Browse by Subject

Showing 41-60 of 69 Entries

Milwaukee County Institutions

This postcard illustrates the Milwaukee County Alms House, one of the first institutions created by Milwaukee County.
The Milwaukee County Institutions are a collection of programs, facilities, and complexes that have met a wide variety of county health and quality of life needs. Beginning in Milwaukee’s territorial phase (1835), the county’s care for the poor took the form of outdoor relief. Aid distribution was based on personal situation and overseen by two… Read More

Milwaukee Fire Department

Firefighters battle a blaze at the Hartman Furniture store in June 1926. The fire was so large that 150 firefighters were needed to combat it.
For most of the city’s history, the citizens of Milwaukee have relied upon the professionalism of municipal firefighters. And these thousands of dedicated members of the Milwaukee Fire Department (MFD) have had their traditions, literally, forged in fire. Like most major cities in America, the MFD evolved from a volunteer force organized by concerned citizens.… Read More

Milwaukee Fourteen

Photograph of the fourteen men (starting at the far right) who burned approximately 10,000 draft cards in 1968 standing arm-in-arm. The man furthest to the left is a newspaper reporter.
There were not many selective service protests in Milwaukee during the Vietnam War. However, one of the protests that did take place here became famous throughout the country. On September 24, 1968, fourteen men stole tens of thousands of draft cards from the Brumder Building (now the Germania Building) on West Wells Street. They took… Read More

Milwaukee Mayors


Milwaukee Police Department

Officers of the Milwaukee Police Department's motorcycle squad pose for a photograph around 1921.
As of 2013, the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) is the fifteenth largest in the United States, with nearly 2,000 sworn personnel and over eight hundred civilian employees. Operationally, the MPD is currently organized geographically into three bureaus (South, Central, and North) subdivided into seven patrol districts. Criminal investigations are conducted out of these bureaus, supported… Read More

Nike Anti-Aircraft Missiles

A newspaper clipping showing Milwauke air defenses during the early stages of the Cold War.
Milwaukee was one of a handful of Midwestern cities equipped with launching stations for Nike anti-aircraft missiles during the 1950s and 1960s. Milwaukee’s defense ring consisted of eight sites, including the lakefront Maitland airstrip. Each site housed up to twelve radar-controlled rockets capable of shooting down planes traveling at supersonic speeds. Beginning in 1958, the… Read More

Non-Partisan Elections

This early twentieth century campaign poster encourages people to elect Peter Kaminski as a Milwaukee alderman and promises a "Clean Non-Partisan Administration."
The impetus for non-partisan elections at the local level in Wisconsin originated with a fear among Milwaukee Republicans and Democrats that their Socialist competitors might become a sustained political alternative following the election of Emil Seidel in the 1910 mayoral election. Two years later, during the next campaign for mayor, Republicans and Democrats united behind… Read More

Oak Creek Law

This map of Milwaukee County from 2006 illustrates the many towns and villages that compose the Iron Ring around the city of Milwaukee that developed as a result of the Oak Creek Law.
The Oak Creek Law narrowly passed the Wisconsin State Legislature in 1955. It dramatically reduced population density requirements for “fourth class city” status within any county containing a “first-class city” (exclusively Milwaukee County in 1955), thereby making it much easier for towns bordering the City of Milwaukee (such as Oak Creek) to incorporate. Residents in… Read More


Photograph showcasing a forested path that runs through Greenfield Park.
Milwaukee, like many cities in the United States, grew rapidly throughout the nineteenth century. Civic attention was generally focused on how to accommodate industry and manufacturing. The competition over urban space resulted in high concentrations of industry, followed by densely populated neighborhoods of workers and their families. Parks were not seen as a valuable use… Read More


An anti-war crowd gathers at UWM in May 1970 during a month that witnessed the invasion of Cambodia by U.S. military forces and the shooting of student protestors at Kent State University by National Guard troops.
Peace. A word considered by both religious and secular society as an ideal condition for human well-being. Too often, the concept of peace itself is linked to war or stopping war, with less focus on how societies achieve well-being. Peace scholars define peace as an absence: of war and physical or institutional violence. People who… Read More


Campaign posters cover this brick wall on Wells Street in 1932. Candidates include Benson for Sheriff, Joseph Shinners for Sheriff, Raymond Cannon for Congress, and Zabel for District Attorney.
Over the course of its political history, Milwaukee has experienced four distinct “party systems,” lasting approximately forty years apiece. During each system, two or more opposing parties have competed, with core constituencies based upon personal identity, ideology, and reactions to state, national, and international developments. Each period began and ended with a “realigning election,” differentiating… Read More

Public Policy

A man speaks at a podium to a crowd gathered for a hearing in regards to the Midtown public housing plant in the Milwaukee Common Council chambers in 1967.
The term public policy describes decisions by government that affect you as a citizen. To use the contemporary jargon of strategic planning and performance measurement, public policy is the output of government, different from inputs and outcomes. So, we might talk about the Waukesha County Executive proposing to the County Board a new public policy… Read More

Public Policy Forum

A watchful presence in Milwaukee for over 100 years, the Public Policy Forum provides independent analysis on a variety of public policy issues.
Milwaukee’s Public Policy Forum is a non-partisan, government watchdog group that since its 1913 founding has continuously provided independent, non-partisan research and analysis of local municipalities’ activities and public policy issues. From its founding until today, the group has wielded great influence with local governments and in the media. The Forum earned a reputation for… Read More

Public Works

A Milwaukee public works truck lays down salt on Downer Avenue in 1988.
The Department of Public Works is one of the largest administrative divisions of Milwaukee’s city government, but this was not always so. Even after the city incorporated in 1846, officials only gradually expanded government services to meet the needs of citizens. By 1871, the city had no water works, few paved streets, and a very… Read More

Relief and Welfare

Sepia-colored medium shot of a group of people gathering around a table with weaving tools and rugs on it. Some appear to be hand-weaving; others watch the process.
Throughout its history Milwaukee has seen shifting and complex interplays among local, state, and federal government policies regarding support provided to needy families through work relief and financial aid welfare payments. Three periods in the last century highlight competing theories about work relief and welfare support that operated in Milwaukee. In the Great Depression years… Read More

Republican Party

Republican John Kleczka served as a Wisconsin State Senator from 1909-1911 and a U.S. Representative from 1919-1923 before serving as a circuit court judge in Milwaukee. He was the first Polish-American elected to the the House of Representatives.
The Milwaukee Republican Party (MRP) was founded during the tumultuous 1850s as the nation was careening headlong into the Civil War. In a bewildering sequence, the Great Compromise, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Kansas Civil War, and the Dred Scott decision cumulatively obliterated all federal control over the expansion of slavery. Restoring that authority was the… Read More

Social Development Commission

Since 1963, the SDC has served as a community action agency in Milwaukee and provided resources for individuals to move beyond poverty.
The Social Development Commission (SDC) is the largest of eighteen members of the Wisconsin Community Action Program Association, with responsibility to develop and oversee programs designed to improve the quality of life for low-income Milwaukeeans. Created in 1963 by state statute, the Commission involved the collaboration of civic organizations including the City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee… Read More


The Socialists' ardent support for the labor movement is evidenced here by Mayor Daniel Hoan's speech before hundreds of strikers at the Seaman Auto Body plant.
Many German immigrants came to Milwaukee in the mid-nineteenth century influenced by the doctrines of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, and Ferdinand Lassalle. And in the process, they came to form the core of Milwaukee socialists. Holding their early meetings in German, this informal socialist Vereinigung (or association) initially did not expand to the wider community.… Read More

Solomon Juneau

Portrait of Milwaukee founder Solomon Juneau at age 60, originally from an oil painting.
Milwaukee co-founder Laurent Solomon Juneau was born on August 9, 1793 at Repentigny, a small farming village near Montreal. Juneau entered the fur trade as a teenager, working (perhaps) for the Hudson’s Bay Company before becoming an independent agent based in Prairie du Chien. In 1818 the young voyageur met Jacques Vieau, a well-established trader… Read More

Structure of Local Government

This map of Wisconsin from 1846, two years before it became a state, illustrates how large some counties originally were. Note the absence of Ozaukee, Waukesha, and Kenosha counties.
Any conversation regarding local government in Wisconsin must begin—and ultimately conclude—with mention of the State (or, to be more precise, of the territories of Michigan or Wisconsin, succeeded in time by the State of Wisconsin). In essence, either the state constitution or its statutes determine the purposes, powers, and prerogatives of local governments, down to… Read More