Early Milwaukee

Milwaukee’s Bridge War

The Wisconsin Avenue bridge across the Milwaukee River as it appeared in the 1870s. Note how the East and West side streets do not line up. Carl A. Swanson collection

In 1845, an argument over who should pay for civic improvements escalated to the point that a cannon was wheeled out to threaten the west side of town with artillery fire. The dispute ended in the wrecking of most of the bridges in town.

They called it the Bridge War. (more…)

A failed Christmas feast

Milwaukee in winter. Rachel Swanson photograph

Photo by Rachel Swanson

In 1803, when Milwaukee was only a trading post in the wilderness, 23-year-old Thomas Anderson arrived with dreams of becoming a fur trader. He was given a warm welcome by French traders in the area and Anderson decided to show his appreciation by treating his new friends to a grand Christmas Day feast. His written account of that long ago Christmas is preserved in the Wisconsin Historical Collection:


No jury would convict her …

Photo illustration by Carl Swanson

Photo illustration by Carl Swanson

Long ago in Milwaukee, Mary Ann Wheeler planned a murder, shot her victim in broad daylight in front of numerous witnesses, then freely confessed to the crime. Yet jurors in two separate trials refused to convict her.