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Marshall & Ilsley Bank

Construction workers hoist the final steel beam of the downtown M&I Bank Building into place in 1967.
Founded in 1847, Marshall & Ilsley Bank, or M&I, was Milwaukee’s oldest and largest bank before being acquired by Toronto-based BMO Harris Bank in 2011. At the time of acquisition, M&I had $49.6 billion in assets, making it the largest Wisconsin-based bank. From headquarters at 770 North Water Street, the bank employed 9,100 people, nearly…
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Master Lock Company, LLC

Master Lock padlocks are being loaded onto a train in the twentieth century.
Headquartered in Oak Creek, Master Lock Company, LLC, is a subsidiary of Illinois-based Fortune Brands Home and Security, Inc. The Master Lock Company, including its Master Lock, American Lock, and SentrySafe brands, had net sales of $552 million in 2015. At its height in the 1980s and 1990s, Master Lock employed 1,300 workers at its…
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1909 photograph of the R. Gumz & Company and the F.C. Gross Brothers Company meatpacking facilities located on the old intersection of N. Muskego Avenue and Canal Street.
Although now much smaller in scale, meatpacking was one of Milwaukee’s leading industries through much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the most prominent form of food processing in the city. The industry and city grew together as firms slaughtered, processed, and packaged livestock—particularly hogs and cattle—from hinterland farms, distributing products for regional, national,…
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MGIC Investment Corporation

Photograph of the uniquely designed MGIC building taken in 2006. The building forms an upside down pyramid, with each floor constructed to be bigger than the one below it.
MGIC Investment Corporation is the publicly traded parent company of the Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation (MGIC). With roughly 550 Milwaukee-based employees and offices throughout the country, MGIC is the one of the nation’s largest private mortgage insurers. Despite losses due to the subprime mortgage crisis of the early twenty-first century, MGIC has reemerged profitable. The…
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Miller Brewing Company

Postcard advertising Miller Brewing Company's Miller High Life beer.
The Miller Brewing Company is one of Milwaukee’s historic brewing giants, operating in the city from 1855 to the present. A relatively late bloomer compared to other local rivals, Miller was an important innovator in national beer marketing, a significant developer of light beer, and the last of the city’s brewing giants remaining from the…
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Milwaukee Area Labor Council

With the backing of the Milwaukee Labor Council, the Milwaukee 248 Meat Cutters Union went on strike against eight different meatpacking companies.
The Milwaukee Area Labor Council (MALC) traces its roots to the late nineteenth century and the affiliation of Milwaukee trade unions to the then newly-formed American Federation of Labor (AFL). As of 2015, 52,000 union members from over 140 Milwaukee locals in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, and Washington counties affiliate under the umbrella of the MALC. Waukesha…
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North Chicago Rolling Mill and Illinois Steel

39 employees pose for a photograph at the Bay View Rolling Mill. This photo was taken in 1886, the year of the large and deadly workers' strike.
For just over sixty years, three companies, Milwaukee Iron Company, the North Chicago Rolling Mill, and the Illinois Steel Company operated successively at the same site in Bay View. Called colloquially the Bay View Rolling Mill, these companies produced iron and steel products for customers nationwide, played key roles in Milwaukee’s industrial growth, and employed…
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Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company

Photograph of the new Northwestern Mutual Insurance Tower and Commons, which opened in 2017.
Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company is one of Milwaukee’s largest corporations, and among the largest life insurance providers, real estate investors, and financial services enterprises in the United States. Maintaining its headquarters in downtown Milwaukee since 1859, the company grew along with the city over time, becoming one of its largest employers and a significant…
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Pabst Brewing Company

Postcard featuring the Pabst Brewing Company production plant.
The Pabst Brewing Company, an early innovator in national beer marketing and production, was one of Milwaukee’s industrial brewing giants, operating in Milwaukee from 1844 to 1996, and the largest brewer in the United States for a much of the late nineteenth century. The company originated as the pioneer brewery of Jacob Best, Sr. and…
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Paul Grottkau

Drawing of Paul Grottkau, circa 1886, by Frederic Heath.
Though he spent less than ten years in Milwaukee, Paul Grottkau (b. 1846, Berlin [Germany], d. 1898, Milwaukee) may have had more impact on the early development of the Milwaukee labor movement than anyone. Employed as a mason in Germany, he became a union leader and outspoken Socialist and was arrested for his writings. In…
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Pfister & Vogel Leather Company

Photograph of the Pfister & Vogel Tanning Company on Water Street taken in 1978.
Tanning magnates Guido Pfister and Frederick Vogel, Sr. migrated separately to the United States from the German Kingdom of Württemberg in the mid-1840s. Both worked briefly at the tannery of Vogel’s cousin in Buffalo, New York, before moving to Milwaukee in 1847. In Milwaukee, Pfister opened a leather retail store on Market Street Square and…
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Port Milwaukee

In this 1975 aerial photograph, the docks of the outer harbor at Port Milwaukee can be seen on the east (or right-hand) side of Jones Island and the inner harbor on the west (or left-hand) side of the island.  The smoke, left of center, is arising from the sewerage treatment plant, with I-794 cutting lengthwise south to north along the island leading to the Hoan Bridge.
By its very name, Milwaukee references a location intimately tied to the three waterways that course their way through inland expanses before emptying into Lake Michigan. During the Native American era as well as in the early American settlement days, the Milwaukee River, subsequent to its confluence with the Menomonee, angled southward, separated from Lake…
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Printing Industry

Workers running presses at Milwaukee Journal in this 1947 photograph.
Tied largely to newspaper and magazine publishing, Milwaukee’s printing industry formed in the decade prior to the city’s charter and matured into one of the city’s largest industries, becoming a national industry center through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In 1836, Daniel Richards established Milwaukee’s first printing operation near the current corner of Old World…
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Just prior to prohibition going into effect, Mader's Restaurant released this advertisement encouraging people to stock up on liquor and beer.
Due to efforts by the temperance movement in general and groups like the Anti-Saloon League in particular, alcohol consumption became a political issue following the American Civil War. Aided by growing anti-German sentiment following the outbreak of World War One, the prohibition movement—or a ban on the production, sale, importation, and transportation of alcohol—gained support…
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Now a printing industry leader, Quad/Graphics began as a small enterprise in a vacant factory in Pewaukee in 1971.
Headquartered in Sussex, Quad/Graphics is an international printing giant, focused primarily on magazine and catalogue printing, with multiple plants in the Milwaukee area. Operating from 1971 to the present, Quad/Graphics was a relatively late-bloomer in Milwaukee’s printing industry but became a national industry leader in the late-twentieth century. After graduating from Columbia Law School, Harry…
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Regal Ware Worldwide

Regal Ware employees are gathered together for a group photograph inside the Kewaskum factory.
A privately owned producer of aluminum and stainless steel cookware, Regal Ware Worldwide is headquartered in Washington County. The company employs about 300 workers at its corporate and manufacturing facilities in Kewaskum and West Bend. In 2014, over half of Regal Ware’s sales of its American-made products were in foreign markets. Founded by James O.…
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Rexnord Corporation

The Rexnord Corporation came about due to a merger in the 1970 and over time has become a major supplier of power transmission machinery and water management systems. During the last four decades this company has undergone numerous ownership changes but has maintained its profitability by actively diversifying its product lines and cultivating a strong…
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Robert “Bob” Schilling

Portrait of Robert Schilling, a prominent Milwaukee labor leader and politician in the late nineteenth century.
Robert Schilling (1843-1922) was a significant labor leader and reformist politician in Milwaukee in the late nineteenth century. Born in Osterburg, Saxony, Schilling migrated with his family to St. Louis in 1846. He began work as a cooper at thirteen, and, fluent in both German and English, quickly became a prominent leader of the Coopers’…
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Schlitz Brewing Company

Postcard featuring the Schlitz Brewing company plant.
The Schlitz Brewing Company (1849-1982) was one of Milwaukee’s industrial brewing giants. Marketed as “the beer that made Milwaukee famous,” Schlitz was an important innovator in the national brewing industry and the largest brewery in the United States for a significant part of the twentieth century. The Schlitz Brewing Company originated in August Krug’s pioneer…
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Picketers try to prevent a car from entering the Allis-Chalmers factory, November 25, 1946.  United Auto Workers Local 248 waged a 13-month strike against the company from April 1946 to May 1947.  This picture was in company testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, February 24, 1947, alleging the union was dominated by Communists.
The U.S. Department of Labor defines a labor strike as “a temporary stoppage of work by a group of workers (not necessarily union members) to express a grievance or enforce a demand.” The prevalence of strike action has waxed and waned over the course of Milwaukee and the nation’s history, as particular industries have grown…
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