Term: Burnham, Jonathan Levi 1818 - 1891
Definition: brick manufacturers, businessmen, b. N.Y. After moving to Wisconsin in 1843, the two brothers soon settled in Milwaukee where they began to practice the trade of brick-making. They discovered that the stratified clay beds along the shores of Lake Michigan provided material that could be made into a durable cream-colored brick which became so popular as to give the city its nick-name, "The Cream City." Their success was insured by the invention of a low-cost, steam-propelled brick-making machine. In 1856 the partnership was dissolved, although both brothers continued to produce brick in the same area. Jonathan eventually turned his interests to real estate, becoming one of the largest land-owners in the city. He served one term as state assemblyman (1852). In 1870 George Burnham took his sons, Charles and John, into the brick- making firm, the business continuing under the name of George Burnham & Sons. By 1881 the yard had become the foremost in the world, employing 200 men and producing 15 million bricks a year. George Burnham was also instrumental in constructing the Mukwonago Plank Road, and in 1853 opened the Phoenix Flour Mills with his brother Jonathan. With S. A. Harrison he constructed a portion of the Milwaukee and St. Paul R.R., and was active in establishing the use of the Nicholson paving process in Wisconsin. He was an extensive real-estate owner, both in Milwaukee and the timber lands of Wisconsin and Michigan, and owned coal mines and railroads in Iowa. He was a trustee and director of the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee and served as a member of the Milwaukee school and water commission. Milwaukee Sentinel, Mar. 3, 1889; E. B. Usher, Wis. (8 vols., Chicago, 1914); J. G. Gregory, Hist. of Milwaukee (4 vols., Chicago, 1931); Biog. Dict.... Wis. (Chicago, 1895); WPA MS.
[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]