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Cream City Chronicles: Stories of Milwaukee's Past

Cream City Chronicles: Stories of Milwaukee's Past

by John Gurda


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Cream City Chronicles is a collection of lively stories about the people, the events, the landmarks, and the institutions that have made Milwaukee a unique American community. These stories represent the best of historian John Gurda’s popular Sunday columns that have appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel since 1994. Find yourself transported back to another time, when the village of Milwaukee was home to fur trappers and traders. Follow the development of Milwaukee’s distinctive neighborhoods, its rise as a port city and industrial center, and its changing political climate. From singing mayors to summer festivals, from blueblood weddings to bloody labor disturbances, the collection offers a generous sampling of tales that express the true character of a hometown metropolis.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780870207587
Publisher: Wisconsin Historical Society
Publication date: 02/11/2016
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 731,538
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

John Gurda is a Milwaukee-born writer and historian who has been studying his hometown since 1972. He is the author of twenty-one books, including histories of Milwaukee-area neighborhoods, churches, and industries. He is also a photographer, lecturer, and local history columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Gurda is an eight-time winner of the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Award of Merit. The common thread in all his work is an understanding of history as “why things are the way they are.”

Table of Contents

Introduction: History as Story xv


Solomon Loves Josette: Frontier Valentines Found Happiness in Milwaukee 3

Elijah Loves Zebiah: Pioneer Sweethearts Gave Romance an Early Start 7

The early years

From Indian Fields to Forest Home: South Side Corner Has Seen It All 13

Flawed Founder: Byron Kilbourn Had a Cast-Iron Conscience 17

Lapham's Legacy: Pioneer Scientist Casts a Long Shadow 21

To Green Bay the Long Way: Pioneers Would Have Missed the Kickoff 25

Taking Their Toll: Pay-to-Drive Roads Have Been Tried Before 29

Unplugged: Periodic Blackouts Force a Return to the Distant Past 33

A Heritage of diversity

Black Power, Milwaukee Style: African-American Political Tradition Has Deep Roots 39

Street of Many Nations: Chavez Drive Gives a New Face to Milwaukee's Historic Diversity 43

Highlighting Hebrew Heritage: Jewish Community Is Well Established in Milwaukee 49

Outrage Revisited: Bennett Law Furor of 1890 Set a Precedent 53

Freeway to Oblivion: Marquette Interchange Erased the Tory Hill Neighborhood 57

Where Poland Meets Mexico: Milwaukee's South Side Blends Two Cultures 61

Terrorism, Past Tense: When Patriotism Gives Way to Prejudice 65

Water: The City's Lifeblood

Roots in the River: Milwaukee Rediscovers Its Other Shoreline 73


At Home on Jones Island: Modern Port Once Harbored a Polish Fishing Village 83

The Flush of Success: Alterra Coffee and Sewerage District Brew an Unlikely Winner 87


Wedding of the Century: Mitchell-Mackie Nuptials of 1881 Raised the Bar 93

Meltdown at the Iron Mill: Heat Was Harder to Bear in 1881 97

Milwaukee's Singing Mayors: Fourth of July Has Always Been a Test of Endurance 101

At Home in the Minors: When Baseball Meant Borchert Field 105

Making a Living

Condos on Commerce: Luxury Homes Rise Where Canal Once Ran 111

The Father of Miller Time: Pioneer Brewer Built a Lasting Heritage 115

Brew City: The Story behind the Suds 119

From Beer to Gears: Falk Brewery Was a Pioneer 123

Milwaukee Leather: Pfister & Vogel Was Once the World's Largest Tanner 127

The Cost of the Eight-Hour Day: General Strike of 1886 Led to Bloodshed 131

Working for Victory: Milwaukee Helped Win World War II on the Home Front 135

Frozen Assets: Ice Trade Saved Winter for Summer's Use 139

A Sense of place

Justice and Jazz: Cathedral Square Has Been Holding Court since 1836 145

"A Cemetery for the City": History Lies at Rest in Forest Home 149

Summer under Glass: Mitchell's Conservatory Preceded Mitchell Park Domes 153

If These Halls Could Talk: Milwaukee Auditorium Was City's Parlor 157

Two Birds on a Single Perch: Calatrava Addition Updates Spirit of War Memorial Center 161

North Milwaukee No More: Former Industrial Suburb Blurs into North Side 167

Requiem for a Shopping Center: Southgate Started the Mailing of Milwaukee 171

Mitchell Street Revisited: Historic South Side Shopping Center Still Draws Customers 175


Schools Fit for a King: Fall Buzzer Recalls Beginning of Public Education 181

A Harvest of Heritage: Folk Fair Means a Yearly Return to Roots 185

Close Call for Mr. Roosevelt: Campaign Trail Had Its Hazards 189

Playing under Winter Rules: Milwaukee Golf Wailed for Cold Weather 193

The Common Good

Rogues and Reformers: A Menagerie of Milwaukee Mayors 199

When Graft Reigned Supreme: Good Government Was Once a Distant Dream 205

Good Cop, Bad Cop: Milwaukee's Police Chiefs Have Done It Their Way 209

Hometown Hero of the Air: Billy Mitchell Helped Give America Its Wings 215

All the News That's Fit: Milwaukee's Newspaper Heritage 219

An Unsung Home for Old Soldiers: Veterans' Complex Served the Boys in Blue 223

"Every Person's Gateway": Public Library System Grew Up with the City 227

The Roots of Public Education: MPS Was Born to Controversy 231

Freezing the Common Wealth: Cutting Is Not the Same as Governing 235


Beer, Bands, and Balloon Rides: Milwaukee's Summer Gardens Offered Something for All 241

An Old-Fashioned Fourth of July: Milwaukeeans of 1896 Paid for Their Amusements 245

The First Summerfest: Forgotten Monument Recalls Forgotten Celebration 249

Summerfest, 1930s-Style: Depression Spawned the First of Milwaukee's Lakefront Festivals 255

The Milwaukee Centurama of 1946: City Celebrated 100 in Style 261

Where City Meets Country: State Fair is Wisconsin's Common Ground 265


Winter at the Edge of the World: Milwaukee's Pioneers Spent Months in the Deep Freeze 271

A Feast of Christmas Past: The Main Course Was Raccoon 200 Years Ago 275

When Reindeer Rode the Rails: Remembering Schuster's Christmas Parade 279

"Bah, Humbug!" in Old Milwauke: Our Ancestors Got Tired of Shopping, Too 283

O Tannenbaum, Milwaukee-Style: Socialists Put Up City's First Christmas Tree 287

Index 291

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