Milwaukee, United States of America

Reference work entry


Milwaukee is on the Milwaukee River on the shore of Lake Michigan in the southeastern corner of Wisconsin. The largest city in the state, it is the seat of Milwaukee county and one of the leading industrial cities in the United States as well as a port. For many years Milwaukee was famous as the base of the American brewing industry.


Several Native American communities lived in the area now occupied by modern day Milwaukee, using the shore of Lake Michigan and the confluence of three local rivers as a meeting point. In the 1800s French fur traders settled in the area. By the nineteenth century the area had attracted the attention of land speculators. Milwaukee was incorporated as a city in 1846, taking its name from a Potawatomi Indian phrase meaning ‘gathering place by water’. Wisconsin became a state 2 years later.

By 1850, German immigrants had established a dozen breweries and 225 bars in the city. Milwaukee became an important trading centre, shipping goods from farms in Wisconsin across the United States and to Europe. After the Civil War the growth of manufacturing brought more immigrants to the city, including many from Italy and Poland.

In the first half of the twentieth century, Milwaukee gained a reputation for efficient public services. Manufacturing grew during World War I, contracted during the depression but grew again in World War II. In the late 1960s the brewing industry began to decline, culminating in the closure of the Pabst brewery in 1996. Ambitious renewal projects got the city back on its feet. In 1982 the Grand Avenue Mall opened, acting as a catalyst for the investment of over $1 bn. in redevelopment programmes, including the building of a new sports stadium and a convention centre.

Modern City

Despite the decline of the brewing industry one major brewer, Miller, is still based in the city. Milwaukee is an important marketing and distribution centre for Wisconsin’s agricultural produce including grain, dairy products and fruit. Iron and steel industries are still strong although manufacturing’s importance as a whole has fallen. Several major banks and insurance companies are based in the city and the service sector has expanded rapidly in recent years. As a port Milwaukee serves the Great Lakes and there is a deepwater canal.

Milwaukee is connected to Chicago via the Interstate 94 highway and is served by General Mitchell International Airport. There is an Amtrak rail station, a Greyhound bus terminal and an excellent public transport system. Educational institutions include the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, Concordia University of Wisconsin, Marquette University, the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

Places of Interest

Major cultural attractions include the Milwaukee Art Museum, Charles Allis Art Museum, the Milwaukee Public Museum and Mitchell Park Conservatory while the Miller Brewery Company offers tours of its facility. Milwaukee has resident ballet and theatre companies as well as a symphony orchestra. Historical buildings include Saint Josaphat’s Basilica where the dome is modelled on St Peter’s in Rome. The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, City Hall and Pabst Mansion are other architectural attractions.

Whitnall Park houses a nature centre and botanical gardens while the Mitchell Park Domes has examples of tropical plant life. Milwaukee County Zoo is another popular attraction. The city has major league baseball and basketball teams, although you have to travel 100 miles north to Green Bay to see Wisconsin’s major league American football team, the Packers.

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Personalised recommendations