Location and geography
Milwaukee is located on Lake Michigan's western shore, about 145 km/90 miles north of Chicago. Its name means where the waters meet, a reference to the confluence of the Kinnickinnic, Menomonee and Milwaukee Rivers. The area's natural harbor and wooded bluffs drew Native Americans long before white settlers arrived. Some of the early tribe names are still encountered today: Potawatomi, Menomonee, and Winnebago.
The metropolitan area is comprised of five counties: Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington, Waukesha, and Racine. This entire area is home to 1.7 million people, while Milwaukee itself is home to just over 580,000. The city is 251 sq km/ 97 squ mi in area. It is laid out in a grid, with north-south streets numbered and east-west streets named.
Jesuit missionary Fr. Jacques Marquette was one of the first whites known to visit in 1674; ultimately the well-known Marquette University would be named for him. Many years of peaceful settlement among the whites and Native tribes continued. But in 1832, the Blackhawk War eruped over land ownership and resulted in Native Americans being driven out of the Milwaukee area.
Milwaukee is a city whose neighborhoods are well defined by natural borders like Lake Michigan and its three rivers. It is also defined by three men who are credited with its founding and early influence. Solomon Juneau, Byron Kilbourn, and George Walker each owned different sections of the city. Early building often manifested the discord among them, until citizen tensions erupted in the Great Bridge War of 1845, where the city's three bridges were destroyed by fire. A pact among the opposing parties ended the tensions and allowed Milwaukee to move into a period of economic growth.
Soon after, Milwaukee was a critical wheat market, tanning center, and the world's beer capital. Despite a heavy association with beer (including brands like 'Old Milwaukee' and a professional baseball team called The Brewers, the brewing industry in Milwaukee currently employs less than one percent of the local workforce. Still, brewing is a vital part of the city's identity, accounting for much of Milwaukee's early growth and providing historic venue tours for today's residents and visitors.
Miwaukee's economy today is dominated by manufacturing, service, financial, and public sector jobs. Health care is a fast growing field as well. About 11 percent of residents are employed in government-related jobs.
Several international companies locate their U.S. headquarters in Milwaukee. These include BRP Inc. (Canadian), Gottlieb Guehring oHG (German), Doughty Hanson & Co. Ltd. (British), and Metso Corp. (Finnish). Among the variety of U.S. corporations headquartered here are Harley Davidson (motor cycles), S.C. Johnson (household products), Kohl's (department stores), and Northwestern Mutual (insurance).