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Our founding families
Their names are a part of Milwaukee’s collective consciousness, recognizable in the city’s history and landmark businesses, as well as their descendants’ continued philanthropic efforts today. Here’s a look at some of Milwaukee’s marquee families — Pabst, Bradley and Mitchell — and the influence they’ve had on our world.


October 4, 2009

Arriving at the Pabst Mansion.

Pabst Family

The history of Milwaukee is deeply intertwined with those of the beer baron families, and if there is one name that represents that facet of the city’s history, it is Pabst. The role Capt. Frederick Pabst played, both as a beer baron and a scion of the city’s Victorian era, is hard to ignore. By the mid-1870s, Pabst was considered America’s leading brewer, and his Pabst Brewing Co. lives on today, though in a very different form.

The scion:
Capt. Frederick Pabst(1836-1904)

Born in Germany, Frederick Pabst immigrated to America with his parents. The Pabst family settled in Chicago, where Pabst first’s career earned him his sea legs as partner and captain of a Great Lakes steamship. After meeting Maria Best, daughter of brewer Phillip Best and granddaughter of Jacob Best, Pabst married into the family and bought into the business, becoming president of the brewery at age 37. It flourished under his leadership, becoming the largest lager brewing company in the world. He changed the name of the brewery to the Pabst Brewing Co. in 1889 … and the rest is history.

The landmarks:

By the late 19th century, Pabst had developed the Pabst Whitefish Bay resort, which included a beer garden, hotel and enough amusements to entertain Milwaukee society each summer until 1914, when it ceased operations. A patron of the arts and German culture, Pabst was also the backer of the Pabst Theater, which opened in 1895 and is considered the best preserved German-American theater in the country.

Of course, the piece de resistance is the Pabst Mansion, which is the remaining residential jewel in the Grand Avenue residences of Milwaukee high society. The Flemish Renaissance Revival style mansion was owned by the Pabst family until 1906, when it was purchased by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee as the residence for five Archbishops and numerous priests and sisters until it was sold in 1975, for only the second time in its history. It has since been resorted and remains open to the public.

Capt. Frederick Pabst

The family:

Captain and Maria Pabst had 11 children, six of whom died in infancy. Of their surviving heirs — Elizabeth, Gustave, Marie, Fred Jr. and Emma — Elizabeth died in 1891 at the age of 26, but her siblings went on to live successful lives of their own.

The farmer: Fred Pabst (1869-1958)

In 1906, Fred Pabst Jr. made his first purchase of land in the town of Summit. He would eventually go on to acquire 1,500 acres for Pabst Farms, a development known for its prize-winning bovine and equestrian breeding programs as well as its dairy operations.

The sibling with a low profile:

Gustave Pabst (1866-1943)

Gustave entered the brewing business and followed his father as president of the company in 1904. He later moved into real estate investments and remained involved in numerous banking and business ventures in the Milwaukee area. Later on, Gustave’s interests turned to conservation, where he became involved in upland game birds and in the breeding of cattle.

The arts patron:

Marie Pabst Goodrich (1868-1947)

Marie married William Osborn Goodrich, an opera singer and owner of a Milwaukee linseed oil business. As supporters of the musical arts, Marie and William bequeathed their home on Prospect Avenue to the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, where it remains today.

The traveler:

Emma Pabst Nunnemacher(1871-1943)

Emma’s husband, Rudolph, was a traveler who enjoyed collecting items from around the world and upon her marriage, Emma joined him on excursions.

Rudolph was thought to have been handpicked by Pabst to carry on his work at the brewery, but he was a world traveler and a correspondent for the Milwaukee Journal. Emma and Rudolph were well known and well liked in society — clearly an "en vogue" couple — and through their many travels, acquired numerous items from Asia, China and other exotic places opening up to western visitors. The well-respected Nunnemacher collection of guns, artifacts and ivory pieces is now part of the Milwaukee Public Museum.

The legacy lives on:

Augie Pabst Jr.

With such a large family, descendants of Frederick and Maria Pabst span the globe. Former sports car racing legend, Augie Pabst Jr., remained involved in the Pabst Brewing Co. for a decade before moving to Waukesha County where he retired.

Bradley Family

The Allen-Bradley clock tower is an iconic symbol of Milwaukee. 

In 1901, while working for Milwaukee Electric, Lynde Bradley came up with what he thought was a better way to build the controllers that regulate motor speed. Fueled with the entrepreneurial spirit, he quit his job, secured a $1,000 investment from Dr. Stanton Allen, and co-founded the Compression Rheostat Co.with his brother, Harry, in 1903. It would soon be re-named the Allen-Bradley Co., a name synonymous with not just Milwaukee, but with innovation. The brothers were also well-known within the city for taking care of their employees, from providing solid jobs to fringe benefits and activities for their employees and their families, including a house orchestra, chorus and elaborate holiday festivities.

Through the decades, the company he founded with his brother grew and expanded, its value skyrocketing to the point where Rockwell International bought it for $1.65 billion in 1985.

The scions:

The quiet one: Lynde Bradley (1878-1942)

At age 15 and still harboring a boyhood interest in electricity, Lynde Bradley used a college textbook to help him design his first carbon pile rheostat, used to operate a wood lathe. It was a promising start for the man who would become Allen-Bradley’s first principal designer and then vice president and treasurer in 1909. Upon Lynde’s death in 1942, the philanthropic Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation was formed.

The outgoing one: Harry Bradley (1885-1965)

Lynde’s younger brother, Harry, was also an inventor. He was known for being at home in any shop and harbored a lifelong passion for research, though he loved to have a good time, as evidenced by the company’s elaborate parties. By 1909, he was serving as secretary and superintendent for Allen-Bradley, though it left time for other exploratory ventures, such as his 1919 "washfountain" patent, which he sold to a group of investors who founded the Bradley Corp.

The landmark:

Whether you know it as Milwaukee’s Polish moon or as the world’s largest four-sided clock, Allen-Bradley’s clock tower was completed in 1962 atop the 1928 Allen-Bradley manufacturing facility addition. The only time the clock faces have gone dark since being installed was during the 1973 oil crisis, and Milwaukee’s moon remained in darkness from November 1973 to June 1974. In the mid-1970s, a second, taller tower was constructed and the four-sided clock was moved to it, leaving the original tower structure in place, but not without function. For the past three decades, the original clock tower has served to tell the temperature. And though it’s a familiar site to Milwaukeeans, the clock tower finally received some national attention in 2004 when its image appeared on the NASCAR Busch Series #20 Rockwell Automation race car of Mike Bliss as part of the company’s 100th anniversary celebration.

The arts catapult: Peg Bradley

Harry’s second wife, Peg, was an instrumental figure in the arts for Milwaukee. Her donation of her personal 600-piece art collection and seed money aided in the creation of the Milwaukee Art Museum and propelling the city onto the international arts scene. The Bradley Collection can still be viewed today. Peg’s longtime affiliation — and later ownership — of Zita also helped provide a bridge between Milwaukee’s fashion forward and haute couture that remains today.

The private philanthropist:

Jane Bradley Petit (1918-2001)

Though most Milwaukeeans connect the Petit name with the $90 million gift that created the Bradley Center in downtown Milwaukee, Jane Bradley Petit was generous with numerous causes. Particularly close to her heart are those that continue to get funded today through the Jane Bradley Petit Foundation, from providing grants to train teachers to funding film festivals and enhancing the quality of life in her adopted city.

The legacy lives on:

David Uihlein Jr. and Lynde Uihlein

Jane’s first marriage to David Uihlein, a Schlitz Brewing descendant, didn’t last but the children from their union continue to be active in the community. Her son, David Uihlein Jr., is president of Uihlein Wilson Architects and among other things, serves as vice chairman of the Harry and Lynde Bradley Foundation board. Lynde Uihlein has long been known for her own philanthropic efforts, establishing her own fund in 1995, now called the Brico Fund.

Mitchell Family

Billy Mitchell was the youngest captain in the U.S. Army at the time this photo was taken in 1903.

Though Milwaukee may associate the Mitchell name with 21st century travel, the legacy that the Mitchell family has left with the city harkens back to a very different time and place, though one that shaped the city into what it is today.

The scion:

Alexander Mitchell (1817-1887)

A Scottish immigrant, Alexander Mitchell immigrated to Milwaukee in 1839, taking a job as a secretary at the Wisconsin Marine and Fire Insurance Co., and a company consistently under the scrutiny of the Wisconsin legislature for operating as a banking concern, which would eventually be known as Marine Bank. Little grass grew under Mitchell’s feet and he was perpetually busy. During the Civil War he was credited with devising a system which saved many of the Wisconsin banks from failure. He also served as the president of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad from 1864 to 1887 and as a congressman in the 42nd and 43rd U.S. Congress. In 1877, Mitchell was nominated as governor of Wisconsin, a post he declined. Mitchell was considered the wealthiest man of his generation in Wisconsin.

His compassionate wife: Martha Reed Mitchell (1817-1902)

In 1876, along with Mary Lynde, Lynde and Harry Bradley’s grandmother, and a number of other prominent Milwaukee women, Martha Mitchell organized the Milwaukee Women’s Club, now the Woman’s Club of Wisconsin, and served as its first president. Martha Mitchell would play an instrumental role in opening the Milwaukee Soldiers’ Home, a facility that served more than 2,500 veterans in its first year and evolved into the facility whose historic buildings remain today.

The landmark:

As the Mitchells’ fortunes grew, so did their home, which started out as a modest brick house between 9th and 10th streets on what is now Wisconsin Avenue. Mitchell eventually bought the other properties on his block and expanded his home, but its grand Italianate remodel occurred in 1859. In 1872 wings were added to both sides, the porch enlarged and bay windows installed along with a horticulture conservancy on site. Today, the former Mitchell mansion is known as the Wisconsin Club.

A life of service:

John Lendrum Mitchell (1842-1904)

Alexander and Martha’s son, John, attended both a military academy and studied at several European schools before returning to the United States in 1860. During the Civil War, he served as an officer in the 24th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. Upon resigning his commission, he returned to the city and operated a large farm in Milwaukee County. A Democrat, he served as a state senator, a United States congressman and later a United States senator before retiring from politics. He was also active in numerous banking and financial institutions. Like his parents, John supported veteran causes and was known as a philanthropist.

The controversial colonel:

William Lendrum Mitchell(1879-1936)

Billy’s first taste of military service occurred at the age of 18, when he enlisted as a private during the Spanish American War. After receiving a commission, thanks in part to his father’s intervention, Mitchell served in the Signal Corps and is considered the first person from Wisconsin to see the Wright Brothers fly. His interest in aviation was sparked, and he started flying lessons. He started flying at age 38 and was ultimately deployed to France where he fought in World War I. He eventually commanded all the American air combat units in France and was recognized as the country’s top American combat airman of World War I.

Mitchell’s relationships with his superiors were strained throughout the war — as well as afterwards — and his harsh criticisms of the armed services for its underwhelming air power continued and he was not only demoted, but court-marshaled. Still, he believed in the power of air, incessantly advocated for improvements and is considered the father of the U.S. Air Force. Locally, Mitchell International is named after him.

The name game:

No direct living Mitchell descendants are thought to live in the Milwaukee area, but the Mitchell name lives on in numerous ways, both here and throughout the country. In Milwaukee, Mitchell Street is named after Alexander Mitchell. The original 1898 Mitchell Park Conservatory was established on a 5-acre parcel donated by the Mitchell family to the city and its circa-1959 replacement still bears the Mitchell name. Elsewhere, Mitchell, S.D., incorporated in 1881, as well as the city’s Mitchell Corn Palace, is named after Alexander Mitchell due to his influence on the area as a banker and railroad magnate. 


This story ran in the August 2009 issue of: