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The city of Milwaukee dates its white history to the 17th-century trade of furs. Smallpox and settlement eventually pushed natives off the land, and by 1835 they had left nothing but the name, which means “river gathering place.”
The 1840’s was a time of civil violence in the area, as what is today’s Milwaukee was then a tale of two feuding cities, Juneautown and Kilbourntown, engaged in what has become dubbed as “the Bridge War” because of the controversy’s origin in the physical bridging of the two towns and the potential threats to relative independence entailed. Ultimately banded together in 1846, Milwaukee had a population at 10,000 at the time of foundation.
Around this time the city became a center of German culture and Catholicism, and with a thriving and large segment of the population being German, Milwaukee was for a time termed the “German Athens.” They brought hundreds of taverns and a boom of breweries,
and Pabst dating from these times. With success came growth: within twenty years the population had more than quadrupled.
Manufacturing and steel supplanted wheat as Milwaukee’s economic staple, and rapid industrialization brought not only economic success but intense labor violence and political upheaval as well—the city sacrificing the lives of strikers in order to lead the nation to reforms in wages and hours. In 1910, as bossism and machine politics dominated most urban areas across the country, Milwaukee began a decades-long experiment with socialist mayoralties, though socialists along with Germans suffered greatly during World War I, and Prohibition slowed beer central’s culture and success.
After the Second World War, the population experienced another boom despite the trend of suburban flight that was sweeping America at the time. By 1960, Milwaukee’s population plateaued at over 700,000. Braves baseball began in Milwaukee before leaving for Atlanta in 1965, but the
threw their first pitch only five years later. Although having suffered some recent white flight, the city has undertaken recent renovation projects to maintain it as a center of culture and sport into the 21st-century.