There are over 20,000 miles of snowmobile trails in Wisconsin and it's the home of the largest cross country ski race in the US, the American Birkebeiner. There are also 26,767 miles of streams and rivers, and Somerset is the inner-tubing capital of the world.
One step ahead of the Roosevelts . . .
Wisconsin has a notable record for leading the nation in progressive reforms. For example, in 1854 Wisconsin began efforts to curb the power of Big Business -- 55 years before TR's famous "Trust Busting." In 1856 they had the first kindergarten in America. In 1873 they passed laws to control railroad rates, also a first in America. But the real push for social reform was in 1901 with the election of Governor Robert M. ("Fighting Bob") LaFollette, who spearheaded what became known as the "Wisconsin Idea," soliciting advice from independent social scientists before forming new legislation and establishing state agencies. Decades before FDR's social programs, LaFollette achieved sweeping reforms in industrial regulation, taxation, voters rights, workmen's compensation and unemployment compensation for the state of Wisconsin. Today Wisconsin is leading the nation with new ideas in welfare reform.
Wisconsin Dells, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Lake Superior, Mirror Lake State Park, House on the Rock (a 1940s retreat built on a 60-foot rock outcropping overlooking a 450 ft drop) Dairy, Beer, Cranberry Fest, Fresh Water Fishing and one of the best websites.
Wisconsin's flag depicts the US shield and the national motto. The surrounding icons represent the State's main industries: mining, shipping, labor and agriculture. The cornucopia and lead-pile represent the State's abundant farms and minerals.
Ole Evinrude Inventor of the Outboard Motor
From the drawing board to factory floor, Wisconsin entrepreneur Ole Evinrude's story and legacy come to life in the new book for kids, Ole Evinrude and His Outboard Motor, written by Bob Jacobson and published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. Evinrude was born in Norway in 1877 and immigrated to the United States when he was 5 years old. The Evinrude family settled in Wisconsin and began farming, but it was clear from a very young age that Evinrude would not follow the family tradition — Ole was meant to work with boats. And he had a great idea for how to power boats.
From Setbacks to Success
Building an outboard motor was not easy, though — he suffered numerous mechanical and financial setbacks along the way. After years of hard work and persistence, he founded the Evinrude Motor Company, and his outboard motors were an instant hit around the world. Evinrude continued to improve the design of his motor and attracted other entrepreneurs to the area, making Wisconsin the center of the outboard motor industry for decades.
(Badger Biographies Series), is told in a reader-friendly format that includes historic images, a glossary of terms, and sidebars explaining how an outboard motor works.
Frank Lloyd Wright was born in Richland Center on June 8, 1867 to a young, 24-year-old school teacher and her 41-year old musician/preacher husband. The boy spent his early years working long hours on the family farm and just as he was leaving the farm to enter college his parents divorced. To supplement the family income, Wright worked for the dean of engineering at the University of Wisconsin but was bored with the architecture of that area. After two years, he took off to Chicago and joined the progressive architectural firm of Adler and Sullivan. He bought a house for his mother and young sister and designed and built a house for himself. In 1893 he started his own firm and began building "prairie style" country houses, known for their adaptation to the natural setting. "The freshness of the Earth itself . . . something essential to life," Wright explained. Soon his "prairie style" became the standard for 20th century residential housing. Wright's major works include the , built in 1904; , a house in Mill Run, PA, built in 1936; and the in New York City, built in 1943. He also published four books: An Autobiography, published in 1932; An Organic Architecture, published in 1939; An American Architecture, published in 1955; and A Testament, published in 1957. He died April 9, 1959.
The snowmobile was invented in Wisconsin in 1924, when built one in his garage and called it a "motor toboggan." Some of his early snowmobiles are at the in his hometown of Sayner.
actor born in Kenosha, Wisconsin
naturalist and explorer;
media tycoon and philanthropist;
Born in Madison, an American physicist and electrical engineer, the only person to have won the Nobel Prize in Physics twice
America's leading air ace during World War II;
John R. Commons economist;
Born in Racine, most widely remembered for the role of "Grandma Esther Walton" on the CBS television series The Waltons
(1925 - 1996) Developed the super computer;
Appleton, an American film, stage, and voice actor
Jeanne Dixon seer;
Born Medford, one of the best-known American astrologers and psychics of the 20th century, due to her syndicated newspaper astrology column
Born in Madison, an American actor and comedian
Born in Portage, author and playwright
considered one of if not the greatest speed skater of all time
Hans V. Kaltenborne journalist;
senator, congressman, governor of Wisconsin and candidate for President
senator from Wisconsin
Charles Litel actor;
WWII and Korean war general;
comedian; born Sheboygan, Wisconsin
(1898 - 1978) Israel's first woman prime minister, raised in Milwaukee
owner of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
born in Milwaukee was an American film actor with more than one hundred screen credits.
artist born in a farmhouse near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, an American character actress of stage, comedienne, singer and dancer
an American lawyer, jurist, and political figure
born Madison, Wisconsin, actress of film, stage and television
an American television personality, news anchor and radio personality
an American actor, respected for his natural style and versatility
economist and sociologist, and leader of the institutional economics movement
an American actor, director, writer and producer who worked in theater, radio and film
American stage and screen actor, character actor, comedian, director, screenwriter, author and activist
an American playwright and novelist
an American stage and film actor
an American architect, interior designer, writer and educator
Governor: Scott Walker
Lieut. Governor: Rebecca Kleefisch
Senators: Ron Johnson R; Herbert Kohl, D
Secy. of State: Douglas J. La Follette, D
State Treasurer: Kurt Schuller
Attorney General: JB Van Hollen
Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tony Evers
Organized as territory: July 4, 1836
Entered Union (rank): May 29, 1848 (30)
Present constitution adopted: 1848
flowerwood violet (1949)
treesugar maple (1949)
grain corn (1990)
bird robin (1949)
wild life animal white-tailed deer (1957)
domestic animal dairy cow (1971)
insect honeybee (1977)
fish musky (muskellunge) (1955)
mineral galena (1971)
rock red granite (1971)
symbol of peace mourning dove (1971)
soil antigo silt loam (1983)
fossil trilobite (1985)
dog American Water Spaniel (1986)
beverage milk (1988)
dance polka (1994)
highest point, Timms Hill; 1,951 ft
10 largest cities: Milwaukee, 594,833; Madison, 210,674; Green Bay, 104,057; Kenosha, 99,218; Racine, 78,860; Appleton, 72,623; Waukesha, 70,718; Oshkosh, 66,083; Eau Claire, 65,883; Janesville, 63,575
Number of counties: 72
Largest county by population and area: Milwaukee, 906,248 (1999 est.); Marathon, 1,545 sq mi.
State forests: 9 (476,004 ac.)
State parks & scenic trails: 45 parks, 14 trails (66,185 ac.)
The Wisconsin region was first explored for France by Jean Nicolet, who landed at Green Bay in 1634. In 1660 a French trading post and Roman Catholic mission were established near present-day Ashland.
Great Britain obtained the region in settlement of the French and Indian Wars in 1763; the U.S. acquired it in 1783 after the Revolutionary War. However, Great Britain retained actual control until after the War of 1812. The region was successively governed as part of the territories of Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan between 1800 and 1836, when it became a separate territory.
Wisconsin is a leading state in milk and cheese production. In 1998 the state ranked second in the number of milk cows (1,370,000) and produced 29% of the nation's total output of cheese. Other important farm products are peas, beans, beets, corn, potatoes, oats, hay, and cranberries.
The chief industrial products of the state are automobiles, machinery, furniture, paper, beer, and processed foods. Wisconsin ranks second among the 47 paper-producing states.
Wisconsin is a pioneer in social legislation, providing pensions for the blind (1907), aid to dependent children (1913), and old-age assistance (1925). In labor legislation, the state was the first to enact an unemployment compensation law (1932) and the first in which a workman's compensation law actually took effect. In 1984, Wisconsin became the first state to adopt the Uniform Marital Property Act.
The state has over 14,000 lakes, of which Winnebago is the largest. Water sports, ice-boating, and fishing are popular, as are skiing and hunting. Public parks and forests take up one-seventh of the land, with 45 state parks, 9 state forests, 14 state trails, 3 recreational areas, and 2 national forests.
Among the many points of interest are the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore; Ice Age National Scientific Reserve; the Circus World Museum at Baraboo; the Wolf, St. Croix, and Lower St. Croix national scenic riverways; and the Wisconsin Dells.
The most notable physiographic feature of the state is its profusion of lakes, over 8,500, ranging in size from Lake Winnebago (215 sq mi/557 sq km) to tiny glacial lakes of surprising beauty. The Wisconsin River, with its extensive dam system, runs generally southward through the middle of the state until it turns west (just NW of Madison) to flow into the Mississippi, dividing the state into eastern and western sectors. Running a parallel course just to the east, Wisconsin's major watershed extends in a broad arc from north to south; to the east the Menominee, the Peshtigo, the Wolf, and the Fox rivers flow E and NE into Lake Michigan, while to the west the Chippewa, the Flambeau, and the Black rivers make their way to the Mississippi.
Wisconsin's frontage on lakes Superior and Michigan as well as its many beautiful lakes and streams and its northern woodlands have made it a haven for hunters, fishermen, and water and winter sports enthusiasts. There are numerous state parks, forests, and two national forests. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and Saint Croix and Lower Saint Croix national scenic rivers (see National Parks and Monuments, table) are also here. Madison is the capital and the second largest city; Milwaukee is the largest city. Green Bay and Racine are other major cities.
The rough isolation of Wisconsin's North Woods region is cut by part of the Gogebic range, from which much iron ore was extracted before 1965. Iron mining was resumed briefly in 1969 but has since stopped altogether. Sand and gravel, stone, and lime are other valuable mineral resources; zinc (as well as lead) is mined in the Driftless Area in the southwest. Important copper deposits were discovered in the north in the 1970s.
The state's greatest natural resource since its earliest days has been lumber. Dense forests (white pines in the north, hardwoods elsewhere) once covered all except the southern prairie. While reckless exploitation in the late 19th cent. drastically reduced the magnificent stands, extensive conservation and reforestation measures have saved the valuable lumber industry, and today c.40% of Wisconsin's land area is forested. The pulp, paper, and paper-products industrial complex in Green Bay and Appleton is one of the largest in the nation.
The state's accent, however, is chiefly pastoral. One of the nation's largest dairy herds grazes here, and Wisconsin is the leading state in the production of cheese as well as the second largest milk producer (after California). After dairy products and cattle, the state's most valuable farm commodities are corn and soybeans. Other important crops are hay, oats, potatoes, alfalfa, and a great variety of fruits and vegetables. Food processing, predictably, is one of the state's foremost industries, along with the manufacture of machinery, which is centered in Milwaukee, Madison, and Racine.
Other important manufactures are vehicles and transportation equipment, metal products, medical instruments and equipment, farm implements, and lumber. Almost all Wisconsin's major industries are to be found within metropolitan Milwaukee, where the traditional brewing and meatpacking are rivaled by the manufacture of heavy machinery and diesel and gasoline engines. Wisconsin has numerous ports on the Great Lakes capable of accommodating oceangoing vessels. The superb harbor at Superior (shared with Duluth, Minn.) has sizable shipyards and coal and ore docks that are among the nation's largest. Tourism and outdoor recreation are burgeoning, and several Native American groups operate gambling casinos in the state; through casino enterprises the Winnebago tribe has become one of the state's larger employers.
Government and Higher Education
Wisconsin still operates under its first constitution, adopted in 1848. Its executive branch is headed by a governor elected for a four-year term. Tommy Thompson, a Republican, was elected governor in 1986 and reelected in 1990, 1994, and 1998. Wisconsin's legislature has a senate with 33 members and an assembly with 99 members. The state elects two senators and nine representatives to the U.S. Congress and has 11 electoral votes.
The extensive Univ. of Wisconsin has campuses at Madison (the main campus), Eau Claire, Green Bay, Kenosha, La Crosse, Menomonie, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Platteville, River Falls, Stevens Point, Superior, and Whitewater. Other notable institutions of higher learning are Beloit College, at Beloit; Lawrence Univ., at Appleton; Marquette Univ., at Milwaukee; and Ripon Coll., at Ripon.
French Fur Trading and the Influx of Eastern Tribes
The Great Lakes offered an easy access from Canada to the region that is now Wisconsin, and the Frenchman Jean Nicolet arrived at the site of Green Bay in 1634 in search of fur pelts and the Northwest Passage. He was followed by other traders and missionaries, among them Radisson and Groseilliers; Marquette and Joliet, who discovered the upper Mississippi; and Aco and Hennepin, from the party of La Salle.
Meanwhile the spread of settlers in the East was bringing the Ottawa, the Huron, and other Native American tribes into Wisconsin, where they in turn displaced the older inhabitants, the Winnebago, the Kickapoo, and others. Similarly, the Ojibwa drove their kinsmen the Sioux westward from Wisconsin. Only the Menominee remained relatively settled.
Nicolas Perrot helped (1667) establish Green Bay as the center of the Wisconsin fur trade, and in 1686 he formally claimed all the region for France. The fur trade flourished despite the 50-year war between the Fox and the French, and the historic Fox-Wisconsin portage was used by generations of traders from Green Bay and Prairie du Chien in their search for beaver and other furs.
Like all of New France, Wisconsin fell to the British with the end of the French and Indian Wars (1763). British traders mingled with the French and eventually gained the bulk of the fur trade. The British hold continued even after the end of the American Revolution, when the Old Northwest formally passed (1783) to the United States and was made (1787) a part of the Northwest Territory. After Jay's Treaty (1794), northwestern strongholds were turned over to the Americans, but the British continued to dominate the fur trade from the Canadian border. In the War of 1812 Wisconsin again fell into British hands. It was only with the Treaty of Ghent (see Ghent, Treaty of) that effective U.S. territorial control began and that the American Fur Company gained control of much of the fur trade.
Settlement and Native American Resistance
Present-day Wisconsin was transferred from Illinois Territory to Michigan Territory in 1818. By then the fur trade was diminishing, but the lead mines in SW Wisconsin had long been active, and booming lead prices in the 1820s brought the first large rush of settlers. The region's great agricultural potential was also apparent, and after 1825 a considerable number of easterners began arriving via the new Erie Canal and the Great Lakes. They settled in the Milwaukee area and along the waterways. The U.S. army preserved order from key forts established at Green Bay (1816), Prairie du Chien (1816), and Portage (1828) and built bridges, trails, and roads throughout the region. The hostility of the Native Americans toward the incursions of aggressive settlers culminated in the Black Hawk War (1832). This revolt, brutally crushed, was the last Native American resistance of serious consequence in the area.
Territorial Status and Early Statehood
In 1836, Wisconsin was made a territory, and the legislators chose a compromise site for the capital, midway between the Milwaukee and western centers of population; thus the city of Madison was founded. By 1840 population in the territory had risen above 130,000, but the people, fearing higher taxes and stronger government, rejected propositions for statehood four times. In addition, politicians were at first unwilling to yield Wisconsin claims to a strip of land around Chicago and to what is now the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. However, hopes that statehood would bring improved communications and prosperity became dominant; the claims were yielded, and Wisconsin achieved statehood in 1848. The state constitution provided protection for indebted farmers, limited the establishment of banks, and granted liberal suffrage. These measures and the state's rich soil attracted immigrants from Europe.
The influx of Germans to Wisconsin was especially heavy, and some parts of the state assumed the tidy semi-German look that has persisted along with an astonishing survival of the German language. Liberal leaders, like Carl Schurz, came after the failure of the Revolution of 1848 in Germany and added to the intellectual development of the state. Contributions were also made, then and later, by Irish, Scandinavians, Germans who had previously emigrated to the Volga region of Russia, and Poles.
The state's development was not always smooth. Although the state constitution provided for a system of free public schools, the principle was implemented only slowly. Similarly, the Univ. of Wisconsin (chartered 1848) was slow to assume importance. After a referendum (1852) ended the state constitutional ban on banking, farmers and many others mortgaged their property to buy railroad stocks, only to suffer distress when the state's railways went bankrupt in the Panic of 1857.
Late-Nineteenth-Century Political and Economic Developments
Wisconsin was steadily antislavery; the Free-Soil party gained a large following in the state (although the party's homestead plank and economic program were the major attractions). Wisconsin abolitionists played an important part in the formation of the Republican party. In the Civil War Wisconsin quickly rallied to the Union. Copperheads were few, but many War Democrats opposed the abridgment of civil liberties and other aspects of the war effort, and some of the German immigrants, who had left Germany because they opposed compulsory military service, opposed even voluntary war service.
The boom times brought by the war mitigated discontent, and economic and social growth was rapid during the 1860s and after. Railroads and other means of communication linked Wisconsin closely to the East. The meatpacking and brewing industries of Milwaukee began to assume importance in the 1860s. Wheat was briefly dominant especially in S Wisconsin, but was superseded in the 1870s as states further west became wheat producers and Wisconsin shifted to more diversified farming. Its great dairy industry developed, spurred by an influx of skilled dairy farmers from New York and Scandinavia and by the efforts of the Wisconsin Dairymen's Association (est. 1872). In these years the great pine forests of N Wisconsin began to be greatly exploited, and in the 1870s lumbering became the state's most important industry. Oshkosh and La Crosse flourished. With lumbering came large paper and wood products industries, and the opening of iron mines in Minnesota and Michigan promoted the N Great Lake ports and increased industrial opportunities. Although hard hit in the panics of 1873 and 1898, Wisconsin was generally prosperous in the late 19th cent., and the reform-minded Granger movement and Populist party received less support than in other Midwestern states. A trend toward liberal political views was stimulated in Wisconsin by socialist thought, which was introduced early. Socialism, in a pragmatic and reformist rather than a doctrinaire form, dominated Milwaukee politics for many years and gave the city efficient government, particularly under the leadership of Victor Berger and Daniel Hoan. Stemming from a different source was the reform spirit of specialized and advanced Wisconsin farmers, who recognized the need for a more viable political and economic framework.
Robert La Follette Sr. and the Progressive Movement
In the early 20th cent., reform sentiment blossomed in the Progressive movement, under the tutelage of the Republican leader, Robert M. La Follette. This pragmatic attempt to achieve good effective government for all and to limit the excessive power of the few resulted in a direct primary law (1903), in legislation to regulate railroads and industry, in pure food acts, in high civil service standards, and in efforts toward cooperative nonpartisan action to solve labor problems. An important adjunct of progressivism was the "Wisconsin idea"-that of linking the facilities and brainpower of the Univ. of Wisconsin to progressive experiments and legislation. The plan owed much to Charles McCarthy and to the support of university president Charles Van Hise, and it brought such diverse benefits as the spread of scientific agricultural methods and the many labor and other bills drafted by Professor John R. Commons.
The progressive movement was temporarily halted by World War I. La Follette, some Socialists, and many German-Americans were critical of U.S. involvement in that war, but they were a distinct minority. Wisconsin was generally prosperous in the 1920s; industrialization made rapid strides, reforestation of the once great but now exhausted timberland was stimulated by state legislation, and the dairying industry continued to grow.
Wisconsin was alone in voting for its native son, La Follette, when he ran for president on the Progressive party ticket in 1924, and in the state his policies continued to be carried forward by his sons Robert M. La Follette, Jr., and Philip La Follette. Wisconsin's pioneer old-age pension act (1925) and its unemployment compensation act (1931) served as models for national social security a few years later. The Great Depression of the 1930s struck particularly hard in industrialized Milwaukee, but some relief was provided by the New Deal, and in addition Gov. Philip La Follette attempted, in his "little new deal," to improve agricultural marketing, promote electrification, and enforce fair labor practices.
World War II to the Present
During World War II, Wisconsin's shipbuilding industry flourished, and in the prosperous postwar era, urbanization and industrial growth continued; even in the nationwide slump of the late 1980s, the state's manufacturing sector proved resilient. Wisconsin politics continued to resonate on the national scene. U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy aroused controversy with his unsubstantiated anti-Communist campaign of the 1950s, but "McCarthyism" was balanced by other political strains in the state; thus Milwaukee, in the same period, again elected a Socialist mayor, and the Democratic party, long no match for Republican or Progressive forces, has gained strength in state elections since the late 1950s. In the 1990s the state was a pioneer in welfare reform.