Enjoy this sample chapter from the book, Lost Milwaukee, by Carl Swanson, published by the History Press.
Nothing remains today, but for 60 years, the Wells Street viaduct was a Milwaukee landmark and the single greatest engineering achievement of the city’s once-vast streetcar and interurban empire.
As a thrill ride, albeit an unintentional one, the viaduct had few equals – especially when high winds buffeted the cars. Even veteran riders felt apprehensive as their streetcars rattled and swayed across the rickety-looking 2,085-foot-long bridge, 90 feet above the Menomonee River valley.
A brief strike in 1934 paralyzed the city’s transit network and triggered mass rioting. Carl Swanson illustration
A Milwaukee transit strike 81 years ago resulted in three successive nights of rioting, massive property damage, scores of arrests, widespread injuries, and the death of a young man. It is one of the most significant labor disputes in Milwaukee history.
At stake was union representation for 4,700 employees of the Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Co., the giant utility supplying the city with both electric power and mass transit. It ended with a union victory that helped pave the way for further labor inroads in the city. (more…)