Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the seat of Milwaukee County and the largest city in the state. It is on the western shore of Lake Michigan, at the junction of the Milwaukee, Menomonee, and Kinnickinnic rivers, and is 81 miles (130 km) north-northwest of Chicago.

Milwaukee fans out north, south, and west from the central business district, which lies just inland from the lake. Altitude ranges from 580 feet (177 m) above sea level at the lake to about 800 feet (244 m). Milwaukee's streets are laid out in a grid pattern, crossed by a number of diagonals.

Largest communities in the Milwaukee area
West Allis61,254
New Berlin38,220
Menomonee Falls32,647
Oak Creek28,456

Milwaukee is one of the leading industrial cities in the United States. It is a major producer of beer and a leader in the manufacture of diesel and gasoline engines, outboard motors, motorcycles, tractors, and equipment for generating, transmitting, and distributing electrical power. The city also produces a variety of high-technology items, including aircraft guidance systems, semiconductors, and X-ray equipment. Services, especially retail trade and insurance, provide the largest number of jobs in the city.

Milwaukee is a major Great Lakes port, accommodating lake and oceangoing vessels. Millions of tons of shipping are handled here yearly, including such commodities as coal, petroleum, grain, and iron and steel. A breakwater almost four miles (6 km) long protects the harbor and facilities along the shoreline.

General Mitchell International Airport, the main airport, is six miles (10 km) south of the downtown district. Several railways and Interstate routes serve the city.

Main Attractions

Downtown Milwaukee is the site of the Performing Arts Center, home of the city's symphony orchestra and opera and ballet companies. Nearby are the ornate Pabst Theater and the Flemish-Renaissance-style City Hall.

The Milwaukee Art Museum, which adjoins the War Memorial in Juneau Park, has a noted collection of works by 19th- and 20th-century European and American masters. The Milwaukee Public Museum has natural history exhibits. Other museums include the Charles Allis Art Museum and the Pabst Mansion.

The downtown lakefront is the scene of Summerfest, a celebration held each year in late June and early July; it features music, well-known entertainers, and air and water shows. Ethnic festivals are major community events. The Wisconsin State Fair is held annually in West Allis, a western suburb.

There are more than 130 parks in Milwaukee. Mitchell Park has three conservatories and a sunken garden. In suburban Whitnall Park are the Boerner Botanical Gardens. Milwaukee County Zoo is one of the country's premier zoos.

Professional sports teams include the Brewers (a National League baseball team) and the Bucks (basketball). Sports facilities include Miller Park, the Bradley Center, and the MECCA.

The University of Wisconsin has a campus in Milwaukee. The leading private institution of higher learning is Marquette University. Other schools include Alverno College, Mount Mary College, Cardinal Stritch University, and the Milwaukee School of Engineering.


Milwaukee was the site of an Indian village when French explorers first came in the late 17th century. It was probably visited by Father Marquette in 1674 and by La Salle's expedition in 1679. In 1795 Jean Baptiste Mirandeau, a Frenchman, built a cabin and settled here. Jacques Vieau established a trading post in the same year. Another trader, Solomon Juneau, came in 1818 and established his own business.

By treaties of 1831 and 1833, the Indians surrendered their lands in the area. In 1835 Juneau laid out a settlement east of the Milwaukee River, and Byron Kilbourn did the same west of the river. Juneau's settlement was incorporated as the Village of Milwaukee in 1837. Kilbourn's settlement was consolidated with it in 1839. Walker's Point, south of the Menomonee River, was annexed in 1845. Milwaukee was incorporated as a city in 1846.

Milwaukee began to acquire a large German immigrant population in the 1840's, and the impact of German customs and culture has remained strong. An influx of Poles began in the 1860's and reached its height in the 1890's. In 1910 Milwaukee was the first city to elect a Socialist mayor, Emil Seidel, and until 1960, it generally elected Socialist mayors. Under their administrations, the city became noted for honest, efficient government, but basic socialist programs were not undertaken.

After World War II, Milwaukee underwent significant development. An expressway system was constructed. More land was acquired, and large areas of the city were renovated. In the 1970's, a performing-arts center and an exposition and convention center were built; in the 1980's, a new downtown shopping complex. In 1988 Henry W. Maier, Milwaukee's mayor since 1960, retired from office. He was the longest serving mayor in the city's history.