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Gemütlichkeit

In August 1980, Usinger's Famous Sausage celebrated its 100th year of business with a block party.
“Gemütlichkeit” is a term mostly untranslated by contemporary U.S. American observers, although it is sometimes interpreted as “geniality.” It is a character trait that Germans and in particular German-Americans defined as specific to themselves. “Gemütlichkeit” can include any number of activities, generally revolving around having fun: relaxing, enjoying beer and (German) food, music, and dance… Read More

George W. Peck

Portrait of George W. Peck. Peck served as Milwaukee's mayor in 1890 before being elected as Wisconsin's governor, a position he held for four years.
George Wilbur Peck bridged major developments in the cultural and political maturation of Milwaukee and Wisconsin in the late nineteenth century. The oldest of three children, Peck was born in Henderson, New York on September 28, 1840. He moved with his family to Cold Spring, Wisconsin where he left school as a teenager to learn… Read More

German Fest

Musicians dressed in traditional German garb perform at German Fest in 2007.
German Fest, one of many ethnic celebrations in Milwaukee, honors the city’s rich German cultural heritage. When then-Milwaukee mayor Henry Maier challenged the city’s local German groups to create a German gathering akin to other ethnic festivals being organized at the time, they responded by forming German Fest. Their primary goal was to promote German… Read More

Gertie the Duck

In 1945, Gertie the Duck became a national sensation after laying eggs in an old piling near the Wisconsin Avenue bridge. Gertie and four of her eggs are pictured here.
In the spring of 1945, as World War II slowly ground toward Allied victory, a duck laid a clutch of nine eggs on a piling near the Wisconsin Avenue bridge. The eggs’ precarious perch alarmed watchful bridgetenders and attracted the attention of Milwaukee Journal outdoor reporter Gordon MacQuarrie. Over the next two months, his lively… Read More

Great Circus Parade

A carriage drawn by a team of ponies turns onto State Street in Milwaukee in 1964.
Perhaps it is no surprise that in a city made famous by beer, Schlitz Brewing brought the circus to the streets of Milwaukee by sponsoring the first Great Circus Parade in 1963. As a fundraiser for the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, the Great Circus Parade featured animals, circus wagons, marching bands, wagons, clowns,… Read More

Harley-Davidson Museum

2006 photograph of the Harley Davidson Museum under construction in the Menomonee Valley.
Opened in 2008, the Harley-Davidson Museum celebrates one of Milwaukee’s most famous businesses. Exhibits on the second floor chronicle the company’s rise from a two-person partnership to a multinational corporation, as well as its rich racing history. Displays on the ground floor emphasize the company’s influence on popular culture. The museum’s construction reflected a revitalization… Read More

Holiday Folk Fair International

Men and women dressed in traditional costumes stand outside holding a banner during the Holiday Folk Fair.
Sponsored by the INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF WISCONSIN, the Holiday Folk Fair International seeks to help all citizens of Milwaukee “appreciate the Old World culture” and to “further a better understanding and appreciation of our neighbors.” The first Holiday Folk Fair took place at the Wisconsin Electric PUBLIC SERVICE BUILDING on December 10, 1944. It was… Read More

Indian Summer Festival

Traditional Native American dances are a central aspect of Indian Summer Festival, as seen here in 2015.
Held at Henry Maier Festival Park on Milwaukee’s lakefront each September, the Indian Summer Festival is one of the largest celebrations of Native American culture in the United States. Approximately 45,000 people attend this three day event. Butch Roberts, a Milwaukee police detective and an Oneida Nation member, started the festival in 1986 to celebrate… Read More

Irish Fest

This colorful poster commemorates the inaugural Irish Fest held in Milwaukee in 1981. Each annual festival has its own uniquely designed poster.
Initially inspired by the success of Festa Italiana, Irish Fest blossomed into a world-renowned celebration of Irish culture and heritage. Local Irish musician and president of the Shamrock Club, Ed Ward, led the way in organizing the first Irish Fest in 1981, which met with strong community support. The festival grew to include not only… Read More

Jewish Museum Milwaukee

The Jewish Museum Milwaukee is located on Prospect Avenue just north of the city's downtown. It is committed to preserving and exploring the history of the Jewish community in Southeastern Wisconsin.
The Jewish Museum Milwaukee (JMM), a program of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation (MJF), has its roots in 1986, when Clarice Resnick and Kathleen Bernstein established the Milwaukee Jewish Archives (later Historical Society), which collected personal documents, institutional records, photographs, and artifacts. When the MJF undertook a capital campaign to modernize its buildings, plans included a… Read More

Ko-Thi Dance Company

Ferne Caulker-Bronson, pictured here, founded the Ko-Thi Dance Company in 1969.
Performing traditional African, African-American, and Caribbean dances, Ko-Thi Dance Company aspires to bridge the cultural gap between western and non-western peoples. The company’s founder, Sierra Leone native Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker studied with the National Dance Company at the University of Ghana in the late 1960s. After finishing research in Ghana, she opened the Ko-Thi Dance… Read More

League of Milwaukee Artists

Along with classes and exhibitions, the League of Milwaukee Artists periodically hosts outdoor painting competitions, like this one atop the MSOE Grohmann Museum.
The League of Milwaukee Artists (LMA) was founded in 1944. The original members of the LMA were local artists Ted Kraynik, Rosemary Kraynik, Annette Hirsch, Jack Weaver, Jack Madison, Mary Gerstein, Jack Friedman, Sam Bernfeldt, Dick Ells, Clarence Bohn, and Melvin Tess, but its most famous founder was the acclaimed artist Fred Berman. Friedman served… Read More

Les Paul

Legendary guitarist Les Paul performs in New York City in the 1980s.
Les Paul changed the nature of twentieth century popular music by inventing the Gibson Les Paul electric guitar and his innovative work in recording studios. The “Wizard of Waukesha” was born Lester William Polsfuss in June 1915 in Waukesha, Wisconsin. While he was at Waukesha High School, his orchestra, the “Red Hot Ragtime Band,” played… Read More

Liberace

Liberace poses for a photograph in 1968.
Wladziu Liberace, or “Mr. Showmanship,” once said, “don’t be misled by this flamboyant exterior. Underneath I remain the same—a simple boy from Milwaukee.” He was born in West Allis in 1919 to a Polish-Italian family and, when he was four, began playing the piano. Liberace quickly outpaced his family’s basic piano lessons and began his… Read More

Literary Milwaukee

Built in 1896, the Germania Building downtown once served as the headquarters of the Brumder Publishing Company.
Looking Back The history of literature in Milwaukee can be traced back to nineteenth century German immigrants. During this time, Germans published a variety of newspapers and periodicals. The Wisconsin Banner, edited by Moritz Schoeffler in 1844, was the first German-language newspaper in Milwaukee. The Sentinel started a German paper (which became The Banner und… Read More

Lynden Sculpture Garden

"Trio" by George Sugarman, 1972-1973 is one of the many outdoor sculptures visitors to the Lynden Sculpture Garden can see.
The Lynden Sculpture Garden (formerly the Bradley Sculpture Garden) is an outdoor sculpture garden located at 2145 West Brown Deer Road. The forty-acre property is home to over fifty sculptures, a three-acre lake, gardens, woodlands, and a renovated 1860s farmhouse. The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation administers the garden. In 1928, Harry Lynde Bradley, co-founder… Read More

Mary Nohl

Mary Nohl's home in Fox Point, with its collection of original sculptures, is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mary Louise Nohl was one of the most important local artists in Milwaukee’s history. Nohl was born in Milwaukee on September 6, 1914, to Leo and Emma Nohl. She showed her creativity from an early age by building small structures with discarded materials—including old toys and clothes—that other people considered junk. She also participated in… Read More

Memory

This Civil War monument, entitled "The Victorious Charge," is located on the west end of Milwaukee's Court of Honor on Wisconsin Avenue. It was dedicated in 1898.
Milwaukee’s history is layered into its residents’ everyday lives. They commute to work on streets named for long-gone pioneer roads—Watertown Plank Road, to name one—or noted places or people, like National Avenue, named for the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (the old home for Civil War soldiers established in 1867 that looms over the… Read More

Mexican Fiesta

Men and women wearing costumes and carrying flags parade down the street at part of Mexican Fiesta in 1984.
Mexican Fiesta is a three day celebration of Mexican and Hispanic culture held on the third weekend of August at the Milwaukee Summerfest Grounds. Mexican Fiesta was originally organized in 1973 by LULAC Council #9990 as a street festival to celebrate Mexican Independence and raise money for Latino students pursuing a college education. In 1977… Read More

Milwaukee Art Museum

Photograph featuring a profile view of the Milwaukee Art Museum.
The Milwaukee Art Museum is the largest art museum in Wisconsin. The 341,000 square-foot museum is home to 30,000 works; its world-renowned collections include strengths in “American decorative arts, German Expressionist works, folk and Haitian art, and American art after 1960.” While the institution’s current manifestation as the Milwaukee Art Museum is relatively new, dating… Read More