Following clues from Vietnam to Freeport, IL to Madison, WI – Harrison Forman Collection

By Susan Dykes, AGSL NEH project

The beauty of the Harrison Forman Collection is evident in his images taken from all over the world. What isn’t evident sometimes is the time, place or context of the images, which makes it difficult to describe them so users can find them online. Occasionally, our metadata creators refer to Forman’s notes, which may be incredibly detailed or sadly, very vague. In which case, they look for clues in the images themselves, hoping to cull as much information as possible to help users find relevant images for their research.

One such image of a man carrying a crate, as seen below, was simply labeled ‘Indo-China.’
Vietnam, man with crate of supplies from U.S. during First Indochina War

Our metadata creators were up to the challenge! Luckily, Forman wrote a diary while in Vietnam in November, 1950, so we were able to verify a time and place. The man was serving in Vietnam during the First Indochina War (1946 – 1954) on the French side. The context was a little more difficult, but a subtle clue was stamped right before our eyes. The label on the crate in the shape of a shield with the stars and stripes of the American flag says ‘From U.S.A. for Mutual Defense.’ Our research uncovered that the crate contained supplies from the United States through the Mutual Defense Assistance Act of 1949, legislation that provided non-military foreign aid to North Atlantic Treaty partners including France. The U.S. sent supplies to the French in Vietnam to support their fight against communism and the Viet Minh during the First Indochina War.

But the clues didn’t end there. We could just make out a stamp on the side of a crate that says ‘Burgess Battery Co. Freeport, IL.” A quick search uncovered that the Burgess Battery Co. was founded by Charles F. Burgess, founder of the University of Wisconsin – Madison Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. Burgess also founded the Madison-based Rayovac Corporation (formerly French Battery Company), one of the country’s largest battery producers. Burgess developed flashlight and radio batteries in the early 1900s, with which, under military contract, he supplied the troops during World War I, suggesting that Burgess possibly continued military contracts in the future. Burgess left UW-Madison in 1913 and founded Burgess Battery Company in 1917, which he eventually moved from Madison to Freeport, Illinois in 1925 to start a new division.
Suddenly, an image of a man carrying a crate in Indochina became a much more complex story – one with Wisconsin ties!

To see the full record for the image, visit our Digital Collections Asia and Middle East portal:

Harry S. Truman: “Statement by the President Upon Issuing Order Providing for the Administration of the Mutual Defense Assistance Act.,” January 27, 1950. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering. (1996). ChE Funder also helped spur battery industry, Perspective, Vol. 23. Retrieved from

Scanning large formats : 1861 Map of Korea

by Angie Cope, AGSL

The UW Milwaukee Digital Collections hosts the American Geographical Society Library Digital Map Collection featuring nearly 2,000 maps. Everything from everyday local maps to historic treasures are included. One map, the Daedong yeojido or “Territorial Map of the Great East,” was added in 2009.

The map was part of a larger purchase by the American Geographical Society (AGS) of New York in 1895. Several maps, an atlas, and forty-three photographs were acquired from the father of American diplomat George C. Foulk. For more than one hundred years, the significance of those materials went largely unrecognized until 2008 when the map was recognized as a National Treasure in Korea.

1861 map of Korea
1861 Map of Korea.

In preparation for a 2009 symposium, scanning the map became a priority. The map is a wood block print on twenty-two folded sheets which presented a new scanning challenge to staff. When displayed open, the map measures nearly thirteen feet wide and twenty feet in length. The long sheets were designed to be folded accordion style making this large map easier to use.

Map spread out in the AGS Library to the full 13 x 22 feet in size
Map spread out in the AGS Library to the full 13 x 22 feet in size

The map was scanned using a sheet feed Colortrak 4280 Color Scanner at a 300 dpi resolution. Images were saved as tiffs ranging in size from 24 MB to 95 MB with the composite image coming in at a walloping 213 MB.  

Majority of maps are scanned using the sheet feed Colortrak 4280 Color Scanner
Majority of maps are scanned using the sheet feed Colortrak 4280 Color Scanner.

The composite image was plotted for the event using a 60 inch wide Hewlett Packard 5500ps plotter
The composite image was plotted for the event using a 60 inch wide Hewlett Packard 5500ps plotter.

The map is now available for viewing at the American Geographical Society Library Digital Map Collection where you can see details of each sheet, the manuscript index sheet and the composite view here:

More information about the symposium and the map can be found here:

Remembering Nelson Mandela

In honor of the passing of Nelson Mandela, we would like to share images from our collection documenting the apartheid era in South Africa, including this image, depicting a protest against apartheid in Cape Town in 1961, the year before Mandela was imprisoned for his anti-apartheid activism.

Cape Town, protest sign against apartheid at cathedral, 1961
Cape Town, protest sign against apartheid at cathedral, Harrison Forman, 1961

Images from the Cities Around the World digital collection

100,000th Image Added to Digital Collections

The UWM Digital Collections added its 100,000th image this week! The honor goes to an image for the upcoming Milwaukee Polonia digital collection. It’s a 1928 photograph of a young girl (probably the daughter of Dorothy Gromowski, who ordered the photo) on the occasion of her First Communion or Confirmation. That collection continues to grow behind the scenes – look for a public unveiling in the near future.
kw021495 - Milwaukee Polonia

Milestones are times for reflection, so we in Digitization looked back to see what the first image in our Digital Collections might have been. Krystyna Matusiak, the first Head of the Digitization Unit, confirmed that the inaugural collection was Afghanistan, a collection of images from the Harrison Forman collection. And the very first digital image captured for that collection was a photograph of a family of nomad Kuchis in Afghanistan, taken in 1969 by photojournalist Harrison Forman.
af00001 - Family of nomad Kuchis

Now, onto 200,000!

Finding Gwen Moore in The March on Milwaukee Civil Rights History Project

The March on Milwaukee Civil Rights History Project (MOM) includes oral histories, film clips, audio files, manuscripts and images documenting the efforts of activists battling segregation and discrimination in Milwaukee during the 1960s. During a recent presentation of a news clip on the 1968 textbook controversy, a viewer suggested to Lucas Wolff, a member of the initial MOM staff team, that the woman speaking in the clip strongly resembled U.S. Representative Gwen Moore.
Film still of Gwen Moore

Archivist Ellen Engseth confirmed this helpful hunch when she contacted Representative Moore’s office to share the clip. Moore was student council president at North Division High School at the time. On the news clip, starting at 1.30, she speaks from the floor to suggest that officials could apply more pressure to adopt new textbooks for Milwaukee high school students.

Moore is joined by an unidentified senior from Riverside High School who expresses the frustration of students at the administration’s slowness in adopting new textbooks, and John Lawrence from Lincoln High School who stresses that textbooks that include the history of African Americans in the United States shouldn’t simply be “supplements.”

Do you know who the unidentified senior is? Please let us know.

Digitizing Milwaukee’s Polonia: Stanislaw Kielar’s Advertising Structures

Michael Doylen

The Kwasniewski photographs include some great images of the South Side of Milwaukee when that area was primarily Polish-American. The collection includes photos of churches, businesses, local organizations, sports teams, street scenes, green spaces, and . . . a few curiosities, as well. Consider these photographs taken by Kwasniewski to document Stanislaw Kielar’s advertising display invention.
Stanislaw Kielar demonstrating his invention
Stanislaw Kielar demonstrating his invention (kw001105)

In 1920, Kielar filed a patent application with the U.S. Patent Office for a “certain new and useful Improvement in Advertising Structures.” His invention was intended specifically for use of displaying cigarette packs “in designs and with effects which will prove pleasing to the eye of the beholder.” Apparently, in the early part of the twentieth century, cigarette displays tended frequently to topple due to the lightness of the packages and the inability to effectively secure them in a structure. To solve this problem, Kielar cut a series of wood blocks to the size of cigarette packs, and connected the blocks with a series of specially designed spring clips inserted in notches cut into the blocks. “When all of the blocks which it is desired to thus unite in an advertising structure have been assembled and secured together,” explained Kielar, “it will be found that the manner of attachment or connection is such that the several blocks in the structure will retain the positions which they are intended to occupy in the completed design.” Problem solved! Kielar boasted that there was “no limit to the range of the designs in which advertising structures outlining [his] invention may be embodied.” A sample of this range is provided by the photographs shown here. Kielar’s application was approved in 1924 (patent number 1,493,679), and may be accessed online at the U.S. Patent Office site.

Kielar's adversting structure for cigarettes
Kielar’s adversting structure for cigarettes (kw001106)

Another possible arrangement using Kielar's advertising structure
Another possible arrangement using Kielar’s advertising structure (kw001108)

Digitizing Milwaukee’s Polonia: The Modjeska Theater

by Alex Welborn

Recently, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries hosted the event “Hollywood in the Heartland” in conjunction with the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research (WCFTR).  This celebration of the history of film and theater featured numerous one-of-a-kind film and theater artifacts and archival materials from the WCFTR.  The UWM Archives contributed to the event by displaying historic images of Milwaukee theaters and movie palaces from the 1910s and 1920s, many of which come from the Roman Kwasniewski photograph collection.  One such theater captured through the photography of Roman Kwasniewski is the Modjeska Theatre.

Modjeska Theater

The Modjeska Theatre was once a major attraction for the local Polish-American community. Serial # 25127

The Modjeska Theater first opened in 1910 as a small, 840-seat theater at 7th and Mitchell Street in Milwaukee.  Named after the Polish actress Madame Helena Modjeska, the Modjeska Theatre was most likely a posthumous tribute by the predominantly Polish-American community to the Polish icon.

Modjeska Theater and Mr. Harman

Mr. Harman and young movie-goers pose outside of the Modjeska Theatre. Serial # 25127

In 1924, the local Saxe Theatres chain bought the Modjeska and replaced it with a larger, 2,000-seat movie palace at the same address.  Though lacking in ornamentation, the new Modjeska featured a full orchestra pit, a Barton pipe organ, and a stage floor laden with trap doors for vaudeville acts.

Crowds lined up in front of Modjeska Theater

The former popularity of the Modjeska Theatre is evident in this image, as eager movie-goers line up outside the venue. Serial # 25127

The 1950s initiated a long and slow decline of the Modjeska’s former self.  During the 1980s and 1990s, the Modjeska changed ownership numerous times as operators struggled to keep the venue afloat.  In the early 1990s, the Modjeska served as a 1,700-seat local acts venue, and success was limited and the venue eventually closed in March of 2010.  Recent restoration efforts of the Modjeska Theatre have also folded due to lack of financial support, placing the building’s future in peril.  Thanks to the photography of Roman Kwasniewski, however, the spirit of the Modjeska will live on, even if the theater itself does not.

Source and more information: Rankin, James (Jim) H.  “Modjeska Theatre.”  Accessed 23 April 2013.