Milwaukee is widely known for many things – Brewers baseball, brats, beer, and (to break from the “b” alliteration) industry. Hard working people live and work in Milwaukee, and many things have come from this city on Lake Michigan in southern Wisconsin.
Cheese comes to mind, as well as Richie Cunningham, Arthur Fonzarelli and Laverne and Shirley.
But these are the things of popular culture. Milwaukee, particularly the East Side, is home to beautiful parks and lakeside attractions. It’s also a thriving scene of arts, academia, world-class festivals, dining and entertainment.
In addition to industrial gears, compressors and solvents, Milwaukee is the birthplace of several common, recognizable products one might be surprised to learn have their roots here.
Harley-Davidson. No self-respecting Milwaukeean would fail to mention this iconic motorcycle manufacturer, one of the world’s largest, established in 1903 by childhood pals William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson. Harleys have a loyal following not only in Wisconsin, but all around the globe. In fact, the Harley-Davidson culture is a way of life. Milwaukee residents can shop for their favorite hogs and gear in the city itself as well as 18 other locations in Wisconsin and Illinois. Though temporarily closed, the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee is sure to delight biker buffs again soon.
Master Lock. Let’s continue with that little gadget that requires a modicum of brain and muscle memory. 35-25-12. We could choose our own combination (and hope and pray it worked). This 100-year-old company moved back to Milwaukee after brief stints in Mexico and China and still today manufactures the famous padlocks as well as cylinders, shackles and more.
Carmex. The lip balm in the little yellow tub (and now tube) was born in 1937, when Alfred Woelbing imagined a pourable treatment for chapped lips in his kitchen in Milwaukee. Manufactured by Carma Laboratories, headquartered in Franklin, Wisconsin, Carmex now comes in a multitude of flavors. But its original, curiously addictive medicine taste is still produced and perhaps preferred.
Foamation. What would Green Bay Packers fans do without their wearable cheese? Manufactured in Milwaukee’s Harbor District, Foamation gave us those spongy wedges of hole-pocked cheese we can plop on our heads and root for the team. Established in 1987, Foamation offers a host of other non-essentials, including massive cowboy hats, bacon bandannas and dog toys that look teasingly like real food.
Verlo. Many a tired soul has hit the hay on a Verlo mattress, headquartered in Milwaukee’s Third Ward. Named after founders Verna and Lois, Verlo makes a soft product but faces stiff competition. There are nearly 16,000 mattress stores in the U.S. alone.
Eder flags. Flags fly proudly all across America, but the vast majority of them were made by Eder Flag Manufacturing in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The 117-year-old company produces about five million flags and flagpoles per year.
Still other well-known products were born in Milwaukee and remain; others have moved or are no longer in business. Retaining a Milwaukee presence are Milwaukee Tool (the name says it all) and Snap-on Tools. Palmolive soap, Koss headphones, Allen Edmonds and Weyco Group shoes no longer operate here.
One company, Mitchell Leather Factory, boasts a rebound success story. Some years back, the once-thriving leather business was all but defunct. But Dave Mitchell resurrected his father’s enterprise by trading mass production for stitching each gorgeous belt, wallet, briefcase by hand. Today, the three-person online business serves customers across the world from an old post office in the Milwaukee suburb of Thiensville.
Also “made in Milwaukee” is Eastcastle Place, our storied community rich in history, architecture, and loving care for older adults. Many of our residents were born and raised and made their lives in the Milwaukee area. They were thrilled to join us in celebrating Eastcastle Place’s 135th anniversary with “An Evening with John McGivern and John Gurda,” two renowned Milwaukee personalities.
Our staff and residents are proud of Eastcastle’s long and venerated place in the story of Milwaukee. We’re happy to be in the heart of this great city that has produced some great things, and even greater people.