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A. Gettelman Brewing Company

A soft-focus painted advertisement features a drawing that illustrates the A. Gettelman Brewing Company plant. The building complex has two towering chimneys with billowing smoke. Written in black ink on the bottom is "Gettleman Brewing Co. Milwaukee.”
The A. Gettelman Brewing Company (1856-1961) was one of Milwaukee’s major industrial brewers. Although remaining a mid-sized brewer among the city’s giants, Gettelman was an important innovator of beer packaging and advertising and a significant acquisition in the expansion of the Miller Brewing Company. The Gettelman Brewing Company originated as George Schweickhart’s Menomonee Brewery, established… Read More

A.O. Smith Corporation

Long shot of A.O. Smith assembly facilities' interior in grayscale tone. Different machines fills up the largely empty building. The ceiling lights are on, glowing like big dots amid the bright shine emanating from the regularly spaced window walls in the background.
While it is currently recognized as a leader in the production of water heaters, over its history A.O. Smith Corporation has dabbled in a complex inventory of products. Following in his father’s footsteps, company founder Arthur Smith and his successors constantly adapted to market demand and, for the better part of a century, the company… Read More


High-angle long shot of the Market Square in grayscale color. On the left portion of the image are horse-drawn wagons lining up side by side carrying many bales of hays. Some people gather in small groups near the horses. Men walking individually appear on the right portion of the photo.
Throughout its history, Milwaukee has gone from manufacturing center for a myriad of products to a “post-industrial” city struggling to adapt to the realities of deindustrialization. Often overlooked in such a narrative is the role that agriculture has played in the development of the city and the broader metropolitan region. For more than 150 years,… Read More

Alexander Mitchell

Grayscale headshot of Alexander Mitchell gazing to the right. Mitchell wears a notched lapel suit and a tie.
Milwaukee’s leading financier and railroad magnate in the mid-nineteenth century, Alexander Mitchell was born in Aberdeenshire, Scotland on October 18, 1817. Twenty-two years later, he immigrated to the U.S., settling in Chicago. That same year, Mitchell moved to Milwaukee to serve as secretary for a marine and fire insurance company owned by a fellow Scotsman,… Read More

Allen-Bradley (Rockwell Automation)

The Allen-Bradley Company towers appear prominently from behind a row of duplexes. A clock tower stands tall on one of the corners of the building. An American flag flaps on top of the clock tower with cloudy blue sky as the background.
Founded by Lynde Bradley in 1903 with the financial backing of investor Dr. Stanton Allen, what became the Allen-Bradley Company has served the Milwaukee community for over one hundred years, specializing in the design and manufacturing of various electrical products. During the twentieth century Lynde and his brother Harry built the company into one of… Read More

Allis-Chalmers Corporation

High-angle shot of the interior of the Allis-Chalmers' factory building. Rays of sunshine from large windows surrounding the walls light up different gears and machinery equipment lying on the floor. Some machine parts are stacked on top of each other, and some are kept in boxes. When zooming the image, men standing and working beside the huge machine parts come into focus. Above them is a crane hook hanging on the tall ceiling. Close to it, at the top right corner of this image, is a man standing with one hand on his hips and the other hand holding a glass. He seems to oversee the workers below.
Operating from 1847 to 1999, the Allis-Chalmers Corporation was one of Milwaukee’s key manufacturing giants and for a time the city’s largest employer, producing what one historian describes as “the ‘big stuff’ for America’s expanding urban and industrial markets.” Allis-Chalmers originated in James Seville and Charles Decker’s Reliance Works, a pioneer iron foundry and machine… Read More

American Motors

Long shot of a man working on a body of a vintage car inside the Nash Motors Assembly Line. Above the glossy-looking vehicle and behind the worker are rows of wheels held by a metal frame. Additional car parts are shown in blurry images in the background.
Founded as a furniture manufacturing company, the Seaman Body Corporation gained prominence as a maker of automotive bodies. For nearly seven decades, the Seaman Body factory at Capitol Drive and Richards Street on Milwaukee’s North Side produced bodies for the Nash and American Motors companies. At its height in 1928, the factory employed 6,500 workers.… Read More

American Society for Quality

The cover page of the Industrial Quality Control Magazine volume VI number 6 is in predominantly blue color. The magazine's name is written in the biggest font. Under the title is a grayscale picture of Milwaukee's City Hall tower alongside an advertisement for the "Fourth National Convention Fifth Midwest Conference of the American Society for Quality Control," which occupies most of the cover space.
Headquartered in the former Gimbels Department Store building in downtown Milwaukee, the American Society for Quality (known as ASQ) is a professional association for over 75,000 quality assurance and quality control professionals. As of 2016, the Society had 239 sections worldwide and 185 employees. ASQ offers professional certifications, maintains the world’s largest quality-related publisher, and… Read More

Banking Industry

A grand interior photograph with multi-story ionic marble columns, windows with arched tops and metal ornamentation, and detailed ceiling designs. Flower arrangements adorn the center welcome station and the half-wall in the foreground. An open vault door is visible in the rear of the image.
The story of banking in the City of Milwaukee begins in 1836, the year that the Wisconsin Territory separated from Michigan and the year before the economic depression of 1837 caused a national crisis in banking. Newly-established banks across Wisconsin, such as the Bank of Milwaukee, failed as a result of President Andrew Jackson’s “Bank… Read More

Blatz Brewing Company

Image of a postcard featuring a colorful drawing of an aerial view of the Blatz Brewing Company offices and plant. Standing out in this picture are several tall old buildings and three industrial chimneys rising high with billowing smoke. The company logo appears on the top left corner of the postcard. Their iconic bottled beer products appear on the other three corners.
The Blatz Brewing Company was one of Milwaukee’s industrial brewing giants. Operating from 1851 to 1959, Blatz was an early innovator in bottling and national shipping, the first of the city’s national giants to sell its interests to concerns outside of the city, and the first of these giants to close its plant. The Blatz… Read More


A painted horizontal postcard illustrates a full glass of orange-colored beer with a large head of foam and a golden brown pretzel in exaggerated size. On the top right portion of the blue-colored background is inscribed "This Is What Made Milwaukee Famous." On the bottom right is "Come To It."
Brewing beer has been a central industry in Milwaukee since the mid-nineteenth century and frames the city’s identity—more than any other single industry. According to Thomas Cochran, one of the industry’s major historians, “Milwaukee’s beer became famous throughout the world within the course of the first three decades of its manufacture.” The city and the… Read More

Briggs & Stratton Corporation

A grayscale advertising page showing a long line of people demonstrating the use of a Briggs & Stratton 4-cycle engine. The ad also shows two men working in a sewer and underground passage and two working on farms using the engines. At the top left in dominant font size is inscribed "It's the Modern World We Live In! by Briggs & Stratton." On the bottom right is a tip for the engine's maintenance.
Headquartered in Milwaukee for over a century, the Briggs and Stratton Corporation began in 1908 as a partnership between inventor Stephen F. Briggs and investor Harold M. Stratton. The company initially focused on manufacturing automobile parts such as locks, igniters, and starter switches, the last of which accounted for most of the company’s business as… Read More

Bucyrus International Inc.

Grayscale high-angle shot of 52 men standing inside a massive dipper for a Bucyrus-Erie 950-B stripping shovel. Appearing in the background are abundant kinds of equipment filling the plant's interior.
No other company built as wide a variety of excavating and lifting machines as Bucyrus International, Inc. and its predecessor companies. Machines have been manufactured at its South Milwaukee plant since 1893 and from 2011 by Caterpillar Inc., which purchased Bucyrus that year. Originally founded in 1880 as the Bucyrus Foundry and Manufacturing Company at… Read More

Chain Belt Company

Grayscale photo of the Chain Belt Company's interior filled with machinery equipment and gears placed on the left and right sides of the room. An aisle is visible along the center of the room between the machines. Some men sit and some stand while working at metal lathes.
Chain Belt Company originated in the late-nineteenth century as a manufacturer of chain links designed to replace leather belts in driving large agricultural implements. Throughout the twentieth century, it diversified, improving the inner workings of machinery in a wide array of industries. The company’s success was largely attributed to the fact that its innovations were… Read More

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

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

Cudahy Brothers

In September 1906, the Cudahy Brothers plant caught fire and sustained significant damage. However, as illustrated by these images, the building was restored and running 49 days later.
Operating in the Milwaukee area from 1888 to the present, the Patrick Cudahy Corporation is one of Milwaukee’s historic meatpacking giants. The company originated in the packing firm of John Plankinton, a successful enterprise due in large part to the lucrative partnerships that he established with other budding packing moguls from the early 1850s through… Read More


Grayscale wide shot of rows of electrical controls attached to a wall from left to right. A Cutler-Hammer worker tests one of the machines while sitting in a shirt and trousers.
Originating in Chicago in 1892, Cutler-Hammer quickly relocated to Milwaukee and became one of the city’s leading business enterprises. Capitalizing on the broad use of electricity in the late nineteenth century, the company gained world renown for its electrical controls, devices that were used in everything from lamps to military aircrafts, submarines, and battleships. Like… Read More

Department Stores

A vintage sepia drawing of Gimbel Bros. Department Store's facade and surrounding area. The tall building features flapping American flags perched around the roof and rows of windows in each of its stories. The department store takes up the entire block. The picture illustrates a busy day where crowds of people walk in front of the building next to a street where streetcars and vintage cars run.
Solomon Juneau’s trading post provided the first source of commodities for locals, with indigenous peoples as its earliest customers. After land sales in the mid-1830s drew hundreds, then thousands of Americans west of Lake Michigan, an early newspaper advertisement for Juneau’s shop listed cotton cloth, blankets, hatchets, saddles, looking glasses, rifles, and flints available in… Read More


Aerial shot of Menomonee Valley in grayscale tone. The image shows a busy industrial area. Visible from afar are two long highways, crossing over two large sets of railroad tracks partially occupied by trains. Different kinds of industrial infrastructure appear in the foreground and background of the photograph. A portion of a residential area is visible on the bottom right of this photograph.
The Early Years In many ways Milwaukee is a metropolitan area typical of the industrial Midwest. The arc of its development and growth mirrors the arc of other cities in the region, including Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit. Milwaukee had its beginnings in the 1830s when a few settlers established residence on the western banks of… Read More
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