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Wisconsin GLBT History Project


Welcome to the web site chronicling
the History of the Gay/ Lesbian/ Bisexual/ Transgender Community
in Milwaukee and Wisconsin.

The concept for this web site was envisioned by Don Schwamb in 2003, and over the next 15 years, he was the sole programmer and primary contributor, bearing all costs for hosting the web site personally.
About the same time, a small group of community members began collecting Oral Histories of some prominent early groundbreakers in the LGBT community, and that reinvigorated the History Display at PrideFest each year. Unfortunately the oral history collection petered out after a year or two, but in short order several others in the community began to work to create informative panels and other displays for that annual History exhibit, often using the growing web site to help gather information.

Over time, others in the community began to contribute photos and recollections to the web site.
In 2009, Jamie Taylor (once a photographer for "In Step" magazine) started a similar Facebook page, which gathered a lot of information which fed into this site. Then Michail Takach began contributing to the web site as Curator, researching Wisconsin LGBT history for the web site, historical panels for display at events, and writing various articles for both LGBT and mainstream media.

Happening in 2022

2022 sees the city and nation recovering from two years of COVID-19 pandemic mode. LGBT bars and venues (such as Pride celebrations) return to fully open mode with none of the restrictions (limited capacity, mandatory masks, proof of vaccination) that had hampered the prior two years.

With that, we are pleased to acknowledge three important events in mid-2022.

First, a series of podcasts were launched on May 23. Called "Be Seen" the podcasts are a partnership between the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project and Radio Milwaukee (WUWM, Milwaukee's NPR). Each week, "Be Seen" will answer questions that explore different historical milestones, events and businesses that have fostered an inclusive community in Wisconsin’s LGBTQ history. The podcast integrates the present along with the past through archived audio as well as hearing from community members and leaders who can directly speak to these experiences. Michail Takach is the curator for the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project and Nate Imig is the director of content for Radio Milwaukee. Together, they host the podcast.

Second, a new smartphone App is being released: LGBT milWALKee. The app was conceived last year by Dr. Brice Smith, and gives people walking tours of LGBTQ-specific landmarks throughout our city. Right now, the app boasts three tours and dozens of sites – all on your phone. "I feel strongly that when we get to know each other, through our stories and our history, it helps us to care about one another and can help us confront misconceptions that we have," said Dr. Brice Smith of LGBT Milwaukee. "I was trying to come up with a way people can see the places in which our history was made. Everybody can see the fact that we have been here and have made history and it couldn’t be taken away from them because It would be in the palm of your hands." Released in June to coincide with the beginning of Pride Month, every stop on the tours will produce a video, giving a historical recount of the location’s significance.

Within days of the launch of this new app, a book is being released by site curator Michail Takach, along with co-author performer B.J. Daniels. The book, "A History of Milwaukee Drag: Seven Generations of Glamour", examines drag as an unstoppable force in Milwaukee nightlife. In 1884, "The Only Leon" brought the fine art of female impersonation to the Grand Opera Hall, launching a proud local legacy that continues today at This Is It, La Cage, Hamburger Mary's, D.I.X. and innumerable other venues. Historians Michail Takach and B.J. Daniels recognize that today's LGBTQ liberties were born from the strength, resilience and resistance of yesterday's gender-nonconforming pioneers. This is a long-overdue celebration of those stories.

Media inquiries about all of these (the podcasts, app and the book) may be directed to

Fiscal Sponsorship

The Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project Inc. is pleased to be a sponsored project of the Cream City Foundation, Inc.,
one of the country's longest-running LGBT foundations, buiding Health, Equity and Prosperity within the LGBT community.
We are able to accept tax-exempt donations through CCF as our 501c3 fiscal agent.

Black Nite Bar Commemoration

One of the most significant but little-known events in Milwaukee is the Black Nite Brawl of August 5, 1961.
Eight years before Stonewall raised awareness of the rights of LGBT people nationwide,
Milwaukee had its own version of such an event.

  • Read about the event on the "Black Nite Brawl" page
  • Read about the 60th Anniversary commemoration of the Black Nite Brawl.


    Interactive Map of Wisconsin's LGBT Bars and Businesses through the years !

    The Wisconsin LGBT History Project web site now has created an exclusive interactive LGBT business map.
    See where gay bars and other LGBT businesses existed at any point in time in the past! The default view shows every LGBT business in the state, then you can zoom into a Geographical area, filter by type of business (Bars only, Bars with Dancing only, Restaurants only, Spas only, or any combination), and then use a time filter (businesses only in the 1980s, or 1990 to 2005, or any date range).

    Our thanks to the Geospatial Information Specialist at UWM's American Geographical Society Library for developing and hosting this amazing tool!.

    We Welcome Community Input

    We welcome your contributions of information for this site. It is very much a work in progress. For example, we may have quite a few detailed history pages for bars, but few for other businesses or media. These will be filled in and fleshed out over time. Feel free to browse the various sections and pages herein, and send us any corrections or additions. If you have any information which might help us, please send us an email. If you have materials or archives or memorabilia to donate, contact us also.

    Email us at:

    (Please note that we will often use the terms “gay” and “lesbian” by themselves on this site. Our purpose in doing so is not to exclude bisexual, transgender, or any other persons, but to reflect accurately the historical period in question. For example, the National Gay Task Force did not add “Lesbian” to its name until 1986. Historians of bisexual activism have noted that many of the earliest “gay liberation” activists during the 1970s were bisexuals who saw no reason at the time to distinguish their bisexual identity from the gay liberation movement. Only later, when some “gay rights” activists began to use the term “gay” in a more exclusive manner, did bisexual activists and lesbians also begin wide use of exclusive terminology to represent themselves. So please look upon use of the terms as an evolution that is not always easily distinguishable at any one point in time.)

    Licensed under Creative Commons  

          All contents on this web site is hereby licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License as "Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike", and may only be used under the terms of that license or any later version of a Creative Commons Attribution License. Under these licensing terms, you may Share the information (copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format) provided you (a) give full credit to this web site and its sources; (b) you may not use the material for any commercial purposes; and (c) if you remix, transform or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.

  • PDF files are used extensively on this site. To view them,
    download Adobe Reader (aka Acrobat Reader) from:

    Credits: website concept and design by Don Schwamb.
    Last updated: June-2022.


    Creative Commons License
    This work is licensed under a
    Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.