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Malt Industry

Taken in 1975, this photograph features the barley elevators once used by the Froedtert Malt Corporation.
Milwaukee’s malting industry grew out of its iconic brewing industry. Beginning in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, a variety of firms emerged in the city that processed barley and other cereal grains into malt, a key ingredient in the brewing of beer. As Milwaukee became a national leader in brewing, it also grew into a significant… Read More

ManpowerGroup Inc.

Due to continued growth and expansion, ManpowerGroup opened their new facility along the Milwaukee River in 2007.
Headquartered in downtown Milwaukee, ManpowerGroup, Inc. is one of the world’s largest staffing and workforce development agencies. ManpowerGroup has over 2,900 offices in eighty countries. In 2015, the company placed 3.4 million people in temporary or permanent jobs, averaging over 600,000 employees per day. The company employs about 27,000 permanent employees, of which in mid-2016… Read More

Marcus Corporation

After beginning with a single location, the Marcus Theatres brand has grown to become a leading theater name in the United States.
Milwaukee’s Marcus Corporation has its roots in Ripon, Wisconsin where Polish immigrant Ben Marcus (originally Machtey) bought and refurbished the shell of a burned out department store with a $30,000 loan in 1935. He eventually grew the business into one of the largest cinema enterprises in the United States. Marcus arrived in the United States… Read More

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… Read More

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… Read More


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,… Read More

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… Read More

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… Read More

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 in 1975.
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… Read More

Nordberg Manufacturing Company

A man stands on scaffolding next to a large molding press at the Nordberg Manufacturing Company.
The Nordberg Manufacturing Company was a business that manufactured many different types of heavy machinery, engines, and hoists, as well as mining and railway equipment. Bruno V. Nordberg founded the company in 1890. It existed as the Nordberg Manufacturing Company until 1970 when it became part of Rexnord, a corporation that remains to this day… Read More

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… Read More

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… Read More

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… Read More

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… Read More

Pawling and Harnischfeger

Bird's eye view of the interior of the Pawling and Harnischfeger manufacturing plant located on W. National Avenue.
Pawling and Harnischfeger (P&H) was a Milwaukee-based company that specialized in electronic motors, crane design and production, and later the manufacturing of mining equipment. Setting up in Walker’s Point, Alonzo Pawling and Henry Harnischfeger started a small machine shop that repaired and fabricated machinery for local businesses. The company also produced knitting and sewing machines… Read More

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… Read More

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… Read More

Printing Industry

Workers running the presses at the 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… Read More


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… Read More


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… Read More