Website Review

Children in Urban America

James Marten, Marquette University

Children in Urban America (CUAP), focuses on children and childhood primarily in the greater Milwaukee area from 1850 to 2000. The site is organized around five sections. Four are "central experiences in children's lives": Work, Play and Leisure, Schooling, and Health and Welfare. A final section, entitled "Through Children's Eyes", offers stories, oral histories, and memoirs of children who grew up in Milwaukee.

Each section offers a brief introduction, a gallery of images, and a series of "Special Topics" combining a background essay and relevant primary sources. Topics range from the Socialist Party, religion, and newsboys to polio and "Milwaukee's Most Famous Teenager." They bring together relevant primary sources, frame the topic, and offer suggested keywords and search terms for locating additional resources.

An introduction to the site as a whole provides an overview of the goals of the project, background on Milwaukee, and a brief overview of the history of children in early America.

The archive offers more than 4,000 resources, including newspaper stories, photographs, quantitative data, oral histories, personal narratives, and summaries of various topics and time periods. At first glance, it is not apparent that the site offers such a wealth of resources and the search page, is the key for accessing many of these. The search is accessible by clicking on the purple kite in the top, right corner labeled "Search CUAP" or the "Search CUAP" link in the left navigation bar.

Once you reach the search page, you can easily search for a word or phrase or can select one of the predefined "keywords," such as addiction, adoption, dance, or protest. You can narrow the search by selecting more than one keyword, limiting the search results to one of the five sections of the site (i.e., "Health and Welfare"), selecting one of 10 neighborhoods, or choosing a decade. A search on "curriculum" returns close to 200 results, but "curriculum" and "sexuality" narrows it to six.

Another useful feature is a list of research topics and tips. Questions are grouped into middle school, high school, and college and cover a host of subjects, from games to newspaper coverage to the impact of technology on the lives of children.

The rich sources available here are relevant to teaching a range of topics, from child labor to commercial leisure, from race relations in a northern city to life as a student during the cold war. The section called "Boys at Work: The Newsboys of Milwaukee" offers a glimpse into the lives of "newsboys" in the early 20th century that resembles but differs from the commonly told stories of newsies in New York City. A search on "prom" returns 28 matches, from a 1921 class history to a 1940 letter describing a high school prom to a news account of an African American prom queen in1972, allowing for an interesting look at the meaning and definition of proms throughout the 20th century.

CUAP offers a compelling look at children in one geographic region during an important time in the history of childhood. It also provides a model for the many kinds of sources available for the study of children and youth and for the many topics to be examined.

Reviewed by Kelly Schrum, George Mason University

How to Cite This Source

"Children in Urban America," in in World History Commons, [accessed March 30, 2023]
A child sitting in a toy airplane
“Children in Urban America (CUAP), focuses on children and childhood primarily in the greater Milwaukee area from 1850 to 2000.”