Date of Award

Spring 2009

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jablonsky, Thomas

Second Advisor

Avella, Steven

Third Advisor

Carey, Patrick


The rusted remains of the Allis-Chalmers plant in West Allis, Wisconsin, betray the vibrancy of the industrial community that existed in West Allis for most of the twentieth century. The rapidly deteriorating hundred-acre plant, constructed in 1901, is but a skeleton of the industrial giant that once stood on the same grounds. When walking along Greenfield Avenue at the site of the now defunct Allis-Chalmers plant, it is difficult not to feel a sense of desolation and loss. But on the other hand, glancing southwest from the abandoned plant a mere two city blocks, one might find a source of inspiration. Standing boldly amidst the decaying industry of West Allis are the golden spires of Holy Assumption Church, as visible now as they were to the nearly eighteen thousand employees who worked at Allis-Chalmers in the company's heyday. The history of Holy Assumption also dates to 1901, the year the Allis-Chalmers Corporation moved to the area. At the same time, Father Julius Burbach, whose lifelong service to the betterment of the community eventually gave him the nickname "Mr. West Allis," was dispatched to the community when the archbishop of Milwaukee established a parish in the area to administer to the growing number of Catholics who came for work in local industries. Aside from geographic proximity, the histories of this church, the Allis-Chalmers Corporation, and the community of West Allis are intricately woven together. At the most basic level, Holy Assumption owes its livelihood to Allis-Chalmers and the lure of industrial jobs the plant created in the early twentieth century. When industry came to West Allis, Catholicism soon followed, playing an immeasurable role in the lives of Catholic employees at West Allis industries and in the development of the local community. However, this interplay goes much further. Throughout the early twentieth century, the history of the two institutions, one religious and one secular, continued to intertwine via financial ties and mutual goodwill. Ultimately, the community of West Allis was forged in the earliest years of the twentieth century, based in part upon the interplay between the religious and industrial institutions of the area...



Restricted Access Item

Having trouble?