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Eight-Hour Movement

Sepia-colored wide shot of Illinois Steel employees standing in front of the rolling mill building. Most of them carry a work tool while posing for this photograph.The building is a one story rectangular brick building with a peaked roof. The building has several windows, including a circular pane in the triangular peak above the main door, which stands ajar.
An eight-hour day movement flourished for several decades after the Civil War and united thousands of Milwaukee and other American workers who otherwise differed by skill, occupation, race, gender, and ethnicity. Often working ten or twelve hours a day, workers said they needed more time for rest and to be with their families, and insisted… Read More

Falk Corporation

High-angle shot of Falk Corporation's interior in a grayscale tone shows a group of employees working with molten metal. Fire sparks splash from under giant metal buckets that hang from overhead tracks.
Situated in the heart of the Menomonee Valley, the Falk Corporation has been a fixture of Milwaukee’s industrial landscape for over 120 years. Family-owned until the late 1960s, the company developed a reputation as both “a good name in industry” and a good place to work. Focusing on the production of gears, Falk helped modernize… Read More

Flour Milling

Grayscale sketch of the Eagle Flouring Mills' facade. The building features six stories, regularly spaced windows in each story, and a chimney with billowing smoke. Two signs on the upper exterior walls read "Eagle Flouring Mills" and "John B.A. Kern & Son." The drawing shows horse-drawn vehicles and people walking in front of the building. A train passing on railroad tracks is in the left foreground. In the left background a portion of a sailing vessel is visible.
Flour milling became Milwaukee’s first manufacturing industry of note during the middle and late nineteenth century. The city’s first flour mill opened in 1844, and the rate of production increased steadily throughout the 1840s and 1850s as additional mills began operation. Despite steady growth, however, Milwaukee’s flour industry experienced its largest boom after 1870. Prior… Read More

Food Processing

Grayscale postcard illustrating Jacob Nunnemacher's distillery in three images. The dominating drawing on the upper portion of this postcard denotes a farm area. The image on the bottom left shows the distillery, and the bottom right displays rows of cows.
Throughout Milwaukee’s history, firms of different sizes preserved, processed, and packaged raw ingredients from Wisconsin farms, producing an array of foodstuffs, including alcoholic beverages, baked goods, candy, and ice cream. Many of these specialties derived from skills that pioneer settlers and later immigrants brought with them and developed over time. Production and preservation of food… Read More

Fur Trading

Sketch illustrating two cabins. One is on top of a hill between tall trees. A body of water filled with reeds flows on the bottom of the sketch. A second hut stands near the edge of the water, along with an anchored canoe. A person is paddling a canoe in the body of water.
During the early European settlement period, Milwaukee was one of several fur trading posts along the western Great Lakes. Wisconsin’s fur trade originated in the second half of the seventeenth century when the French exchanged various small but useful items for peltry and foodstuffs from indigenous men and women. By the mid-1700s, fur trading had… Read More

GE Healthcare

A white closed-bore MRI machine in a well-lighted, white room. The photo shows a long and empty patient table that is connected to the round opening of the machine. Buttons and lights circle the top of the opening.
GE Healthcare (GEHC), with major research, manufacturing, and management activities located in the Milwaukee area, is among the world’s most prominent providers of advanced healthcare technologies. Its offerings range from medical imaging (including radiography, fluorography, mammography, computed tomography, magnetic resonance, molecular imaging, and ultrasound), software and IT, patient monitoring, and diagnostic pharmaceuticals to drug discovery,… Read More


A long line of riders in Harley-Davidson parading through a street in Milwaukee. Each motorcycle has its lights on. The second rider from the front has a passenger behind him. Crisscrossing freeways and tall buildings are visible in the background.
Harley-Davidson is an international motorcycle manufacturing company with production facilities, certified dealers, and a museum all within the city of Milwaukee. Located at 37th Street and Juneau Avenue, Harley-Davidson’s corporate headquarters is not too far from the site of the first Harley-Davidson shop. In 1901, William Harley and Arthur Davidson, coworkers at a bicycle factory,… Read More

Harold Christoffel

Headshot of Harold Christoffel in grayscale tone smiling and tilting his head right in glasses and a collared shirt.
Harold R. Christoffel (1912-1991) was the chief organizer and first president of United Automobile Workers’ (UAW) Local 248 (at the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company), the largest union in the state at the time. He also helped introduce the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) to Milwaukee and was the first union leader indicted and jailed during the… Read More

Heil Company

Grayscale-colored wide shot of Heil Company's interior where war production employees are working on gasoline tanker trucks. The building's steel structures are visible.
For the better part of the twentieth century, Heil was one of Milwaukee’s major industrial enterprises and contributed to the city’s growing reputation as the “machine shop of the world.” Like many Milwaukee firms, however, Heil relocated to America’s Sunbelt states following the economic turmoil of the 1970s and 1980s. Julius Heil, a German immigrant… Read More

Ice Industry

A drawing illustrating a small group of people cutting a large sheet of ice atop a body of water into smaller blocks. Some blocks are loaded onto an inclined conveyor belt on the right. A building with the sign "Wis. Lakes Ice & Ctge. Co." is visible in the background.
Before widespread use of artificial refrigeration, ice was an important part of processing, preserving, and consuming food and beverage products. Over time, an ice industry in and around Milwaukee developed to meet local industrial and residential refrigeration needs. Southeast Wisconsin proved an ideal location for the industry because its long, cold winters and extensive river… Read More

Increase A. Lapham

Grayscale medium shot of Increase A. Lapham sitting in formal attire, facing directionally to the right behind a table. He glances at a tool he holds with left hand while examining a meteorite on the table. Two books are piled beneath the meteorite.
Increase Allen Lapham (1811-1875), self-taught naturalist, and scientist of lasting influence, arrived at frontier Milwaukee in July 1836, when he was 25. One of thirteen children of a New York Quaker family, he worked on canals in New York, Kentucky, and Ohio, where he met Byron Kilbourn. Kilbourn, founder of Kilbourntown (one of three settlements… Read More


A drawing illustrates the frontage of the Milwaukee Mechanics Mutual Insurance Company building. Some people and horse-drawn vehicles pass in front of it. The top left of the image is inscribed "13th of March, 1865." The center bottom reads "442 & 444 Market Square."
Forming in the years prior to the city’s charter, Milwaukee’s insurance industry became a key part of the city’s economy while several Milwaukee insurance firms grew into significant regional and national industry leaders. The area’s insurance companies not only provided important protection against calamitous loss of life, property, wages, and other investments, but also played… Read More

International Harvester

Aerial shot of the International Harvester plant and its surrounding area in sepia tone. The image shows the plant's building complex surrounded by fields and hills to the left and roadways surrounding scattered buildings to the right.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Wisconsin was a leading producer of farm implements. One of the major contributors to this growing industry was International Harvester, which was active in Milwaukee for nearly a century. Long before the Milwaukee plant became a part of an international conglomerate, it was Milwaukee Harvester—a local operation… Read More

Jacob F. Friedrick

Sepia-colored photograph of five men smiling in suits and ties, standing next to each other behind a wide desk. Jacob Friedrick stands second from the left in glasses looking to the right.
Jacob “Jake” Frank Friedrick (1892-1978) was a prominent labor leader and first president of the Milwaukee County Labor Council, significant public servant, and president of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents. Born in Perjamos, Hungary (now Periam, Romania), Friedrick migrated to Milwaukee with his family in 1904. Friedrick began working as a teenager,… Read More

John W. Schmitt

Grayscale photograph of John W. Schmitt in a suit and tie on the left and Jesus Salas in a collared shirt on the right. Both look at documents on the table in front of them.
John W. Schmitt (b. February 3, 1920, in Milwaukee), as president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO (1966-86), is credited with strengthening the labor federation and its impact on state policy by building grassroots political action programs. He grew up in the Depression; after army service during World War II, he worked in Milwaukee breweries, becoming… Read More

Johnson Controls

Page 4 of a book displaying the facade of the Johnson Service Company building. Dozens of vintage cars are parked near the building. The image caption reads "Main Office and Factory of Johnson Service Company Milwaukee, Wis." Written beneath is the building's location and design description.
With operational headquarters in Glendale, Johnson Controls employs 150,000 people worldwide. As of 2015, Johnson Controls remains the largest public company in Wisconsin, with $42.83 billion in revenue for fiscal year 2013-2014. In three divisions, the company manufactures automotive batteries, automobile seats, and building climate and security control systems. A 2016 merger with Tyco moved… Read More

Jones Island

High-angle shot of Jones Island wastewater treatment plant showing its infrastructure over a body of water. Appearing in the background are boats sailing on Lake Michigan.
Jones Island is a peninsula formed at the mouth of the Milwaukee River, shaped as much by the city’s development as the lake and river that surround it. With easy access to fish, wild rice, and mainland resources, the marshy strip became an important Potawatomi summer village prior to white settlement. As the frontier community… Read More

Kohl’s Corporation

A wide black and white shot of Kohl's Food Store's exterior area showcases the facade and a large parking lot. The building has two wings. Three storefront signs are attached to the wing on the right. The main Kohl's storefront has an arched roof. A tall freestanding signage reads "Kohl's" stands on the driveway entrance. A single vintage car is parked on the lot.
Kohl’s Corporation, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in suburban Menomonee Falls, operates a national chain of over 1,100 department stores. The Corporation had over $19 billion in sales in 2014. As of 2015, Kohl’s had stores in every state except Hawaii and employed a total of 137,500 people across its corporate and retail locations. Forty… Read More

Ladish Company

A grayscale advertisement features a drawing of the Ladish Drop Forge Company plant in Cudahy. Over the upper part of the drawing is inscribed "Ladish Quality Forgings." At the bottom of the poster is a description promoting the company's facilities and services.
For over one hundred years Ladish Company has engaged in the age-old practice of forging metal into a variety of finished products. Innovative application of such technology made the company one of the foremost forge shops in the country, and modernization of the basic process made Ladish a key supplier of aerospace parts. In addition,… Read More

Leather Industry

An elevated view of tanneries near the bank of the Milwaukee River in sepia. Billowing steam appears from the tanneries' roof. The water body spans the foreground. Several tall chimneys stand among the buildings.
Although now merely a shadow of itself, the production of leather and leather goods was once a key part of Milwaukee’s industrial history. The leather industry and city grew together as firms tanned, curried, and finished animal hides as well as manufactured a variety of finished products. Milwaukee matured into a leading national and international… Read More