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In 2017, we launched our Heaviside Digital platform, designed to provide high-quality web, digital marketing, and SEO services to businesses with lower marketing budgets.
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The name "Milwaukee" comes from an Algonquian word millioke, meaning "good", "beautiful" and "pleasant land" (compare Potawatomi: minwaking, Ojibwe: ominowakiing) or "gathering place [by the water]" (compare Potawatomi: manwaking, Ojibwe: omaniwakiing). The name has a less pleasant connotation in the Menominee language, where it is called Māēnāēwah, "some misfortune happens".
Indigenous cultures lived along the waterways for thousands of years. The first recorded inhabitants of the Milwaukee area are the historic Menominee, Fox, Mascouten, Sauk, Potawatomi, and Ojibwe (all Algic/Algonquian peoples); and Ho-Chunk (Winnebago, a Siouan people) Native American tribes. Many of these people had lived around Green Bay before migrating to the Milwaukee area around the time of European contact.
In the second half of the 18th century, the Native Americans living near Milwaukee played a role in all the major European wars on the American continent. During the French and Indian War, a group of "Ojibwas and Pottawattamies from the far [Lake] Michigan" (i.e., the area from Milwaukee to Green Bay) joined the French-Canadian Daniel Liénard de Beaujeu at the Battle of the Monongahela. In the American Revolutionary War, the Native Americans around Milwaukee were some of the few groups to ally with the rebel Continentals.
After the Revolutionary War, the Native Americans fought the United States in the Northwest Indian War as part of the Council of Three Fires. During the War of 1812, they held a council in Milwaukee in June 1812, which resulted in their decision to attack Chicago in retaliation against American expansion. This resulted in the Battle of Fort Dearborn on August 15, 1812, the only known armed conflict in the Chicago area. This battle convinced the American government that the Native Americans had to be removed from their land. After being attacked in the Black Hawk War in 1832, the Native Americans in Milwaukee signed the Treaty of Chicago with the United States in 1833. In exchange for their ceding their lands in the area, they were to receive monetary payments and lands west of the Mississippi in Indian Territory.
Europeans had arrived in the Milwaukee area prior to the 1833 Treaty of Chicago. 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; and is considered the first resident of European descent in the Milwaukee region. Early explorers called the Milwaukee River and surrounding lands various names: Melleorki, Milwacky, Mahn-a-waukie, Milwarck, and Milwaucki, in efforts to transliterate the native terms. For many years, printed records gave the name as "Milwaukie".
One story on the origin of Milwaukee's name says,
The spelling "Milwaukie" lives on in Milwaukie, Oregon, named after the Wisconsin city in 1847, before the current spelling was universally accepted.
Milwaukee has three "founding fathers": Solomon Juneau, Byron Kilbourn, and George H. Walker. Solomon Juneau was the first of the three to come to the area, in 1818. He founded a town called Juneau's Side, or Juneautown, that began attracting more settlers. In competition with Juneau, Byron Kilbourn established Kilbourntown west of the Milwaukee River. He ensured the roads 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 the river's east side was uninhabited and thus undesirable. The third prominent developer 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.
The first large wave of settlement to the areas that would later become Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee began in 1835, following removal of the tribes in the Council of Three Fires. Early that year it became known that Juneau and Kilbourn intended to lay out competing town-sites. By the year's end both had purchased their lands from the government and made their first sales. There were perhaps 100 new settlers in this year, mostly from New England and other Eastern states. On September 17, 1835, the first election was held in Milwaukee; the number of votes cast was 39.
By 1840, the three towns had grown, along with their rivalries. There were intense battles between the towns, mainly Juneautown and Kilbourntown, which culminated with the Milwaukee Bridge War of 1845. Following the Bridge War, town leaders 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.
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 to 1855 consisted mainly of people from Southwestern Germany, the second wave from 1865 to 1873 concerned primarily Northwestern Germany, while the third wave from 1880 to 1893 came from Northeastern Germany. 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 immigrated 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 and 1910, 90 percent went to the United States, most of them traveling to the Mid-Atlantic states and the Midwest.
By 1900 34 percent of Milwaukee's population was of German background. The largest number of German immigrants to Milwaukee came from Prussia, followed by Bavaria, Saxony, Hanover, and Hesse-Darmstadt. Milwaukee gained its reputation as the most German of American cities not just from the large number of German immigrants it received, but for the sense of community which the immigrants established here.
Most German immigrants came to Wisconsin in search of inexpensive farmland. However, immigration began to change in character and size in the late 1840s and early 1850s, due to the 1848 revolutionary movements in Europe. 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. He later explained in 1854 why he came to Milwaukee,
Schurz was referring to the various clubs and societies Germans developed in Milwaukee. The pattern of German immigrants to settle near each other encouraged the continuation of the 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 had a lasting influence 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.
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 number of German restaurants, as well as a traditional German beer hall. A German language immersion school is offered for children in grades K-5.
Although the German presence in Milwaukee after the Civil War remained strong and their largest wave of immigrants had yet to land, other groups also 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 that developed here. The group maintained a high profile here for decades, and it was not until the 1950s and 1960s that families began to disperse to the southern suburbs.
By 1850, there were seventy-five Poles in Milwaukee County and the US Census shows 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 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 more dense, 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. Jones Island was a major commercial fishing center settled mostly by Poles from around the Baltic Sea.
Milwaukee has the fifth-largest Polish population in the U.S. at 45,467, ranking behind New York City (211,203), Chicago (165,784), Los Angeles (60,316) and Philadelphia (52,648). The city holds Polish Fest, an annual celebration of Polish culture and cuisine.
In addition to the Germans and Poles, Milwaukee received a large influx of other European immigrants from Lithuania, Italy, Ireland, France, Russia, Bohemia and Sweden, who included Jews, Lutherans, and Catholics. Italian Americans total 16,992 in the city, but in Milwaukee County, they number at 38,286. The largest Italian-American festival in the area, Festa Italiana, is held in the city. By 1910, Milwaukee shared the distinction with New York City of having the largest percentage of foreign-born residents in the United States. In 1910, whites represented 99.7% of the city's total population of 373,857. 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 at the 30-acre Croatian Park in Franklin, Wisconsin.
Milwaukee also has a large Serbian population, who have developed Serbian restaurants, a Serbian K-8 School, and 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 late-20th century immigration after the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
During this time, a small community of African Americans migrated from the South in the Great Migration. They settled near each other, forming a community that came to be known as Bronzeville. As industry boomed, more migrants came and African-American influence grew in Milwaukee.
By 1925, around 9,000 Mexicans lived in Milwaukee, but the Great Depression forced many of them to move back south. 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 had reduced immigration from eastern and southern Europe. Additionally, strikes contributed to the labor shortages.
During the first sixty years 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.
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.
By 1960, Milwaukee had grown to become one of the largest cities in the United States. Its population peaked at 741,324. In 1960, the Census Bureau reported city's population as 91.1% white and 8.4% black.
By the late 1960s, Milwaukee's population had started to decline as people moved to suburbs, aided by federal subsidies of highways. They moved to take advantage of new housing. Milwaukee had a population of 594,833 by 2010, while the population of the overall metropolitan area increased. Given its large immigrant population and historic neighborhoods, Milwaukee avoided the severe declines of some of its fellow "Rust Belt" cities.
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 have stabilized many parts of Milwaukee.
Milwaukee's European history is evident today. Largely through its efforts to preserve its history, Milwaukee was named one of the "Dozen Distinctive Destinations" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2006.
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.
According to the 2013 U.S. Census Estimate, 599,164 people were living in Milwaukee. As of 2000, 135,133 families resided in 232,188 Milwaukee households. The population density was 2,399.5/km2 (6,214.3 per square mile). There were 249,225 housing units at an average density of 1,001.7/km2 (2,594.4 per square mile).
Milwaukee is the 31st most populous city in the United States, and anchors the 39th most populous Metropolitan Statistical Area in the United States. Its combined statistical area population makes it the 29th most populous Combined Statistical Area of the United States. In 2012, Milwaukee was listed as a gamma global city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network.
About 30.5% of households in 2000 had children under the age of 18 living with them. 32.2% of households were married couples living together, 21.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.8% were non-families. 33.5% of all households were single individuals, and 9.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.50 people per household, with the average family size at 3.25 people per family.
In 2000, the Census estimated at least 1,408 same-sex households in Milwaukee, or about 0.6% of all households in the city. Gay-friendly communities have developed 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.
The city's population was 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 were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.2 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $32,216, and the median income for a family was $37,879. Males had a median income of $32,244 versus $26,013 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,181. 21.3% of the population and 17.4% of families were below the poverty line. In 2010, rent increased an averaged 3% for home renters in Milwaukee. Out of the total population, 31.6% of those under the age of 18 and 11.0% of those 65 and older were 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) (11.7% Mexican, 4.1% Puerto Rican).
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%). According to the 2010 United States Census, the largest Hispanic backgrounds in Milwaukee as of 2010 were: Mexican (69,680), Puerto Rican (24,672), Other Hispanic or Latino (3,808), Central American (1,962), South American (1,299), Cuban (866) and Dominican (720).
The Milwaukee metropolitan area was cited as being the most segregated in the U.S. in a Jet Magazine article in 2002. 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 Milwaukee is not "hypersegregated" and instead ranks as the 43rd most integrated city in America. According to research by demographer William H. Frey using the index of dissimilarity method and data from the 2010 United States Census, Milwaukee has the highest level of black-white segregation of any of the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the United States. Through continued dialogue between Milwaukee's citizens, the city is trying to reduce racial tensions and the rate of segregation. 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.
In 2015, Milwaukee was rated as the "worst city for black Americans" based on disparities in employment and income levels. The city's black population experiences high levels of incarceration and a severe educational achievement gap.
In 2013, Mark Pfeifer, the editor of the Hmong Studies Journal, stated Hmong in Milwaukee had recently been moving to the northwest side of Milwaukee; they historically lived in the north and south areas of Milwaukee. The Hmong American Peace Academy/International Peace Academy, a K-12 school system in Milwaukee centered on the Hmong community, opened in 2004.
As of 2010, approximately 51.8% of residents in the Milwaukee area said they regularly attended religious services. 24.6% of the Milwaukee area population identified as Catholic, 10.8% as Lutheran, 1.6% as Methodist, and 0.6% as Jewish.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee are headquartered in 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 to 1965, is also the center for the Schoenstatt Movement in the United States. St. Joan of Arc Chapel, the oldest church in Milwaukee, is 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, northwest of Milwaukee, in Hubertus, Wisconsin, was also made a Basilica in 2006.
Milwaukee is home for several Lutheran synods, including the Greater Milwaukee Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS), which operates Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon and Milwaukee Lutheran High School, the nation's oldest Lutheran high school; and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), which was founded in 1850 in Milwaukee.
The St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral is a landmark of the Serbian community in Milwaukee, located by the American Serb hall.
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.