Charlotte Russell Partridge and Miriam Frink Papers, 1862-1980


The City Club of Milwaukee, a private civic organization, was founded in January 1909 and incorporated May 1911. The Club's purpose and object, as stated by its Board of Governors in January 1909, was “to secure a closer union and cooperation among citizens who sincerely desire to study municipal affairs, acquire and disseminate accurate information concerning the same, and generally to promote in a practical and effective way better social, civic, and economic conditions.” The club provided speakers and forums on current problems and events, formed committees to study all phases of municipal and county government, and sponsored a program of social activities to achieve its purpose.

The slogan of the club was “community betterment.” From the earliest years, progressive and thorough surveys were made of public problems and an emphasis placed on factual non partisan solutions to the many questions of metropolitan government and life. The club's civic committees cooperated with the city council and officials, the mayor, and with such service and research groups as the Milwaukee Metropolitan Plan Association, the Milwaukee Civic Alliance, the Citizen's Governmental Research Bureau, the National Municipal League, the American Civic Association, the National Association of Civic Secretaries, the Governmental Research Association, and the Proportional Representation League.

Among the civic projects with which committees of the club have been intimately connected are: consolidation of city and county government, annexation of adjoining areas, establishment of the pay as you go principle for financing public improvements, opposition to repeated attempts to introduce political considerations into school administration through school board representation by districts rather than at large, enactment of the county civil service commission, defense of civil service principles, passage of the drivers' license law, and advocacy of Milwaukee's scientific street lighting, street naming, house numbering, and playground systems.

Attesting to the importance of the City Club to the urban community, Mayor Carl Zeidler wrote: “The City Club, in its approach to civic problems, is a dynamic force in the life of the community. It is one of the very few groups representing citizens' interests, which present themselves at the City Hall on major civic matters. Its attitude is always constructive - its views expressed in a spirit of helpfulness. It has been the sparkplug of many great local movements.”

Because of a declining membership throughout the 1960s, the City Club of Milwaukee went through a number of changes. The club's social aspects remained the same and included club sponsorship of speakers and forums on current problems and events, and social activities such as the Camera Group, Noon Club meetings, and Women's Club; but the club's political aspects slowly evolved from a civic club with an involved and visible membership into a political watch group largely driven by Leo Tiefenthaler, civic secretary from 1917 until his death in November, 1974. Topics of concern included capital improvements, garbage disposal, transportation, housing, and quality of life. The organization dissolved soon after the death of Mr. Tiefenthaler, with the last recorded meeting taking place on December 12, 1975. Many of the members of the City Club were also involved in the Citizen's Governmental Research Bureau, founded in 1913. The two organizations were closely related although separate. The Citizen's Bureau is now known as the Public Policy Foundation Inc.