Menasha History



Menasha, coming from a Native American word for island, has been home to ambitious innovative people for hundreds of years.

Treaties with the Menominee opened land to the east of the Fox River for public sale in 1835, with territorial governor James Doty being one of the early investors and purchasers of land in the area. In 1848 Doty and his associates, including Curtis Reed, formed the town of Menasha on the channel north of the island. In 1849 Reed and Doty were successful in locating the navigational channel of the Fox-Wisconsin waterway through the north channel in Menasha. In 1854 Menasha approved $150,000 in bonding to bring the Manitowoc & Mississippi Railroad to town with the intention of establishing Menasha as the principal transportation axis in Wisconsin both in water and rail.

By 1855 Menasha had three commercial districts at the Appleton & Broad Streets steamboat landing, Mill and Water Streets, and Tayco and Water Streets. Menasha incorporated into a city in 1874.

The early 1900's saw a shift to industrial production of general and specialized papers and kept the economy strong, even through the great depression. Today, Menasha continues to be home to some of the world's largest corporations as well as innovative local companies including: Essity, Lakeside Book Company, IPG, Orbis (Menasha Corporation), Coveris, Sonoco, Affinity, Advanced Tool, McClone, and Faith Technologies.

The 1980's saw expansion to the east with the City of Menasha crossing Oneida Street, eventually expanding all the way to Lake Park Road.

Menasha's place on the water continues to be an advantageous position with increased investment in waterfront assets in recent years. With boat & kayak launches, river walks bike trails, and parks Menasha's waterfront is some of the most accessible in the Fox Cities, making the waterfront today just as important as it was at the founding of this community.

Photographs courtesy of the Menasha Public Library.  For more information on Menasha's history visit the Menasha Local History Collection in the UW-Digital Collection, the Menasha Library local history collection, or the Menasha Historical Society located at 640 Keyes Street.