Milwaukee has some serious—and some seriously weird—history. From its indigenous roots to its European settlement to the time we all had to boil our water because of that Cryptosporidium thing, the Brew City has its share of stories. But who’s the best at telling those stories? Long before beloved Milwaukee historian John Gurda staked a claim on all things Milwaukee (we hear he gets a check every time someone says the words “Solomon Juneau”), beloved Milwaukee poet Matt Cook was trying to make sense of the city’s past in a series of videos called “Yesterday’s News.” Let’s watch some, shall we?
Ah, is there anything better than the Milwaukee Bridge War of 1845 being explained by a young Matt Cook, in all of his Matt-Cook-vocal-cadence glory? No.
“Yesterday’s News” was part of Zero TV, an early-’00s multimedia thing-y founded by (among others) American Movie director Chris Smith. If you want a glimpse of Milwaukee’s avant-garde as it existed nearly two decades ago, look no further than this YouTube treasure trove. (Zero TV predates the 2009 uploads of the pieces by a number of years.)
Here’s Cook talking about the history of Downer Avenue…
And the time Teddy Roosevelt got shot here…
And the Kooky Cookie House!
Old videos of even older stores—it’s the kind of double nostalgia we love. Cook’s latest book is Irksome Particulars, and it’s great.