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Alternative Medicine

Located in Waukesha, Bethesda Springs was a popular destination for people seeking to try hydropathy as a cure for their ailments.
The history of alternative medicine in Milwaukee and elsewhere is intrinsically linked to the practice of mainstream medicine. Early medicine in Milwaukee was often a gruesome affair, with bleedings and purges that offered little in the way of relief. The horrors and inadequacies of these treatments bred public distrust in the mainstream medical community. Alternative… Read More

Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital

In 2010, Columbia and St. Mary's Hospitals merged in a new facility near Milwaukee's lake front. The facility is pictured here in 2016, shortly before it was acquired by the Ascension healthcare network.
Columbia St. Mary’s is really the history of two institutions: the Catholic St. Mary’s, Wisconsin’s first hospital, and Columbia, a non-sectarian hospital focused on research and teaching. Their developments reflected the maturation of the health care industry, including the search for cost savings in the 1980s and 90s that brought them together under one roof… Read More

Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

Photograph of the modern Children's Hospital of Wisconsin building. It is part of the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center.
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin traces its history from a little house on Brady Street offering free pediatric care in the late nineteenth century to its current manifestation on the County Grounds in Wauwatosa, where it is part of the Regional Medical Center. Unique among the state’s hospitals with its exclusive focus on child care, Children’s… Read More

Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center

The current structure used by the VA Medical Center opened in 1966 and was named for Rep. Clement Zablocki in 1984. It is pictured here in 2015.
The Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center is the direct descendant of the Northwestern Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (NHDVS), established by Congress in 1865 to care for Union soldiers who had suffered disabling wounds or illnesses due to their service in the Civil War. The home was funded partly by… Read More


Barbara Franke, a waitress at Miss Katie's Diner in Milwaukee, pours boiled water into a pitcher for customers.
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


Sacred Heart Sanitarium opened in 1893 and was one of several private institutions established in Milwaukee to treat and house individuals with mental disabilities.
For much of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, care for mentally or physically disabled individuals in the United States fell largely on the immediate family. In cases where families were unable to care for disabled members, the local community sometimes provided care. In some burgeoning cities of the early nineteenth century, charitable organizations coordinated… Read More

Evangelical Deaconess Hospital

Postcard of the Evangelical Deaconess Hospital located on Wisconsin Avenue from the 1940s.
In 1909, the synod of the Evangelical Church, a predecessor of the United Church of Christ, founded a Deaconess Society in the German tradition that called on Christian Sisters to offer hospital care to Milwaukee’s sick and needy. The fifteen-bed unit established by the Society in 1910 on what is now West Wisconsin Avenue grew… Read More

Froedtert Hospital

Froedert Hospital, right, forms part of the Milwaukee Regional Medical center, along with Children's Hospital of Wisconsin and the Medical College of Wisconsin.
The centerpiece of the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center, Froedtert Hospital serves as the teaching affiliate of the Medical College of Wisconsin. Froedtert opened in 1980 after nearly three decades of often halting planning that revolved around the trust left by Milwaukee malt baron Kurtis R. Froedtert. A latecomer to Milwaukee’s health care scene, Froedtert Hospital,… Read More

Health Care Delivery

Homeopathy was a popular form of health care in nineteenth-century Milwaukee. This book, designed for the "non-practitioner" and "young professional," was published in 1862.
The integrated health care systems that currently dominate health care provision in Milwaukee were created in the last decade of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first. Before the many mergers and acquisitions that formed them, health care was provided by many small independent providers. In 1988, there were twenty distinctive community… Read More

Johnston Emergency Hospital

Photograph of the entrance of Johnston Emergency Hospital. This building was used from 1894 until 1931, when the hospital moved to a new location on the south side of Milwaukee.
Johnston Emergency Hospital, established by the city of Milwaukee, opened in its permanent location on the corner of Third and Sycamore (now Michigan) Street in 1894. It provided emergency medical care in a twenty-four-bed facility. The hospital earned a place in history on October 14, 1912, when a would-be assassin shot presidential candidate Teddy Roosevelt… Read More

Milwaukee County General Hospital

View of Milwaukee County General Hospital from Wisconsin Avenue taken in 1986.
For over 130 years, Milwaukee County provided health care at the county grounds in Wauwatosa. What began as poor relief for the area’s growing population in the nineteenth century developed into Milwaukee County General Hospital, a core institution within the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center. In 1995 rising costs and other challenges led to its privatization.… Read More

Mount Sinai Hospital

Postcard created between 1907 and 1930 featuring Mount Sinai Hospital in Milwaukee.
The only Wisconsin Jewish hospital opened in Milwaukee in June 1903. It was founded as a nonsectarian hospital at a time when most private religious hospitals established hospitals for their religious communities. Although the Jewish community in Milwaukee opened the hospital to treat the large Jewish immigrant population, many of whom arrived with very little… Read More

Nursing Education

Five recent graduates of the St. Joseph's Hospital nursing program pose with their degrees in 1915.
Formal nursing education in the United States had its beginnings in the late 1800s, after Florence Nightingale suggested a model for schools in England. Schools proliferated as hospitals needed nurses to care for the patients. Milwaukee was no different. The first Milwaukee schools were established in 1888 as the Wisconsin Training School for Nurses and… Read More

Public Health

Seven siblings stand in line while waiting to receive their polio vaccination from a nurse in 1955.
Milwaukee has proven exceptional in its reform-minded approach to public health since it established a Board of Health in 1867. Later efforts to improve public health began after the city’s rapid population growth in the late nineteenth century (by 1910 Milwaukee was the twelfth largest city in the United States, with a population of 373,857).… Read More

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… Read More