Milwaukee Mayhem: Murder and Mystery in the Cream City’s First Century

Matthew J. Prigge. Wisconsin Historical Society, $19.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-87020-716-7
Milwaukee historian Prigge delves into the dark side of the Wisconsin metropolis in the 19th century through this collection of sordid stories involving death, dismemberment, disappearances, and debauchery. There are murderers, a “stout and moonfaced” 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, dubbed “Milwaukee’s grandest hotel” by the author, where patrons leapt from top floors to their deaths on the street below. A chapter on vice explores the “underground economy of desire” featuring gambling, prostitution, pornography, and bootlegged liquor. This history is teeming with interesting characters like Rosina Georg, 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. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 06/22/2015
Release date: 10/01/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
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