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Whig Party

Front page of a leaflet announcing a Whig meeting at the Milwaukee County Courthouse on June 26, 1841.
This political party’s influence in Milwaukee, first apparent in the late 1830s, was circumscribed because of the city’s substantial foreign-born population. German and Irish voters tended to align themselves with the Democratic Party against the Yankee-dominated Whigs, who were seen as nativists and temperance advocates. Over the course of the 1840s and 1850s, Milwaukee Whigs…
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Wiccans, some of whom self-identify as witches, and other Pagans are a small but growing presence within the United States. Many Wiccans practice their faith individually or in small groups. Although estimates of the number of Wiccans are unreliable, a 2014 Pew Research Center survey found that roughly 0.3% of Americans identified as Wiccans or…
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Wild Rice

This illustration depicts three Native American women knocking wild rice grains into their canoe with paddles.
Wild rice was and is a staple food crop for the Native American tribes of Wisconsin. Indeed, the Menominee, one of the major tribes in the Milwaukee area, were called “the Wild Rice People” by Europeans. Traditionally grown in shallows at the edges of lakes and ponds, wild rice is harvested in the fall by…
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William Beck

William Beck was appointed Milwaukee’s first police chief in 1855 after a series of arsons, thefts, and murders. German-born, Beck migrated to New York, serving as a police officer before becoming a farmer in the Town of Granville outside of Milwaukee. He served as a deputy sheriff for two years before beginning an on-again/off-again span…
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William George Bruce

Portrait of William George Bruce sitting at his desk during his tenure as president of the Milwaukee Harbor Board of Commissioners between 1920 and 1949.
William George Bruce (1856-1949), a publisher and civic activist from a largely German North Side ward, was born to Augustus F. and Apollonia (Becker) Bruce on March 17, 1856. Bruce’s paternal grandfather had moved to Milwaukee from New York in 1842, four years before cityhood. A hip ailment left young William an invalid at the…
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Wisconsin Black Historical Museum

The Wisconsin Black Historical Society and Museum, located at 2620 West Center Street, is dedicated to preserving the heritage of Milwaukee’s African-American community. Founded in 1987, both the museum and its associated organization—the Wisconsin Black Historical Society—were formed by Clayborn Benson, III. Benson, an experienced video and photo-journalist, created the museum to gather together a…
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Wisconsin Center

A 2012 image of the downtown convention facility that began its life as the Midwest Express Center and is now the Wisconsin Center.
Hoping to revitalize downtown Milwaukee, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce spearheaded the drive in the 1990s to replace the outdated convention hall of the MILWAUKEE EXPOSITION CONVENTION CENTER AND ARENA with a larger meeting space. A team of six firms eventually developed the 189,000 square foot Flemish and German-inspired Midwest Express Center, which opened…
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Wisconsin Conservatory of Music

Photograph of the McInstosh-Goodrich Mansion, home to the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. Designed in 1904, the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Wisconsin Conservatory is among the nation’s oldest community-based arts schools. Founded by William Boeppler, Hugo Kaun, and Dr. Louis Frank in 1899, the institution provides music education to community members, both amateur and professional. While flourishing in the first half of the twentieth century, the conservatory suffered financial problems at mid-century, and again in…
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Wisconsin Gas Building

Postcard of the Milwaukee Gas Light Company Building in 1933. Note that its famous gas flame has not been added yet.
Designed by the local ESCHWEILER AND ESCHWEILER architectural firm, the Wisconsin Gas Building (also known as the Milwaukee Gas Light Building) opened in 1930. Located at 626 E. Wisconsin Ave., the Art Deco building originally served as headquarters for the Milwaukee Gas Light Company. It continued to do so through several rounds of corporate restructuring…
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Wisconsin Humane Society

When founded in 1879, the Wisconsin Humane Society (WHS) aimed to prevent cruelty to animals, children, criminals, and “defective and dependent people.” In 1880 the society appointed Richard Whitehead its first superintendent and shortly thereafter the state granted the society limited police powers. Although Whitehead vigorously investigated cases of cruelty to horses and livestock until…
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Wisconsin Lutheran College

Wisconsin Lutheran College (WLC) was founded in 1973 by a group of Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) members. The college is owned by a corporation of WELS congregations and governed by its Board of Regents. WLC has enjoyed an ever-growing and generally positive relationship with the Milwaukee metro area and the state of Wisconsin. WLC…
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Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

The training of pastors is vital to the life and theology of any church body. In the Lutheran tradition, each congregation calls a pastor to be its spiritual supervisor, advisor, and teacher. For more than a century Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary has been training pastors for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod and its worldwide mission and…
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Wisconsin Soldiers’ Aid Fair

Photograph of the wooden building constructed for the Wisconsin Soldiers' Aid Fair held in 1865.
Milwaukee was buzzing with activity in late June and July of 1865, as the month-long fair to raise money for the local soldiers’ home packed Main Street with crowds of fairgoers. The event was an extension of work undertaken early in the Civil War by women from the west side of the Milwaukee River who…
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Wisconsin State Fair

Eager fair attendees stand at the counter as bakers hold trays filled with cream puffs.
The Wisconsin State Fair is an annual, eleven-day festival that celebrates Wisconsin farming, livestock, and agricultural products. The first Wisconsin State Fair took place in 1851, along the Rock River in Janesville. The fair lasted only two days, and 13,000-18,000 patrons attended the festivities. Over the next forty years the fair moved to various locations…
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Woman Suffrage

Members of the Political Equality League are seated in an early model Ford car draped with a banner that reads "Votes for Women."
In the 1840s, when settlers from the East and overseas were pouring into Milwaukee and Wisconsin, women did not have political rights to vote, run for public office, serve on juries, or participate in the formal political system. Advocates, however, of what came to be called the “woman movement” were voicing the first calls to…
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Woodland Pattern Book Center

A display inside the Woodland Pattern Book Center featuring pamphlets and booklets in 2010.
Woodland Pattern Book Center is Milwaukee’s hub for individuals who are passionate about non-mainstream poetry and literature. Founded by Karl Young, Karl Gartung, and Anne Kingsbury in 1979, it is located on 720 E. Locust Street in the city’s Riverwest neighborhood. It carries over 25,000 volumes, mostly works of avant-garde poetry from independent and small…
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1945 photograph of Allis-Chalmers employees assembling WC model tractors in West Allis, highlighting the importance of both heavy manufacturing and agriculture in the Milwaukee area.
“Milwaukee is a workingman’s city,” wrote Frank Flower in his massive 1881 History of Milwaukee. Flower described a community of tradesmen, machinists, and laborers where a typical worker could enjoy, even on wages of a dollar or two a day, “good air, good water, cheap living, and a chance to found a home of his…
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Workers’ Movements

A group of workers from the Edwards Motor Company picket with strike signs on Wisconsin Avenue in 1937.
Throughout most of its history, the Milwaukee area has been characterized for its manufacturing and blue collar heritage that molded much of its character. The industrialization that began after the Civil War required the muscles and brains of thousands of working people; to fill the demands of production. Budding entrepreneurs encouraged workers to come to…
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Writers and Writing

Best known for his military career, Charles King was also a prolific writer. Pictured here is the title page of his 1905 novel "A Broken Sword."
Milwaukee is the birthplace of numerous writers and an inspiration for many others. Certain individuals are known primarily for their writing, whereas others made literary contributions in addition to the achievements in other walks of life for which they are best known. Some writers have achieved iconic status in the history of Milwaukee for their…
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Photograph of the home of Jason Downer, prominent lawyer and one of the founders of the Milwaukee Sentinel, taken in the 1930s. Located on North Prospect Avenue, the house is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Yankee-Yorkers began settling the Milwaukee metropolitan area in the mid-1830s. These Protestant, English-speaking, and highly mobile pioneers, mainly of British descent, hailed from New England, New York, Pennsylvania, and other Mid-Atlantic states. Following completion of the Erie Canal’s western terminus, Yankee-Yorker migrants inundated the midwestern frontier, including Milwaukee, in search of open land to speculate…
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