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Frank Zeidler

Grayscale photograph of Mayor Frank Zeidler signing a Book of Remembrance behind a desk. Members of the Zionist Organization of America stand near him while looking at the book. The room interior is visible in the background. An American flag appears on the left back.
Frank Paul Zeidler (September 20, 1912-July 7, 2006) was the forty-first mayor of Milwaukee, serving from April 20, 1948 to April 18, 1960. His successful tenure coincided with the last dynamic period of growth in Milwaukee. While the post of mayor is nonpartisan, he is known as the last Socialist mayor of a major American… Read More

Fusion Party

A headshot of Gerhard Bading in grayscale tone. Bading looks directly at the camera lens in his notched lapel suit.
To blunt the potential of a labor candidate for mayor in 1888, Milwaukee Republicans and Democrats successfully merged their interests through a unity or fusion ticket. A similar tactic was used in 1908 within several aldermanic campaigns. Then immediately after SOCIALIST EMIL SEIDEL won the 1910 mayoral election, the Milwaukee Sentinel prophetically called for unity… Read More


Two newspaper clippings appear side by side. One on the left is titled "Are An Organized Gang." The right reads "Gang of Boy Burglars" with the subheading "Depredation of Appleton Lead to Belief That Organized Crowd Are Working There--Seen by Woman."
Gangs, once called “boy gangs” to distinguish them from adult criminal gangs, have been a feature of urban America since the nineteenth century. The notion of gangs has always raised a number of issues, including race and ethnicity, economic opportunity, criminal behavior, and ultimately political decisions regarding the use of resources to address gangs as… Read More

George H. Walker

Grayscale medium shot of George Walker in an oval frame. Walker dresses in formal attire. He faces slightly to the left. The photo appears yellowish.
George H. Walker was one of three prominent nineteenth-century founders of Milwaukee, along with Solomon Juneau and Byron Kilbourn. Born on October 22, 1811 in Lynchburg, Virginia, Walker first moved westward as a young teenager when he migrated to Gallatin, Illinois with his family. Then, in early 1834 he headed for Milwaukee and settled on… Read More

Greater Milwaukee Committee

High-angle shot showing the construction of the Milwaukee Arena. Grandstands appear from inside the unfinished building. A truck drives out of the building. Planks and girders lay on the ground. Milwaukee's downtown buildings are in the background, including the County Courthouse on the right and the Wisconsin Gas Building on the left.
Founded at the end of World War II, the Greater Milwaukee Committee’s (GMC) roots lie in the creation of the 1948 Corporation, a group of businessmen initially led by Richard Herzfeld, president of the Boston Store, and Irwin Maier, president of the Milwaukee Journal. They were concerned by the physical and economic conditions of downtown… Read More

Harold Breier

Grayscale medium shot of Harold Breier in glasses and notched lapel suit. He poses in an upright body posture and direct eye contact with the camera lens showing an expression of confidence.
Harold Breier (1911-1998) was Milwaukee’s chief of police from 1964 to 1984, one of the longest tenures of chiefs of Milwaukee’s police department. He joined the department in 1940 at the age of twenty-nine. In 1943, after a brief stint in patrol, he became an acting detective and subsequently rose through the detective ranks until… Read More

Henry S. Reuss

Grayscale photograph of four men in formal attire standing behind President John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office. Representative Henry Reuss in glasses stands second from the right. President Kennedy smiles as he signs the document on the desk. A man sits on the far left with his body facing the President. A pole with an American flag appears around the center back. Light emanates through the three curtained windows in the background.
Born on Milwaukee’s North Side in 1912, Reuss utilized his Harvard law degree locally before serving in Europe during World War Two. Afterwards, he turned his attention to electoral politics, enduring several unsuccessful city and state campaigns. In 1954, Reuss finally won Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional seat. Achievements in his twenty-eight year House career included advocating… Read More

Henry W. Maier

Medium shot of Henry W. Maier smiling in a formal attire while sitting behind a table facing directionally to the camera lens. He poses in a writing position with right hand holding a pen and left hand on top of a document.
Henry W. Maier (1918-1994), Milwaukee’s longest serving mayor, led the city from 1960 to 1988. Born Henry Walter Nelke in Dayton, Ohio, Maier was raised by his maternal grandparents and moved to Milwaukee to join his mother and her second husband Charles Maier after high school. Taking his stepfather’s last name, Maier attended the University… Read More

Home Rule

Headshot drawing of Henry Smith facing directionally to the left.
The complex relationship between Milwaukee and state authorities has been a standing issue throughout the city’s history. The founding generation, focused as they were upon economic and infrastructure development, frequently sought state authority to expand the powers of the city charter as well as for state and federal subsidies for railroads, roadways, the port, and… Read More

Iron Ring

A map of Milwaukee County shows the areas of the suburban municipalities that surround the city of Milwaukee. Each area is marked by the municipalities' names written in large fonts. The map also displays lines symbolizing various types of roadways, railroads, public facilities, and the state, county, and civil town boundaries, among others.
As used in Southeastern Wisconsin, the phrase “Iron Ring” refers to the suburban municipalities that surround the city of Milwaukee and prevent it from annexing new territory. Suburbs abutting Milwaukee emerged primarily in two waves: the first from 1879 to 1919 and the second during the 1950s and 1960s, a movement greatly advantaged by passage… Read More

John Mitchell

A painted portrait of John Mitchell from the chest up in a glasses and notched lapel suit. His face gazes to the right.
Only son of financier Alexander Mitchell and father of aviator William “Billy” Mitchell, John Lendrum Mitchell (1842-1904) was a prominent banker, Civil War veteran, philanthropist, and legislator. A self-described farmer, Mitchell’s interests included scientific agriculture, horse breeding, social reform, literature, and art, all of which he pursued at his Milwaukee-area estate Meadowmere. Mitchell was a… Read More

Joseph McCarthy

Grayscale headshot of Joseph McCarthy in a notched lapel suit and tie looking straight to the camera lens.
Republican Senator Joseph Raymond McCarthy (1908-1957) grew up on a farm near Appleton, Wisconsin. He moved to Milwaukee in 1930 to attend Marquette University, where he studied engineering and law. A mediocre scholar, McCarthy was active in student government, debate, and men’s boxing. He graduated with a law degree in 1935. He worked a long… Read More

Joshua Glover

An elongated mural on the I-43 overpass wall in Milwaukee displays caricatural images of people running from slavery. Drawn on the wall, is a figure of a man holding a protest sign that reads "Free Joshua Glover Now" while parading Glover on his shoulder.
Joshua Glover was an escaped Missouri slave. In 1852 he settled in Racine working at a nearby sawmill. On the night of March 10, 1854, a posse consisting of two federal marshals, Glover’s former master (Benammi Garland), and four other men broke into his home and arrested him under the authority of the Fugitive Slave… Read More

Lady Elgin

A sketch showcases the Lady Elgin docked in a body of water with many passengers filling its open deck areas. Behind the ship and its funnel are Chicago buildings of different sizes.
In one of the worst maritime disasters in the history of the Great Lakes, the steamship Lady Elgin sank off the coast of northern Illinois during the early hours of September 8, 1860. The ship left Milwaukee late on September 6 bound for a political rally in Chicago with approximately four hundred passengers on board,… Read More

Land Use and Planning

A panoramic view of Milwaukee's Riverwalk. A long metal fence with regularly spaced lighting poles separates the Milwaukee River on the left and a pedestrian area on the right. A directional signpost stands on top of the fence in the foreground.
Several distinct phases in land use and planning are apparent throughout Milwaukee’s history. Informal and “special purpose” planning dominated the city’s early decades, followed in the Progressive Era by creation of formal planning bodies that guided growth and redevelopment for the first half of the twentieth century. Lastly, attempts at both regional planning and central… Read More

Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee

Group photo of the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee members in an indoor space at their downtown office. Six people sit on a black L-shaped couch. Three members stand behind the couch on the left and two on the right. They smile while making direct eye contact with the camera lens. Two paintings hang on the white wall behind.
The Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee is one of America’s oldest, continuously-operating law firms providing free legal services to the poor. Its creation was suggested in a 1910 letter from Professor John R. Commons, renowned University of Wisconsin economist, to Victor L. Berger, Milwaukee alderman-at-large and head of the Socialist Party. When successive bills in… Read More

Legal Landmarks

Sepia-colored headshot of Sherman Booth in an oval frame. Booth poses in formal attire and makes eye contact with the camera lens.
Milwaukee has generated many social movements and controversies throughout its history. The following controversies have produced legal changes of lasting importance. The Booth Cases (1854-60): In 1850, the U.S. Congress enacted a Fugitive Slave Act that imposed harsh penalties on persons who helped slaves escape to freedom. The Act was deeply unpopular in Milwaukee and… Read More

Legal Profession and Services

Long shot of a group of lawyers filling a courtroom, facing left while raising their right hands to take an oath. A long bench is on the farthest left in the foreground. On the center is a lawyer in a wheelchair with one leg up.
Lawyers appeared in Milwaukee almost simultaneously with the first settlers: Hans Crocker (1836), John H. Tweedy (1840), future Wisconsin Supreme Court justice Abram Smith (1842), and William Pitt Lynde (1843) were the first Milwaukee attorneys admitted to practice before the Territorial Supreme Court. Law in early Milwaukee, as elsewhere in frontier America, was a highly… Read More

Lloyd Augustus Barbee

Photograph of Lloyd Barbee walking past a meeting table full of people sitting in formal attire with papers on the conference table in front of them. Near the top right of this grayscale image is a man working on a professional video camera that seems to be used to record the meeting. Barbee turns his back on these people while holding what looks like a large cardboard. He wears a dark suit and tie and round glasses.
Lloyd Barbee (1925-2002), born in Memphis, came to Milwaukee in 1962. An African American attorney committed to equal rights for all, in 1973 Barbee began a sustained drive to integrate Milwaukee’s racially segregated public schools. The Barbee-led movement of blacks and whites used educational picketing, marches, non-violent civil disobedience, and three school boycott campaigns, but… Read More


Street map of Milwaukee County and Waukesha County. Municipal boundaries are marked by different colors. The map shows the location of parks, shopping centers, golf courses, schools, freeway flyer parks, hospitals, and highways in the two counties. Bold red lines demarcate postal zones.
“Metropolitanization” can reference a perception, a behavior, or a process. As one moves north, south, or west from the central business district (CBD) of Milwaukee, a seemingly endless landscape of shopping malls and housing districts provides an “urban” definition to what we are seeing, until one reaches less developed areas in Ozaukee, Racine, and western… Read More