William Beck

Click the image to learn more. After his first appointment in 1855, William Beck intermittently served as Milwaukee's police chief until 1882. Pictured here is an excerpt of his 1870 annual report to city officials.

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 of twenty-three years as the city’s chief between 1855 and 1882. Troubles in 1861 following bank riots and a lynching led to Beck’s first departure, although he returned two years later. He continually faced challenges from mayors and common councils who sought to use the police force as a source of political patronage.

For Further Reading

Austin, H. Russell. The Milwaukee Story: The Making of an American City. Milwaukee: The Milwaukee Journal, 1946.

Flowers, Frank. History of Milwaukee Wisconsin: From Pre-historic Times to Present Date. Chicago: The Western Historical Co., 1881.

Still, Bayrd. Milwaukee: The History of a City. Madison: Wisconsin State Historical Society, 1948.

Wheeler, A.C. The Chronicles of Milwaukee: Being a Narrative History of the Town from its Earliest Period to the Present. Milwaukee: Jermain & Brightman, 1861.


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