Milwaukee, the History of a City

By Bayrd Still | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
The Nationality Background

THE achievement of cityhood at the mouth of the Milwaukee was but the prelude to a sevenfold increase in population which in the succeeding twenty-five years was to transform the overgrown village of 10,000 into a potential metropolis of 71,440 people. In the quarter century that intervened between 1846 and 1870 the city of the speculators' dreams was growing up, with all the ill-coordinated enthusiasm of adolescence. By the close of the sixties the character of the urban scene foreshadowed a new period in the city's life. Observers were then beginning to note a "decidedly metropolitan appearance,"1 and the mayor was admonishing the citizens "to cast aside the . . . thoughts of the village and to assume the duties and responsibilities of a metropolitan city."2 But the generation that preceded this change saw the elaboration of many of the social and economic patterns that were ultimately to characterize the mature city.

The expansion of New York and New England still accounted in considerable measure for the American-born residents of adolescent Milwaukee, but between 1850 and 1870 the number of Wisconsin-born residents increased from 13 to 40 percent of the total population. The next most numerously represented states, throughout the period, were New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. In spite of the predominant influence of the native-born ingredient during the first generation of cityhood, transplanted Europeans were actually more numerous in the community until the decade of the sixties. Like the other fast-growing cities of the Great Lakes

____________________
1
Milwaukee Daily Sentinel, July 11, 1867.
2
Ibid., April 21, 1868.

-111-

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