Images in America: Italian Milwaukee
Arcadia Publishing (November 28, 2004)
Milwaukee’s Italian families have a distinguished heritage, one that began in a great rush to the city shortly before the turn of the 19th century. Seeking a way out of the economic misery of their homeland, tens of thousands of Italians made their way to the Midwest, lured by the promise of Milwaukee’s well-paying factory and service industry jobs. The emigres brought their colorful traditions and culture with them, making themselves at home in close-knit neighborhoods. Arrivals from various villages settled into specific blocks, with a widespread Sicilian contingent living in the old Third Ward, while Italians from the north settled in Bay View. Others moved into the Brady Street area. Not afraid to work, at first the Italians were railroad employees, fruit peddlers, refuse collectors, shopkeepers, tavern owners, or skilled craft workers in the masonry and stone trades. Today, the descendants of those first arrivals make up an extraordinary share of Milwaukee’s business leaders, politicians, clergy, restaurateurs, and educators, while others have become police officers and military personnel. The Italian Community Center and Festa Italiana continue to provide marvelous opportunities to socialize.