Milwaukee, Wisconsin Mayor Henry W. Maier Administration, Records

Scope and Content Note

Milwaukee Series 44 documents the mayoral administration (1960-1988) of Henry W. Maier and provides a detailed picture of issues that sometimes never made the local press or became public. Like most modern managers, Maier relied heavily on his staff to prepare background information and policy guidance. This is reflected in the records. There are very few documents actually handwritten by Maier, and it is often impossible to tell if typed letters were dictated or written by him, or if he simply signed them.

Maier's office staff, especially Staff Assistants Richard J. Budelman, Bradley Carr, Bert Muiroy, and Press Aide Robert J. Welch, created most of the records. The documentation consists largely of correspondence, memoranda, and reports created by Maier's staff to provide the mayor with background information and recommendations. Quite often, the staff memoranda provide great detail about a particular issue. For example, the files under “Welch, Robert J.,” one of Maier's press aides, contain documents pertaining to the mayor's relationship with the media. Richard J. Budelman's frank memos offer a unique glimpse into the administration's operations.

A few records, mostly from city offices, dating 1959-1960, are also included.

Some materials were microfilmed before the records were transferred to the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Materials microfilmed include: Milwaukee Journal and Sentinel editorials, scrapbooks, and speeches. Paper copies of the speeches are also available in boxes 169-178. An Appendix to this finding aid is a chronological list of Maier's speeches.

The records are organized into three series:

  • Series 1. Subject Files, Boxes 1 to 199, 251, 264-268 and microfilm Reels 1-14
  • Series 2. Memorabilia, Boxes 252 to 263
  • Series 3. Media Files including Tape Recordings, in Boxes 200-248, and Videorecordings, in Boxes 249-250

Topical Abstracts

The records contain materials on a wide variety of topics. The following abstracts provide general information about the availability of materials on given topics.

Administrative Operations

Included are voluminous records detailing many of the operations of city departments and offices. Some of the major files concern the Board of Estimates; building inspection; capital improvements; Central Board of Purchases; Central Electronic Data Services; City Attorney; City Plan and City Service Commissions; the Departments of City Development, Intergovernmental Fiscal Liaison, and Public Works; and labor contracts with city workers. While much of the documentation is routine, researchers can trace the evolution of the city budget and operations in great detail. The files of the City Attorney provide interesting documents which explain the legal authority of the city in many lawsuits. The controversies surrounding the 1981 investigation of sanitation workers by the Milwaukee Journal are especially well documented.

Business and Economics

The city's efforts to improve its business and economic environment are documented in a number of places in the records. Researchers should examine the files of the Department of City Development and subjects such as downtown, economic development, economy, the landbank, and the port of Milwaukee. A number of specific activities and projects are also well documented. The files contain materials on the city's dispute with Brown Deer over the annexation of Granville. Much of the land, kept in a “landbank,” was later used for industrial development and the Northridge Shopping Center. By the end of the 1970s, Milwaukee was receiving multi-million dollar Urban Development Action Grants. To develop small industries, Maier established the Science and Technology Utilization Council. Also well documented are large downtown redevelopment efforts including the Bradley Center, Grand Avenue Mall, and Milwaukee Exposition, Convention Center and Arena (MECCA). Records detailing the origins and development of Summerfest and on cable television franchising in Milwaukee are especially comprehensive. Information on the development of the interstate high-way system, relocation housing, and the growth of public resistance to the building of more roads is also present. Researchers should look both in the expressway files and under the names of specific roads.

Civil Rights

Much information on affirmative action and the civil rights movement, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, is available in the records. Studies in the early 1960s on acculturation and public schools, funded by the Ford Foundation, provide insights on the status of African-American Milwaukeeans in the early 1960s. In 1968, the city began a “Learn By Doing” program to provide educational, cultural, and recreational jobs for disadvantaged youths. Of particular interest is the log kept by the mayor's office during the July 1967 civil disturbances. Audio tapes of Maier's meeting with Father James Groppi in August 1967 are available in Audio 1235A. Extensive files also exist on the city's affirmative action program, the “War on Prejudice,” and the Commission on Community Relations and its implementation of the Greenleigh & Associates study on Milwaukee race relations. Relatively little information can be found on the busing and integration of Milwaukee public schools, largely because Maier did not become actively involved in the issues, and the staff usually directed constituent correspondence to the School Board. The controversies over the police department's treatment of minorities are not well documented. Patrons can, however, find some information in the files on Ernest Lacy and the Police Department.

Federal and State Aid

Maier was a strong advocate of state and federal assistance to the city, which is well documented in files on state aid and shared taxes, the Community Development Agency, Crusade for Resources, housing, HUD, Model Cities, and the Wisconsin Alliance of Cities. Many of these files contain extensive progress reports on various assistance projects, especially for housing. The Model Cities and Community Development Agency are particularly rich sources of information, providing detailed grant applications and reports, minutes of meetings with citizen's groups, and planning documents and proposals. Maier's fight with Governor Tony Earl in the mid-1980s over state aid and shared taxes is also well documented.

Media Relations

Henry Maier engaged in a long-running dispute with the local press, especially the Milwaukee Journal. The records include extensive correspondence and memoranda written by the mayor and his staff dealing with alleged journalistic errors, especially by Journal reporter Joel McNally. Also included are files from Maier's formal complaint to the FCC, claiming a journalistic monopoly by the Journal Company. Included too are copies of the mayoral office's newsletters, beeper and press releases, scripts for radio and television shows, and background materials and transcripts for news conferences. Of special interest are the quantitative analyses of press reporting by the staff, and Maier's heavily annotated copy of a 1987 Milwaukee magazine article, “The Unknown Mayor.” Journal and Sentinel editorials from 1960-1988 are available on microfilm.

National Policies and Politics

Henry Maier was heavily involved in establishing national urban policies. Many of the files contain Maier's correspondence with national political leaders. In 1963, he became vice president of the National Municipal League, and one year later he was elected president of the National Municipal Association (later the National League of Cities). In 1965, he spearheaded the passage of a resolution by the U.S. Conference of Mayors calling for the elimination of exclusionary zoning, and initiated a proposal with the National League of Cities for a national urban observatories program. In 1971, Maier was elected president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM). In 1973, he organized the Caucus of Democratic Mayors and served as its first president. The following year, he was elected chairman of the National Conference of Democratic Mayors (NCDM), and helped set strategy for the role of mayors in the National Democratic Committee. In 1975, following extensive work by Maier, the NCDC adopted a National Urban Policy statement, which Jimmy Carter and the National Democratic Committee endorsed the following year. In 1977, Maier received the NCDM Distinguished Urban Mayor Award. In 1979, Maier went to the Camp David economic summit with Jimmy Carter; he also received the Distinguished Urban Mayor Award from the National Urban Coalition. In 1983, Maier successfully lobbied the NCDM to draft a new urban policy for the presidential campaign. The following year, he received the USCM's Distinguished Public Service Award. In 1987, he received the Urban Coalition's Distinguished Urban Mayor Award; the USCM's Michael A. DiNunzio Award for his leadership on the fight against urban poverty, and the NLC's President's Award.

State and Local Politics

Henry Maier was a major figure in the state of Wisconsin and in Milwaukee throughout his years in office, and most of his political activities are well documented. The files contain many documents on Maier's role in the Wisconsin Alliance of Cities, and his dealings with Wisconsin's governors. Files on Maier's re-election campaigns of 1972 and 1980 provide a detailed glimpse at his political operations, although relatively little exists for his other campaigns. Little material can be found on the Wisconsin Democratic Party. The files include Maier's official correspondence with the Common Council and its committees, but relatively few letters to individual council members discussing issues will be found. The mayor's Common Council files also include copies of his veto messages. Of particular interest are the folders on the 1987 veto of the Groppi Viaduct.

Series 1. Subject Files


The subject files are organized alphabetically by personal name, name of office, or by topic. Files can contain a variety of materials, including correspondence, staff memos, and reports.

Cross References

Throughout the subject files, there are cross references between names of individuals, organizations, and topics--for example: Correspondence [See also “Personal Correspondence”] or Braves [See “Milwaukee Braves”].

The “See also” references refer to related folders elsewhere in the files. These references are not intended to provide access to every possible related folder, but only to help find other major headings; usually, no more than three “See also” references are provided.

Names of Offices

Many city offices changed names throughout the years of the Maier administration or were known by various official and unofficial names. This finding aid employs the most common name last used by the administration. Where necessary, cross references to the office holders are also provided. For example, there is a cross reference from “Executive Secretary” to “Johnson, Charles W.”

Series 2. Memorabilia

In this series are 111 pieces of memorabilia from the Maier administration. The items were given to the mayor from a variety of sources. The contents list below is arranged by date, then by the name of group giving the item. It provides name of the group donating the item, date, notes, item number, and location. The number on the artifact was usually provided by the mayor's staff before he left office.

Some items are on exhibit, oversized, or still in Henry Maier's possession, and are so noted. The exhibited items are marked “exhibit”; oversized items are marked “oversize”; and items in Maier's possession are marked “HWM.” The location of these materials will be updated as needed.

Series 3. Media Files

This series contains 1,370 audio cassette and reel-to-reel tapes, arranged chronologically. These are assigned call number Audio 1235A plus a number for each item; in each year, the item numbers begin again at “#1”. (Two 16 mm films from 1967 are shelved and numbered with the tape recordings.)

This series also contains 49 videotapes recorded by the mayor's office. Each video has a separate call number which is indicated in the contents list below.