The Milwaukee metropolitan area has a population of well over 1.5 million, and is located about 90 miles north of Chicago and about 250 miles east of Minneapolis on the shore of Lake Michigan. 

The Potawatomi Indians called it "the gathering place by the river." But it was once just a shoreline along the Great Lake now called Michigan, a jumping-off place into the remote and western wilderness. To American pioneers the area that is now Milwaukee represented a new beginning, a place to make dreams come true. 

Early Settlers

First came the fur traders, who were followed closely by land speculators.  The land had all the ingredients needed to attract and sustain pioneer families.  Vast amounts of water, timber and rich soil quickly yielded their fruits and supported domestic farm animals.  Businesses grew up to transport and transform the area's natural resources.  There were wheat traders, meat packers, tanneries, shipyards, brickyards and brew-eries. 

Milwaukee was nicknamed "Cream City of the Lakes" for the light golden color of its bricks.  In the late 19th century it predated Hollywood as the principal center of panoramas (huge traveling paintings). 

A Place to Call Home

Industry and business attracted thousands of people from the Eastern seaboard and beyond. Milwaukee became the primary destination of European immigrants from 1840 until well into the 20th century.  First to arrive in great numbers were the Irish, Germans and Scandinavians.  They were followed by Poles, Czechs and Italians. 

The immigrants' concepts of freedom fostered new political ideas, and in the early 1900s Milwaukee was the stronghold of Socialist thought.  It was the first major U.S.  city with a Socialist mayor, Emil Seidel. 

The city also raised its share of home-grown talent and heroes. It was home to well-known MacArthur clan, which included Judge Arthur MacArthur and his grandson General Douglas MacArthur.  Increase Lapham, the first State Geologist, helped found the National Weather Bureau.  Author Edna Ferber and poet Carl Sandburg were both local reporters.  Actors Spencer Tracy, Pat O'Brien and Gene Wilde, all trace their roots to Milwaukee.  

Community Life

Like other big cities, however, Milwaukee has also had its bitter moments. Five people were killed during the Bay View labor riots of 1886.  In 1912, former United States President Theodore Roosevelt was shot and wounded at the Gilpatrick Hotel during his campaign as the Progressive party nominee. Milwaukeeans have also struggled with the difficulties of central city decay and a racially and economically segregated metropolitan region. 

But the city has matured, and residents understand the benefits of working together to provide safe and pleasant neighborhoods. Milwaukee celebrates its contrasts, from beer gardens to botanical gardens, from museums and universities to ethnic festivals, state fair and Summerfest, and among its people. Milwaukeeans are still a people of varied cultures and backgrounds, and these are borne proudly.  But, everyone who lives here has a common thread that binds them. We are the product of hard-working, ruggedized individualists who came here to realize the American dream--and many of those dreams were realized here in our city. 

# # #