Milwaukee (mĭlwŏkˈē) [key], city (1990 pop. 628,088), seat of Milwaukee co., SE Wis., at the point where the Milwaukee, Menominee, and Kinnickinnic rivers enter Lake Michigan; inc. 1846. The largest city in the state, it is a port of entry, shipping heavy cargo from the entire Midwest to world ports via the St. Lawrence Seaway, and is connected by ferry to Muskegon, Mich. It is a producer of heavy machinery and electrical equipment and a principal manufacturer of diesel and gasoline engines, tractors, and beer; Milwaukee once dominated the country's beer-brewing industry. Motorcycles, refrigeration equipment, chocolate, and electronic products are also produced.
In 1673, Father Jacques Marquette visited the site, which was then a Native American gathering and trading center. In 1795 the North West Company established a fur-trading post. Solomon Juneau, the fur trader, arrived in 1818, and in 1838 several settlements merged to form Milwaukee village. It grew as a shipping center and became famous for its numerous industries, notably brewing and meatpacking. German refugees arrived in large numbers after 1848, stimulating the city's political, economic, and social growth. The Knights of Saint Crispin foreshadowed the city's growing labor movement after the Civil War. Victor L. Berger, the Socialist leader, exerted a dominant influence there, and Daniel W. Hoan made Milwaukee known for efficient administration.
In the 1960s, Milwaukee was the scene of racial disorder and black demonstrations. Economically, the city was hit hard in the 1979–82 recession years; more than 60,000 jobs were lost in the industrial sector. Prosperity reoccurred in the late 1980s as manufacturing jobs became more prevalent, aided principally by the economic efforts of major Milwaukee companies, in areas such as the international export of tools and machinery.
Among the educational institutions are Marquette Univ., the Univ. of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, Alverno College, Cardinal Stritch Univ., the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, and the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Attractions include the breweries, with guided tours; the Milwaukee Art Museum; the Milwaukee Public Museum; a decorative arts museum and mansions open to the public; the Harley-Davidson Museum; a church by Frank Lloyd Wright; a performing arts center; a large convention center; and the water tower. The popular lakefront hosts numerous festivals, and the sizable park system includes Washington Park; Mitchell Park, with enclosed botanical gardens; Juneau Park; and Estabrook Park, with one of the city's oldest houses. Milwaukee is also home to the Brewers (National League baseball) and the Bucks (National Basketball Association).
See H. H. Anderson and F. Olson, Milwaukee: At the Gathering of the Waters (1985).