Five on Frank: Selecting WTMJ-TV newsfilm

by Ellen Engseth, Archivist

Recently I selected five news film segments about Frank Zeidler, Mayor of Milwaukee between 1948 and 1960, for inclusion in a digital collection. My purpose was to provide complementary material for our in-house library exhibit, “Advancing Human Progress: Mayor Frank P. Zeidler’s Vision for Milwaukee,” brought to us courtesy of UWM History Professor, Aims McGuiness. After I made a few selections from the large archival collection of WTMJ-TV’s historical newsfilm, my Digitization colleagues and I built the digital objects you find online.

I made selections based on several considerations: sound and visual quality, visual interest, and information provided. In addition, the mayoral career-retrospective 1960 broadcast (“Room 201”) rather chose itself. If you watch it, I think you will agree.

It’s no surprise to me that, though I made my selections well before I saw the “Advancing Human Progress” exhibit or read the exhibit text, the segments and program I chose directly relate to some of the visiting exhibit’s many topical areas. This is due to the richness of the source material (i.e. a local news film archive which by its very nature captures much of the city leadership), as well as to the fact that Mayor Zeidler led the city with clear direction and obvious contributions. These include successes in the areas of:

  • urban, low-cost education, an example of which was his commitment to what is now MATC. (starting at minute 11:28 – 12:28)
  • human and civil rights, as in this brief clip from one of Mayor Zeidler’s speeches: (starting at minute 10:23 – 11:19)

    Reference URL:

As an example of how the in-house and online exhibits complement each other, I learned from an “Advancing Human Progress” panel created for the physical exhibit, that plans to “…construct freeways, which could act as quick evacuation routes in the event of attack, were part of Mayor Zeidler’s plans to preserve lives in the event of a nuclear attack.” This places his work on our urban freeway development squarely in broader Cold War-era concerns as well as with other concerns for traffic safety and efficiency. Though this important historical point was not clear to me from my initial viewing of segmented news clips, I can now see the connection, and listen to his spoken words with more awareness and understanding of mid-20th century Milwaukee.

What will you learn?
The exhibit is visiting the UWM Libraries, East Wing, through May; the historical news film featuring Mayor Zeidler can be found online at::


One thought on “Five on Frank: Selecting WTMJ-TV newsfilm

  1. In these more fractious, antisocial and economically difficult times, Milwaukeeans need to remember the legacy and spirit of people like Zeidler. This is especially true of the UWM community.

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