Main Births etc
—  City  —
Top: Milwaukee Skyline, Center Left Miller Park, Center Right Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Lower Left Milwaukee River, Lower Right Milwaukee City Hall



City Logo
Nickname(s): Cream City, Brew City, Beer City, Brew Town, Beertown, Miltown, The Mil, MKE, Thrillwaukee, The City of Festivals, Deutsch-Athen (German Athens)
Location of Milwaukee in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin

Milwaukee is located in the USA
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 43°03′8″N 87°57′21″W / 43.05222, -87.95583
Country United States
State Wisconsin
Counties Milwaukee, Washington, Waukesha
Incorporated January 31, 1846
 • Type Strong mayor-council
 • Mayor Tom Barrett (D)
 • City 96.80 sq mi (250.71 km2)
 • Land 96.12 sq mi (248.95 km2)
 • Water 0.68 sq mi (1.76 km2)
Elevation 617 ft (188 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • City 594,833
 • Estimate (2012[3]) 598,916
 • Rank 30th in US
 • Density 6,188.4/sq mi (2,389.4/km2)
 • Urban 1,308,913
 • Metro 1,566,981
 • CSA 2,025,898
Demonym Milwaukeean
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
Area code(s) 414
FIPS code 55-53000[4]
GNIS feature ID 1577901[5]
Major airport General Mitchell International Airport (MKE)

Milwaukee /mɪlˈwɔːk/ is the largest city in the U.S. state of Wisconsin, the 30th most populous city in the United States, and 39th most populous region in the United States. It is the county seat of Milwaukee County and is located on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan. According to 2010 census data, the City of Milwaukee has a population of 594,833.[6] Milwaukee is the main cultural and economic center of the Milwaukee–Waukesha–West Allis Metropolitan Statistical Area, with an estimated population of 1,566,981 as of 2012.[7]

The first Europeans to pass through the area were French Catholic missionaries and fur traders. In 1818, the French-Canadian explorer Solomon Juneau settled in the area, and in 1846 Juneau's town combined with two neighboring towns to incorporate as the City of Milwaukee.[8] Large numbers of German and other immigrants helped increase the city's population during the 1840s and the following decades.

Known for its brewing traditions, major new additions to the city include the Milwaukee Riverwalk, the Wisconsin Center,[9] Miller Park, an internationally renowned addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, and Pier Wisconsin, as well as major renovations to the U.S. Cellular Arena. In addition, many new skyscrapers, condos, lofts and apartments have been constructed in neighborhoods on and near the lakefront and riverbanks.

There have been five ships of the United States Navy named after the city, including USS Milwaukee (LCS-5).


Statue of Solomon Juneau, who helped establish the city of Milwaukee

The Milwaukee area was originally inhabited by the Menominee, Fox, Mascouten, Sauk, Potawatomi, Ojibwe (all Algic/Algonquian peoples) and Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) (a Siouan people) Native American tribes. French missionaries and traders first passed through the area in the late 17th and 18th centuries. Alexis Laframboise, in 1785, coming from Michilimackinac (now in Michigan) settled a trading post; therefore, he is the first European descent resident of the Milwaukee region.[10] The word "Milwaukee" may come from the Potawatomi language minwaking, or Ojibwe language ominowakiing, "Gathering place [by the water]".[11][12] Early explorers called the Milwaukee River and surrounding lands various names: Melleorki, Milwacky, Mahn-a-waukie, Milwarck, and Milwaucki. For many years, printed records gave the name as "Milwaukie". One story of Milwaukee's name says,

[O]ne day during the thirties of the last century [1800s] a newspaper calmly changed the name to Milwaukee, and Milwaukee it has remained until this day.[11]

The spelling "Milwaukie" lives on in Milwaukie, Oregon, named after the Wisconsin city in 1847, before the current spelling was universally accepted.

Milwaukee was first settled by a French Canadian called Alexis Laframboise in 1785; it was only a trading post.[10] Therefore, Solomon Juneau was not the first to arrive in the area, in 1818. However, Juneau founded the town called Juneau's Side, or Juneautown, that began attracting more settlers. Byron Kilbourn was Juneau's equivalent on the west side of the Milwaukee River. In competition with Juneau, he established Kilbourntown west of the Milwaukee River, and made sure the streets running toward the river did not join with those on the east side. This accounts for the large number of angled bridges that still exist in Milwaukee today. Further, Kilbourn distributed maps of the area which only showed Kilbourntown, implying Juneautown did not exist or that the east side of the river was uninhabited and thus undesirable. The third prominent builder was George H. Walker. He claimed land to the south of the Milwaukee River, along with Juneautown, where he built a log house in 1834. This area grew and became known as Walker's Point.

By the 1840s, the three towns had grown quite a bit, along with their rivalries. There were some intense battles between the towns, mainly Juneautown and Kilbourntown, which culminated with the Milwaukee Bridge War of 1845. Following the Bridge War, it was decided the best course of action was to officially unite the towns. So, on January 31, 1846, they combined to incorporate as the City of Milwaukee and elected Solomon Juneau as Milwaukee's first mayor.

Illustrated map of Milwaukee in 1872

Milwaukee began to grow as a city as high numbers of immigrants, mainly German, made their way to Wisconsin during the 1840s and 1850s. Scholars classify German immigration to the United States in three major waves, and Wisconsin received a significant number of immigrants from all three. The first wave from 1845-1855 consisted mainly of people from Southwestern Germany, the second wave from 1865-1873 concerned primarily Northwestern Germany, while the third wave from 1880 to 1893 came from Northeastern Germany.[13] In the 1840s, the number of people who left German speaking lands was 385,434, in the 1850s it reached 976,072, and an all-time high of 1.4 million emigrated in the 1880s. In 1890, the 2.78 million first-generation German Americans represented the second largest foreign-born group in the United States. Of all those who left the German lands between 1835-1910, 90 percent went to the United States, most of them traveling to the Mid-Atlantic states and the Midwest.[13]

One of the major destinations of German immigrants was Wisconsin. By 1900, 34 percent of its population was of German background.[13] The largest number of German immigrants to Milwaukee came from Prussia, followed by Bavaria, Saxony, Hanover, and Hesse-Darmstadt. Milwaukee gained its reputation for the most German of American cities not just from the large number of German immigrants it received, but the sense of community which the immigrants established there.[14]

Most German immigrants came to Wisconsin in search of inexpensive farmland.[14] However, immigration began to change in character and size in the late 1840s and early 1850s, due to the 1848 revolutionary movements in Europe.[15] After 1848, hopes for a united Germany had failed, and revolutionary and radical Germans, known as the "Forty-Eighters," turned their attention to the United States. One of the most famous “liberal revolutionaries” of 1848 was Carl Schurz, who explained why he came to Milwaukee in 1854, “It is true, similar things [cultural events and societies] were done in other cities where the Forty-eighters [sic] had congregated. But so far as I know, nowhere did their influence so quickly impress itself upon the whole social atmosphere as in 'German Athens of America' as Milwaukee was called at the time.”[16]

Schurz was referring to the various clubs and societies that Germans developed in Milwaukee. The pattern of German immigrants to settle near each other encouraged the continuation of German lifestyle and customs. This resulted in German language organizations that encompassed all aspects of life; for example, singing societies and gymnastics clubs. Germans also made a lasting impact on the American school system. Kindergarten was created as a pre-school for children, and sports programs of all levels, as well as music and art were incorporated as elements of the regular school curriculum. These ideas were first introduced by radical-democratic German groups, such as the Socialist Turner Societies, known today as the American Turners. Specifically in Milwaukee, the American Turners established its own Normal College for teachers of physical education and a German-English Academy.[17]

Milwaukee's German element is still strongly present today. The city celebrates its German culture by annually hosting a German Fest in July and an Oktoberfest in October. Milwaukee boasts a good number of German restaurants, as well as a traditional German beer hall. Even the German language is not lost, as a German language immersion school is offered for children in grades K-5. Germans were, and still are, an important component of life in Wisconsin and Milwaukee.

St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, the mother church of all of Milwaukee's Polish parishes

Although the German presence in Milwaukee after the Civil War remained strong, other groups made their way to the city. Foremost among these were Polish immigrants. The Poles had many reasons for leaving their homeland, mainly poverty and political oppression. Because Milwaukee offered the Polish immigrants an abundance of low-paying entry level jobs, it became one of the largest Polish settlements in the USA.

For many residents, Milwaukee's South Side is synonymous with the Polish community which settled here. The group's proud ethnicity maintained a high profile here for decades and it was not until the 1950s and 1960s that the families began to disperse to the southern suburbs.

By 1850, there were seventy-five Poles in Milwaukee County and the US Census indicates that they had a variety of occupations: grocers, blacksmiths, tavernkeepers, coopers, butchers, broommakers, shoemakers, draymen, laborers, and farmers. Three distinct Polish communities evolved in Milwaukee, with the majority settling in the area south of Greenfield Avenue. Milwaukee County's Polish population of 30,000 in 1890 rose to 100,000 by 1915. Poles historically have had a strong national cultural and social identity, maintained through the Catholic Church. A view of Milwaukee's South Side skyline is replete with the steeples of the many churches these immigrants built, churches that are still vital centers of the community.

St. Stanislaus Catholic Church and the surrounding neighborhood was the center of Polish life in Milwaukee. As the Polish community surrounding St. Stanislaus continued to grow, Mitchell Street became known as the "Polish Grand Avenue". As Mitchell Street grew denser, the Polish population started moving south to the Lincoln Village neighborhood, home to the Basilica of St. Josaphat and Kosciuszko Park. Other Polish communities started on the east side of Milwaukee and Jones Island, a major commercial fishing center settled mostly by Poles from the Baltic Coast.

Milwaukee has the fourth-largest Polish population in the U.S. at 57,485 (9.6% of the city's population), ranking behind New York City 213,447 (2.7%), Chicago 210,421 (7.3%), and Philadelphia 65,508 (4.3%). The city holds Polish Fest, an annual celebration of Polish culture and cuisine.

In addition to the Germans and Poles, Milwaukee received large influxes of other European immigrants from Lithuania, Italy, Ireland, France, Russia, Bohemia and Sweden, which included Jews, Lutherans, and Catholics. Italian Americans number in the city at around 40,000 but, in Milwaukee County they number at 110,000. The largest Italian American festival, Festa Italiana is held in the city.[18] By 1910, Milwaukee shared the distinction with New York City of having the largest percentage of foreign-born residents in the United States.[19] In 1910, whites represented 99.7% of the city's total population of 373 857.[20] Milwaukee has a strong Greek Orthodox Community, many of whom attend the Greek Orthodox Church on Milwaukee's northwest side, designed by Wisconsin-born architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Milwaukee has a sizable Croatian population with Croatian churches and their own historic and successful soccer club The Croatian Eagles located at the 30 acre Croatian Park in Franklin, WI.

Milwaukee also has a large Serbian population with Serbian restaurants, a Serbian K-8 School, Serbian churches along with an American Serb Hall. The American Serb Hall in Milwaukee is known for its Friday fish fries and popular events. Many U.S. presidents have visited Milwaukee's Serb Hall in the past. The Bosnian population is growing in Milwaukee as well due to the recent migration after the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

During this time, a small community of African Americans who emigrated from the South formed a community that would come to be known as Bronzeville. As industry boomed, the African-American influence grew in Milwaukee.

By 1925, there were around 9,000 Mexican Americans that lived in Milwaukee, but the Great Depression forced many of them to move back home. In the 1950s, the Hispanic community was beginning to emerge. They arrived for jobs, filling positions in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors. During this time there were labor shortages due to the immigration laws that restricted Europeans from immigrating to the United States. Additionally, strikes contributed to the labor shortages.[21]

During the first half of the 20th century, Milwaukee was the major city in which the Socialist Party of America earned the highest votes. Milwaukee elected three mayors who ran on the ticket of the Socialist Party: Emil Seidel (1910–1912), Daniel Hoan (1916–1940), and Frank Zeidler (1948–1960). Often referred to as "Sewer Socialists", the Milwaukee Socialists were characterized by their practical approach to government and labor.

Historic neighborhoods[]

The historic Third Ward

In 1892, Whitefish Bay, South Milwaukee, and Wauwatosa were incorporated. They were followed by Cudahy (1895), North Milwaukee (1897) and East Milwaukee, later known as Shorewood, in 1900. In the early 20th century West Allis (1902) and West Milwaukee (1906) were added, which completed the first generation of "inner-ring" suburbs.

In the 1920s Chicago gangster activity came north to Milwaukee during the Prohibition era. Al Capone, noted Chicago mobster, owned a home in the Milwaukee suburb Brookfield, where moonshine was made. The house still stands on a street named after Capone.[22]

By 1960, Milwaukee had grown to become one of the largest cities in the United States of America. Its population peaked at 741,324. In 1960, the Census Bureau reported city's population as 8.4% black and 91.1% white.[23]

By the late 1960s, Milwaukee's population had started to decline due to white flight. Milwaukee had a population of 636,212 by 1980, while the population of the metropolitan area increased. Milwaukee avoided the severe declines of its fellow "rust belt" cities due to its large immigrant population and historic neighborhoods.

Since the 1980s, the city has begun to make strides in improving its economy, neighborhoods, and image, resulting in the revitalization of neighborhoods such as the Historic Third Ward, Lincoln Village, the East Side, and more recently Walker's Point and Bay View, along with attracting new businesses to its downtown area. These efforts have substantially slowed the population decline and has stabilized many parts of Milwaukee.

Milwaukee's rich European history is evident today. Largely through its efforts to preserve its history, in 2006 Milwaukee was named one of the "Dozen Distinctive Destinations" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.[24]

In 2010, the Census Bureau released revised population numbers for Milwaukee that showed the city gained population, growing by 1.3%, between 2000 and 2009. This was the first population increase the city of Milwaukee has seen since the 1960 census.

Historic Milwaukee walking tours provide a guided tour of Milwaukee's historic districts, including topics on Milwaukee's architectural heritage, its glass skywalk system, and the Milwaukee Riverwalk.

Panorama map of Milwaukee, with a view of the City Hall tower, ca. 1898


Milwaukee lies along the shores and bluffs of Lake Michigan at the confluence of three rivers: the Menomonee, the Kinnickinnic, and the Milwaukee. Smaller rivers, such as the Root River and Lincoln Creek, also flow through the city.

Milwaukee's terrain is sculpted by the glacier path and includes steep bluffs along Lake Michigan that begin about a mile (1.6 km) north of downtown. In addition, 30 miles (48 km) southwest of Milwaukee is the Kettle Moraine and lake country that provides an industrial landscape combined with inland lakes.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 96.80 square miles (250.71 km2), of which, 96.12 square miles (248.95 km2) is land and 0.68 square miles (1.76 km2) is water.[1] The City is located overwhelmingly (99.89% of its area) in Milwaukee County, but there are two tiny unpopulated parts of it that extend into neighboring counties. The part in Washington County is bordered by the southeast corner of Germantown, while the part in Waukesha County is bordered by the southeast corner of Menomonee Falls, north of the village of Butler.


North-south streets are numbered, and east-west streets are named. However, north-south streets east of 1st Street are named, like east-west streets. The north-south numbering line is along the Menomonee River (east of Hawley Road) and Fairview Avenue/Golfview Parkway (west of Hawley Road), with the east-west numbering line defined along 1st Street (north of Oklahoma Avenue) and Chase/Howell Avenue (south of Oklahoma Avenue). This numbering system is also used to the north by Mequon in Ozaukee County, and by some Waukesha County communities.

Milwaukee is crossed by Interstate 43 and Interstate 94, which come together downtown at the Marquette Interchange. Interstate 894 bypass runs through portions of the city's southwest side, and Interstate 794 comes out of the Marquette interchange eastbound, bends south along the lakefront and crosses the harbor over the Hoan Bridge, then ends near the Bay View neighborhood and becomes the "Lake Parkway" (WIS-794).

One of the distinctive traits of Milwaukee's residential areas are the neighborhoods full of so-called Polish flats. These are two-family homes with separate entrances, but with the units stacked one on top of another instead of side-by-side. This arrangement enables a family of limited means to purchase both a home and a modestly priced rental apartment unit. Since Polish-American immigrants to the area prized land ownership, this solution, which was prominent in their areas of settlement within the city, came to be associated with them.

Panoramic view of the east side of downtown Milwaukee.
Panoramic view of the east side of downtown Milwaukee.


Milwaukee's location in the Great Lakes Region often has rapidly changing weather, producing a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfa), with cold, windy, snowy winters, and very warm, humid summers. The warmest month of the year is July, when the 24-hour average is 71.8 °F (22.1 °C), while January is the coldest month, with a 24-hour average of 22.3 °F (−5.4 °C). Of the 50 largest cities in the United States,[25] Milwaukee has the second-coldest average annual temperature, next to that of Minneapolis-St. Paul.[26]

Milwaukee's proximity to Lake Michigan causes a convection current to form around mid-afternoon in light wind regimes, resulting in the so-called "lake breeze" - a smaller scale version of the more common sea breeze. The lake breeze is most common between the months of March and July. This onshore flow causes cooler temperatures to move inland usually 5 to 15 miles (8 to 24 km), with much warmer conditions persisting further inland. Residents of the area refer to this phenomenon through the phrase "cooler near the lake". Because Milwaukee's official climate site, General Mitchell International Airport, is only 3 miles (4.8 km) from the lake, seasonal variations in temperature are less extreme than in many other locations of the Milwaukee metropolitan area.

As the sun sets, the convection current reverses and an offshore flow ensues causing a land breeze. After a land breeze develops, warmer temperatures flow east toward the lakeshore, sometimes causing high temperatures to be reached during the late evening. The lake breeze is not a daily occurrence and will not usually form if a southwest, west, or northwest wind generally exceeds 15 mph (24 km/h). The lake acts to moderate cold air outbreaks along the lakeshore during winter months.

Aside from the lake influence, overnight lows in downtown Milwaukee year-round are often much warmer than suburban locations because of the urban heat island effect. Onshore winds elevate daytime relative humidity levels in Milwaukee as compared to inland locations nearby.

Thunderstorms in the region can be dangerous and damaging, bringing hail and high winds. In rare instances, they can bring a tornado. However, almost all summer rainfall in the city is brought by these storms. In spring and fall, longer events of prolonged, lighter rain bring most of the precipitation. A moderate snow cover can be seen on or linger for many winter days, but there are many days with less than 1 inch (2.5 cm) on the ground.[27]

Milwaukee tends to experience highs that are 90 °F (32 °C) on or above 9 days per year, and subzero lows (< −18 °C) on 12 nights.[27] Extremes range from 105 °F (41 °C) set on July 24, 1934 down to −26 °F (−32 °C) on both January 17, 1982 and February 4, 1996.[28] The 1982 event, also known as Cold Sunday, featured temperatures as low as −40 °F (−40 °C) in some of the suburbs as little as 10 miles (16 km) to the north of Milwaukee.

Climate data for Milwaukee (General Mitchell International Airport) (Averages from 1981–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 66
Average high °F (°C) 28.9
Average low °F (°C) 15.6
Record low °F (°C) −26
Precipitation inches (mm) 1.76
Snowfall inches (cm) 15.3
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 11.4 9.7 11.4 12.1 11.4 10.4 9.8 9.5 8.8 10.0 11.3 10.9 126.7
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 9.8 7.5 1.6 0.4 0 0 0 0 0 0.3 2.5 7.8 29.9
Percent possible sunshine 44 47 50 53 60 65 69 66 59 54 39 38 54
Source #1: NOAA [29] National Weather Service - Extremes[28]
Source #2: NOAA [29] NCDC 1981–2010 Climate Normals [30] Average Percent Sunshine through 2009 [31]


In the 1990s and 2000s, Lake Michigan experienced large algae blooms. Responding to this problem, in 2009 the city signed on as an Innovating City of the Global Compact Cities Program. The Milwaukee Water Council was also formed in 2009.[32] Its objectives were to "better understand the processes related to freshwater systems dynamics" and to develop "a policy and management program aimed at balancing the protection and utilization of freshwater". The strategy used the Circles of Sustainability method. Instead of treating the water quality problem as confined to a single environmental issue, the Water Council draw on the Circles method to analyze the interconnection between ecological, economic, political and cultural considerations.[33] It was on this basis of treating water holistically that Milwaukee was co-winner of the US Water Alliance's 2012 US Water Prize.[34]


Rockwell Automation Headquarters and Allen-Bradley Clock Tower

Milwaukee is the home to the international headquarters of 6 Fortune 500 companies: Johnson Controls, Northwestern Mutual, Manpower, Rockwell Automation, Harley-Davidson and Joy Global.[35] Other companies based in Milwaukee include Briggs & Stratton, Jefferson Wells, Marshall & Ilsley (acquired by BMO Harris Bank in 2010),[36] Hal Leonard, Wisconsin Energy, the American Society for Quality, A. O. Smith, Koss, Red Star Yeast, Master Lock, American Signal Corporation,[37] GE Healthcare Diagnostic Imaging and Clinical Systems and MGIC Investments. The Milwaukee metropolitan area ranks fifth in the United States in terms of the number of Fortune 500 company headquarters as a share of the population. Milwaukee also has a large number of financial service firms, particularly those specializing in mutual funds and transaction processing systems, and a number of publishing and printing companies.

Service and managerial jobs are the fastest-growing segments of the Milwaukee economy, and health care alone makes up 27% the jobs in the city.[38]

In 2009, five Milwaukee-area companies were selected as leaders in their industries as Fortune magazine recognized “The World’s Most-Admired Companies.” Two Milwaukee companies ranked second in their field: Manpower Inc. in the temporary help industry and Northwestern Mutual in life and health insurance. Johnson Controls Inc., Glendale, placed fourth among motor-vehicle parts firms. Ranked fifth were Fiserv Inc., Brookfield, in financial data services and Kohl’s Corp., Menomonee Falls, among general merchandisers.[39]

Milwaukee became synonymous with Germans and beer beginning in the 1850s. The Germans had long enjoyed beer and set up breweries when they arrived in Milwaukee. By 1856, there were more than two dozen breweries in Milwaukee, most of them German-owned and -operated. Besides making beer for the rest of the nation, Milwaukeeans enjoyed consuming the various beers produced in the city's breweries. As early as 1843, pioneer historian James Buck recorded 138 taverns in Milwaukee, an average of one per forty residents. Today, Beer halls and taverns are abundant in the city, although only one of the major breweries—Miller—remains in Milwaukee.[40]

Milwaukee's founding fathers had a vision for the city. They knew it was perfectly situated as a port city, a center for collecting and distributing produce. Many of the new immigrants who were pouring into the new state of Wisconsin during the middle of the 19th century were wheat farmers. By 1860, Wisconsin was the second ranked wheat-growing state in the country and Milwaukee shipped more wheat than any place in the world. Railroads were needed to transport all this grain from the wheat fields of Wisconsin to Milwaukee's harbor. Improvements in railways at the time made this possible.

Entrance to Miller Brewery in Milwaukee

The Pabst Brewery Complex, closed in 1997

There was intense competition for markets with Chicago, and to a lesser degree, with Racine and Kenosha. Eventually Chicago won out. Due to its superior financial and transposition status, as well as being a hub on major railroad lines throughout the United States, Chicago had a distinct advantage over Milwaukee. Milwaukee did solidify its place as the commercial capital of Wisconsin and an important market in the Midwest.[40]

Milwaukee was once the home to four of the world's largest beer breweries (Schlitz, Blatz, Pabst, and Miller), and was the number one beer producing city in the world for many years. Despite the decline in its position as the world's leading beer producer after the loss of two of those breweries, its one remaining major brewery, Miller Brewing Company remains a key employer by employing over 2,200 of the city's workers.[41] Because of Miller's solid position as the second-largest beer-maker in the U.S., the city remains known as a beer town despite there being only one brewery.

The historic Milwaukee Brewery, located in "Miller Valley" at 4000 West State Street, is the oldest still-functioning major brewery in the United States. In July 2008, it was announced that Coors beer would be added to the list of beers brewed in Miller Valley. This created additional brewery jobs in Milwaukee, however, the company's world headquarters moved from Milwaukee to Chicago.

Besides Miller and the heavily automated Leinenkugel's brewery in the old Blatz 10th Street plant, the only other currently operating stand-alone breweries in Milwaukee are Milwaukee Brewing Company, a microbrewery in Walker's Point neighborhood, and Lakefront Brewery, a microbrewery located in Brewers Hill. The suburb of Glendale is home to Sprecher Brewery, another locally popular microbrew. Various brewpubs can be found throughout the Milwaukee area, including Milwaukee Ale House and Water Street Brewery.

Three beer brewers with Wisconsin operations made the 2009 list of the 50 largest beermakers in the United States, based on beer sales volume. Making the latest big-breweries list from Wisconsin is MillerCoors at No. 2. MillerCoors is a joint venture formed in 2008 by Milwaukee-based Miller Brewing Co. and Golden, Colorado-based Molson Coors Brewing Company. The Minhas Craft Brewery in Monroe, Wisconsin which brews Huber, Rhinelander and Mountain Crest brands, ranked No. 14 and New Glarus Brewing Company., New Glarus, Wisconsin whose brands include Spotted Cow, Fat Squirrel and Uff-da, ranked No. 32.[42]

Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley, two sitcoms that aired on ABC in the 1970s and 1980s, were set in Milwaukee, and often used the Milwaukee breweries as a backdrop for the storyline.

Rail tracks along the industrial Menomonee Valley, ancestral home of the Menominee Indians

Because of its easy access to Lake Michigan and other waterways, Milwaukee's Menomonee Valley has historically been home to manufacturing, stockyards, rendering plants, shipping, and other heavy industry.

Reshaping of the valley began with the railroads built by city co-founder Byron Kilbourn to bring product from Wisconsin's farm interior to the port. By 1862 Milwaukee was the largest shipper of wheat on the planet, and related industry developed. Grain elevators were built and, due to Milwaukee's dominant German immigrant population, breweries sprang up around the processing of barley and hops. A number of tanneries were constructed, of which the Pfister & Vogel tannery grew to become the largest in America.

In 1843 George Burnham and his brother Jonathan opened a brickyard near 16th Street. When a durable and distinct cream-colored brick came out of the clay beds, other brickyards sprang up to take advantage of this resource. Because many of the city's buildings were built using this material it earned the nickname "Cream City", and consequently the brick was called Cream City brick. By 1881 the Burnham brickyard, which employed 200 men and peaked at 15 million bricks a year, was the largest in the world.

Flour mills, packing plants, breweries, railways and tanneries further industrialized the valley. With the marshlands drained and the Kinnickinnic and Milwaukee Rivers dredged, attention turned to the valley.

Along with the processing industries, bulk commodity storage and machining and manufacturing entered the scene. The valley was home to the Milwaukee Road, Falk Corporation, Cutler-Hammer, Harnischfeger, Chain Belt Company, Nordberg and other industry giants.

Early in the 20th century, Milwaukee was home to several pioneer brass era automobile makers, including Ogren (from 1919 to 1922).[43]

In 2007, three Milwaukee-area companies were among nine firms honored for manufacturing excellence in the Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year competition. Astronautics Corporation of America and Brady Corporation, both of which have headquarters in Milwaukee, and Wisconsin Plating Works Inc., Racine, each received special awards. Privately held Astronautics, a major supplier of government and commercial avionics, was honored for its high-technology research and development program. Brady, a publicly owned manufacturer of signs, labels and other identification and security products, received an award for corporate excellence. Privately owned Wisconsin Plating Works, which provides metal finishing services, received an award for employee and environmental stewardship. Nominated companies were evaluated in areas such as financial growth or consistency, technological advances, product development, environmental solutions, operational excellence/continuous improvement, commitment to employees, and effective research and development.[44]

In 2009, a group of elected officials and business leaders is trying to entice Boston-Power Inc., a Massachusetts-based battery maker, to open a factory in Milwaukee. Milwaukee Alderman Tony Zielinski has introduced a resolution to have the city of Milwaukee appropriate from $1 million to $20 million for a factory for Boston-Power, the Westborough, Mass.-based manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries for laptop computers, personal digital assistants, mobile telephones and other portable devices. Stimulus package funds are included in the $787 billion stimulus package signed by President Barack Obama for lithium-ion battery development, he said. Boston-Power’s interest in locating a plant in Milwaukee stems in part from the area’s manufacturing heritage and that it’s home to Johnson Controls Inc., the manufacturer has been developing lithium-ion batteries for hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles and electric vehicles.[45]


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1840 1,700
1850 20,061 1,080.1%
1860 45,246 125.5%
1870 71,440 57.9%
1880 115,587 61.8%
1890 204,468 76.9%
1900 285,315 39.5%
1910 373,857 31.0%
1920 457,147 22.3%
1930 578,249 26.5%
1940 587,472 1.6%
1950 637,392 8.5%
1960 741,324 16.3%
1970 717,099 −3.3%
1980 636,212 −11.3%
1990 628,088 −1.3%
2000 596,974 −5.0%
2010 594,833 −0.4%
Est. 2012 598,916 0.3%

At the 2010 Census there were 594,833 people residing in Milwaukee,[46] a change of -0.4% since 2000. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Milwaukee's population estimate for July 1, 2011 is 597,867 people, an increase of 3,034 from the 2010 Census.[47]

As of the 2000 census, the city had a population of 596,974[4] with 232,188 households and 135,133 families residing in the city. The population density is 2,399.5/km² (6,214.3 per square mile). There are 249,225 housing units at an average density of 1,001.7/km² (2,594.4 per square mile).

There are 232,188 households, of which 30.5% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.2% are married couples living together, 21.1% have a female householder with no husband present, and 41.8% are non-families. 33.5% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.5% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.50 and the average family size is 3.25.

According to the 2000 Census, there were at least 1,408 same-sex households in Milwaukee which accounts for 0.6% of all households in the city.[48] Gay-friendly communities have developed in primarily in Walker's Point, but also in Bay View, Historic Third Ward, Washington Heights, Riverwest, and the East Side. In 2001, Milwaukee was named the #1 city for lesbians by Girlfriends magazine.[49]

In the city the population is spread out with 28.6% under the age of 18, 12.2% from 18 to 24, 30.2% from 25 to 44, 18.1% from 45 to 64, and 10.9% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 31 years. For every 100 females there are 91.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 87.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $32,216, and the median income for a family is $37,879. Males have a median income of $32,244 versus $26,013 for females. The per capita income for the city is $16,181. 21.3% of the population and 17.4% of families are below the poverty line. Despite the high poverty rates, in 2010, home renters of Milwaukee faced an increasing rate for rent, up 3%.[50] Out of the total population, 31.6% of those under the age of 18 and 11.0% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

According to the 2010 Census, 44.8% of the population was White (37.0% non-Hispanic white), 40.0% was Black or African American, 0.8% American Indian and Alaska Native, 3.5% Asian, 3.4% from two or more races. 17.3% of Milwaukee's population was of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin (they may be of any race).[51]

According to the 2006-2008 American Community Survey, 38.3% of Milwaukee's residents reported having African American ancestry and 20.8% reported German ancestry. Other significant population groups include Polish (8.8%), Irish (6.5%), Italian (3.6%), English (2.8%), and French (1.7%). Hispanics makeup 15.7% of the population.[52]

The metropolitan area was cited as being the most segregated in the U.S. in a Jet Magazine article in 2002.[53] The source of this information was a segregation index developed in the mid-1950s and used since 1964. In 2003, a non-peer reviewed study was conducted by hired researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee which claimed that Milwaukee is not "hypersegregated" and instead ranks as the 43rd most integrated city in America.[54] In 2011, according to an article by Daniel Denvir at, John Paul Dewitt of and the University of Michigan's Social Science Data Analysis Network looks at census data and finds Milwaukee to be the most segregated urban area in the US.[55] Through continued dialogue between Milwaukee's citizens, the city is making an effort to reduce racial tensions and reduce the rate of segregation.[56] With demographic changes in the wake of white flight, segregation in metropolitan Milwaukee is primarily in the suburbs rather than the city as in the era of Father Groppi.[57][58]


St. Josaphat Basilica, in Milwaukee's historic Lincoln Village.

The Association of Religion Data Archives reported on the religious composition of the Milwaukee-Racine area as of 2000.[59] Approximately 55% of residents were adherents to one of the 188 groups included in the data.

Of them, 58% were Catholic, 23% Lutheran, 3% Methodist, and 2.5% Jewish. "Others" included adherents to other Protestant denominations, Orthodox churches, paganism and Eastern religions. Historically African-American denominations were not included in the data.

Milwaukee is home to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee. The School Sisters of the Third Order of St Francis have their mother house in Milwaukee, and several other religious orders have a significant presence in the area, including the Jesuits and Franciscans. Milwaukee, where Father Josef Kentenich was exiled for 14 years from 1952–1965, is also the center for the Schoenstatt Movement in the United States. St. Joan of Arc Chapel, the oldest church in Milwaukee, is located on the Marquette University campus. St. Josaphat Basilica was the first church to be given the Basilica honor in Wisconsin and the third in the United States. Holy Hill National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians, located northwest of Milwaukee, in Hartford, Wisconsin, was also made a Basilica in 2006.

Milwaukee is home for several Lutheran Church Synods, including The Greater Milwaukee Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), which operates Concordia University in Mequon and Milwaukee Lutheran High School, the oldest Lutheran high school in the nation; and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), which was founded in 1850 in Milwaukee and maintains its national headquarters there.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a presence in the Milwaukee area. The Milwaukee area has two stakes, with fourteen wards and four branches among them. The closest temple is the Chicago Illinois Temple. The area is part of the Wisconsin Milwaukee Mission.[60]

Numerous mosques, synagogues, and temples serve Milwaukee's Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Unitarian Universalist, and Buddhist communities.

Government and politics[]

Milwaukee has a mayor-council form of government. With the election of Mayor Jon O. Norquist in 1988, the city adopted a cabinet form of government with the mayor appointing those department heads not otherwise elected or appointed—notably the Fire and Police Chiefs. While this gave the mayor greater control of the day-to-day operations of the city, the Common Council retains almost complete control over the city's finances and the mayor, with the exception of his proposed annual budget, cannot directly introduce legislation. The Common Council consists of elected members, each representing one of 15 districts in the city. Milwaukee has a history of giving long tenures to its mayors; from Frank Zeidler to Tom Barrett, the city has had only four mayors in the last 60 years. When 28-year incumbent Henry Maier retired in 1988, he held the record for longest term of service for a city of Milwaukee's size.

Milwaukee has been a Democratic stronghold for more than a century, with Democrats dominating every level of government, except for its Socialist mayors and (for briefer periods) other city and county offices. The city is split between four state Senate districts, each of which is composed of three Assembly districts. All 12 of the officials representing the city in the State Legislature are Democrats. In 2008, Barack Obama won Milwaukee with 77% of the vote.[61]

Milwaukee makes up the overwhelming majority of Wisconsin's 4th congressional district. The district is heavily Democratic. The Democratic primary for the seat is considered more important than the general election.[62] The district is currently represented by Democrat Gwen Moore.

Tim Carpenter (D), Lena Taylor (D), Leah Vukmir (R), Nikiya Harris (D), Chris Larson (D), Alberta Darling (R), and Mary Lazich (R) represent Milwaukee in the Wisconsin State Senate, and Daniel Riemer (D), JoCasta Zamarripa (D), Josh Zepnick (D), Sandy Pasch (D), Mandela Barnes (D), Frederick P. Kessler (D), Rob Hutton (R), Dale P. Kooyenga (R), Leon Young (D), La Tonya Johnson (D), Evan Goyke (D), Jon Richards (D), Christine Sinicki (D), Don Pridemore (R), and Mike Kuglitsch (R) represent Milwaukee in the Wisconsin State Assembly.

In addition to the election of a Mayor and Common Council on the city level, Milwaukee residents elect county representatives to the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, as well as a Milwaukee County Executive. The current County Executive is Chris Abele.


For several years, Milwaukee ranked among the ten most dangerous large cities in the United States.[63][64] Despite its improvement since then, Milwaukee still fares worse when comparing specific crime types to the national average (e.g., homicide, rape, robbery); only aggravated assaults occur less frequently in Milwaukee than the national average.[65][66] The Milwaukee Police Department’s Gang Unit was reactivated in 2004 after Nannette Hegerty was sworn in as chief. In 2006 alone, some 4,000 charges were brought against suspects through Milwaukee’s Gang Unit.[67]


Milwaukee's skyline visible from a sailboat out on Lake Michigan

Milwaukee is a popular venue for Lake Michigan sailing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, ethnic dining, and cultural festivals. Often referred to as the City of Festivals, Milwaukee has various cultural events which take place throughout the summer at Maier Festival Park, on the lake. Museums and cultural events, such as Jazz in the Park, occur weekly in downtown parks. A 2011 study by Walk Score ranked Milwaukee 15th most walkable of fifty largest U.S. cities.[68]


Milwaukee is home to a wide variety of museums:


The Milwaukee Art Museum

  • The Milwaukee Art Museum is perhaps Milwaukee's most visually prominent cultural attraction; especially its $100 million wing designed by Santiago Calatrava in his first American commission.[69] The museum includes a "brise soleil," a moving sunscreen that unfolds similar to the wing of a bird.
  • The Grohmann Museum, at Milwaukee School of Engineering is home to the world's most comprehensive art collection dedicated to the evolution of human work. It houses the Man at Work collection, which comprises more than 700 paintings and sculptures dating from 1580 to the present. The museum also features a spectacular rooftop sculpture garden.
  • Haggerty Museum of Art, located on the Marquette University campus houses several classical masterpieces and is open to the public.
  • Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum
  • Charles Allis Art Museum
  • William F. Eisner Museum of Advertising & Design

Science and natural history[]

Discovery World

  • The Milwaukee Public Museum has been Milwaukee's primary natural history and human history museum for 125 years, with over 150,000 square feet (14,000 m2) of permanent exhibits.[70] Exhibits feature Africa, Europe, the Arctic, and South and Middle America, dinosaurs from 66 million years ago, the tropical rainforest, streets of Old Milwaukee, a European Village, a Sampson Gorilla replica, the Puelicher Butterfly Wing, hands-on laboratories, and animatronics. The Museum also has an IMAX movie theater/planetarium. Milwaukee Public Museum is home to the world’s largest dinosaur skull.
  • Discovery World, Milwaukee's largest museum dedicated to science, is just south of the Milwaukee Art Museum along the lake front. Visitors are drawn by its high-tech, hand-on exhibits, salt water and freshwater aquariums, as well as touch tanks and digital theaters. A double-helix staircase wraps around the 40-foot (12 m) kinetic sculpture of a human genome. The S/V Dennis Sullivan Schooner Ship docked at Discovery World is the world's only re-creation of a 1880s-era three-masted vessel and the first schooner to be built in Milwaukee in over 100 years. It teaches visitors about the Great Lakes and Wisconsin's maritime history.
  • Betty Brinn Children's Museum[71] is geared toward children under 10 and is filled with hands-on exhibits and interactive programs, offering families a chance to learn together. Voted one of the top 10 museums for children by Parents Magazine, it exemplifies the philosophy that constructive play nurtures the mind.
  • Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory (Mitchell Park Domes or, simply, The Domes) is a conservatory located at Mitchell Park. It is owned and operated by the Milwaukee County Park System, and replaced the original Milwaukee Conservatory which stood from 1898 to 1955. The three domes display a large variety of plant and bird life. The conservatory includes the Tropical Dome, the Arid Dome, and the Show Dome, which hosts four seasonal (cultural, literary, or historic) shows and one Christmas exhibit held annually in December for visitors to enjoy.

Social and cultural history[]

The Pabst Mansion

  • Pabst Mansion Built in 1892 by beer tycoon Frederick Pabst, this Flemish Renaissance Mansion was once considered the jewel of Milwaukee's famous avenue of mansions called the "Grand Avenue". Interior rooms restored with period furniture, to create an authentic replica of a Victorian Mansion. Nationally recognized as a house museum.
  • Milwaukee County Historical Society features Milwaukee during the late 19th century through the mid-20th century. Housed within an architectural landmark, the Milwaukee's Historical Society features a panoramic painting of Milwaukee, firefighting equipment, period replicas of a pharmacy and a bank, and Children's world - an exhibit that includes vintage toys, clothes and school materials. The museum houses a research library, where scenes from the movie Public Enemies were shot.
  • Wisconsin Black Historical Society,[72] whose mission is to document and preserve the historical heritage of African descent in Wisconsin, exhibiting collecting and disseminating materials depicting this heritage.
  • America's Black Holocaust Museum, founded by lynching survivor James Cameron, features exhibits which chronicle the injustices suffered throughout history by African Americans in the United States. The museum closed temporarily in July 2008 as a result of financial difficulties; no formal re-opening date had been set.[73]
  • Jewish Museum Milwaukee,[74] is dedicated to preserving and presenting the history of the Jewish people in southeastern Wisconsin and celebrating the continuum of Jewish heritage and culture.
  • Mitchell Gallery of Flight, located at General Mitchell International Airport, Milwaukee's aviation and historical enthusiasts experience the history of General Mitchell International Airport with a visit to the Gallery of Flight. Exhibits include General Billy Mitchell; replicas of past and present aircraft including the Lawson Airline, the first commercial airliner; the Graf Zeppelin II, the sistership to the tragically legendary Hindenburg; a 1911 Curtis Pusher, an airplane with the propeller in the rear of the plane; and the present day giant of the sky, the 747. Other exhibits include commercial air memorabilia, early aviation engines and airport beacons.
  • Harley-Davidson Museum, opened in 2008, pays tribute to Harley-Davidson motorcycles and is the only museum of its type in the world.
  • Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear

In 2009, Milwaukee ranked No. 11 on Newsmax magazine's list of the "Top 25 Most Uniquely American Cities and Towns," a piece written by current CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg. In determining his ranking, Greenberg cited—among other things—the city's number of "standout historical structures," such as the Pabst Mansion and the Milwaukee Public Museum.[75]

Arenas and performing arts[]

Milwaukee is home to a number of musical groups and venues, including:

  • Bel Canto Chorus
  • First Stage Children's Theater
  • Festival City Symphony
  • Florentine Opera
  • In Tandem Theatre
  • Marcus Center for the Performing Arts
  • Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra
  • Milwaukee Theatre
  • Milwaukee Youth Arts Center
  • Milwaukee Ballet
  • Milwaukee Repertory Theater
  • Milwaukee Shakespeare
  • Carte Blanche Studios Theatre
  • Milwaukee Opera Theatre
  • Milwaukee Youth Theatre
  • Pabst Theater
  • Pioneer Drum and Bugle Corps
  • The Rave /Eagles Ballroom
  • Riverside Theater
  • Skylight Music Theatre
  • Wisconsin Conservatory of Music
  • Turner Hall
  • BMO Harris Bradley Center
  • Miller Park
  • Marcus Amphitheater on the Henry Maier Festival Park Summerfest Grounds

In 1984 ComedySportz was founded in Milwaukee by native Dick Chudnow and has since become a franchise, with numerous venues throughout the United States and England. In July 2009 the ComedySportz world championship returned to Milwaukee to coincide with their 25th anniversary.

Public art and monuments[]

Milwaukee has some 75 sculptures to honor the many people and topics reflecting the city's history.[76] Among the more prominent monuments are:

  • Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben
  • Tadeusz Kościuszko
  • Casimir Pulaski
  • Solomon Juneau
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • George Washington
  • Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli
  • Pope John Paul II
  • Martin Luther King Jr.
  • The Victorious Charge
  • Leif Ericson
  • Jacques Marquette
  • Goethe-Schiller Monument
  • Immigrant Mother
  • Letter Carriers' Monument, a memorial to the National Association of Letter Carriers

City of Festivals[]

Henry Maier Festival Grounds during Summerfest

While Milwaukee had been previously marketed as "A Genuine American City" as well as "A Great Place on a Great Lake," it has earned the nickname, the "City of Festivals."

The city hosts the Wisconsin State Fair, as well as an annual lakefront fair called Summerfest. Listed in the 1999 Guinness Book of World Records as the largest music festival in the world, for the last several years Summerfest has attracted around a million visitors each year to its eleven stages.

Milwaukee is home to a variety of primarily ethnically themed festivals throughout the summer. Held generally on the lakefront Summerfest grounds, these festivals span several days (typically Friday plus the weekend) and celebrate Milwaukee's history and diversity. In 2008 Riversplash, which markets itself as 'the official opening of summer', kicks off festival season on the last weekend of May. Festivals for the LGBT (PrideFest) and Polish (Polish Fest) communities follow in June. Summerfest spans 11 days at the end of June and beginning of July. Milwaukee hosts the Great Circus Parade in July. In 1960, the Shamrock Club of Wisconsin was started in Milwaukee with chapters in other parts of the state. There are French (Bastille Days), Greek, Italian (Festa Italiana) and German (German Fest) festivals in July. The African, Arab, Irish, Mexican, and American Indian events wrap it up from August through September.[77] Milwaukee is also home to Trainfest, the largest operating model railroad show in America, in November.


Milwaukee's ethnic cuisines include German, Italian, Russian, Hmong, French, Serbian, Polish, Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, Turkish, Middle Eastern and Ethiopian.

Famous Chef Julia Child visited Milwaukee and selected Milwaukee native chef Sanford D'Amato to cook for her 80th birthday.[78] D'Amato, trained in New York City, is the executive chef for Milwaukee's five star restaurant Sanford, and Coquette Cafe Milwaukee.[78]

Milwaukee County hosts the Zoo-A La Carte at the Milwaukee County Zoo, and various ethnic festivals like Summerfest, German Fest, and Festa Italiana to celebrate various types of cuisine in summer months.


Aerial view of "Jazz in the Park," Cathedral Square Park

Milwaukee has a long history of musical activity. The first organized musical society, called "Milwaukee Beethoven Society" formed in 1843, three years before the city was incorporated.[79]

The large concentrations of German and other European immigrants contributed to the musical character of the city. Saengerfesten were held regularly.[80]

In the early 20th century guitar legend Les Paul, and pianist Liberace were some of the area's most famous musicians. Both Paul, born in Waukesha, and Liberace, born in West Allis, launched their internationally recognized careers in Milwaukee music venues. Paramount Records, primarily a jazz and blues record label, was founded in Grafton, a northern suburb of Milwaukee, in the 1920s and 1930s. Hal Leonard Corporation, founded in 1947 is one of the worlds largest music print publishers, and is headquartered in Milwaukee. The Hal Leonard Guitar Method was launched in Milwaukee becoming one of the first methods to incorporate popular music. The course today remains the leading guitar method in the world; it has taught millions of people how to play. Today, Hal Leonard represents in print some of the world's best known and most respected artists, such as: Aerosmith, Johnny Cash, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Billy Joel, Elton John, B.B. King, Nirvana, Tom Petty, Pink Floyd, The Police, Elvis Presley, Queen, Bonnie Raitt, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Frank Sinatra, Sting, U2, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Who, Hank Williams, Stevie Wonder, and others.[81] More recently, Milwaukee has enjoyed a vibrant history of rock, hip hop, jazz, soul, blues, punk, ska, industrial music, electronica, world music, and pop music bands.

Milwaukee's most famous music venue is Summerfest. Summerfest claims to be the world's largest music festival and was founded in Milwaukee in 1968. Live musical acts are offered on 11 stages, for 11 days beginning in late June. On the Summerfest grounds, the largest theater in the city is the Marcus Amphitheater with a 23,000 person capacity.

Venues such as Pabst Theater, Marcus Center for Performing Arts, the Helene Zelazo Center for the Performing Arts, Marcus Amphitheater (Summerfest Grounds), Riverside Theater, the Northern Lights Theater, and The Rave frequently bring internationally known acts to Milwaukee. 'Jazz in the Park', a weekly jazz show held at downtown Cathedral Square Park, has become a summer tradition; free, public performances with a picnic environment.[82] Nearby Pere Marquette Park hosts "River Rhythms" on Wednesday nights.

The Milwaukee area is known for producing national talents such as Steve Miller (rock), Wladziu Valentino Liberace (piano), Al Jarreau (jazz), Eric Benet (neo-soul), Speech (hip hop), Daryl Stuermer (rock), BoDeans (rock), Les Paul (jazz), the Violent Femmes (alternative), Coo Coo Cal (rap), Die Kreuzen (punk), Andy Hurley of Fall Out Boy (punk), Eyes To The Sky (hardcore), Rico Love (R&B), Andrew 'The Butcher' Mrotek of The Academy Is... (alt-rock), The Promise Ring (indie), Realm (metal), the Gufs (alt rock), The Modern Machines (punk), Brief Candles (rock) and Decibully (indie).

Municipal wireless[]

Through its Milwaukee Wireless Initiative, the city has contracted with Midwest Fiber Networks to invest US$20 million in setting up a municipal wireless network city-wide. Under the plan, the city will designate numerous government and public service websites for free access, and city residents will be able to access unlimited content for a monthly fee. Full wireless coverage was expected by March 2008,[83] but delays have been reported.[84]

The city had previously established free wireless networks in two downtown city parks: Cathedral Square; and Pere Marquette Park.[85][86][87]

Parks and recreation[]

Panoramic view of Lake Park, c. 1890.

Leisure boats on the Milwaukee River

Havenwoods State Forest entrance

Boerner Botanical Gardens

Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, "The Domes"

Milwaukee County is known for its well-developed Parks of Milwaukee park system.[88] The "Grand Necklace of Parks", designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York's Central Park, includes Lake Park, River Park (now Riverside Park), and West Park (now Washington Park). Milwaukee County Parks offer facilities for sunbathing, picnics, grilling, disc golf, and ice skating.[89] Milwaukee has over 140 parks with over 15,000 acres (6,100 ha) of parks and parkways. In its 2013 ParkScore ranking, The Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation organization, reported that Milwaukee had the 19th best park system among the 50 most populous U.S. cities.[90]

Parks and nature centers[]

The Monarch Trail, located on the Milwaukee County Grounds in Wauwatosa, is a 1.25-mile (2 km) trail that highlights the fall migration of the Monarch butterflies.[91]

During the summer months, Cathedral Park in Downtown Milwaukee is home to "Jazz in the Park" on Thursday nights.[92] Nearby Pere Marquette Park hosts "River Rhythms" on Wednesday nights.

Milwaukee County public markets[]

The Milwaukee Public Market

Milwaukee Public Market, located in the Third Ward neighborhood, is an indoor market that sells produce, seafood, meats, cheeses, vegetables, candies, and flowers from local businesses.

Milwaukee County Farmers Markets, held in season, sell fresh produce, meats, cheeses, jams, jellies, preserves and syrups, and plants. Farmers markets also feature artists and craftspeople. Locations include: Aur Farmers Market, Brown Deer Farmers Market, Cudahy Farmers Market, East Town Farm Market, Fondy Farmers Market, Mitchell Street Market, Riverwest Farmers Market, Silver Spring Farmers Market, South Milwaukee Farmers Market, South Shore Farmers Market, Uptown Farmers Market, Wauwatosa Farmers Market, West Allis Farmers Market, and Westown Market on the Park.


Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers

The BMO Harris Bradley Center

Milwaukee has a rich history of involvement in professional and nonprofessional sports, since the 19th century. Abraham Lincoln watched cricket in Milwaukee in 1849 when he attended a game between Chicago and Milwaukee. In 1854, the Milwaukee Cricket Club had 150 members.[93] Currently, Milwaukee's sports teams include:

Club Sport Founded Current League Stadium
Milwaukee Brewers Baseball 1969
(moved to Milwaukee in 1970)
National League (MLB) Miller Park
Milwaukee Bucks Basketball 1968 National Basketball Association Bradley Center
Milwaukee Admirals Hockey 1970 American Hockey League Bradley Center
Milwaukee Wave Indoor soccer 1984 Major Indoor Soccer League (2009) U.S. Cellular Arena
Milwaukee Bavarians Soccer 2003 National Premier Soccer League Bavarian Soccer Club
Milwaukee Blast Basketball 2011 American Basketball Association Wisconsin Lutheran College
Milwaukee Marauders Semi-Pro Football 2005 est. North American Football League Milwaukee Sports Complex
Milwaukee Momentum Women's American Football National Women's Football Association
Milwaukee Bombers Australian Rules Football Mid American Australian Football League

Milwaukee is the host city of The Point Premium Root Beer International Cycling Classic, presented by Time Warner Cable, which includes the men's and women's Superweek Pro Tour races, featuring top professional and elite amateur cyclists and teams from across the U.S. and more than 20 foreign countries.

Though the city itself has no NFL team, Milwaukee has long been known for its support of the Green Bay Packers. The team split its home schedule between Green Bay and Milwaukee (the majority of the Milwaukee games being played at County Stadium) from 1933 to 1994.[94] The Packers' longtime flagship station is Milwaukee-based WTMJ AM 620.[95]


Merrill Hall at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

The John P. Raynor, S.J. Library at Marquette University

Higher education[]

Milwaukee has one of the highest per capita student populations in North America, ranking 6th among U.S. and Canadian cities in number of college students per 100 residents, according to a January 2000 study from McGill University.[96]

Milwaukee area universities and colleges:

  • Alverno College
  • The Art Institute of Wisconsin
  • Bryant and Stratton
  • Cardinal Stritch University
  • Carroll University (Waukesha)
  • Concordia University Wisconsin (Mequon)
  • Herzing University
  • Marquette University
  • Medical College of Wisconsin (Wauwatosa)
  • Milwaukee Area Technical College
  • Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design
  • Milwaukee School of Engineering
  • Mount Mary College
  • National-Louis University
  • Sacred Heart School of Theology (Hales Corners, Wisconsin)
  • University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
  • University of Wisconsin–Waukesha (Waukesha)
  • Wisconsin Lutheran College

Primary and secondary education[]

Milwaukee maintains Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), the largest school district in Wisconsin and thirty third in the nation. As of 2007, it had an enrollment of 89,912 students[97] and as of 2006 employed 11,100 full-time and substitute teachers in 323 schools. Milwaukee Public Schools operate as magnet schools, with individualized specialty areas for interests in academics or the arts. Washington High School, Riverside University High School, Rufus King High School, Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory High School, Samuel Morse Middle School for the Gifted and Talented, Golda Meir School, Milwaukee High School of the Arts, and Lynde & Harry Bradley Technology and Trade School are some of the magnet schools in Milwaukee. In 2007, 17 MPS high schools appeared on a national list of "dropout factories" - schools where fewer than 60% of freshmen graduate on time.[98] Milwaukee is also home to over two dozen private or parochial high schools (e.g., St. Anthony High School, Divine Savior Holy Angels High School, Thomas More High School, Dominican High School, Messmer High School, Marquette University High School, Milwaukee Lutheran High School, Pius XI High School, St. Joan Antida High School, and University School of Milwaukee among others) and many private and parochial middle and elementary schools.

Of persons in Milwaukee aged 25 and above, 84.5% have a high school diploma, and 27% have a bachelor's degree or higher. (2000)[99]

Health care[]

Milwaukee's health care industry includes several health systems. The Milwaukee Regional Medical Complex, located between 8700 and 9200 West Wisconsin Avenue, is on the Milwaukee County grounds. This area includes the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, Froedtert Hospital, BloodCenter of Wisconsin, the Ronald McDonald House, Curative Rehabilitation, and the Medical College of Wisconsin. Aurora Health Care includes St. Luke's Medical Center, Aurora Sinai Medical Center, West Allis Memorial, and St. Luke's SouthShore. Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare includes St. Joseph's Hospital, St. Francis Hospital, The Wisconsin Heart Hospital, Elmbrook Memorial (Brookfield), and other outpatient clinics in the Milwaukee area. Columbia St. Mary's Hospital is on Milwaukee's lakeshore and has established affiliations with Froedtert Hospital and the Medical College of Wisconsin. The Medical College of Wisconsin is one of two medical schools in Wisconsin and the only one in Milwaukee.

Other health care non-profit organizations in Milwaukee include national headquarters of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology and the Endometriosis Association.



Timmerman Field

Milwaukee is home to two airports, General Mitchell International Airport on the southern edge of the city, and the smaller Timmerman Field on the north side. Mitchell is served by 12 airlines, which offer roughly 240 daily departures and 245 daily arrivals. Approximately 90 cities are served nonstop or direct from Mitchell International. It is the largest airport in Wisconsin and the 34th largest in the nation.[100] The airport terminal is open 24 hours a day. Since 2005, Mitchell International Airport has been connected by the Amtrak Hiawatha train service, which provides airport access via train to Chicago and downtown Milwaukee. Southwest/AirTran, Frontier Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines, Air Canada and Delta Air Lines are amongst the carriers using Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport gates.[101] In 2011, Airports Council International stated that Mitchell was in the top 30 fastest growing airports in the world, serving 844,453 passengers in the month of April 2011 alone. Reasons for the airport's fast growth revolve primarily around the fact that the average cost for an outbound flight at Mitchell Intl was $78 less than the national average.[100]

Intercity rail[]

The Milwaukee Intermodal Station

Milwaukee's Amtrak station was renovated in 2007 to create the Milwaukee Intermodal Station near downtown Milwaukee and the Third Ward to provide Amtrak riders access to Greyhound Lines and Jefferson Lines intercity bus transportation. Milwaukee is served by the Hiawatha Amtrak express service up to seven times daily between downtown Milwaukee and downtown Chicago, including a stop at the Milwaukee Airport Railroad Station, Sturtevant, WI near Racine, WI, Glenview, IL. Amtrak operates its Empire Builder passenger train daily between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest, with stops near Madison, Wisconsin Dells and Minneapolis. In 2010, $800 million in federal funds were allocated to the creation of high speed rail links from Milwaukee to Chicago and Madison;[102] but the funds were eventually rejected by newly elected Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.[103]

In 2009, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, with seven other governors of Midwestern states and then-Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, joined in bipartisan support of a high-speed rail network that would link cities around the region. Milwaukee would be connected to Madison and Chicago as part of the first phase of the system. “President Obama’s vision of making high-speed rail a part of our nation’s future transportation network holds great promise”, Doyle and co-signers wrote in a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We recognize that a high-speed rail network has the potential to reduce highway and airway congestion, greenhouse gas emissions and the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.” Governors Pat Quinn of Illinois, Jay Nixon of Missouri, Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Chet Culver of Iowa, Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, Ted Strickland of Ohio and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota were co-signers of the letter. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds and mandates high-speed passenger rail and the Midwestern network would include 3,000 miles (4,800 km) of existing rights of way to connect cities with trains capable of at least 110 miles per hour (180 km/h). Chicago would serve as the hub, just as it does for freight. The rail network would link large and small metropolitan areas, airports, bus stations and highways.[104]

The Obama administration announced $823 million in federal stimulus spending to build high-speed rail for the southern half of Wisconsin. The rail line connecting Milwaukee and Madison, which Governor Jim Doyle touted as revolutionary, would have started out at roughly 79 mph (127 km/h) when it would have begun in 2013 and would not have reached its top speed of 110 mph (180 km/h) for at least several years. The state's application for the federal funds put the acceleration in 2016, when the line was expected to expand to the Twin Cities.[105] In 2011, the project was ended by Doyle's successor, Scott Walker.

Commuter transit[]

The Badger Bus and station in downtown Milwaukee provides bus service between Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin. Stops include the UW–Madison Memorial Union, Madison Bus Depot, Johnson Creek, Goerkes Corners, Milwaukee 84th St, Milwaukee Bus Depot (downtown Milwaukee), and Milwaukee Airport. The Milwaukee County Transit System provides bus services within Milwaukee County. The renovated Milwaukee Intermodal Station provides Jefferson Lines intercity bus riders access to Amtrak and Greyhound Lines.

A tram system known as the Milwaukee Connector was proposed and passed by the Common Council, but Mayor Tom Barrett vetoed the bill because of problems of cost and availability. A modern streetcar is now planned to connect the Milwaukee Intermodal Station, downtown Milwaukee, and Ogden Ave. The project is projected to cost $64.6 million and open in the summer of 2016.[106]

A 0.5% sales tax was proposed for the counties of Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha by the Southeast Wisconsin Regional Transit Authority to fund the KRM (Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee) Commuter Rail project serving those cities as well as several other stops on the route. A connection to Metra commuter rail in Kenosha was planned with some trains continuing to Chicago. In Milwaukee, the line was to terminate at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station. In June 2011, authorizing legislation for regional transit authorities in Wisconsin was repealed, leading to the dissolution of the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority, which was leading the commuter rail planning. The project is currently on indefinite hold.[107]


The Hoan Bridge

Two of Wisconsin's Interstate highways intersect in Milwaukee. Interstate 94 comes north from Chicago to enter Milwaukee and continues west to Madison. Interstate 43 enters Milwaukee from the southwest and continues north to Green Bay. Milwaukee has two branch interstate highways, Interstate 894 and Interstate 794. I-894 extends from the western suburbs to the southern suburbs, bypassing downtown. I-794 extends east from the Marquette Interchange to Lake Michigan before turning south over the Hoan Bridge toward the airport, turning into Highway 794 along the way. Milwaukee is also served by three US highways. U.S. Route 18 provides a link from downtown to points west. U.S. Route 41 and U.S. Route 45 both provide north-south freeway transportation on the western side of the city.

In 2010, the Milwaukee area was ranked the 4th best city for commuters by Forbes.[108]


The Lake Express Terminal

Milwaukee connects with Muskegon, Michigan through the Lake Express high-speed auto and passenger ferry. The Lake Express travels across Lake Michigan from late spring to the fall of each year.


The Oak Leaf Trail on the East Side

Milwaukee has over 65 miles (105 km) of bicycle lanes and trails, most of which run alongside or near its rivers and Lake Michigan. The Oak Leaf Trail, a multi-use recreational trail, provides bicycle trails throughout the city and county. Still pending are the creation of bicycle lanes along major commuting routes, such as the Hoan Bridge connector between downtown and the suburbs to the south. The city has also identified over 250 miles (400 km) of streets on which bike lanes will fit. It has created a plan labeling 145 miles (233 km) of those as high priority for receiving bike lanes.[109] As part of the city's Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force's mission to "make Milwaukee more bicycle and pedestrian friendly", over 700 bike racks have been installed throughout the city.[110] The Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin[111] holds an annual Bike to Work Week. The event, held in May each year, has frequently featured a commuter race between a car, a bus, and a bike; and also a morning ride into work with the mayor. In 2006, Milwaukee obtained bronze-level status from the League of American Bicyclists,[112] a rarity for a city its size.[113]

Starting on June 4, 2009, the Milwaukee County Transit System has begun installing bicycle racks to the front of county buses.[114] This "green" effort has been done, in part, with hopes of settling an asbestos lawsuit leveled by the state at the county in 2006.[115] The lawsuit cites the release of asbestos into the environment when the Courthouse Annex was demolished.[116]


The WITI TV Tower is located in Shorewood, off of the Oak Leaf Trail, just north of Capitol Drive.

Milwaukee's daily newspaper is the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel which was formed when the morning paper the Milwaukee Sentinel merged with the afternoon paper Milwaukee Journal. The most prominent alternative weekly is Shepherd Express, a free publication. Other local newspapers, city guides and magazines with large distributions include M Magazine, Milwaukee Magazine, The Bay View Compass, and Riverwest Currents. is an online magazine providing news and events. The UWM Post is the independent, student-run weekly at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. The Onion, a weekly satirical publication, is distributed free in Milwaukee (one of the paper's earliest markets) with localized A.V. Club content, in addition to nine other U.S. cities.[117]

Milwaukee's major network television affiliates are WTMJ 4 (NBC), WITI 6 (Fox), WISN 12 (ABC), WVTV 18 (CW), WCGV 24 (MyNetworkTV), and WDJT 58 (CBS). Spanish language programming is on WBWT 38 (Azteca America) and WYTU-LD 63 (Telemundo). Milwaukee's public broadcasting stations are WMVS 10 and WMVT 36.

Other television stations in the Milwaukee market include WMKE 7 (America One), WVCY 30 (FN), WBME-CD 41 (Me-TV), WMLW-TV 49 (Independent), WWRS 52 (TBN), Sportsman Channel, and WPXE 55 (ION)

There are numerous radio stations throughout Milwaukee and the surrounding area.

Journal Communications (a NYSE-traded corporation), in addition to owning the Journal Sentinel, also owns: WTMJ-TV; WTMJ and WLWK radio stations; and well over a dozen local weekly newspapers in the metropolitan area. As a result, it has been repeatedly criticized for having a near-monopoly in local news coverage,[118][119][120] with critics concerned about a certain uniformity of thought and coverage, as well as to lack of coverage of topics unfriendly to Journal Communications interests in such matters as labor disputes.[121] Journal Communications at one point created an ersatz "alternative weekly", MKE, which failed due to a lack of credibility as an "alternative" to its own parent company.[122]

Sister cities[]

The city of Milwaukee has several sister cities as designated by Sister Cities International and Milwaukee's Sister Cities:[123]

  • Turkey Manisa, Turkey
  • Tanzania Morogoro, Tanzania
  • Cuba Nuevitas, Camagüey, Cuba
  • Israel Tiberias, Israel
  • Germany Schwerin, Germany
  • South Africa uMhlathuze, South Africa
  • Japan Maebashi Nishi, Gunma Prefecture, Japan


  • People's Republic of China Ningbo, China

Although this relationship is not recognized by SCI, officials from Milwaukee and Ningbo have signed an agreement to promote business and cultural ties between the two cities and their respective nations.[126]

In popular culture[]

  • Milwaukee was the setting of the 2011 film Bridesmaids.
  • Milwaukee was the setting for popular American television shows in the 1970s and 1980s, including Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley. Milwaukee unveiled a life-sized, bronze statue of Fonzie from Happy Days along the downtown Riverwalk on August 19, 2008 to mixed reaction.[127]
  • The comic book superheros Great Lakes Avengers keep their base of operations in Milwaukee.
  • The Futurama episode Love and Rocket has the cast taking a trip to Milwaukee in the year 3002 where it has become known as "The World's Most Romantic City" and "Birthplace of Beer Goggles."
  • In The Simpsons episode Sweets and Sour Marge, it is announced that Springfield, home of the Simpsons family, is now America's 'fattest city', prompting Homer Simpson to shout triumphantly "In your face Milwaukee!" (Actually, in 2002, the year the episode was aired, Milwaukee was not even ranked amongst the 20 fattest US cities according to Men's Health).[128]
  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 series finale, Diabolik, the crew of the Satellite of Love survive a crash into Earth, and Tom Servo, Crow T. Robot, Cambot, and Mike Nelson wind up renting an apartment in Milwaukee. The episode ends as they watch the WTMJ-TV Saturday afternoon movie, The Crawling Eye, an in-joke to the first network TV episode of MST3K.
  • Milwaukee appears as a setting under the name Millhaven, Illinois in the later works of Milwaukeean Peter Straub
  • Milwaukee is the focal setting of a contra-historical novel, Kolossus, set in 1953, when (counterfactually) Benito Mussolini visits the city to (among other things) dedicate a theater in the Historic Third Ward, Milwaukee.
  • In the 1957 film The Prince and the Showgirl, Marilyn Monroe plays an American performer who overhears, and helps to thwart, a plot to overthrow a European monarch. The discussion she overhears is in German, and the plotters disregard her presence as a "dumb blonde" American, but it turns out she is fluent in German because, as she later explains, she's from Milwaukee.
  • Danny Gokey, from Milwaukee, was the third-place finalist during the eighth season (2009) of American Idol.
  • Milwaukee was one of the audition cities for the 2010-2011 American Idol auditions. The winner of this season, Scotty McCreery, and finalist Naima Adedapo, a Milwaukee native, were also discovered during this audition.

Milwaukee has appeared (or has been depicted) in scenes from a variety of feature films, including:

  • The Hindenburg (1975)
  • The Blues Brothers (1980)
  • Major League (1989)
  • Medusa: Dare to be Truthful (1991) - Milwaukee was Medusa's hometown, movie actually filmed in Los Angeles.
  • Wayne's World (1992) - in which the characters parodied the opening of Laverne and Shirley.
  • Camp Nowhere (1994)
  • Hoop Dreams (1994)
  • One Night Stand (1997)
  • My Best Friend's Wedding (1997)
  • BASEketball (1998)
  • The Big One (1998)
  • Dogma (1999)
  • American Movie (1999)
  • Chump Change (2001)
  • Love Actually (2003)

  • Milwaukee, Minnesota (2003)
  • "Bad Santa" (2003)
  • Mr. 3000 (2004)
  • Dawn of the Dead (2004) - set in Milwaukee, actual filming was done in Ontario[129]
  • 5000 Miles (2006)
  • Chasing Sound: Les Paul at 90 (2007)
  • Michael Clayton (2007)
  • Crossed (2008)
  • Up in the Air setting based in Milwaukee (2009)[130]
  • Public Enemies (2009)
  • No God No Master (2010 film)
  • Bridesmaids (2011)
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)[131]

See also[]

  • 1947 Wisconsin earthquake
  • Excalibur (automobile)
  • Flag of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Great Lakes Megalopolis
  • List of tallest buildings in Milwaukee
  • Milwaukee Flood of 2010
  • Neighborhoods of Milwaukee
  • National Register of Historic Places listings in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Parks of Milwaukee
  • Seal of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Third Coast


  • List of mayors of Milwaukee
  • List of people from Milwaukee, Wisconsin


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External links[]

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Coordinates: 43°03′N 87°57′W / 43.05, -87.95

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