at it all--"Milwaukee Mayhem" uncovers the little-remembered and rarely told history of the underbelly of a Midwestern metropolis. "Milwaukee Mayhem" offers a new perspective on Milwaukee's early years, forgoing the major historical signposts found in traditional histories and focusing instead on the strange and brutal tales of mystery, vice, murder, and disaster that were born of the city's transformation from lakeside settlement to American metropolis. Author Matthew J. Prigge presents these stories as they were recounted to the public in the newspapers of the era, using the vivid and often grim language of the times to create an engaging and occasionally chilling narrative of a forgotten Milwaukee.
Through his thoughtful introduction, Prigge gives the work context, eschewing assumptions about "simpler times" and highlighting the mayhem that the growth and rise of a city can bring about. These stories are the orphans of Milwaukee's history, too unusual to register in broad historic narratives, too strange to qualify as nostalgia, but nevertheless essential to our understanding of this American city.
About the Author
Matthew J. Prigge is a freelance author and historian from Milwaukee and the host of What Made Milwaukee Famous, a weekly local history segment on WMSE 91.7. His work has been featured in both local and national publications and has won multiple awards, including the 2013 William Best Hesseltine Award from the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. Since 2011, he has led sightseeing historical tours of Milwaukee’s rivers and harbor for the Milwaukee Boat Line. In 2013, he created the Mondo Milwaukee Boat Tour, an evening historical tour of some of the city’s most infamous sights. Milwaukee Mayhem is his second book.
Milwaukee historian Prigge delves into the dark side of the Wisconsin metropolis in the 19th century through this collection of sordid stories... There are murderers, a “stout and moon-faced” bigamist named Jiggs Perry, and a bingo-addicted tenant with a grudge who bludgeoned her landlady; and tragedies like the 1883 fire at Newhall House...This history is teeming with interesting characters like Rosina Georg, a proprietor of a dance hall known for underage drinking and an interracial clientele, and Frank Blunt, a thieving womanizer who was raised as a girl but lived as a man. Other tales include a suicide by cannon, an antikissing crusade, roving bands of flirtatious fops, and the chilling account of a young woman picked up for a blind date and never seen alive again. Prigge plucks these stories from obscurity and vividly brings them to life. He also helpfully identifies the modern locations of settings should readers feel inclined to take a macabre Milwaukee tour. (Publisher's Weekly, September 2015)
A simply fascinating and fully absorbing read from begininning to end, Milwaukee Mayhem: Murder and Mystery in the Cream City's First Century is...exceptionally well researched, impressively well written, and deftly crafted with the inclusion of occasional black-and- white historical photos. Milwaukee Mayhem is highly recommended for both community and academic library American History refernce collections in general, and Wisconsin History supplemental studies lists in particular. (John Burroughs, Burroughs' Bookshelf, Midwest Book Review, Reviewer's Bookwatch, December 2015)