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25 Things You Should Know About Milwaukee

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The city famous for cold brews and lake views knows how to throw a party. But even if Summerfest (or Oktoberfest, or Irish Fest, or Festa Italiana …) isn’t your thing, there’s still plenty of history and culture to go around. So pull up a stool—this round of facts is on us.

1. The first explorers of the Milwaukee area referred to it by various names, including Milwacky, Mahn-a-waukie, Melleorkie and Milwack, all of which borrowed from Native American titles that meant, depending on who you ask, “good land,” or “rich and beautiful land.”

2. Historians credit Milwaukee with having three founding fathers: Solomon Juneau, Byron Kilbourn, and George Walker. Juneau, a French-Canadian fur trader, established a town on the east side of the Milwaukee River, while Kilbourn, a wealthy businessman from Ohio, set up on the west side. The two sides did not play nice: Kilbourn, for one, published a map of the area that completely excluded Juneau’s claim. He also built streets that didn’t line up with those in Juneautown, creating the angled bridges that still span the river today. Walker, meanwhile, established a settlement on the south side of Milwaukee, in an area that’s today known as Walker’s Point.

3. Milwaukee’s roots as a beer-happy city trace back to the influx of German immigrants in the mid 19th century. They came seeking cheap land and refuge from a divided mother country—and they brought their superior brewing skills with them. By 1856, Milwaukee was home to more than two dozen breweries, including Pabst, Schlitz, Blatz and, of course, Miller.

4. Before it became the mega brewery known today as MillerCoors, Miller Brewing Company was a modest operation situated several miles west of Milwaukee. Founded by Frederick Miller, who immigrated to America after learning the art of brewing from an uncle in France, the brewery turned out a modest 1200 barrels of beer in 1855, its first year in operation. Today, some of the company's beers still use yeast descended from the supply Miller brought with him from Europe.

5.The modern typewriter—that is, the first version to be called a “typewriter” and to use the QWERTY key setup—was invented in Milwaukee. So large and unwieldy was it that one of the developers, a former newspaper editor named Christopher Latham Sholes, called it “a cross between a piano and a kitchen table.”

6. Milwaukee has a rich, albeit obscure, history of manufacturing automobiles, including the Kissel Kar, Nash, and the Ogden. In nearby Racine, Edward Joel Pennington and Thomas Kane created the gloriously named Kane-Pennington Hot Air Engine, in 1895.

7. Forget Democrats versus Republicans: The Socialist Party defined Milwaukee politics in the first half of the 20th century. The city became the first in the nation to elect a Socialist mayor, Emil Seidel, in 1910, and saw some of its most productive years under Daniel Hoan, a Socialist who held office from 1916 to 1940. Hoan’s term was soon after followed by Socialist Frank Zeidler, who served from 1948 to 1960. The party’s focus on infrastructure and public works in Milwaukee earned it the nickname “Sewer Socialism”—a pejorative that members heartily embraced.


8.
Milwaukee’s tradition of long-serving mayors continues. Since 1960, the city has had only four mayors and one of those was interim mayor Marvin Pratt, who served just three months.

9. Prohibition had a profound effect on Milwaukee’s breweries. To stay afloat, many of them sold alternative products like soda, non-alcoholic beer, candy bars, and even snow plows.

10. Milwaukee’s nickname of “Cream City” has nothing to do with the dairy industry or Eric Clapton. It stems from the light-colored bricks that builders used throughout the middle and late 19th century. Drawn from local clay deposits high in dolomite (a type of limestone) and magnesium, the bricks dirtied easily, and therefore many edifices made from Cream City bricks, like the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church on North 9th Street, are significantly darker today than when they were built. Recent renovation efforts, however, are restoring some of these buildings to their former glory.


11.
It’s also known as the “City of Festivals” for the various cultural celebrations that take place during the summertime. There’s Festa Italiana, the country’s largest Italian heritage festival, which overflows with food and wine and last year included a replica of Rome’s Trevi Fountain. There’s also Polish Fest, Oktoberfest, Irish Fest, Mexican Fiesta, and of course, the state fair, held in nearby West Allis.

12. In 1901, at the age of 21, mechanical engineer William Harley finished his design for a bicycle outfitted with a single-cylinder engine. He joined with his childhood friend Arthur Davidson, and together the two began turning out motorcycles inside a 10-by-15-foot shed on the Davidson family property in Milwaukee. Several years later, Harley would patent the first two-cylinder motorcycle engine, and proceed to leave his competitors in the dust. Today, Harley-Davidson maintains a museum and an 849,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Milwaukee, where workers craft the transmissions and engines that go into each motorcycle.

13. Ever wondered where to find the world’s largest dinosaur skull? Try the Milwaukee Public Museum, where a 9-foot-by-8-foot Torosaurus cranium, along with a partial skeleton, is on display.

14. Go to the Milwaukee Art Museum at around 10 a.m. and you’ll see a singular event unfold—literally. Large white wings situated atop the museum’s Windhover Hall slowly open, providing a graceful moving exhibit for visitors. The installation, known as the Burke Brise Soleil, has the wingspan of a Boeing 747, and contains sensors that will automatically close up if winds reach 23 mph or higher.


15.
Milwaukee residents were pretty bummed when the Braves baseball team—the team hammerin’ Hank Aaron led to a World Series title in 1957—decamped for Atlanta in 1966. Just a few years later, though, Milwaukee would be the beneficiaries of an inter-city transfer after the Seattle Pilots, established in 1969, went bankrupt after just one season. In 1970, the franchise moved 2000 miles east and became the Milwaukee Brewers.

16. Milwaukee’s vibrant immigrant community has made the city a hotbed for soccer. Clubs like the Croatian Eagles and the Bavarians have been in operation for nearly a century. The city is also home to the oldest continuously run professional soccer team in the U.S. — the Milwaukee Wave, of the Major Arena Soccer League.

17. A bronze statue commemorating one of Milwaukee’s most famous fictional characters, Arthur Fonzarelli, can be found on the Milwaukee Riverwalk south of Wells Street. “Bronzie” or “The Bronze Fonz,” as locals call it, stands 5’6”, the same height as Henry Winkler, the actor who played The Fonz. Despite being much loved by locals and tourists, the installation was decried by some in the art community before it was installed, including a gallery owner who called the city “intellectually bankrupt” in its decision. As the Fonz would say: “Sit on it!”


18.
One of the city’s most lavish and best-preserved homes belonged to Frederick Pabst, the man who gave the world Pabst Blue Ribbon. Located on West Wisconsin Avenue, the Pabst Mansion is a Victorian-style abode that includes 10 bathrooms, 14 fireplaces, and a main study filled with secret compartments.

19. If you’re ever flying into Milwaukee and notice the words “Welcome to Cleveland” scrawled across the roof of a building, don’t worry—your plane didn’t take a detour. That’s just the handiwork of Mark Gubin, a puckish local artist who nearly 40 years ago decided, on a whim, to write the large-scale greeting atop his studio. "There's not a real purpose for having this here except madness, which I tend to be pretty good at," Gubin told the Journal-Sentinel.

20. The tiny St. Joan of Arc Chapel, located on the campus of Marquette University, predates American independence by more than 300 years. Originally built in the French village of Chasse, the chapel was saved from the ruins of World War I, shipped across the Atlantic and rebuilt in New York. In 1964, the owners gifted the chapel to Marquette University, and over the course of nine months it was painstakingly installed on the campus. Today, it’s the only Medieval structure in the Western hemisphere where mass is regularly held.

21. One of the world’s largest collections of antique microphones is on display inside an electronics store on East National Street. Mic guru Bob Paquette has amassed a collection of more than 1000 microphones, most made before 1950, and most in working condition thanks to Paquette’s repairs. There’s the one used by Hitler in the Eagle’s Nest, and another that provided updates during an expedition to Antarctica. There’s also an 1876 telephone invented by Alexander Graham Bell.

22. Close to one million music fans pack the Milwaukee waterfront each year for Summerfest—and they’re all really hungry. In 2014, concertgoers went through 66,011 burgers; 38,202 ears of corn; 96,344 mozzarella sticks; and 181,758 mini donuts.

23. Last summer, numerous residents and even a few city officials spotted a giant cat roaming around the city. Believed to be an escaped exotic pet, the Milwaukee lion, as it came to be known, was never captured. The only casualty during the whole episode was a bulldog named Homie, who was shot by a nervous resident (and thankfully recovered).

24. The city has nurtured a wide variety of musical talents, from Les Paul to Liberace. It’s also where Steve Miller, of the Steve Miller Band, played his first chords.

Getty


25.
The oldest bowling alley in America is located inside the Holler House on Lincoln Avenue. It’s a throwback experience in every sense: There are only two lanes, scoring is done by hand, and the lanes are tended by two pinsetters. There might be a wait to play, but you can always pass the time chatting with Marcy Skawronski, Holler House’s sharp-tongued 89-year-old owner/bartender. You can also marvel at the collection of bras hanging from the ceiling—a tradition Marcy herself started nearly 50 years ago.

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History
How an Early Female Travel Writer Became an Immunization Pioneer
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu by A. Devéria
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu by A. Devéria

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was a British aristocrat, feminist, and writer who was famed for her letters. If that were all she did, she would be a slightly obscure example of a travel writer and early feminist. But she was also an important public health advocate who is largely responsible for the adoption of inoculation against smallpox—one of the earliest forms of immunization—in England.

Smallpox was a scourge right up until the mid-20th century. Caused by two strains of Variola virus, the disease had a mortality rate of up to 35 percent. If you lived, you were left with unsightly scars, and possible complications such as severe arthritis and blindness.

Lady Montagu knew smallpox well: Her brother died of it at the age of 20, and in late 1715, she contracted the disease herself. She survived, but her looks did not; she lost her eyelashes and was left with deeply pitted skin on her face.

When Lady Montagu’s husband, Edward Wortley Montagu, was appointed ambassador to Turkey the year after her illness, she accompanied him and took up residence in Constantinople (now Istanbul). The lively letters she wrote home described the world of the Middle East to her English friends and served for many as an introduction to Muslim society.

One of the many things Lady Montagu wrote home about was the practice of variolation, a type of inoculation practiced in Asia and Africa likely starting around the 15th or 16th century. In variolation, a small bit of a pustule from someone with a mild case of smallpox is placed into one or more cuts on someone who has not had the disease. A week or so later, the person comes down with a mild case of smallpox and is immune to the disease ever after.

Lady Montagu described the process in a 1717 letter:

"There is a set of old women, who make it their business to perform the operation, every autumn, in the month of September, when the great heat is abated. People send to one another to know if any of their family has a mind to have the small-pox: they make parties for this purpose, and when they are met (commonly fifteen or sixteen together) the old woman comes with a nuts-hell full of the matter of the best sort of small-pox, and asks what veins you please to have opened. She immediately rips open that you offer to her with a large needle (which gives you no more pain than a common scratch), and puts into the vein as much matter as can lye upon the head of her needle, and after that binds up the little wound with a hollow bit of shell; and in this manner opens four or five veins. . . . The children or young patients play together all the rest of the day, and are in perfect health to the eighth. Then the fever begins to seize them, and they keep their beds two days, very seldom three. They have very rarely above twenty or thirty in their faces, which never mark; and in eight days' time they are as well as before their illness."

So impressed was Lady Montagu by the effectiveness of variolation that she had a Scottish doctor who worked at the embassy, Charles Maitland, variolate her 5-year-old son in 1718 with the help of a local woman. She returned to England later that same year. In 1721, a smallpox epidemic hit London, and Montagu had Maitland (who by then had also returned to England) variolate her 4-year-old daughter in the presence of several prominent doctors. Maitland later ran an early version of a clinical trial of the procedure on six condemned inmates in Newgate Prison, who were promised their freedom if they took part in the experiment. All six lived, and those later exposed to smallpox were immune. Maitland then repeated the experiment on a group of orphaned children with the same results.

A painting of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu with her son, Edward Wortley Montagu, and attendants
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu with her son, Edward Wortley Montagu, and attendants
Jean-Baptiste Vanmour, Art UK // CC BY-NC-ND

But the idea of purposely giving someone a disease was not an easy sell, especially since about 2 or 3 percent of people who were variolated still died of smallpox (either because the procedure didn’t work, or because they caught a different strain than the one they had been variolated with). In addition, variolated people could also spread the disease while they were infectious. Lady Montagu also faced criticism because the procedure was seen as “Oriental,” and because of her gender.

But from the start, Lady Montagu knew that getting variolation accepted would be an uphill battle. In the same letter as her first description of the practice, she wrote:

"I am patriot enough to take pains to bring this useful invention into fashion in England; and I should not fail to write to some of our doctors very particularly about it, if I knew any one of them that I thought had virtue enough to destroy such a considerable branch of their revenue for the good of mankind. But that distemper is too beneficial to them, not to expose to all their resentment the hardy wight that should undertake to put an end to it. Perhaps, if I live to return, I may, however, have courage to war with them."

As promised, Lady Montagu promoted variolation enthusiastically, encouraging the parents in her circle, visiting convalescing patients, and publishing an account of the practice in a London newspaper. Through her influence, many people, including members of the royal family, were inoculated against smallpox, starting with two daughters of the Princess of Wales in 1722. Without her advocacy, scholars say, variolation might never have caught on and smallpox would have been an even greater menace than it was. The famed poet Alexander Pope said that for her, immortality would be "a due reward" for "an action which all posterity may feel the advantage of," namely the "world’s being freed from the future terrors of the small-pox."

Variolation was performed in England for another 70 years, until Edward Jenner introduced vaccination using cowpox in 1796. Vaccination was instrumental in finally stopping smallpox: In 1980, it became the first (and so far, only) human disease to be completely eradicated worldwide.

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Why You Should Never Take Your Shoes Off On an Airplane
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What should be worn during takeoff?

Tony Luna:

If you are a frequent flyer, you may often notice that some passengers like to kick off their shoes the moment they've settled down into their seats.

As an ex-flight attendant, I'm here to tell you that it is a dangerous thing to do. Why?

Besides stinking up the whole cabin, footwear is essential during an airplane emergency, even though it is not part of the flight safety information.

During an emergency, all sorts of debris and unpleasant ground surfaces will block your way toward the exit, as well as outside the aircraft. If your feet aren't properly covered, you'll have a hard time making your way to safety.

Imagine destroying your bare feet as you run down the aisle covered with broken glass, fires, and metal shards. Kind of like John McClane in Die Hard, but worse. Ouch!

Bruce Willis stars in 'Die Hard' (1988)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

A mere couple of seconds delay during an emergency evacuation can be a matter of life and death, especially in an enclosed environment. Not to mention the entire aircraft will likely be engulfed in panic and chaos.

So, the next time you go on a plane trip, please keep your shoes on during takeoff, even if it is uncomfortable.

You can slip on a pair of bathroom slippers if you really need to let your toes breathe. They're pretty useless in a real emergency evacuation, but at least they're better than going barefoot.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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