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About the Making of Milwaukee

The Making of Milwaukee is a five-hour television series. Its eighteen chapters explore the intriguing people who came to live beside Lake Michigan; their politics, their triumphs, and tragedies, their work, and play. From saints to scoundrels, from industrialists to Socialists, from Potawatomi to Hmong, The Making of Milwaukee tells the story of Milwaukee.

The series was written and is hosted by historian John Gurda. It is based on his book, The Making of Milwaukee, published by the Milwaukee County Historical Society.

The Making of Milwaukee is a production of Milwaukee PBS, a service of Milwaukee Area Technical College.

Series Description

Chapter 1: Natives and Traders
Native Americans, Fertile Land, Pristine Waters. French Explorers and Trader Soloman Juneau. Exile of the Potawatomi.

Chapter 2: New Frontiers
Lake Michigan brings Settlers. Agricultural Plenty. Milwaukee’s Three Founders Struggle for Supremacy. Milwaukee becomes a City, 1846.

Chapter 3: King Wheat
Wheat Sows the Seeds of a Growing City. Railroads and Brash Byron Kilbourn.

Chapter 4: Here Come the Germans 
Waves of German Immigrants. Beer, Brats, Gemutlichkeit. Milwaukee, “the German Athens of America”.

Chapter 5: Neighbors and Strangers
Milwaukee becomes a Melting Pot; Irish, English, African-Americans. Ethnic Tensions, Abolitionist Fervor, and a Tragic Shipwreck. The Civil War.

Chapter 6: City of Industries
Tanneries, Breweries, Slaughterhouses. Steam Engines, Machine Shops, Iron Rails. Plankinton, Pfister, Pabst, Miller, Allis. Milwaukee Grows Economic Muscle.

Chapter 7: City of Immigrants
Ethnic Europe Discovers Milwaukee. A Polish Fishing Village and Milwaukee’s Basilica. Irish, Italians, Greeks, Jews & Eastern Europeans Spice the Ethnic Stew.


Chapter 8: "Machine Shop of the World"
Milwaukee, the Manufacturing Powerhouse. Enterprising Inventors, Mechanics, and Machinists. Workers Seek the Eight Hour Day. Rioting and Bloodshed in 1886.

Chapter 9: Greater Milwaukee
Architectural Adventures: Mansions, Theaters, Offices, a Million-Dollar City Hall in 1895. Suburbs Rise from South Milwaukee to Whitefish Bay. A “Big Small Town”.

Chapter 10: Trouble in Town
Dirty Air and Water. Dirty Milwaukee Politics. Socialists and Labor Rise Up for Clean Government.

Chapter 11: Socialists at Work
“Municipal Enterprise”. Honest Government and Civic Virtue. Creating Milwaukee’s Park System.

Chapter 12: The War to End Wars
Making the World Safe for Democracy, 1917. Anti-German Fever in Milwaukee. Socialists under Siege. Prohibition Closes the Breweries.

Chapter 13. The Roaring Twenties
America Turns Inward. Manufacturing Soars. African-Americans and Latino Primeros Make Milwaukee Home. Automobiles, Electric Lights, Radios and Movies.

Chapter 14. Hard Times and Wartime
The Great Depression. The Rise of Labor. Prohibition Ends. World War II Claims a Mayor. Milwaukee’s Industrial Might Goes to War.

Chapter 15. The Exploding Metropolis
After the War: a Baby Boom, a Housing Boom, an Economic Boom. Socialism Returns to City Hall. Suburbs and Annexations. The Milwaukee Braves.

Chapter 16: City Under Siege
New Civic Structures and Urban “Renewal”. Poverty, Prejudice, Housing Discrimination. The Riot of 1967.

Chapter 17: Almost Yesterday
Parades, Festivals, Ethnic Pride. New Ethnic Groups. Deindustrialization Hammers Milwaukee. The City Reinvented.

Chapter 18: The Next Chapter
The Making of Milwaukee: The Next Chapter celebrates the tenth anniversary of the history-
making television series. It updates some of what happened since 2006 in business, technology,
sports, economics, politics, social issues, and of course, Milwaukee’s people.
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Author's Bio

John Gurda is a Milwaukee-born writer and historian who has been studying his hometown since 1972. He is the author of twenty-two books, including The Making of Milwaukee, the first full-length history of the community published since 1948, and Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, a geographic companion that has quickly become the standard work on grassroots Milwaukee. Together the books total more than 900 pages and feature 2,000 illustrations. The Making of Milwaukee was the basis for an Emmy Award-winning documentary series that premiered on Milwaukee Public Television in 2006.

Gurda’s undergraduate degree is a B.A. in English from Boston College, and he holds an M.A. in Cultural Geography and an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In addition to his work as an author, he is a frequent speaker on Milwaukee topics, local history columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and the bike-riding historian on Milwaukee PBS’s popular series Around the Corner with John McGivern. The common thread in all of Gurda’s work is an understanding of history as “why things are the way they are.”

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Production Team

Milwaukee PBS Production Team

Producer, Director, Offline Editor - Claudia Looze
Producer, Writer and Host - John Gurda
Composer/Music Producer - Maurice Wininsky
Narrator - James Pickering
Nitris Editor - Jeffrey Moorbeck
Animation & Graphics - Thay Yang & Anthony Wood
Post-production Sound Design/Mix - Gail Grzybowski
Videography - Michael Garvin, John McKay & Butch Jorgenson
Field Audio - Gail Grzybowski & Jerry Mielke
Scenic and Costume - Joseph Sankey
Makeup & Wigs - Anthony Mackie
Re-creations Director - Anthony Wood
Additional Production - Mark Bernhardt & Greg Sahs
Production Assistants - Lauren Burke, Brooke Maroldi & Deidre Martin
Production Manager - Damir Braovac
Director of Program Production - Raul Galvan
General Manager, MPTV - Ellis Bromberg
Executive Producer - Bill Werner
Web Page Design - Carole Burns, Sarah Kozerow, John Unser, John Vogel

Curriculum Team

Glen A. Allen
Middle School Social Studies Teacher
Milwaukee Public Schools

Beverly E. Cross
Curriculum Professor
Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

John DeRose
High School Social Studies Teacher
Whitefish Bay Schools

Jennifer Ekstein
Social Studies Specialist
Milwaukee Public Schools

Samantha Epstein
Social Studies Teacher
Milwaukee Public Schools

Andrew Lazarri
Social Studies Teacher
Milwaukee Public Schools

Linda Tiezzi Waldera
Social Studies Lecturer
Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

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Archival Sources
  • Milwaukee County Historical Society
  • Milwaukee Public Library
  • WTMJ-TV, the Wisconsin Historical Society & The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Archives
  • Milwaukee Public Museum
  • Wisconsin Black Historical Society
  • Milwaukee Department of City Development
  • American Geographical Society Library, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries
  • Meat Market
  • Wisconsin Historical Society
  • Marquette University
  • Hildegarde H. Hundt
  • WE Energies
  • Miller Brewing Company
  • Milwaukee Conservatory of Music

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  • Northwestern Mutual
  • Chicago Historical Society
  • Library of Congress
  • Ladish Company
  • Falk Corporation
  • Bert T. Sjostrom
  • Arnoldo Sevilla
  • Joan Cummings
  • The Basilica of St. Josaphat
  • Allen-Bradley/Rockwell Automation
  • Roman BJ Kwasniewski Collection, UW-Milwaukee
  • Rexnord Industries, Inc.
  • Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District
  • Milwaukee Jewish Historical Society
  • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Inc.
  • Harley Davidson
  • Jack Abrams
  • Carrao Collection
  • Paul Ehorn
  • Gallun & Family
  • Cudahy Family Library
  • Archdiocese of Milwaukee
  • A.O.Smith Corporation
  • Ervin Penkalski
  • Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society
  • Our Savior's Lutheran Church
  • South Milwaukee Historical Society

Underwriting for production of the series was provided by the generous support of:

  • Greater Milwaukee Foundation
  • Halbert & Alice Kadish Fund
  • Paddock Fund
  • Luedke-Smith Fund
  • Otto Borchert Family Fund
  • Catherine & Walter Lindsay Fund
  • Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
  • Koeppen-Gerlach Foundation
  • Faye McBeath Foundation
  • Northwestern Mutual Foundation
  • David & Julia Uihlein Charitable Foundation
  • We Energies
  • Joseph & Vera Zilber Foundation
  • Pollybill Foundation
  • Douglas & Eleanor Seaman Trust
  • CG Schmidt

Underwriting for "The Next Chapter" was provided by the generous support of:

  • Herzfeld Foundation
  • Koeppen-Gerlach Foundation
  • The Nancy and David Putz Fund of the Great Milwaukee Foundation
  • Northwestern Mutual Foundation

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