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Commercial Fishing

Grayscale long shot of Jones Island adults and children residents standing in front of fishing nets stretched out to dry on wooden structures.
Fish have long been an important part of Milwaukee’s diet and culture, perhaps most notably in the “Friday night fish fry.” The city’s commercial fishing industry expanded to meet the needs of local customers but never developed larger markets as did peers in other parts of the Great Lakes. Native American communities subsisted on fish… Read More

Commercial Landscapes

Wide shot of East Water Street showing a rows of commercial buildings ranging from two to four stories. Store signs are displayed in front of each business place. A group of people stands on the porch of the "J.C. Iversen & Co." building. Two horse-drawn vehicles stand by the sidewalk. Two large utility poles also stand in the street next to the sidewalk.
The exchange of goods is fundamental to city life, and the shape of commercial activity in Milwaukee reflects the geographic expansion of the city and the economic, technological, and social patterns framing the city’s development over time. Modern Milwaukee began as a series of competing settlements on the Milwaukee River and grew into a major… Read More

Common Council

Sepia-colored long shot of the council chambers interior where the 1898-1899 Common Council members pose in suits and ties. Some gaze up at the camera lens while sitting at their respective desks. In the far background a group of people stands on the gallery in the second floor.
Milwaukee attained its official municipal status in 1846. As with many fundamental urban changes of the era, the catalyst for transformation from village to city was a series of social crises and territorial fights. In little more than a decade, Milwaukee had grown from a mere trading post to a community that would reach 20,000… Read More

Communist Party

High-angle shot of a crowd of protestors standing close to each other in hats and warm coats. Some hold protest signs that demand workers' rights and recognition of the Soviet Union. The crowd is predominantly men.
The Communist Party of America organized in the United States in 1919 was a split-off from the Socialist Party after the Russian Revolution. It was affiliated with the Communist International, often called the Third International, which advocated for world communist revolutions to overthrow capitalism. The Communist Party of Wisconsin organized as a statewide branch of… Read More

Community-Based Organizations

A wide shot of Walnut Way Community Garden displays a board that reads "Walnut Way Production Garden #2." It is installed among green grass and flowers. Trees, raised garden beds filled with plants, and roofs of houses in the neighborhood are visible in the background.
Although community-based organizations are active in cities around the United States, they have received relatively little attention from historians. The historical scholarship that does exist about community-based organizations tends to treat them solely within their local contexts rather than as a larger phenomenon worthy of sustained study or comparison across places. Community-based organizations is a… Read More


Exterior view of the Robert Faries house in sepia. The building features dormer windows and a turret. Lawn and landscaping plants are set next to the house in the foreground. Smaller residential buildings are in the far background.
The Concordia neighborhood is in the City of Milwaukee between Wisconsin Avenue, Highland Avenue, 27th Street, and 35th Street. It is north of the MERRILL PARK neighborhood and northeast of PIGGSVILLE. These three neighborhoods make up the “West End,” so named because it was at the west end of Wisconsin Avenue in the late nineteenth… Read More

Concordia University

Long shot of the School of Pharmacy's facade against the cloudy blue sky. The modern design features exterior walls made of windows surrounded by brick. The school's monument sign stands on a stone base that appears from the center to the right portion of this image. A wire scuplture of a vintage pharmacist's mortar and pestle sits behind the monument sign. A group of landscaping plants surrounds the monument sign.
Over the past 135 years, Concordia University, a Milwaukee-area institution of higher education affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), has broadened its original mission of preparing young men for seminary in the Lutheran Church to a mission of preparing adults of all ages for meaningful vocations in Wisconsin and across the world. Concordia began… Read More

Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun

Photograph of the Congregation Emanu-El B'ne Jeshurun interior displaying an ark under the glowing ceiling lights. The ark features two menorahs and is flanked by two artworks set against expansive glass windows.
Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun, one of Milwaukee’s leading Jewish communities for over 160 years, follows the Reform tradition and is currently a member of the Union for Reform Judaism. This congregation split apart and reunited until it came into its current form about ninety years ago. The congregation traces its roots back to the earliest Jewish… Read More


Facade of Grand Avenue Congregational Church in daylight. The facade has three sections. A massive arched window adorn the facade's upper center. Below is the main entrance with a double door. Two two-story towers flank the center of the facade and distinguish it from the left and right section. An additional door is installed on the right section's ground floor.
Descended from New England Puritanism, Congregationalism arrived in Wisconsin in 1830 with a mission to the Stockbridge Indians. Congregational ministers soon multiplied, aided by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and the American Home Missionary Society (AHMS). Although Wisconsin’s early Congregationalists cooperated with their better-funded Presbyterian counterparts, local Congregational churches quickly asserted their… Read More

Conservation and Environmentalism

A group of men, women, and children in summer clothes walks toward the Wisconsin Conservation Department exhibit building. The building is one story tall and made with dark wood.
The modern movement toward environmental protection in Milwaukee was rooted in the frontier settlement’s first efforts to control water pollution to protect public health. From this beginning, the dynamic interplay of time, technology, science, commerce, and population growth resulted in a gradual expansion of this narrow focus to the conservation of natural resources, starting with… Read More

County Executives

John Doyne stands among men in suits and ties, smiling as he holds a pair of scissors for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Another group of men appears in the background. A thick ribbon stretches horizontally in front of them.
Milwaukee’s county executives are to county government what presidents are to the federal government, governors to states, and mayors to cities. In other words, they are the chief elected executive officer of Milwaukee County government. It was not always that way. The most widely recognized American approach to government has three separate and equal branches… Read More

County Roads

Page of the 1927 Map of Milwaukee County showcasing state and county trunk highways. Red lines illustrate the U.S. highways and state trunks highways. Blue lines symbolize county trunk highways. The right portion of the map contains the legend, signatures of the chairmen and committees related to the highways' development, and a list of the members of the board district of supervisors.
Milwaukee’s county roads originated in Indian trails that wound through the region. In the early nineteenth century, these routes became important channels for fur traders, settlers, and the U.S. military and mail service. A particularly important trail connected Fort Howard in Green Bay to Fort Dearborn in Chicago, cutting past the trading posts of Jacques… Read More


Grayscale long shot of the old Milwaukee County Courthouse's facade hidden behind a line of trees. The building's tower soars above the trees. A water fountain is set in front of the courthouse.
Historically courthouses were places for resolving legal and political matters. As community social spaces, they also demonstrated civic pride, serving as symbols of the ideal of American justice. As such the architecture of courthouses reflected their important role in community life. However, over time, courthouses, and later “justice centers,” became more specialized. Modern courthouses tend… Read More


Sepia-colored photograph of a courtroom interior showing a Milwaukee judge standing on the right, behind a raised desk while facing left. Men and women in formal attire sit in the background, listening to the judge. One man leans on a table on the far left taking notes. Another man sits cross-legged on the left side of the judge in the right foreground.
Milwaukee’s court system has steadily changed since Wisconsin was first organized as a territory. During the territorial era (1836-48), the Milwaukee area was one of three Wisconsin judicial districts; it was served by Judge Andrew Miller, who was both a trial judge and a member of the Territorial Supreme Court. At statehood, Wisconsin was divided… Read More

Cream City Brick

Dutch angle shot of a two-story building on a street corner that features Cream City brick exterior walls. The structure has a covered front porch and a front staircase enclosed by balusters. An American flag protrudes from the porch on the far left.
Milwaukee’s nineteenth-century brick-makers fired the local red lacustrine clay, which contains a high content of calcium and magnesium, to produce distinctive, soft golden-yellow bricks. “The Cream City” nickname that attached to Milwaukee in the nineteenth and early-twentieth century suggests the dominance of this creamy-yellow colored brick during the city’s first seven decades. As early as… Read More


Grayscale photograph of John F. Schrank and a policeman smiling as they stand next to each other. Some policemen stand behind Schrank, who poses in a casual manner in this picture. Schrank and two of the policemen are smiling. The bottom of the image is inscribed "Schrank Under Arrest."
Ever since citizens of the United States began to legally settle the area in the 1830s, Milwaukee has had to address, in an ever-increasingly organized manner, different types of crime. Some of these illegal actions have been perpetuated by individuals and others involved incidents of collective criminal behavior. Some of this crime has been against… Read More


Grayscale high-angle shot of a large group of Croatians posing in an indoor space. People of different ages in traditional clothing hold each other's hands while standing in the center of the photograph. Two small children pose in the front with other adults. Many people sit and stand in the background.
Milwaukee’s Croatian community dates to the first decade of the twentieth century. United States Census figures indicate that in 1910, over 3,000 Croatians and Serbs, identified by mother tongue and grouped together at that point, lived in the city. Despite their rural backgrounds, early Croatian Milwaukeeans worked in the city’s industrial sector in the city… Read More


Medium shot of Barbara Franke ladling boiled water from a stock pot into a pitcher inside Miss Katie's Diner's kitchen. She wears glasses standing next to a stove with two stock pots on it. Steam rises from the pitcher.
In the spring of 1993, approximately 400,000 people fell victim to what Milwaukeeans have since referred to as “Crypto.” At least sixty-nine people—mostly people suffering from AIDS—died in this Cryptosporidium outbreak, which would become the country’s largest waterborne disease epidemic on record. These numbers do not include those who visited Milwaukee and drank the water… Read More


Main entrance of Cubanitas restaurant features soft green and orange exterior walls. A banner advertising the Cuban Day Celebration Street Party hangs on its glass wall. White vans parked on the street are reflected in the restaurant's plate glass windows.
Cubans began to appear in the Milwaukee area in noticeable numbers several years after the triumph of the Castro Revolution on January 1959. When Castro began to align himself with the Soviet Union, many Cubans on the island began to make plans to send their children out of the country in the Operation Peter Pan… Read More


Vintage postcard of Packard Avenue. The image is divided horizontally with a panoramic view of the street on the upper portion and a handwritten letter to someone named Ellen on the bottom. The upper image shows a long wide street separating the buildings, with utility poles and streetcar wires adjacent to and above the road.
Located in Milwaukee County, just east of Milwaukee’s southernmost portion, the suburban city of Cudahy was named for city founder and meatpacker Patrick Cudahy. Cudahy is bordered by St. Francis to the north, General Mitchell International Airport to the west, Lake Michigan to the east, and Oak Creek and South Milwaukee to the south. The… Read More
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