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Temperance

Established in the late 1860s, the Wisconsin Seaman's Friend Society aimed to provide sailors with affordable lodgings away from the influences of gambling, drinking, and prostitution. This Temperance House stood on Erie Street.
Temperance, or the crusade against alcohol in Jacksonian and antebellum America, resulted in the first support groups for alcoholics, the first local license laws, and then (in the 1850s and mostly in the Northeast and Midwest) statewide laws banning the manufacture and sale of liquor. The movement coincided with the settlement of Wisconsin and Milwaukee,… Read More

Territorial Jurisdiction

1821 map of the Great Lakes and Northwestern Territories, when Wisconsin was part of the Michigan Territory. The red lines indicate the route taken by Lewis Cass, governor of the Michigan Territory, in 1820.
The Treaty of Paris (1783), which ended the American Revolution, recognized the legal jurisdiction of the United States over lands north of the Ohio River. For the next sixty-five years, the area that became Milwaukee fell under the jurisdiction of various federal territories. Although the authority of the federal government over what would become Wisconsin… Read More

Transportation Policy

Automobiles, a horse and buggy, and trolleys share the road on E. Wisconsin Avenue in the early twentieth century.
Milwaukee sits at the confluence of three rivers: the Milwaukee, Menomonee, and Kinnickinnic on Lake Michigan’s western shore, some eighty miles north of Chicago. This location has always been central to its appeal. The first sailing vessel to dock on its shores arrived in 1778, seventy years before Wisconsin became a state. For centuries, native… Read More

Urban Renewal

Photograph of an demolished lot and other housing structures on W. Fond Du Lac Avenue that were eventually torn down and replaced by the Hillside Housing Development.
In Milwaukee, urban renewal largely took place between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s, primarily in Midtown and adjoining neighborhoods during the mayoralty of Henry W. Maier. In preceding decades, due in large part to the economic stagnation and dislocation caused by the Great Depression and World War II, significant portions of Milwaukee’s infrastructure had… Read More

Veterans

1889 photograph of survivors of Co. H, 11th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry taken during the 23rd national encampment of the G.A.R. in Milwaukee.
The most remarkable reminder of the presence of veterans in Milwaukee is the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center (WMC), which was built on the downtown lakefront as a “living memorial” to veterans. Finished in 1957, the War Memorial building is the home of the Milwaukee Art Museum, while the non-profit organization that administers the WMC… Read More

Victor L. Berger

Seated portrait of Victor Berger taken in 1905.
Newspaperman, co-founder of the Socialist Party, and first Socialist U.S. Congressman, Victor L. Berger (1860-1929) created the party apparatus that shaped Milwaukee politics for a half century. Berger fought for free speech, opposed war, and advocated for programs ranging from old-age pensions to Milwaukee’s public parks. Berger believed that change would come through evolution and… Read More

Water Policy

The grand architecture of Milwaukee's 1939 Water Purification Plant reflected the city's investment in clean water.
Water policy in Milwaukee has evolved with both changes in scientific knowledge and federal law; as understanding of the ecological role of water systems and legal acknowledgement of hierarchical structures in the use of those systems has changed, so has the focus of Milwaukee’s water policy. Like other cities in the nineteenth century, whether extant… Read More

Whig Party

Front page of a leaflet announcing a Whig meeting at the Milwaukee County Courthouse on June 26, 1841.
This political party’s influence in Milwaukee, first apparent in the late 1830s, was circumscribed because of the city’s substantial foreign-born population. German and Irish voters tended to align themselves with the Democratic Party against the Yankee-dominated Whigs, who were seen as nativists and temperance advocates. Over the course of the 1840s and 1850s, Milwaukee Whigs… Read More

William Beck

After his first appointment in 1855, William Beck intermittently served as Milwaukee's police chief until 1882. Pictured here is an excerpt of his 1870 annual report to city officials.
William Beck was appointed Milwaukee’s first police chief in 1855 after a series of arsons, thefts, and murders. German-born, Beck migrated to New York, serving as a police officer before becoming a farmer in the Town of Granville outside of Milwaukee. He served as a deputy sheriff for two years before beginning an on-again/off-again span… Read More