Located in Milwaukee, WI, the Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear is a history museum containing an extensive array of American memorabilia. Gathered by lawyer and artifact collector Avrum (Abe) M. Chudnow (1913–2005) throughout his lifetime, the artifacts focus primarily on the early 20t.century and the Jewish community in Milwaukee. The museum is run by a non-profit organization that maintains the site.
Abe inherited his interest in collecting artifacts from his father, who worked as a junk peddler. The collection reflects Abe’s range of jobs, a military posting, a law degree from Marquette University Law School, and childhood paraphernalia. Over time, the collection grew from the basement of Abe’s home to the office where he held his management and law company. He decided to formally open the Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear in 1991. A curator was hired to catalogue the items and Abe loaned out much of his collection to synagogues, museums, societies, and schools as exhibits. After Abe’s death in 2005, his family turned his office into the permanent location of the museum, and the doors were opened to the public in 2012.
Permanent Collections and Exhibits
The collection spans the period from the late 19t.century to the latter part of the 20th century.
The Toy Store showcases large display cabinets filled with toys, models, board games, and other age-old artifacts. A table and chairs complete the room with a ready-to-play game of Monopoly set up in place. Located on the upper floor, this exhibit like others features white buttons on the walls that, when pressed, play short informational audio recordings.
The Saxe Brothers Movie Palace exhibit, located on the upper floor, represents several of the well-known movie theaters of Milwaukee in the early 20t.century. Complete with seating, bronze-style busts, theater curtains, and informational films on Abe Chudnow and the exhibits, this small exhibit displays a traditional Milwaukee cinematic experience. The name is based on Saxe Amusement Enterprises, a company that owned 42 movie theaters in Wisconsin at the time.
The Dr. Eisenberg Clinic is a further exhibit on the upper level. The building housing the museum was originally a doctor’s clinic dating back to the 1920s, where Dr. Joseph Eisenberg was a doctor, and many of the items on display come from Dr. Eisenberg himself. The exhibit displays a post-World War I waiting room with period furniture and elaborate decorations as well as medical books. The chest of drawers also displays the implements and instruments a doctor would have used during that time period.
The Schlitz Room features poster advertisements, beer bottles, soda bottles, and cans of malt syrup. The Fashion Dress Room showcases scarves, hats, and dresses as worn during the era. Further rooms upstairs are a period-style bathroom with toiletries, a four-shelf display of vintage cameras entitled “The Camera Alcove,” and a barber shop display, complete with hair cutting equipment, chair, and shelving. Through the barber shop is a secret speakeasy room with a counter and Prohibition era alcohol on display.
The first floor contains a plethora of rooms. The Grafman Grocery Store is modeled on the original store that was situated at 603 West Vliet Street, Milwaukee, and run by the Grafman family. Displaying food tins dating back to the 1920s and 1930s as well as the real weighing scales from the original store, this exhibit contains a counter and several cabinets full of packages, bottles, and boxes.
The ice cream counter exhibit is located close to the entrance, showcasing the style and products found in an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, complete with a washing basin and tall ice cream glasses.
The kitchen features an old-style kitchen with stoves, cookware, and an assortment of household items. The Union Depot exhibition presents mannequins dressed in a selection of period clothing, with accessories and jewelry of the time. Within the Political Room there is a life-sized model of Robert La Follette alongside politically themed memorabilia, posters, and buttons.
The pharmacy is a vintage-designed room filled with wooden framed cabinets with glass fronts, a counter, and an old-fashioned cash register. The products on display are packaged soaps, tonics, medicinal items, and medical devices.
The museum contains a small gift shop, situated on the first floor near the entrance. The items on sale include pens, vintage-style sodas, postcards, and other period-themed products.
839 North 11th St, Milwaukee, WI 53233, Phone: 414-273-1680
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