Milwaukee was founded in 1818 by Solomon Juneau, Byron Kilbourn and George H. Walker as a trading post for the fur trade industry. In its early years it became a center point of commercial development between Chicago and Green Bay that made it one of the most important cities on the Great Lakes. Milwaukee’s location along Lake Michigan has played an integral role in much of the history of Wisconsin; today you can still see many examples where its natural harbor allowed ships to service industries throughout America with ease up until WWII when they fell under decline after railroads took over transportation methods across state lines.
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Between 1846 and 1854, a wave of German immigrants arrived, bringing with them expert industrial skills, refined culture, liberal politics, and Catholicism. Milwaukee soon became a center of foundry, machinery, and metal-working industries, as well as a center for brewing and grain trading. During the last third of the 19th century, visitors often commented on Milwaukee’s refined German culture, European elegance, and prosperity (while usually overlooking the laborers who produced its wealth with the toil of their hands). On Oct. 28, 1892, a fire in the Irish third ward wiped out sixteen square blocks, leaving 2,000 immigrant working-class residents homeless.
In addition to being known as “The Cream City” due to rich glacial silt which helped give rise to unique cream brick architecture among countless other places around the country, Milwaukee is also known as “The City of Festivals” for its plethora of different annual cultural events and celebrations including Summerfest (the world’s largest music festival), German Fest, Polish Fest; Festa Italiana; Bastille Days to name a few. Milwaukee has long been seen as an industrial hub with strong ties to manufacturing which earned it the nickname “Machine Shop Of The World”, but more recently in recent decades has transitioned to a job center most notably focusing on innovation and technology where companies like Rockwell Automation, MillerCoors and Harley Davidson are still headquartered today.
Wisconsin’s largest city lies on Lake Michigan, where the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic Rivers come together. People had lived there for more than 13,000 years before the first Europeans arrived. At that time Milwaukee was neutral ground shared by several American Indian tribes.
Since 1970, manufacturing has ceased to dominate Milwaukee’s economy, although traditional industries such as heavy machinery, tools, engines and brewing survive. Instead, businesses in the service sector, such as health care, banking, insurance, and retail sales, now employ most Milwaukee workers. Such businesses have spread north, west, and south out of the city along interstate highways, until the community of greater Milwaukee stretches nearly to Racine, Washington, and Jefferson counties.
Today, Milwaukee is known as the “City of Festivals.” German heritage and brewing are strong influences, but so too is its annual international Jazz festival. The city also hosts an Oktoberfest celebration that has been held since 1892.