HGIA: Touring in Milwaukee

Courtesy of Prof. James P. Leary, University of Wisconsin–Madison.

By the late 1800s Milwaukee had come to be known as “the most German city in America.” The city is still known today for its “beer and brats,” yet these symbols of local culture now cut across ethnic lines, transcending their origins in the foodways of German-speaking immigrants. On this postcard from around 1900, the central figure resembles stereotypical depictions of ethnic Germans in earlier times. The stout Dutchman rides in a fanciful beer-barrel automobile outfitted with overflowing steins for reflective headlights, with compartments for limburger cheese and frankfurters. In the background one sees a cheese factory, pretzel factory, malt house, and brewery. While the references to Milwaukee’s brewing industry are historically correct, those to cheese and pretzels are not.

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