Billy the Brownie Collection

Billie the Brownie was a Christmas personality that Schuster’s Department store introduced in 1927. His popularity among Milwaukee’s Baby Boomer generation through parades, radio shows, and department storefronts brought him continued visibility for over forty years. The collection represents merchandise and props used by Gimbels, Schuster’s and the Society to keep interest in Billie alive. Every year Milwaukeeans have a chance to catch a glimpse of Billie at the Society’s annual Billie the Brownie exhibit

MCHS Number: 2005.007.009

Button commemorating the 75th Anniversary of Billie the Brownie. Green background with a graphic of Billie’s face in the front. Text on the outside border: “Official Billie the Brownie Committee Member”.
MCHS Number: 2005.007.011

BTB Committee button. c. Late 1990’s. Pink/white/blue background. Cartoonish drawing of Billie on the top third of the button in the foreground on a pink background. “Billie the Brownie Committee” text in red on a white background.
MCHS Number: 2005.007.013

BTB MCHS button. c. 1980’s. Smaller sized button, with white background and an illustration of Billie and text in red. Text reads, “Billie the Brownie at the Milwaukee County Historical Society”.
MCHS Number: 2005.007.016

BTB button reproduction. Image of an early BTB button cut and shaped onto a piece of foam core. Billie’s face is in the center of the button with holly on both sides. Has a red circular border with white and green background. Text reads, “Billie the Brownie Member Schuster’s”.
MCHS Number: 2005.007.018

BTB button reproduction. Image of an early BTB button cut and shaped onto a piece of foam core. “Billie the Brownie Committee” in white text on a red background. “Schuster’s Joyland of Toys” in black text on a yellow background. A drawing of Billie is to the right of the black text.
MCHS Number: 2005.007.020

BTB button reproduction. Image of an early BTB button cut and shaped onto a piece of foam core. “Welcome Back Parade-Saturday-Nov. 24th, 1928” encircling the border of the button in white text on a red background.
MCHS Number: 2005.007.023

In a sitting position. Body made of plaster or other type of casting material. Face and hair hand painted. Wears an olive colored vest with a light green turtle neck underneath accompanied with red sleeves. Has a cloth cap that comes loose from the head and is red and green. Has black gloves, but the figure’s hand is misshaped. Thumb is included, but the rest of the hand is oval formed. Appearance is similar to how a hand would look if wearing mittens. Boots are flesh colored and pointed up at the tips, similar to Elven boots. Figurines were used in storefront displays at Gimbels and Schuster’s Department stores during the holiday seasons from the 1940’s to the 1970’s.

Train Cars
MCHS Number: M2005.006.001A-C

These train car models were hand made by the donor, Thomas Motola to resemble the Billie the Brownie Parade Floats that traveled down Milwaukee’s 3rd St. and Wisconsin Ave from the 1940’s to the 1980’s.

All images of the artifact illustrated here are © 2009 by the Milwaukee County Historical Society. These images may be downloaded and printed by individuals for personal use, research or teaching purposes, or other “fair use” as defined by U.S. Copyright Law. All other uses are strictly prohibited without prior written permission from the Milwaukee County Historical Society. Contact us regarding usage and reproduction requests.