Milwaukee streetcar system map, 1904
Milwaukee's streetcar system was run by The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Co. (TMER&L), which established a monopoly over both electricity and transportation in the late 19th century. For most of its existence, the company was an unpopular outsider in Milwaukee. The company was originally organized by a New York businessman named Henry Villard and local Republican boss Henry Clay Payne, who bought out most of Milwaukee's horse-pulled streetcar lines in the 1890s. After the economy crashed in 1893, the company declared bankruptcy, leaving the company's creditors - mostly local businessmen - holding the bag.
This was the start of a long, tumultuous relationship between the city of Milwaukee and TMER&L. The company was notoriously cheap, unresponsive to local demands, and anti-union, leading Milwaukee's notoriously left-wing government to attempt to buy it out multiple times. (None of these attempts were successful.) Auto and bus competition, plus the Great Depression, hit TMER&L hard. From 1938 onward, the company gradually abandoned all of its rail lines and replaced them with buses. The last streetcars would run in 1958.
This map is based on a Teddy Roosevelt-era tourist's guide.
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