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Showing 1-20 of 28 entries

Airports and Air Transportation

Aviator Charles K. Hamilton landed the first airplane in Milwaukee at the Wisconsin State Fair in 1906.
Since the early 1900s, airports have served as a site for recreation, commercial travel, and the transportation of goods. Today, General Mitchell International dominates Milwaukee air travel, but other small airports serve the area as well. The first flight in Milwaukee is believed to have been made at the Wisconsin State Fair on September 10,…
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A 1970 photograph of an alley near Park Place and Bartlett Avenue showing parked automobiles and utility wires.
Alleys have been part of the infrastructure of the City of Milwaukee and several of its surrounding towns from their founding. The 1846 Charter of the City of Milwaukee gave it authority “to lay out new highways, streets, alleys[,] and public walks.” Milwaukee developed a grid pattern of city streets already common in other eastern…
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Billy Mitchell

Portrait of Brigadier General Billy Mitchell
General William “Billy” Mitchell (1879-1936) was both a celebrated and polarizing figure during his career as a US Army officer. After World War I he championed military aviation. His fierce advocacy brought him into conflict with other military leaders, ultimately leading to his court martial. He has been posthumously praised for his vision and widely…
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This 1924 photograph shows the Lincoln Avenue Bridge over the Kinnickinnic River.
Three rivers—the MILWAUKEE RIVER, MENOMONEE RIVER, and the KINNICKINNIC RIVER—run through Milwaukee and converge DOWNTOWN. Because they forge connections across the natural barriers of rivers, bridges have facilitated transportation and commercial activity. But their construction and use also sparked conflict throughout the city’s history. Milwaukee pioneers SOLOMON JUNEAU, BYRON KILBOURN, and GEORGE WALKER competed fiercely…
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Building Regulations

Building regulations, such as housing codes, categorized and quantified physical characteristics of structures in Milwaukee. This building, from the 1400 block of North 6th Street, was in such poor condition that it was razed soon after this photograph was taken in 1947.
As in other nineteenth century North American cities, Milwaukee’s earliest regulations dealt with the risk of fire. Destructive fires in the 1840s and 1850s led the city to prohibit the construction of wooden buildings in the central business district and to regulate the design and construction of chimneys, hearths, ovens, and boilers. Concerns about health,…
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County Roads

This 1927 map shows state and county trunk highways in Milwaukee County.
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…
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Photograph featuring a bridge at the Seventeenth Street dock of the Milwaukee Western Fuel Company in 1942. The bridge is used for unloading coal from ships and loading it into cars and hoppers.
Energy has many different forms. Over the years, businesses and homes in the Milwaukee region have relied on a broad variety of energy types to fuel daily activities, from illuminating, heating and cooling homes, for travel and transport, and for manufacturing and commercial activities. Energy has the remarkable quality that it can be neither created…
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This undated photograph shows the relationship between freeway development and Milwaukee's urban fabric.
The Milwaukee freeway system, for the past 50 years, has served as the backbone of commuter and commercial traffic in MILWAUKEE COUNTY and southeastern Wisconsin. Contrary to urban myth, the system was built with democracy as a central characteristic. Engineers did not develop the system without public input or implement it over the objections of…
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A garbage crematory next to a life-saving station on the Milwaukee lakefront.
At the time of Milwaukee’s founding as three separate communities, the concept of “garbage” did not exist in the way we think of it today. Household wastes such as digestive products were deposited in privy vaults, food remains were composted or fed to family hogs or chickens, and firewood ash was either used for soap…
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Henry Clay Payne

Portrait of Henry C. Payne, 1843-1904.
  Henry Clay Payne (November 23, 1843-October 4, 1904) played an instrumental role in Milwaukee’s late 19th century commercial and political development. Born in Massachusetts and rejected from military service, he moved to Milwaukee in his teens, working as a shop clerk and insurance salesman before entering politics. He led the Milwaukee Young Republicans and…
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Interurban Transit

The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company expanded its interurban transit lines west toward Oconomowoc in 1907.
During the early years of the twentieth century, residents of greater Milwaukee were not immune from “interurban madness” that swept much of the United States, being especially intense in the Midwest. Once individuals, investors, and others grasped the potential of electric intercity railways, they recognized the advantages of this alternative to steam railroads for passenger…
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This 1980 photograph shows a portion of a landfill in Germantown that closed in 1989.
As in all communities, Milwaukee residents have always needed to dispose of the GARBAGE they produced. One disposal method that transforms the metropolitan landscape is sanitary landfills—sites where garbage is dumped into trenches and covered with soil. At times the use of landfills brought the city of Milwaukee into conflict with both neighboring and distant…
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The Wind Point Lighthouse, north of Racine, remains active due to the combined efforts of the Village of Wind Point, the US Coast Guard, and a local nonprofit organization.
As industrial and agricultural development spurred trade in the nineteenth century, cities along Lake Michigan became major shipping ports. Lighthouses aided navigation and improved maritime safety as lake traffic increased. Although modern navigation tools made most lighthouses obsolete, many are still maintained for educational purposes. Built in 1838, Milwaukee’s first lighthouse was intended to mark…
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Mass Transit

People wait for a streetcar in this 1932 photograph showing a station, the tracks embedded in the street, and the electrical network overhead.
According to transit historian Zachary Schrag, mass transit “generally refers to scheduled intra-city service on a fixed route in shared vehicles.” Since 1860, opposing political and economic forces significantly shaped the provision of transit in the Milwaukee metropolitan region. These forces included changes in available and economically viable technologies, advocates for public versus private ownership,…
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Milorganite was produced through the activated sludge process developed at the Jones Island Treatment Plant. This 1981 photograph shows the pump and mixing channel.
Milorganite is a commercial fertilizer made by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) from the bacterial remains of the wastewater treatment process. Before the twentieth century, Milwaukeeans disposed of sewage in area waterways. After many years of debate over sanitation, the Milwaukee Sewerage Commission was created in 1913 to address the problem. The Commission’s first…
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Nelson P. Hawks

An 1884 photograph of the inn Nelson Hawks built in Delafield in 1846. Listed on the National Register of Historic Sites, the building is now used as a historical museum.
Upon opening the Hawks Inn in 1846, Nelson Page Hawks became one of DELAFIELD’s most prominent early settlers. Born in 1803, the entrepreneur transplanted his family to Wisconsin Territory from upstate New York in 1837 after working as a cabinet-maker, mechanic, inventor, merchandiser, and stagecoach manager.  Following a brief stay in Milwaukee operating the Fountain…
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North Point Water Tower

Photograph of the North Point Water Tower in 1985 with a temporary dragon sculpture mounted on it.
Opened in 1874, the North Point Water Tower encased a wrought iron standpipe to prevent ice from forming in the pipe. The standpipe relieved surges in water pressure from the North Point Pumping Station, which provided 16 million gallons of water daily to satisfy Milwaukee’s need for clean water. Charles A. Gombert designed the Victorian…
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Public Service Building

Postcard of the Public Service Building in 1908. The Public Service Building was a hub of Milwaukee's twentieth century transportation and electricity infrastructure.
The Public Service Building, designed by Herman J. Esser, opened in 1905 in order to coordinate Milwaukee’s transportation and energy provisions. The Beaux-Arts Neoclassical structure functioned as the MILWAUKEE ELECTRIC RAILWAY AND LIGHT COMPANY’S main office, central terminal, and training facility. The company’s horsecar and, later, electric streetcar network served Milwaukee’s neighborhoods and suburbs until…
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Railroad tracks continue to criss-cross the Milwaukee area, as revealed in this 1975 photograph of the intersection of Brown Deer Road and Highway 100.
As the Railway Age developed, Milwaukee enthusiastically welcomed the iron horse. Boosters recognized that participation in the emerging national network of railroads could provide local farmers and manufacturers access to wide markets and bring desirable goods and immigrants to the city, bolstering its economic growth. But the city failed to emerge as the railroad mecca…
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Roads and Streets

Men working on building the road at North 7th Street and West Wells in this 1913 photograph.
Generally, roads link distant places together, while streets provide access within a community. Before Europeans came to the Milwaukee area, Indian trails served as the way to travel from one place to another. They provided routes between what would later become cities and towns, like WAUKESHA to EAGLE or WEST BEND to PORT WASHINGTON. Many…
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