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State of Wisconsin

ORIGIN OF STATE NAME: Probably from the Ojibwa word wishkonsing, meaning "place of the beaver."

NICKNAME: The Badger State.

CAPITAL: Madison.

ENTERED UNION: 29 May 1848 (30th).

SONG: "On, Wisconsin!"

MOTTO: Forward.

COAT OF ARMS: Surrounding the US shield is the shield of Wisconsin, which is divided into four parts symbolizing agriculture, mining, navigation, and manufacturing. Flanking the shield are a sailor, representing labor on water; and a yeoman or miner, representing labor on land. Above is a badger and the state motto; below, a horn of plenty and a pyramid of pig lead.

FLAG: A dark-blue field, fringed in yellow on three sides, surrounds the state coat of arms on each side, with "Wisconsin" in white letters above the coat of arms and '1848' below.

OFFICIAL SEAL: Coat of arms surrounded by the words "Great Seal of the State of Wisconsin" and 13 stars below.

BIRD: Robin.

FISH: Muskellunge.

FLOWER: Wood violet.

TREE: Sugar maple.

LEGAL HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., 3rd Monday in January; Presidents' Day, 3rd Monday in February; Good Friday, Friday before Easter, March or April; Memorial Day, last Monday in May; Independence Day, 4 July; Labor Day, 1st Monday in September; Primary Day, 2nd Tuesday in September in even-numbered years; Columbus Day, 2nd Monday in October; Election Day, 2nd Tuesday in November in even-numbered years; Veterans' Day, 11 November; Thanksgiving Day, 4th Thursday in November; Christmas Day, 25 December.

TIME: 6 AMCST = noon GMT.


Located in the eastern north-central United States, Wisconsin ranks 26th in size among the 50 states.

The total area of Wisconsin is 56,153 sq mi (145,436 sq km), of which 54,426 sq mi (140,963 sq km) is land and 1,727 sq mi is (4,473 sq km) inland water. The state extends 295 mi (475 km) e-w and 320 mi (515 km) n-s.

Wisconsin is bordered on the n by Lake Superior and the state of Michigan (with the northeastern boundary formed by the Menominee River); on the e by Lake Michigan; on the s by Illinois; and on the w by Iowa and Minnesota (with the line defined mainly by the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers).

Important islands belonging to Wisconsin are the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior, and Washington Island in Lake Michigan. The state's boundaries have a total length of 1,379 mi (2,219 km). Wisconsin's geographic center is in Wood County, 9 mi (14 km) se of Marshfield.


Wisconsin can be divided into four main geographical regions, each covering roughly one-quarter of the state's land area. The most highly elevated of these is the Superior Upland, below Lake Superior and the border with Michigan. It has heavily forested rolling hills but no high mountains. Elevations range from about 700 ft (200 m) to slightly under 2,000 ft (600 m). A second upland region, called the Driftless Area, has a more rugged terrain, having been largely untouched by the glacial drifts that smoothed out topographical features in other parts of the state. Elevations here reach more than 1,200 ft (400 m). The third region is a large, crescent-shaped plain in central Wisconsin; its unglaciated portion is a sandstone plain, broken by rock formations that from a distance appear similar to the buttes and mesas of Colorado. Finally, in the east and southeast along Lake Michigan lies a large, glaciated lowland plain, fairly smooth in the Green Bay-Winnebago area but more irregular on the Door Peninsula and in the south.

Wisconsin's mean altitude is 1,050 ft (320 m), with elevations generally higher in the north. The Gogebic Range, extending westward from Michigan's Upper Peninsula into northern Wisconsin, was an important center of iron mining in the early days of state-hood. Timms Hill, in north-central Wisconsin, is the state's highest point, at 1,951 ft (595 m). The lowest elevation is 579 ft (177 m), along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

There are well over 8,000 lakes in Wisconsin. Lakes Michigan and Superior form part of the northern and eastern borders; the Wisconsin mainland has at least 575 mi (925 km) of lakeshore and holds jurisdiction over 10,062 sq mi (26,061 sq km) of lake waters. By far, the largest inland lake is Lake Winnebago, in eastern Wisconsin, covering an area of 215 sq mi (557 sq km).

The Mississippi River, which forms part of the border with Minnesota and the entire border with Iowa, is the main navigable river. The major river flowing through the state is the Wisconsin, which follows a south-southwest course for 430 mi (692 km) before meeting the Mississippi at the Iowa border. Other tributaries of the Mississippi are the St. Croix River, also part of the Minnesota border, and the Chippewa and Black rivers. Located on the Black River are Big Manitou Falls, at 165 ft (50 m) the highest of the state's many waterfalls. Waters from the Fox River and its major tributary, the Wolf, flow into Green Bay and then into Lake Michigan, as does the Menominee, which is part of the Michigan state line.

Except in the Driftless Area, glaciation smoothed out many surface features, gouged out new ones, and left deposits of rock and soil creating distinctively shaped hills and ridges. Oval mounds, called drumlins, are still scattered over the southeast; and moraines, formed by deposits left at the edges of glaciers, are a prom-inent feature of eastern, central, and northwestern Wisconsin. In one section, called the Dells, the Wisconsin River has cut a gorge through 8 mi (13 km) of sandstone, creating caves and interesting rock formations.


Wisconsin has a continental climate. Summers are warm and winters very cold, especially in the upper northeast and north-central lowlands, where the freeze-free (growing) season is around 80 days. The average annual temperature ranges from 39°f (4°c) in the north to about 50°f (10°c) in the south. At Danbury, in the northwest, the average January daily temperature is about 8°f (13°c), and the average July daily temperature 68.6°f (20°c); at Racine, in the southeast, these figures are 19.4°f (7°c) and 71°f (21°c), respectively. Milwaukee has average daily temperatures ranging from 13°f (10°c) to 27°f (2°c) in January and from 62°f (16°c) to 79°f (26°c) in July. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Wisconsin was 55°f (48.3°c), at Couderay on 4 February 1996; the highest, 114°f (46°c), at Wisconsin Dells on 13 July 1936.

Annual precipitation in the state ranges from about 34 in (86 cm) for parts of the northwest to about 28 in (71 cm) in the south-central region and the areas bordering Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. In Milwaukee average annual precipitation is about 32.2 in (81 cm); March, April, and May are the rainiest months in Milwaukee. Milwaukee's annual snowfall averages 47 in (118 cm); the average wind speed is 12 mph (19 km/hr).


Common trees of Wisconsin include four oaksbur, black, white, and redalong with black cherry and hickory. Jack, red, and white pine, yellow birch, eastern hemlock, mountain maple, moose-wood, and leatherwood grow in the north, with black spruce, black ash, balsam fir, and tamarack concentrated in the northern lowlands. Characteristic of southern Wisconsin's climax forests are sugar maple (the state tree), white elm, basswood, and ironwood, with silver maple, black willow, silver birch, and cottonwood on low, moist land. Prairies are thick with grasses; bogs and marshes are home to white and jack pines and jack oak. Forty-five varieties of orchid have been identified, as well as 20 types of violet, including the wood violet (the state flower). In April 2006, six plant species were listed as threatened by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, including the eastern prairie fringed orchid, prairie bush-clover, dwarf lake iris, Pitcher's thistle, Fassett's locoweed, and northern wild monkshood.

White-tailed deer, black bear, woodchuck, snowshoe hare, chipmunk, and porcupine are mammals typical of forestlands. The striped skunk, red and gray foxes, and various mice are characteristic of upland fields while wetlands harbor such mammals as the muskrat, mink, river otter, and water shrew. The badger, dwelling in grasslands and semi-open areas, is rarely seen today. Game birds include the ring-necked pheasant, bobwhite quail, Hungarian partridge, and ruffed grouse; among 336 bird species native to Wisconsin are 42 kinds of waterfowl and 6 types of shorebird that are also hunted. Reptiles include 23 varieties of snake, 13 types of turtle, and 4 kinds of lizard. Muskellunge (the state fish), northern pike, walleye, and brook trout are native to Wisconsin waterways.

In 2006, eight animal species were listed as threatened or endangered in Wisconsin, including the bald eagle, Karner blue butterfly, Hine's emerald dragonfly, Higgins eye pearly mussel, piping plover, and Canadian lynx. The Bureau of Endangered Resources in the Department of Natural Resources develops programs designed to aid the recovery of threatened or endangered flora and fauna.


Conservation has been a concern in Wisconsin for more than a century. In 1867, a legislative commission reported that depletion of the northern forests by wasteful timber industry practices and frequent forest fires had become an urgent problem, partly because it increased the hazards of flooding. In 1897, a forestry warden was appointed and a system of fire detection and control was set up. A reforestation program was instituted in 1911; at about the same time, the state university began planting rows of trees in plains areas to protect soil from wind erosion, a method that was widely copied in other states. Fish and game wardens were appointed in the 1880s. In 1927, the state began a program to clean its waters of industrial wastes, caused especially by pulp and paper mills and canneries. The legislature enacted a comprehensive anti-pollution program in 1966.

The present Department of Natural Resources (DNR), organized in 1967, brings together conservation and environmental protection responsibilities. The department supervises air, water, and solid-waste pollution control programs and deals with the protection of forest, fish, and wildlife resources.

Southeastern Wisconsin has experienced serious air quality problems since the 1970s. Reductions in industrial emissions have been offset by increases in emissions from transportation sources and consumer products. In 2002, the US Environmental Protection Agency implemented new requirements for reporting air quality, and the DNR developed procedures to help corporations comply.

Since water pollution became a serious problem in the 1920s, pulp and paper mills, cheese factories, and canneries have taken major steps to control and prevent harmful water pollution. Communities built new or upgraded existing sewage treatment plants to reduce the flow of sewage into rivers and streams. Pulp and paper mills spent millions of dollars to reduce suspended solids and other pollutants in their industrial effluent. Water quality and fisheries visibly improved, but problems caused by persistent toxic chemicals, such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and mercury, arose that had to be addressed next. In the 1980s, the state identified five Areas of Concern on Lakes Michigan and Superior where toxic pollutants harmed fish or wildlife or impaired human use of the waterways. Efforts are underway to identify sources of contamination and cleanup options at these sites and inland areas suffering similar problems. Regulations controlling the discharge of toxic substances from both water and air were passed in the late 1980s, and water quality improved significantly by 2000. In 2003, 50.8 million lb of toxic chemicals were released in the state.

Contaminated stormwater and run-off from agriculture, development, and other sources remain the most serious threats to Wisconsin's lakes, rivers, and streams. The state adopted rules to limit stormwater contamination in large municipalities, construc-tion sites over five acres, and 10,000 industrial facilities. The DNR also formed a citizen advisory committee in 1994 to overhaul the state's animal waste regulations; new rules to control polluted run-off from agricultural, non-agricultural, and transportation sources went into effect 1 October 2002.

Wetland protection regulations were upgraded in the late 1980s, and in 1991 the state became the first in the nation to legislate wetlands protection. Wisconsin has a Wetlands Restoration program administered by the US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) with assistance from DNR. Between 1992 and 1998, approximately 11,312 acres (4,578 hectares) of wetlands were restored, bringing the total amount of wetland area to about 5 million acres (2 million hectares), or 15% of the told land area. Horicon Marsh was designated as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance in 1990. It is considered to be one of the largest intact freshwater wetlands in the nation and among the largest cattail marshes in the world. The site is primarily managed through the National Wildlife Refuge program.

Wisconsin passed a comprehensive groundwater protection law in 1984 to safeguard underground water supplies that serve two-thirds of the state's population. The law requires identification and cleanup of groundwater-damaging contamination sources, such as abandoned, leaking landfills; underground gasoline storage tanks; and illegal, hazardous waste dumps. The law also requires the state to establish groundwater protection and enforcement standards for various substances. Wisconsin has identified over 16,000 contamination sites that must be cleaned up to prevent environmental contamination and safety hazards. Over one-third of these sites have been cleaned up and no further action is deemed necessary.

In 1996, Wisconsin began administering a new program whereby owners of contaminated property could petition the state for cleanup waivers if they were able to demonstrate that contamination was being cleaned up by natural processes. Property owners would then be able to redevelop within strict guidelines and monitoring. By mid-1997, 51 properties had applied for such liability releases, 30 of which were approved.

Bacterial contamination of Wisconsin drinking water supplies did not pose much of a problem in the state until 1993 when 400,000 Milwaukee residents became ill from inadequately treated water drawn from Lake Michigan. The water was found to contain the protozoan Cryptosporidium. Water treatment procedures were changed immediately at 21 community drinking water treatment plants that drew water from the Great Lakes. The state also began a two-year Cryptosporidium monitoring effort to determine the presence and distribution of this protozoan in state waterways.

In the 1980s, more than 800 landfills in the state closed because they could not meet new federal environmental protection requirements. To ease the burden on the state's remaining landfills, Wisconsin passed a comprehensive waste reduction and recycling law, 1989 Wisconsin Act 335. The law required local units of government to set up effective programs to recycle more than 11 different items by 1995. State grants collected from a tax on businesses were awarded to local governments to aid in setting up local recycling programs. The legislature is expected to decide a permanent funding mechanism in a future legislative session.

In 2003, Wisconsin had 163 hazardous waste sites listed in the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) database, 37 of which were on the National Priorities List as of 2006, including the Eau Claire Municipal Well Field. In 2005, the EPA spent over $2.2 million through the Superfund program for the cleanup of hazardous waste sites in the state. In 2004, federal EPA grants awarded to the state included $16 million to provide assistance to the improvement of public water systems and $29.1 million to offer loan assistance for water pollution control projects. One of the largest EPA grants awarded to the state in 2005 was $2.5 million for nonpoint source implementation programs.


Wisconsin ranked 20th in population in the United States with an estimated total of 5,536,201 in 2005, an increase of 3.2% since 2000. Between 1990 and 2000, Wisconsin's population grew from 4,891,769 to 5,363,675, an increase of 9.6%. The population is projected to reach 5.8 million by 2015 and 6.08 million by 2025. The population density in 2004 was 101.5 persons per sq mi.

During the 18th and early 19th centuries, the area that is now Wisconsin was very sparsely settled by perhaps 20,000 Indians and a few hundred white settlers, most of them engaged in the fur trade. With the development of lead mining, the population began to expand, reaching a total of 30,945 (excluding Indians) by 1840. During the next two decades, the population increased rapidly to 775,881, as large numbers of settlers from the East and German, British, and Scandinavian immigrants arrived. Subsequent growth has been steady, if slower. In the late 19th century, industry expanded and, by 1930, the population became predominantly urban.

In 2004, the median age for Wisconsinites was 37.5. In the same year, 23.7% of the State's residents were under age 18 while 13% were age 65 or older.

The majority of Wisconsinites live in urban areas, most of them in the heavily urbanized southeastern region. Milwaukee, the largest city in Wisconsin and the 22nd largest in the United States, had a population of 583,624 in 2004. Other large cities, with their 2004 population estimates, were Madison, 220,332, and Green Bay, 101,100. The Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis metropolitan area had an estimated population of 1,515,738 in 2004. The Madison metropolitan area had 531,766 residents and the Green Bay metropolitan area had 295,473. The Racine metropolitan area had 194,188 residents.


As early as 1839, Wisconsin attracted immigrants from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland, soon to be followed by large numbers of Germans and Irish. In 1850, the greatest number of foreign-born persons were English-speaking, but within a decade, the Germans had eclipsed them. Industrial development brought Belgians, Greeks, Hungarians, Lithuanians, Italians, and especially Poles, who continued to come steadily until the restriction of immigration in the early 1920s; in the 1930 census, Poles were the largest foreign-born group. In 2000, foreign-born residents numbered 193,751 (3.6% of the total).

Black Americans were in the region as early as 1822. Before World War I, however, there were no more than 3,000 blacks. Mi-gration during and after that war brought the number to 10,739 by 1930; by 1990, blacks were the largest racial minority in the state, numbering 245,000 (5% of Wisconsin's population). As of 2000, the black population was 304,460, or 5.7% of the state total. That percentage increased to 5.9% in 2004. Most black Wisconsinites live in Milwaukee, which was 37% black in 2000.

The Asian population in 2000 was 88,763. In that year Wisconsin had 33,791 Hmong (the nation's third-largest Hmong community), 11,184 Chinese, 6,800 Koreans, 5,158 Filipinos, and 4,469 Laotians. Pacific Islanders numbered 1,630. In 2004, 1.9% of the population was Asian. As of 2000, there were 192,921 Hispanics and Latinos (3.6% of the total population), of whom 126,719 were of Mexican ancestry and 30,267 of Puerto Rican descent. In 2004, 4.3% of the population was Hispanic or Latino. That year, 1% of the population reported origin of two or more races.

Wisconsin had an estimated 47,228 American Indians in 2000, up from 39,000 American Indians in 1990. In 2004, 0.9% of the population was American Indian or Alaskan Native. The principal tribes are Oneida, Menominee, Ojibwa (Chippewa), and Winnebago. There were 11 reservations, the largest being that of the Menominee, which comprised Menominee County (345 sq mi, 896 sq km) and had a population of 3,225 in 2000. Indian reservations covered 634 sq mi (1,642 sq km).


Early French and English fur traders found in what is now Wisconsin several Indian tribes of the Algonkian family: Ojibwa along Lake Superior, Sauk in the northeast, Winnebago and Fox south of them, and Kickapoo in the southwest. Numerous Indian place-names include Antigo, Kaukauna, Kewaunee, Menomonie, Oshkosh, Wausau, and Winnebago.

The following table gives selected statistics from the 2000 Census for language spoken at home by persons five years old and over. The category "Other West Germanic languages" includes Dutch, Pennsylvania Dutch, and Afrikaans. The category "Scandinavian languages" includes Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish. The category "Other Native North American languages" includes Apache, Cherokee, Choctaw, Dakota, Keres, Pima, and Yupik.

Population 5 years and over 5,022,073 100.0
  Speak only English 4,653,361 92.7
  Speak a language other than English 368,712 7.3
Speak a language other than English 368,712 7.3
  Spanish or Spanish Creole 168,778 3.4
  German 48,409 1.0
  Miao, Hmong 30,569 0.6
  French (incl. Patois, Cajun) 14,970 0.3
  Polish 12,097 0.2
  Chinese 7,951 0.2
  Italian 6,774 0.1
  Other West Germanic languages 5,870 0.1
  Scandinavian languages 5,651 0.1
  Russian 5,362 0.1
  Serbo-Croatian 4,988 0.1
  Other Native North American languages 4,210 0.1
  Arabic 4,088 0.1
  Korean 4,075 0.1

In 2000, 92.7% (down from 94.2% in 1990) of the state population five years old and older spoke only English in the home.

Wisconsin English is almost entirely Northern, like that of the areas that provided Wisconsin's first settlersMichigan, northern Ohio, New York State, and western New England. Common are the Northern pail, comforter (tied and filled bed cover), sick to the stomach, angleworm (earthworm), skip school (play truant), and dove as the past of dive. Pronunciation features are fog, frog, and on with the vowel sound /ah/; and orange, forest, and foreign with the / aw/ vowel sound. Northern fried cakes is now yielding to doughnuts, and johnnycake is giving way to corn bread. Milwaukee has sick in the stomach and is known for the localism bubbler (drinking fountain). A small exception to Northern homogeneity is the cluster of South Midland terms brought by Kentucky miners to the southwestern lead-mining district, such as dressing (sweet sauce for a pudding), eaves spout as a blend of eavestrough and Midland spouting, branch for stream, and fishworm for earthworm.


The first Catholics to arrive were Jesuit missionaries seeking to convert the Huron Indians in the 17th century. Protestant settlers and missionaries of different sects, including large numbers of German Lutherans, came during the 19th century, along with Protestants from the east. Jews settled primarily in the cities.

These groups often had conflicting aims. Evangelical sects favored strict blue laws and temperance legislation, which was enacted in many communities. The use of Protestant prayers and the King James Bible in public schools was another source of public discord until these practices were declared unconstitutional by the state supreme court in 1890. A constitutional amendment allowing parochial school students to ride in public school buses was defeated in 1946, amid great controversy; 19 years later, however, it was enacted with little opposition. By that time, religious conflicts appeared to be on the decline.

In 2004, there were 1,658,478 Roman Catholics in Wisconsin; with about 731,516 members belonging to the archdiocese of Milwaukee. As of 2000, Lutherans make up the largest Protestant group, though they are divided in denominations: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American, 463,432 in 2000; the Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod, 241,306; and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, 241,306. Other leading Protestant groups include the United Methodists, with 95,589 members in 2004, and the United Church of Christ, with 62,521 members in 2005. There were an estimated 28,230 Jews in 2000, primarily in the Milwaukee area. The Muslim population had about 7,796 members. Though still relatively small in total membership, the Salvation Army reported growth from 2,574 members in 1990 to 12,951 members in 2000, a difference of 403%. In a 2000 report, over 2.1 million people (about 39% of the population) were not counted as members of any religious organization.

The US office of the Catholic Apostleship of Prayer is located in Milwaukee. The headquarters of the Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship/USA, an evangelical Christian program directed toward college students, is based in Madison. The offices of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches are based in Oak Creek. The Seventh Day Baptist General Conference of the United States and Canada is based in Janesville.


Wisconsin's first rail line was built across the state, from Milwaukee to Prairie du Chien, in the 1850s. Communities soon began vying with one another to be included on proposed railroad routes. Several thousand farmers mortgaged property to buy railroad stock; the state had to rescue them from ruin when companies went bankrupt. By the late 1860s, two railroads, the Chicago and North Western, and the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul, had become dominant in the state. However, Chicago emerged as the major rail center of the Midwest because of its proximity to eastern markets. In 1920, there were 35 railroads operating on 11,615 mi (18,700 km) of track. By 2003, there were just 10 railroads operating on 4,167 rail mi (6,708 km) of track, of which 3,462 mi (5,573 km) was operated by Class I lines. Nonmetallic minerals were the top commodities carried by rail that originated within the state in 2003, while coal was the top commodity carried by rail that terminated within Wisconsin. As of 2006, Amtrak provided passenger rail service to 10 stations in Wisconsin via its north-south Hiawatha (Milwaukee to Chicago) train and east-west service via its Empire Builder (Chicago to Seattle/Portland) train.

As of 2004, Wisconsin had 113,699 mi (183,055 km) of public roadway. The private passenger vehicle continues to be the dominant mode of travel. In that same year, Wisconsin had 3,910,188 licensed drivers and some 4.868 million registered vehicles (2.575 million automobiles and 2.051 million trucks of all types).

Public transit includes large bus systems in Milwaukee and Madison. In the mid-1990s, Milwaukee County Transit System transported more than 60 million passengers annually, and Madison Metro annually transported more than 9.9 million passengers.

The opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 allowed oceangoing vessels access to Wisconsin via the Great Lakes but failed to stimulate traffic to the extent anticipated. Overall, the state has 15 cargo-handling ports. The port of Superior (shared with Duluth, Minnesota) on Lake Superior is the busiest of all US Great Lakes ports. Its chief commodities are iron ore and coal. In 2004, the Port of Duluth/Superior handled 45.392 million tons of cargo, making it the 19th-busiest port in the United States. Other important Wisconsin ports, all on Lake Michigan, are Milwaukee, Green Bay, Port Washington, Oak Creek, Manitowoc, and Sturgeon Bay. Coal is the chief commodity. The Port of Milwaukee in 2004, handled 3.155 million tons of cargo. On the Mississippi River, Prairie du Chien and La Crosse are the main ports. Ferry service across Lake Michigan is offered from Manitowoc to Ludington, Michigan. In 2003, waterborne shipments totaled 33.546 million tons. In 2004, Wisconsin had 231 mi (371 km) of navigable inland waterways.

In 2005, Wisconsin had a total of 565 public and private-use aviation-related facilities. This included 459 airports, 89 heliports, and 17 seaplane bases. Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport is the state's main air terminal, with 3,302,604 enplanements in 2004.


The region that is now Wisconsin has probably been inhabited since the end of the glacial period, 10,000 years ago. Some of the earliest inhabitants were ancestors of the Menominee; these early immigrants from the north built burial mounds, conical ones at first, then large effigy mounds shaped like different animals. Other peoples arrived from the south and east, including ancestors of the Winnebago Indians (about ad 1400) and a tribe that built flattop earthen pyramids. During the 17th century, the Ojibwa, Sauk, Fox, Potawatomi, Kickapoo, and other tribes came to Wisconsin. These tribes engaged in agriculture, hunting, and fishing, but with the arrival of Europeans, they became increasingly dependent on the fur tradea dependence that had serious economic consequences when the fur trade declined in the early 19th century.

The first European believed to have reached Wisconsin was Jean Nicolet, who in 1634 landed on the shores of Green Bay while in the service of Samuel de Champlain. Two decades later, Médard Chouart des Groseilliers and Pierre Esprit Radisson, both fur traders, explored northern Wisconsin; in 1673, the Jesuit priest Jacques Marquette and the explorer Louis Jolliet crossed the whole area that is now Wisconsin, via the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, on their way to the Mississippi. Other Jesuits established missions, and French fur traders opened up posts. The French were succeeded by the British after the French and Indian War (the British ruled Wisconsin as part of Quebec Province from 1774 to 1783). Although ceded to the United States in 1783, it remained British in all but name until 1816, when the United States built forts at Prairie du Chien and Green Bay.

Under the Ordinance of 1787, Wisconsin became part of the Northwest Territory; it was subsequently included in the Indiana Territory, the Territory of Illinois, and then the Michigan Territory. In the early 1820s, lead mining brought an influx of white settlers called "Badgers." Indian resistance to white expansion collapsed After the 1832 Black Hawk War, in which Sauk and Fox Indians fleeing from Illinois were defeated and massacred by white militia near the site of present-day La Crosse, at the Battle of Bad Axe. Subsequently, the Winnebago and other tribes were removed to reservations outside the state, while the Ojibwa, Menominee, and some eastern tribes were among those resettled in reservations inside Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Territory was formed in 1836. Initially it included all of Iowa and Minnesota, along with a portion of the Dakotas, but in 1838, these areas became part of a newly organized Iowa Territory. The 1830s also saw the beginning of a land boom, fueled by migration of Yankees from New England and southerners who moved to the lead-mining region of southwestern Wisconsin. The population and economy began to expand rapidly. Wisconsin voters endorsed statehood in 1846, and Congress passed enabling legislation that year. After a first constitution was rejected by the voters, a revised document was adopted on 13 March 1848, and on 29 May, President James K. Polk signed the bill that made Wisconsin the 30th state.

Transportation and industry did not develop as rapidly as proponents of statehood had expected. A canal was opened at the portage between the Fox and Wisconsin rivers in 1851, but the waterway was not heavily used. Railroads encountered difficulties in gaining financing, then suffered setbacks in the panic of 1857.

Wisconsinites took a generally abolitionist stand, and it was in Wisconsinat Ripon, on 28 February 1854that the Republican Party was formally established in the state. The new party developed an efficient political machine and later used much of its influence to benefit the railroads and lumber industry, both of which grew in importance in the decade following the Civil War. In that war, 96,000 Wisconsin men fought on the Union side, and 12,216 died. During the late 19th century, Wisconsin was generally prosperous; dairying, food processing, and lumbering emerged as major industries, and Milwaukee grew into an important industrial center.

Wisconsin took a new political turn in the early 20th century with the inauguration of Republican Robert "Fighting Bob" La Follette as governor and the dawning of the Progressive Era. An ardent reformer, La Follette fought against conservatives within his own party. In 1903, the legislature, under his prodding, passed a law providing for the nation's first direct statewide primary; other measures that he championed during his tenure as governor (190106) provided for increased taxation of railroads, regulation of lobbyists, creation of a civil service, and establishment of a railroad commission to regulate intrastate rates.

La Follette was also a conspicuous exponent of what came to be called the "Wisconsin idea": governmental reform guided by academic experts and supported by an enlightened electorate. Around the time he was governor, the philosophy of reform was energetically promoted at the University of Wisconsin (which had opened at Madison, the state capital, in 1849), and many professors were drafted to serve on government commissions and boards. In 1901, Wisconsin became the first state to establish a legislative reference bureau, intended to help lawmakers shape effective, forward-looking measures.

After La Follette left the governor's office to become a US senator, his progressivism was carried on by Republican governors James O. Davidson (190611) and especially by Francis E. McGovern (191115). During one session in 1911, legislators enacted the first state income tax in the United States and one of the first workers' compensation programs. Other legislation passed during the same year sought to regulate the insurance business and the use of water power, create forest reserves, encourage farmer cooperatives, limit and require disclosure of political campaign expenditures, and establish a board of public affairs to recommend efficiency measures for state and local governments. This outburst of activity attracted national attention, and many states followed in Wisconsin's footsteps.

While serving as US Senator (190625), La Follette opposed involvement in World War I and was one of only six Senators to vote against US entry into the war; as a result, he was censured by the state legislature and the faculty of the University of Wisconsin, and there was a move to expel him from the Senate. His renomination and reelection in 1922 served to vindicate him, however, and he carried Wisconsin when he ran in 1924 for president on the national League for Progressive Political Action ticket.

After his death in 1925, the reform tradition continued in Wisconsin. A pioneering old-age pension act was passed in 1925; seven years later, Wisconsin enacted the nation's first unemployment compensation act, with the encouragement of La Follette's son Philip, then serving his first term as governor. When Wisconsin went Democratic in November 1932, turning Philip out of office, he and his brother, Robert Jr., a US Senator, temporarily left the state Republican organization and in 1934 formed a separate Progressive Party; that party, with the support of President Franklin Roosevelt and the Socialists, swept the 1934 elections and returned both brothers to office. During his second and third terms as governor, Philip La Follette successfully pressed for the creation of state agencies to develop electric power, arbitrate labor disputes, and set rules for fair business competition; his so-called Little New Deal corresponded to the New Deal policies of the Roosevelt administration.

After World War II, the state continued a trend toward increased urbanization, and its industries prospered. The major figure on the national scene in the postwar era was Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, who served 10 years in the Senate, launching unsubstantiated attacks in the early 1950s on alleged communists and other subversives in the federal government. After McCarthy's censure by the US Senate in 1954 and death in 1957, the Progressive tradition began to recover strength, and the liberal Democratic Party grew increasingly influential in state politics. There was student unrest at the University of Wisconsin during the 1960s and early 1970s, and growing discontent among Milwaukee's black population. A major controversy in the 1970s concerned a court-ordered busing plan, implemented in 1979, aimed at decreasing racial imbalances in Milwaukee's public schools. In 1984, the Milwaukee school board filed suit in federal court, charging that the policies of the state and suburban schools had resulted in an unconstitutionally segregated school system that restricted blacks to city schools. Two years later, the city school board and nine suburban districts agreed on a plan by which minority students from the city would transfer voluntarily to the nine suburbs, and suburban students would attend Milwaukee schools.

Wisconsin's economy, with its strong manufacturing and agricultural sectors, remained sound throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. The dairy industry, traditionally a mainstay of the economy, was linked to two different environmental issues. The first was the 1993 contamination of Milwaukee's drinking water with harmful bacteria that made thousands of people sick and killed some of them. Some claimed that the organisms had come from agricultural runoff containing animal wastes. The second issue was the use of bovine growth hormone to bolster milk production.

Flooding of the Mississippi River in 1993 caused massive damage in Wisconsin. Forty-seven counties were declared federal disaster areas; four people were killed; and financial losses totaled $900 million.

In 2003, Wisconsin faced a $3.2 billion two-year budget deficit, the largest deficit in Wisconsin's history. Governor Jim Doyle, elected in 2002, became the first Democratic governor to be elected in Wisconsin in 16 years. Doyle, who advocated abortion rights, gun control, and environmental protection, was at odds with the Republican-controlled state legislature over issues of state spending on health care and public education, and on raising taxes. Doyle promised to counteract the budget shortfall with deep spending cuts, which might threaten local services. He managed to balance the budget, while holding the line on taxes, and as a result, state taxes as a percentage of income were by 2005 the lowest in 34 years in the state. In 2005, Doyle announced his "KidsFirst" plan, an agenda to invest in Wisconsin's children, starting with the early years of life. He also implemented a "GrowWisconsin" agenda, to create jobs in the state. He is an advocate of providing citizens with access to safe, affordable prescription drugs from Canada.


Wisconsin's first constitutional convention, meeting in Madison in October 1846, was marked by controversy between conservative Whigs and allied Democrats on the one hand, and progressive Democrats with a constituency made up of miners, farmers, and immigrants on the other. The latter, who favored the popular election of judges and exemption of homesteads from seizure for debt, among other provisions, carried the day, but this version of the constitution failed to win ratification. A second constitutional convention, convened in December 1847, agreed on a new draft which made few major changes. This document, ratified by the electorate in 1848 and amended 133 times (two of which were subsequently nullified by the courts) as of January 2005, remains in effect today.

The Wisconsin legislature consists of a Senate with 33 members elected for four-year terms, and an assembly of 99 representatives elected for two-year terms. Legislators must be state residents for one year prior to election, and residents of their districts at least 10 days before the election. Voters elect an assembly and half the Senate membership in even-numbered years. Legislators must be US citizens, at least 18 years old, qualified voters in their districts, and residents of the state for at least one year. Regular legislative sessions begin in January; session schedules are determined biennially (in odd-numbered years) by joint resolution. Each house elects its own presiding officer and other officers from among its members. The legislative salary in 2004 was $45,569.

There are six elected state officers: governor and lieutenant governor (elected jointly), secretary of state, state treasurer, attorney general, and superintendent of public instruction. Since 1970, all

Wisconsin Presidential Vote by Political Party, 19482004
*Won US presidential election.
**Listed as CONSTITUTION Party on Wisconsin ballot.
1948 12 *Truman (D) 647,310 590,959 25,282 12,547 399
1952 12 *Eisenhower (R) 622,175 979,744 2,174 1,157 1,350 770
1956 12 *Eisenhower (R) 586,768 954,844 6,918 754 564 710
1960 12 Nixon (R) 830,805 895,175 1,792 1,310
1964 12 *Johnson (D) 1,050,424 638,495 1,692 1,204
1968 12 *Nixon (R) 748,804 809,997 1,222 1,338
1972 11 *Nixon (R) 810,174 989,430 127,835 47,525 998
1976 11 *Carter (D) 1,040,232 1,004,967 8,552 4,298 1,691 3,814
1980 11 *Reagan (R) 981,584 1,088,845 **1,519 7,767 29,135
1984 11 *Reagan (R) 995,740 1,198,584 4,883
1988 11 Dukakis (D) 1,126,794 1,047,499 3,056 2,574 1,953 5,157
1992 11 *Clinton (D) 1,041,066 930,855 2,311 544,479 1,772 2,877
IND. (Nader)
1996 11 *Clinton (D) 1,071,971 845,029 227,339 28,723 7,929
2000 11 Gore (D) 1,242,987 1,237,279 2,042 11,471 94,070 6,640
2004 10 Kerry (D) 1,489,504 1,478,120 471 2,661 16,390 6,464

have been elected for four-year terms. The governor and lieutenant governor must be US citizens, qualified voters, and state residents. As of December 2004, the governor's salary was $131,768. As the chief executive officer, the governor exercises authority by the power of appointment, by presenting a budget bill and major addresses to the legislature, and by the power to veto bills and call special legislative sessions.

A bill may be introduced in either house of the legislature, but must be passed by both houses to become law. The governor has six days (Sundays excluded) to sign or veto a measure. If the governor fails to act and the legislature is still in session, the bill automatically becomes law. (If the legislature has adjourned, a bill automatically dies after six days unless the governor acts on it.) Gubernatorial vetoes can be overridden by a two-thirds majority of those present in each house. Constitutional amendments may be introduced in either house. They must be approved by a simple majority of both houses in two legislatures and then ratified by a majority of the electorate at a subsequent election.

Voters must be US citizens, at least 18 years old, and must have resided in the state for at least 10 days before the election. (The residency requirement is waived in voting for US president and vice-president.) Restrictions apply to those convicted of certain crimes and to those judged by the court as mentally incompetent to vote.


The Democratic Party dominated politics until the late 1850s; then the newly founded Republican Party held sway for almost 100 years. More recently, the parties remain relatively even in power at both the national and state levels.

Jacksonian democracy was strong in Wisconsin in the early days, and until 1856 all territorial and state governors were Democrats, except for one Whig. In 1854, however, a coalition of Whigs, antislavery Democrats, and Free Soilers formed a Republican Party in the statea key event in the establishment of the national Republican Party. Republicans quickly gained control of most elective offices; from 1856 to 1959 there were only three Democratic governors. The Republican Party was dominated in the late 19th century by conservatives, who were sympathetic to the railroads and the lumbering industry but whose stands on pensions and jobs for Union veterans and ability to win federal funds for the state attracted support from farmers and small business. Then, in the 1890s, Progressives within the party, led by Robert La Follette, began a successful battle for control that culminated in La Follette's election as governor in 1900.

The La Follette brand of progressivism remained strong in the state, although not always under the umbrella of Republicanism. In 1924, La Follette ran for president on the Progressive ticket; 10 years later, his sons, Robert and Philip, also broke away from the GOP, to head a Progressive Party slate. However, their newly organized national third party faded and folded when Philip La Follette failed to be reelected governor, and World War II made isolationism unpopular. The Progressives rejoined the GOP in 1946.

Socialist parties have won some success in Wisconsin's political history. Socialists worked with progressive Republicans at the state level to pass important legislation in the early 20th century. In 1910, the Socialists scored two major political victories in Wisconsin: Emil Seidel was elected mayor of Milwaukee, becoming the first Socialist mayor of a major US city, and Victor Berger became the first Socialist ever elected to Congress. The state does not require voters to register. There were 3,045,730 voters registered in the state in 2002, however; 2,997,000 voters cast ballots in the 2004 presidential election.

Wisconsin's senators, both Democrats, are Herb Kohl, reelected in 2000 and Russell Feingold, reelected in 2004. Wisconsin's US House delegation consists of four Republicans and four Democrats following 2004 elections. In mid-2005, there were 19 Republicans and 14 Democrats in the state Senate, and 39 Democrats and 60 Republicans in the state Assembly. Wisconsin's former Republican governor, Tommy Thompson, who was reelected to an unprecedented fourth four-year term in 1998, was named President George W. Bush's Secretary of Health and Human Services in 2001, a post he held until January 2005. Republican Scott McCallum, began his first term as governor in 2001; he lost his bid for a second term to Democrat Jim Doyle in the 2004 election. Doyle became governor in 2005.

In the 2000 presidential election, Democrat Al Gore beat Republican George W. Bush by a mere 5,396 votes in Wisconsin; Green Party candidate Ralph Nader received 4% of the vote. In 2004, Democratic challenger John Kerry won 49.8% of the vote to incumbent President George W. Bush's 49.4%. The state had 10 electoral votes in the 2004 presidential election, a decrease of 1 vote over 2000.


Wisconsin had 72 counties, 585 municipal governments, and 431 public school districts. There were also 684 special districts, each providing a certain local service, such as sewerage or fire fighting, usually across municipal lines. In 2002, there were 1,265 townships.

Each county is governed by a board of supervisors (which in the most populous counties has more than 40 members), generally elected for two-year terms. Some counties have elected county executives, serving four-year terms; several others have an appointed administrator or similar official. County officials can include district attorneys, sheriffs, clerks, treasurers, coroners, registers of deeds, and surveyors.

Towns are civil subdivisions of counties equivalent to townships in other states. Each town is a unit of 6 sq mi (16 sq km) marked off for governmental purposes. Wisconsin towns are generally small units with populations under 2,500. Each town is governed by a board of supervisors elected every two years; a town supervisor carries out policies set at an annual town meeting. Cities and villages have home-rule powers limited by legislative review. Most cities are governed by a mayor-council system: a small percentage of cities have a council-manager system, which was first authorized in Wisconsin in 1923. Executive power in a village is vested in an elected president who presides over an elected board but has no veto power.

The state is home to six Native American nations represented by 11 tribal governments.

In 2005, local government accounted for about 223,523 full-time (or equivalent) employment positions.


To address the continuing threat of terrorism and to work with the federal Department of Homeland Security, homeland security in Wisconsin operates under the authority of state statute; the adjutant general is designated as the state homeland security advisor.

A six-member Ethics Board, appointed by the governor, administers an ethics code for public officials and employees and investigates complaints against them. The board may refer cases for criminal prosecution.

The Department of Public Instruction administers public elementary and secondary education in the state, and the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System has jurisdiction over all public higher education. The Wisconsin Technical College System supervises the state's 16 technical colleges.

The Transportation Department plans, constructs, and maintains highways and licenses motor vehicles and drivers. Physical and mental health, corrections, public and medical assistance, service to the aged, children's services, and vocational rehabilitation fall within the purview of the Department of Health and Family Services. The Office of Employment Relations enforces antidiscrimination laws in employment as well as minimum standards for wages and working conditions, provides training for the unemployed and disadvantaged, and sets safety standards for buildings.

Public protection in general is provided by the Department of Justice, which is responsible for investigating crimes of statewide magnitude and offering technical assistance to local law enforce-ment agencies. Regulations to protect consumers are administered and enforced by the Trade and Consumer Protection Division of the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, in cooperation with the Justice Department. The Army and Air National Guard are under the Department of Military Affairs.

The Department of Commerce has responsibilities in the areas of community, economic, and housing development, promotion of trade and tourism, and small and minority business assistance.


The judicial branch is headed by a supreme court, consisting of seven justices, elected statewide on a nonpartisan basis for terms of 10 years. Vacancies are filled by gubernatorial appointment until an open election day becomes available. The justice with the greatest seniority serves as chief justice. The supreme court, which is the final authority on state constitutional questions, hears appeals at its own discretion and has original jurisdiction in limited areas.

The state's next-highest court is the Court of Appeals, established by constitutional amendment in 1977. Its 16 judges are elected by district on a nonpartisan basis and serve staggered six-year terms. Vacancies are filled by the governor until a successor is elected. Judges sit in panels of three for most cases, although some cases can be heard by a single judge. Decisions by the court of appeals may be reviewed by the supreme court.

Circuit courts are the trial court of general jurisdiction, which also hears appeals from municipal courts. Circuit court boundaries coincide with county boundaries, except that three judicial circuits comprise two counties each; thus, there are 69 judicial circuits. Trial judges are elected by district on a nonpartisan basis for six-year terms. All justices at the circuit court level or higher must have at least five years' experience as practicing attorneys and be less than 70 years old in order to qualify for office. Vacancies are filled by the governor until a successor is elected.

Wisconsin's 200 municipal courts have jurisdiction over local matters. Municipal judges are elected for terms of two or four years, generally serve on a part-time basis, and need not be attorneys.

As of 31 December 2004, a total of 22,966 prisoners were held in Wisconsin's state and federal prisons, an increase from 22,604 of 1.6% from the previous year. As of year-end 2004, a total of 1,387 inmates were female, down from 1,405 or 1.3% from the year before. Among sentenced prisoners (one year or more), Wisconsin had an incarceration rate of 390 per 100,000 population in 2004.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Wisconsin in 2004, had a violent crime rate (murder/nonnegligent manslaughter; forcible rape; robbery; aggravated assault) of 209.6 reported incidents per 100,000 population, or a total of 11,548 reported incidents. Crimes against property (burglary; larceny/theft; and motor vehicle theft) in that same year totaled 146,710 reported incidents or 2,663.1 reported incidents per 100,000 people. Wisconsin has no death penalty.

In 2003, Wisconsin spent $87,417,174 on homeland security, an average of $16 per state resident.


In 2004, there were 502 active-duty military personnel and 2,847 civilian personnel stationed in Wisconsin. Prime military contracts amounted to more than $1.7 billion in the same fiscal year, and total defense payroll outlays were $647 million.

A total of 3,932 Wisconsinites were killed in World War I; 7,980 in World War II; 800 in Korea; and 1,142 in Vietnam. In 2003, there were 474,594 veterans were living in Wisconsin. Of these, 69,671 saw service in World War II; 58,649 in the Korean conflict; 145,970 in the Vietnam era; and 61,028 in the Persian Gulf War. Wisconsin veterans received benefits of over $1.1 billion in 2004.

In 2004, the Wisconsin State Patrol employed 492 full-time sworn officers.


Until the early 19th century, Wisconsin was inhabited mainly by Indians; the French and British brought few permanent settlers. In the 1820s, southerners began to arrive from the lower Mississippi, and in the 1830s easterners poured in from New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New England.

Foreign immigrants began arriving in the 1820s, either directly from Europe or After temporary settlement in eastern states. Most of the early immigrants were from Ireland and England. Germans also came in large numbers, especially After the Revolution of 1848, and by 1860 they were predominant in the immigrant population, which was proportionately larger than in any other state except California. The state soon became a patchwork of ethnic communitiesGermans in the counties near Lake Michigan, Norwegians in southern and western Wisconsin, Dutch in the lower Fox Valley and near Sheboygan, and other groups in other regions.

After the Civil War, and especially in the 1880s, immigration reached new heights, with Wisconsin receiving a large share of Germans and Scandinavians. The proportion of Germans declined, however, as new immigrants arrived from Finland, Russia and from southern and eastern Europe, especially Poland, before World War I. Despite this overseas immigration, Wisconsin suffered a net population loss from migration beginning in 1900 as Wisconsinites moved to other states. Between 1970 and 1983 alone, this loss totaled 154,000. From 1985 to 1990, the net loss from migration amounted to 3,150. Between 1990 and 1998, Wisconsin had net gains of 84,000 in domestic migration and 21,000 in international migration. In 1998, 3,724 foreign immigrants arrived in Wisconsin; of these, the greatest number (680) came from Mexico. The state's overall population increased 6.8% between 1990 and 1998.

A significant trend since 1970 has been the decline in population in Milwaukee and other large cities; at the same time, suburbs have continued to grow, as have many other areas, especially in parts of northern Wisconsin. In the period 200005, net international migration was 46,106 and net internal migration was 14,595, for a net gain of 60,701 people.


The Commission on Interstate Cooperation represents the state in its dealings with the Council of State Governments. Wisconsin also participates in the Education Commission of the States, Great Lakes Commission, Midwest Interstate Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact Commission, and Mississippi River Parkway Commission. In 1985, Wisconsin, seven other Great Lakes states, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario signed the Great Lakes Compact to protect the lakes' water reserves. In fiscal year 2001, Wisconsin received over $5.8 billion in federal grants. Mirroring a national trend, that figure declined to $5.547 billion in fiscal year 2005, an estimated $5.418 billion in fiscal year 2006, and an estimated 5.600 in fiscal year 2007.


With the coming of the first Europeans, fur trading became a major economic activity. As more settlers arrived, agriculture prospered. Although farmingpreeminently dairyingremains important, manufacturing is the mainstay of today's economy. Wisconsin's industries are diversified, with nonelectrical machinery and food products the leading items. Other important industries are paper and pulp products, transportation equipment, electrical and electronic equipment, and fabricated metals. Economic growth has been concentrated in the southeast. There, soils and climate are favorable for agriculture. A skilled labor force is available to industry, and capital, transportation, and markets are most readily accessible.

As happened to the country at large, Wisconsin in 198182 experienced the worst economic slump since the Great Depression, with the unemployment rate rising to 11.7% in late 1982. Manufacturing was hard hit, and the loss of jobs in this sector was considered permanent. Nevertheless, manufacturing has remained Wisconsin's dominant sector, accounting for 27% of total state output in 1997, and growing close to 2.7% a year from 1997 to 2000, before falling 2.9% in the national recession of 2001. The strongest growth in the period, as in most of the country, was in various service categories such as general services, financial services, government, trade and the transportation and utilities sectors, all up more than 20% from 1997 to 2001. The diversity of Wisconsin's economy moderated the impact of the national recession that began in 2001 and 2002. By the end of 2002, the rebound of employment in the state was outpacing that of the nation overall.

In 2004, Wisconsin's gross state product (GSP) was $211.616 billion, of which manufacturing (durable and nondurable goods) contributed the biggest share at $47.685 billion or 22.5% of GSP, followed by the real estate sector at $23.778 billion (11.2% of GSP), and health care and social assistance at $16.968 billion (8% of GSP). In that same year, there were an estimated 406,766 small businesses in Wisconsin. Of the 125,888 businesses that had employees, an estimated total of 123,349 or 98% were small companies. An estimated 13,093 new businesses were established in the state in 2004, up 5.6% from the year before. Business terminations that same year came to 12,711, up 0.7% from 2003. There were 742 business bankruptcies in 2004, up 2.8% from the previous year. In 2005, the state's personal bankruptcy (Chapter 7 and Chapter 13) filing rate was 506 filings per 100,000 people, ranking Wisconsin as the 26th highest in the nation.


In 2005 Wisconsin had a gross state product (GSP) of $218 billion which accounted for 1.8% of the nation's gross domestic product and placed the state at number 19 in highest GSP among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2004 Wisconsin had a per capita personal income (PCPI) of $32,166. This ranked 22nd in the United States and was 97% of the national average of $33,050. The 19942004 average annual growth rate of PCPI was 4.2%. Wisconsin had a total personal income (TPI) of $177,026,243,000, which ranked 18th in the United States and reflected an increase of 5.5% from 2003. The 19942004 average annual growth rate of TPI was 4.9%. Earnings of persons employed in Wisconsin increased from $127,965,881,000 in 2003 to $135,601,941,000 in 2004, an increase of 6.0%. The 200304 national change was 6.3%.

The US Census Bureau reports that the three-year average median household income for 200204 in 2004 dollars was $47,220 compared to a national average of $44,473. During the same period an estimated 10.2% of the population was below the poverty line as compared to 12.4% nationwide.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in April 2006 the seasonally adjusted civilian labor force in Wisconsin 3,079,600, with approximately 147,200 workers unemployed, yielding an unemployment rate of 4.8%, compared to the national average of 4.7% for the same period. Preliminary data for the same period placed nonfarm employment at 2,873,300. Since the beginning of the BLS data series in 1976, the highest unemployment rate recorded in Wisconsin was 11.8% in January 1983. The historical low was 2.9% in April 1999. Preliminary nonfarm employment data by occupation for April 2006 showed that approximately 4.7% of the labor force was employed in construction; 17.6% in manufacturing; 18.9% in trade, transportation, and public utilities; 5.5% in financial activities; 9.3% in professional and business services; 13.7% in education and health services; 9.2% in leisure and hospitality services; and 14.3% in government.

Labor began to organize in the state after the Civil War. The Knights of St. Crispin, a shoemakers' union, grew into what was at that time the nation's largest union, before it collapsed during the Panic of 1873. In 1887, unions of printers, cigarmakers, and iron molders organized the Milwaukee Federated Trades Council, and in 1893 the Wisconsin State Federation of Labor was formed. A statewide union for public employees was established in 1932. In 1977, the state's legislature granted public employees (except public safety personnel) the right to strike, subject to certain limitations.

The BLS reported that in 2005, a total of 410,000 of Wisconsin's 3,551,000 employed wage and salary workers were formal members of a union. This represented 16.1% of those so employed, up slightly from 16% in 2004, well above the national average of 12%. Overall in 2005, a total of 438,000 workers (17.2%) in Wisconsin were covered by a union or employee association contract, which includes those workers who reported no union affiliation. Wisconsin is one of 28 states that did not have a right-to-work law.

As of 1 March 2006, Wisconsin had a state-mandated minimum wage rate of $5.70 per hour. In 2004, women in the state accounted for 47.6% of the employed civilian labor force.


Farm marketings in 2005 amounted to $6.6 billion, 10th among the 50 states; nearly $4.9 billion in farm marketings came from dairy products and livestock. Wisconsin led the United States in 2004 in the production of snap beans for processing, cranberries, processing beets, corn for silage, and cabbage for kraut. It also ranked third for oat production and sweet corn for processing, peas, and carrots for processing, fourth in oats and fall potatoes, fifth in tart cherries, seventh in alfalfa hay, and ninth in corn for grain.

In the early years, Wisconsin developed an agricultural economy based on wheat, some of which was exported to eastern states and overseas via the port of Milwaukee. Farmers also grew barley and hops, finding a market for these products among early Milwaukee brewers. After the Civil War, soil exhaustion and the depredations of the chinch bug forced farmers to turn to other crops, including corn, oats, and hay, which could be used to feed hogs, sheep, cows, and other livestock.

Although agricultural income has continued to rise in recent years and the average size of farms has increased, farm acreage and the number of farms have declined. In 2004 there were 15.5 million acres (6.3 million hectares) of land in farms, nearly 50% of the total land area, distributed among 76,500 farms, a decline of 4,600 from 1986. Farmland is concentrated in the southern two-thirds of the state, especially in the southeast. Potatoes are grown mainly in central Wisconsin, cranberries in the Wisconsin River Valley, and cherries in the Door Peninsula.

Leading field crops (in bushels) in 2004 were corn for grain, 353,600,000; oats 13,650,000; wheat, 12,852,000; and barley, 1,650,000. About 4,880,000 tons of dry hay and 13,300,000 tons of corn for silage were harvested that year. Potato production was 30,450,000 hundredweight. In 2004, Wisconsin farmers produced for processing 511,220,000 hundredweight of sweet corn, 322,640 tons of snap beans, 54,500 tons of green peas, 3,480,000 barrels of cranberries, and 6.7 tons of tart cherries, and 302,000 lb (137,000 kg) of spearmint and peppermint for oil. Some 30,180 tons of cucumber pickles and 630,000 hundredweight of cabbage were produced in 2004.


Aided by the skills of immigrant cheesemakers and by the encouragement of dairy farmers who emigrated from New Yorkespecially by the promotional effort of the agriculturist and publisher William D. HoardWisconsin turned to dairying in the late 19th century. In 2003, Wisconsin ranked second (after California) in the number of milk cows with 1.26 million milk cows which produced over 22.2 billion lb (10 billion kg) of milk. Dairy farms are prominent in nearly all regions, but especially in the Central Plains and Western Uplands. Wisconsin ranchers also raise livestock for meat production. In 2004, dairy products accounted for 53.7% of total farm receipts; cattle and calves, 11.7%.

In 2005, the state had 3.35 million cattle and calves, valued at $4 billion. During 2004, Wisconsin farms had about 430,000 hogs and pigs, valued at $38.7 million. Poultry farmers sold 12.3 million lb (5.6 million kg) of chicken in 2003. Also during 2003, there were 1.1 billion eggs produced, valued at $55.6 million. Wisconsin was also the leading producer of mink pelts in 2004, at 706,300.


In 2004, Wisconsin ranked third among the Great Lakes states in the quantity of its commercial fishing, with 3.9 million lb (1.8 million kg) valued at $3.1 million. In 2001, the commercial fishing fleet had 18 boats and 78 vessels. Walleye, perch, and lake trout are primary Great Lakes fish species.

In 2004, there were 61 trout farms, with sales of nearly $1.5 million. The muskellunge is the premier game fish of Wisconsin's inland waters; Coho and Chinook salmon, introduced to Lake Michigan, now thrive there. The largest concentration of lake sturgeon in the United States is in Lake Winnebago. In 2004, the state issued 1,391,173 fishing licenses. There are 16 state fish hatcheries and 2 national hatcheries in the state.


Wisconsin was once about 85% forested. Although much of the forest was depleted by forest fires and wasteful lumber industry practices, vast areas reseeded themselves naturally, and more than 820,000 acres (332,000 hectares) have been replanted. In 2004, Wisconsin had 15,965,000 acres (6,461,000 hectares) of forest, covering 46% of the state's land area; 70% of all forestlands are privately owned. Hardwoods make up over 80% of the sawtimber. The most heavily forested region is in the north. The timber industry reached its peak in the late 19th century. In 2004, lumber production totaled 539 million board feet.

Wisconsin's woods have recreational as well as commercial value. Two national forestsChequamegon and Nicolet, both located in northern Wisconsincover 1,527,300 acres (618,098 hectares). The 10 state forests cover 471,329 acres (190,741 hectares).

Forest management and fire control programs are directed by the Department of Natural Resources. The US Forest Service operates a Forest Products Laboratory at Madison, in cooperation with the University of Wisconsin.


According to preliminary data from the US Geological Survey (USGS), the estimated value of nonfuel mineral production by Wisconsin in 2003 was $405 million, an increase from 2002 of over 3%. The USGS data ranked Wisconsin as 32nd among the 50 states by the total value of its nonfuel mineral production, accounting for over 1% of total US output.

According to the preliminary data for 2003, crushed stone, and construction sand and gravel were the state's top nonfuel minerals, accounting for around 40% and 39%, respectively, of all nonfuel mineral output, by value. These were followed by lime (more than 9% by value); industrial sand and gravel (around 8% by value); and dimension stone (over 3% by value). By volume, Wisconsin in 2003, was the nation's fourth largest producer of dimension stone; eighth largest in construction sand and gravel; and fifth in peat and in industrial sand and gravel.

Preliminary data for 2003 showed crushed stone production at 38 million metric tons, with a value of $163 million, while construction sand and gravel output that same year stood at 39.1 million metric tons, and was valued at $156 million. Industrial sand and gravel production in 2003 totaled 38 million metric tons, and was valued at $32.7 million. Lime output that year came to 640,000 metric tons, and had a value of $38.4 million.


As of 2003, Wisconsin had 125 electrical power service providers, of which 82 were publicly owned and 25 were cooperatives. Of the remainder, 12 were investor owned, and six were owners of independent generators that sold directly to customers. As of that same year there were 2,753,247 retail customers. Of that total, 2,262,424 received their power from investor-owned service providers. Cooperatives accounted for 236,036 customers, while publicly owned providers had 254,781 customers. There were six independent generator or "facility" customers.

Total net summer generating capability by the state's electrical generating plants in 2003 stood at 14.309 million kW, with total production that same year at 60.122 billion kWh. Of the total amount generated, 93.3% came from electric utilities, with the remainder coming from independent producers and combined heat and power service providers. The largest portion of all electric power generated, 41.717 billion kWh (69.4%), came from coal-fired plants, with nuclear generation in second place at 12.215 billion kWh (20.3%) and natural gas fueled plants in third at 2.478 billion kWh (4.1%). Other renewable power sources accounted for 2.3% of all power generated, with hydroelectric at 3.1%, and petroleum fired plants at 0.8%.

The state's first hydroelectric plant was built at Appleton in 1882, with many others built later, especially along the Wisconsin River. Because Wisconsin itself has no coal, oil, or natural gas resources, the state has been active in developing alternative energy resources to increase its energy independence. Biomass energy is being developed for the production of ethanol; and waste wood is being used for utility generation and as fuel in industrial processes. Hydropower is a significant source of electricity generation in the paper industry and for electric utility generation.

As of 2006, Wisconsin had two nuclear power stations; the Point Beach station operated by Wisconsin Electric Power Company near Two Rivers and Manitowoc; and the Kewaunee plant, operated by the Wisconsin Public Service Co in Carlton.

Wisconsin has no proven reserves or production of crude oil or natural gas. As of 2005, the state's only crude oil refinery had a distillation capacity of 33,000 barrels per day.


Industrial activity is concentrated in the southeast, especially the Milwaukee metropolitan area. Milwaukee however, has lost some of its luster as a brewery center, as a number of breweries have ceased operations there.

According to the US Census Bureau's Annual Survey of Manufactures (ASM) for 2004, Wisconsin's manufacturing sector covered some 20 product subsectors. The shipment value of all products manufactured in the state that same year was $136.676 billion. Of that total, food manufacturing accounted for the largest share at $24.600 billion. It was followed by transportation equipment manufacturing at $19.702 billion; machinery manufacturing at $14.744 billion; paper manufacturing at $12.765 billion; and fabricated metal product manufacturing at $11.289 billion.

In 2004, a total of 476,794 people in Wisconsin were employed in the state's manufacturing sector, according to the ASM. Of that total, 344,680 were actual production workers. In terms of total employment, the fabricated metal product manufacturing industry accounted for the largest portion of all manufacturing employees, with 62,051 (46,048 actual production workers). It was followed by machinery manufacturing, with 60,111 (37,179 actual production workers); food manufacturing, with 59,750 (47,137 actual production workers); transportation equipment manufacturing, with 36,790 (28,314 actual production workers); and printing and related support activities, with 33,849 (25,226 actual production workers).

ASM data for 2004 showed that Wisconsin's manufacturing sector paid $19.808 billion in wages. Of that amount, the machinery manufacturing sector accounted for the largest share at $2.895 billion. It was followed by fabricated metal product manufacturing at $2.486 billion; food manufacturing at $2.080 billion; and transport equipment manufacturing at $1.808 billion.


According to the 2002 Census of Wholesale Trade, Wisconsin's wholesale trade sector had sales that year totaling $68.5 billion from 7,557 establishments. Wholesalers of durable goods accounted for 4,617 establishments, followed by nondurable goods wholesalers at 2,311 and electronic markets, agents, and brokers accounting for 629 establishments. Sales by durable goods wholesalers in 2002 totaled $26.9 billion, while wholesalers of nondurable goods saw sales of $33.6 billion. Electronic markets, agents, and brokers in the wholesale trade industry had sales of $7.9 billion.

In the 2002 Census of Retail Trade, Wisconsin was listed as having 21,360 retail establishments with sales of $59.9 billion. The leading types of retail businesses by number of establishments were: motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts dealers (2,776); gasoline stations (2,667); miscellaneous store retailers (2,564); clothing and clothing accessories stores (2,268); and food and beverage stores (2,205). In terms of sales, motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts stores accounted for the largest share of retail sales at $15.5 billion, followed by general merchandise stores at $8.8 billion; food and beverage stores at $8.1 billion; gasoline stations at $5.95 billion; and building material/garden equipment and supplies dealers at $5.92 billion. A total of 311,730 people were employed by the retail sector in Wisconsin that year.

The state engages in foreign as well as domestic trade through the Great Lakes ports of Superior-Duluth, Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Kenosha. Iron ore and grain are shipped primarily from Superior-Duluth, while Milwaukee handles the heaviest volume of general merchandise. Wisconsin exported $14.9 billion in goods (18th in the United States) in 2005. Greater Milwaukee is a foreign-trade zone where goods can enter duty-free under certain conditions.


Consumer protection in Wisconsin is not the responsibility of a single, dedicated agency, office or department. The administration of the state's laws governing product safety and trade practices is the responsibility of the Trade and Consumer Protection Division of the state's Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, which monitors food production, inspects meat, and administers grading programs. The Trade and Consumer Protection Division in turn, acts in cooperation with the state's Department of Justice through its Consumer Protection Unit, which litigates cases involving deceptive and fraudulent business practices that have been referred to it by other state agencies. Consumer protection in financial matters is handled by the Office of the Commissioner of Banking, which administers laws governing consumer credit, while the Department of Transportation's Motor Vehicles Division investigates complaints from buyers of new and used automobiles.

When dealing with consumer protection issues, the Wisconsin Department of Justice's Attorney General's Office can initiate civil and criminal proceedings; represent the state before state and federal regulatory agencies; administer consumer protection and education programs; handle formal consumer complaints; and exercise broad subpoena powers. In antitrust actions, the Attorney General's Office can act on behalf of those consumers who are incapable of acting on their own; initiate damage actions on behalf of the state in state courts; initiate criminal proceedings; and represent other governmental entities in recovering civil damages under state or federal law.

The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has its main office in Madison, but also has regional offices in Green Bay and Milwaukee. There is also a county government consumer affairs office in Racine.


As of June 2005, Wisconsin had 303 insured banks, savings and loans, and saving banks, in addition to 282 state-chartered and 2 federally chartered credit unions (CUs). Excluding the CUs, the Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis market area accounted for the largest portion of the state's financial institutions and deposits in 2004, with 63 institutions and $40.172 billion in deposits, followed by the Madison market area with 48 institutions and $10.944 billion in deposits. As of June 2005, CUs accounted for 10.9% of all assets held by all financial institutions in the state, or some $14.838 billion. Banks, savings and loans, and savings banks collectively accounted for the remaining 89.1% or $121.910 billion in assets held.

The Office of the Commissioner of Banking licenses and charters banks, loan and collection companies, and currency exchanges. The Office of the Commissioner of Savings and Loan supervises state-chartered savings and loan associations. The Office of the Commissioner of Credit Unions enforces laws relating to state-chartered credit unions.


In 2004, there were 3.4 million individual life insurance policies in force with a total value of about $248 billion; total value for all categories of life insurance (individual, group, and credit) was about $388.7 billion. The average coverage amount is $72,800 per policy holder. Death benefits paid that year totaled $1 billion.

As of 2003, there were 182 property and casualty and 31 life and health insurance companies domiciled in the state. In 2004, direct premiums for property and casualty insurance totaled $7.8 billion. That year, there were 12,861 flood insurance policies in force in the state, with a total value of $1.5 billion.

The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance licenses insurance agents, enforces state and federal regulations, responds to consumer complaints, and develops consumer education programs and literature. The office also operates the State Life Insurance Fund, which sells basic life insurance (maximum $10,000) to state residents; and the Local Government Property Insurance Fund, which insures properties of local government units on an optional basis.

In 2004, 59% of state residents held employment-based health insurance policies, 5% held individual policies, and 24% were covered under Medicare and Medicaid; 11% of residents were uninsured. In 2003, employee contributions for employment-based health coverage averaged at 22% for single coverage and 24% for family coverage. The state offers an 18-month health benefits expansion program for small-firm employees in connection with the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA, 1986), a health insurance program for those who lose employment-based coverage due to termination or reduction of work hours.

In 2003, there were over 3.5 million auto insurance policies in effect for private passenger cars. While liability coverage is not mandatory, motorists are expected to accept financial responsibility in the event of an accident. Minimum liability limits include bodily injury liability of up to $25,000 per individual and $50,000 for all persons injured in an accident, as well as property damage liability of $10,000. Uninsured motorist coverage is available in the state. In 2003, the average expenditure per vehicle for insurance coverage was $620.44.


Wisconsin has no securities exchanges. In 2005, there were 1,940 personal financial advisers employed in the state and 3,800 securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents. In 2004, there were over 90 publicly traded companies within the state, with over 35 NASDAQ companies, 29 NYSE listings, and 4 AMEX listings. In 2006, the state had ten Fortune 500 companies; Johnson Controls ranked first in the state and 75th in the nation with revenues of over $28 billion, followed by Northwestern Mutual, Manpower, Kohl's, and WPS Resources.

The sale of securities is regulated by the Department of Financial Institutions, Division of Securities.


Budget estimates are prepared by departments and sent to the governor or governor-elect in the fall of each even-numbered year. The following January, the governor presents a biennial budget to the legislature, which passes a budget bill, often after many amendments. Most appropriations are made separately for each year of the biennium. The fiscal year (FY) begins 1 July. Expenditures by state and local governments alike have risen dramatically since 1960. At one time, the state was constitutionally prohibited from borrowing money. This provision was at first circumvented

WisconsinState Government Finances
(Dollar amounts in thousands. Per capita amounts in dollars.)
Abbreviations and symbols: - zero or rounds to zero; (NA) not available; (X) not applicable.
source: U.S. Census Bureau, Governments Division, 2004 Survey of State Government Finances, January 2006.
Total Revenue 34,753,272 6,314.18
  General revenue 23,933,776 4,348.43
   Intergovernmental revenue 6,831,514 1,241.19
   Taxes 12,638,266 2,296.20
    General sales 3,899,395 708.47
    Selective sales 1,721,642 312.80
    License taxes 811,548 147.45
    Individual income tax 5,251,190 954.07
    Corporate income tax 681,990 123.91
    Other taxes 272,501 49.51
   Current charges 2,660,736 483.42
   Miscellaneous general revenue 1,803,260 327.63
  Utility revenue - -
  Liquor store revenue - -
  Insurance trust revenue 10,819,496 1,965.75
Total expenditure 28,577,240 5,192.09
  Intergovernmental expenditure 9,285,137 1,686.98
  Direct expenditure 19,292,103 3,505.11
    Current operation 12,335,594 2,241.21
    Capital outlay 1,781,247 323.63
    Insurance benefits and repayments 3,781,755 687.09
    Assistance and subsidies 571,629 103.86
    Interest on debt 821,878 149.32
Exhibit: Salaries and wages 3,462,527 629.09
Total expenditure 28,577,240 5,192.09
  General expenditure 24,789,046 4,503.82
    Intergovernmental expenditure 9,285,137 1,686.98
    Directhexpenditure 15,503,909 2,816.84
  General expenditures, by function:
    Education 9,045,030 1,643.36
    Public welfare 5,908,896 1,073.56
    Hospitals 799,711 145.30
    Health 644,461 117.09
    Highways 1,678,313 304.93
    Police protection 121,120 22.01
    Correction 918,706 166.92
    Natural resources 555,771 100.98
    Parks and recreation 55,244 10.04
    Government administration 614,390 111.63
    Interest on general debt 821,878 149.32
    Other and unallocable 3,625,526 658.71
  Utility expenditure 6,439 1.17
  Liquor store expenditure - -
  Insurance trust expenditure 3,781,755 687.09
Debt at end of fiscal year 17,727,318 3,220.81
Cash and security holdings 83,020,637 15,083.69

by the use of private corporations and then, in 1969, eliminated by constitutional amendment.

Fiscal year 2006 general funds were estimated at $12.7 billion for resources and $12.4 billion for expenditures. In fiscal year 2004, federal government grants to Wisconsin were $7.4 billion.

In the fiscal year 2007 federal budget, Wisconsin was slated to receive: $32.5 million for a new Department of Veterans Affairs spinal-cord injury center in Milwaukee; and $5.6 million for the repair or replacement of the windows and doors at the historic US Federal Building and Courthouse in Milwaukee.


In 2005, Wisconsin collected $13,452 million in tax revenues or $2,430 per capita, which placed it 13th among the 50 states in per capita tax burden. The national average was $2,192 per capita. Property taxes accounted for 0.8% of the total, sales taxes 30.0%, selective sales taxes 15.2%, individual income taxes 40.6%, corporate income taxes 5.8%, and other taxes 7.4%.

As of 1 January 2006, Wisconsin had four individual income tax brackets ranging from 4.6% to 6.75%. The state taxes corporations at a flat rate of 7.9%.

In 2004, state and local property taxes amounted to $7.5 billion or $1,350 per capita. The per capita amount ranks the state 11th highest nationally. Local governments collected $7,324,843,000 of the total and the state government $104,158,000.

Wisconsin taxes retail sales at a rate of 5%. In addition to the state tax, local taxes on retail sales can reach as much as 0.60%, making for a potential total tax on retail sales of 5.60%. Food purchased for consumption off-premises is tax exempt. The tax on cigarettes is 77 cents per pack, which ranks 28th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Wisconsin taxes gasoline at 32.9 cents per gallon. This is in addition to the 18.4 cents per gallon federal tax on gasoline.

According to the Tax Foundation, for every federal tax dollar sent to Washington in 2004, Wisconsin citizens received $0.82 in federal spending.


The state seeks to promote the relocation of new industries to Wisconsin, as well as the expansion of existing ones, by providing advice and assistance through the Wisconsin Commerce Development and some 280 local development corporations. It supports businesses that promise to substantially improve the economy of a community or the state; extends loans to small businesses; helps with the training or retraining of employees; and offers financial assistance for applied research that results in a new product or production process. To revitalize economically depressed areas, the state provides tax benefits to businesses locating or expanding operations in such areas and helps finance local economic development projects. Communities are authorized to issue tax-exempt bonds to enable industries to finance new equipment. In addition, all machinery and equipment used in goods production is tax-exempt under state law. In 2006, the Commerce Department contained seven main operating divisions: the Administrative Services Division, the Business Development Division, the Community Development Division, the Environmental and Regulatory Services Division, the International and Export Development Division, the Office of the Secretary, and the Buildings and Safety Division. The Bureau of Minority Business Development also operates.


The infant mortality rate in October 2005 was estimated at 6.4 per 1,000 live births. The birth rate in 2003 was 12.8 per 1,000 population. The abortion rate stood at 9.6 per 1,000 women in 2000. In 2003, about 84.9% of pregnant woman received prenatal care be-ginning in the first trimester. In 2004, approximately 83% of children received routine immunizations before the age of three.

The crude death rate in 2003 was 8.4 deaths per 1,000 population. As of 2002, the death rates for major causes of death (per 100,000 resident population) were: heart disease, 237.5; cancer, 199; cerebrovascular diseases, 63.9; chronic lower respiratory diseases, 42.9; and diabetes, 24.9. The mortality rate from HIV infection was 1.4 per 100,000 population. In 2004, the reported AIDS case rate was at about 3.2 per 100,000 population. In 2002, about 55.5% of the population was considered overweight or obese. As of 2004, about 21.9% of state residents were smokers.

In 2003, Wisconsin had 121 community hospitals with about 14,800 beds. There were about 588,000 patient admissions that year and 11.8 million outpatient visits. The average daily inpatient census was about 9,200 patients. The average cost per day for hospital care was $1,282. Also in 2003, there were about 408 certified nursing facilities in the state with 42,644 beds and an overall occupancy rate of about 85.6%. In 2004, it was estimated that about 77.5% of all state residents had received some type of dental care within the year. Wisconsin had 262 physicians per 100,000 resident population in 2004 and 856 nurses per 100,000 in 2005. In 2004, there was a total of 3,055 dentists in the state.

Medical degrees are granted by the University of Wisconsin at Madison and by the Medical College of Wisconsin (formerly part of Marquette University). The Division of Health, a branch of the State Department of Health and Social Services, has responsibility for planning and supervising health services and facilities, enforcing state and federal regulations, administering medical assistance programs, and providing information to the public.

About 17% of state residents were enrolled in Medicaid programs in 2003; 15% were enrolled in Medicare programs in 2004. Approximately 11% of the state population was uninsured in 2004. In 2003, state health care expenditures totaled $5.3 million.


In 2004, about 269,000 people received unemployment benefits, with the average weekly unemployment benefit at $251. In fiscal year 2005, the estimated average monthly participation in the food stamp program included about 345,748 persons (143,459 households); the average monthly benefit was about $76.39 per person, which was the lowest average benefit in the nation. That year, the total of benefits paid through the state for the food stamp program was about $316.9 million.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the system of federal welfare assistance that officially replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) in 1997, was reauthorized through the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. TANF is funded through federal block grants that are divided among the states based on an equation involving the number of recipients in each state. Wisconsin's TANF program is called Wisconsin Works (W-2). In 2004, the state program had 54,000 recipients; state and federal expenditures on this TANF program totaled $109 million in fiscal year 2003.

In December 2004, Social Security benefits were paid to 937,490 Wisconsin residents. This number included 629,930 retired workers, 89,810 widows and widowers, 103,460 disabled workers, 49,000 spouses, and 65,290 children. Social Security beneficiaries represented 17.1% of the total state population and 96.8% of the state's population age 65 and older. Retired workers received an average monthly payment of $979; widows and widowers, $952; disabled workers, $894; and spouses, $493. Payments for children of retired workers averaged $525 per month; children of deceased workers, $659; and children of disabled workers, $260. Federal Supplemental Security Income payments in December 2004 went to 90,026 Wisconsin residents, averaging $386 a month. An additional $9.6 million of state-administered supplemental payments were distributed to 95,173 residents.


In 2004, there were an estimated 2,463,802 housing units, 2,172,924 of which were occupied; 69.9% were owner-occupied. About 65.2% of all units were single-family, detached homes. Rural areas had a higher proportion of deficient housing than urban areas, and substandard conditions were three times as common in units built before 1939, which account for about 21% of the existing housing stock. In 2004, utility gas was the most common energy source for heating. It was estimated that 97,491 units lacked telephone service, 9,105 lacked complete plumbing facilities, and 9,348 lacked complete kitchen facilities. The average household had 2.46 members.

In 2004, 40,000 new privately owned housing units were authorized for construction. The median home value was $137,727. The median monthly cost for mortgage owners was $1,155. Renters paid a median of $609 per month. In 2006, the state received over $28.4 million in community development block grants from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The Department of Veterans Affairs makes home loans to veterans. The Housing Finance Authority, created by the legislature in 1971, raises money through the sale of tax-exempt bonds and makes loans directly or indirectly to low- and moderate-income home buyers. Wisconsin's state building code, developed in 1913 to cover construction of all dwellings with three or more units, was revised in the late 1970s to cover new one- and two-family dwellings. Local housing codes prescribing standards for structural upkeep and maintenance in existing buildings are in force in all large cities and in many smaller cities and villages.


Wisconsin has a tradition of leadership in education. The state's constitution, adopted in 1848, provided for free public education; however, there was no state tax for schools until 1885. A compulsory education law was passed in 1879 and strengthened in 1903 and 1907. The first kindergarten in the United States was established in Watertown, Wisconsin, in 1856.

General public elementary and secondary education is administered under the overall supervision of the Department of Public Instruction, which is headed by a state superintendent elected on a nonpartisan basis. As of 2004, 88.8% of all Wisconsinites 25 years or older had completed high school, above the national average of 84%. Some 25.6% had obtained a bachelor's degree or higher.

The total enrollment for fall 2002 in Wisconsin's public schools stood at 881,000. Of these, 592,000 attended schools from kin-dergarten through grade eight, and 290,000 attended high school. Approximately 78.8% of the students were white, 10.5% were black, 5.8% were Hispanic, 3.4% were Asian/Pacific Islander, and 1.4% were American Indian/Alaskan Native. Total enrollment was estimated at 871,000 in fall 2003 and expected to be 847,000 by fall 2014, a decline of 3.9% during the period 200214. Expenditures for public education in 2003/04 were estimated at $9 billion. There were 134,474 students enrolled in 1,041 private schools in fall 2003. Since 1969, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has tested public school students nationwide. The resulting report, The Nation's Report Card, stated that in 2005 eighth graders in Wisconsin scored 285 out of 500 in mathematics compared with the national average of 278.

As of fall 2002, there were 329,443 students enrolled in college or graduate school; minority students comprised 10.9% of total postsecondary enrollment. In 2005 Wisconsin had 68 degree-granting institutions. The University of Wisconsin (UW) system is comprised of 13 degree-granting campuses, 13 two-year centers, and the University of Wisconsin-Extension, which has outreach and continuing education activities on all 26 UW campuses and in all 72 Wisconsin counties. All 13 universities award bachelor's and master's degrees. University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee also confer doctoral degrees. UW-Madison, one of the world's largest and most respected institutions of higher learning, was chartered by the state's first legislature in 1848. UW-Milwaukee is the system's second-largest campus. The 11 other universities are Eau Claire, Green Bay, La Crosse, Oshkosh, Parkside (at Kenosha-Racine), Platteville, River Falls, Stevens Point, Stout (at Menomonie), Superior, and Whitewater.

Wisconsin's private institutions of higher education encompass a broad range of schools. There were 35 private 4-year institutions in 2005, including such leading institutions as Marquette University, Lawrence University, Ripon College, and Beloit College. Wisconsin also has a system of technical colleges, the Wisconsin Technical College System. In 1911, the legislature enacted the first system of state support for vocational, technical, and adult education in the nation. The system includes 16 technical colleges with 47 campuses, each governed by a local board. At the same time, each college is part of a statewide system governed by an independent board.


The Wisconsin Arts Board, consisting of 15 members appointed by the governor for three-year terms, aids artists and performing groups and assists communities in developing arts programs. In 2005, the Wisconsin Arts Board and other Wisconsin arts organizations received 22 grants totaling $1,013,400 from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Wisconsin Humanities Council, founded in 1972, offers series of book discussions. In 2005, the National Endowment for the Humanities contributed $2,188,896 for 21 state programs. State and private sources contribute funding to supplement federal assistance.

Wisconsin offers numerous facilities for drama, music, and other performing arts, including Marcus Center for the Performing Arts Center in Milwaukee and the Alliant energy Center in Madison. Milwaukee hosts the Milwaukee Repertory Theater (The Rep), which celebrated its 50th season in 2003/04. There are many other theater groups around the state. Summer plays are performed at a unique garden theater at Fish Creek in the Door Peninsula. The Door County Folk Festival is held annually in July and hosts numerous folk dancing workshops, children's activities, and singing workshops; in 2006 the festival marked its 27th season.

The Pro Arte Quartet in Madison, founded in 1912, and the Fine Arts Quartet in Milwaukee have been sponsored by the University of Wisconsin, which has also supported many other musical activities. The Fine Arts Quartet celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2006. Milwaukee is the home of the Great Lakes Opera Company, the Milwaukee Ballet Company, and the Milwaukee Symphony. Madison is home to the Madison Symphony, the Madison Opera, and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.


In 2001, the state of Wisconsin had 379 public library systems, with a total of 455 libraries, of which there were 79 branches. In that same year, the public library system had a combined total of 18,647,00 volumes of books and serial publications, and a total circulation of 49,768,000. The system also had 844,000 audio and 857,000 video items, 46,000 electronic format items (CD-ROMs, magnetic tapes, and disks), and 11 bookmobiles. The Milwaukee Public Library, founded in 1878, maintained 12 branches and had 2,504,461 bound volumes as of 1998; the Madison Public Library had seven branches and over 815,686 volumes. The largest academic library is that of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, with six million bound volumes. The best-known special library is that of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin at Madison, with 3.6 million books and over 60,000 cu ft (1,700 cu m) of government publications and documents. In 2001, operating income for the state's public library system was $166,870,000 and included $5,311,000 in state funding and $149,637,000 in local funding.

Wisconsin had 208 museums and historical sites in 2000. The State Historical Society maintains a historical museum in Madison and other historical sites and museums around the state. The Milwaukee Public Museum contains collections on history, natural history, and art. The Milwaukee Art Center, founded in 1888, a major museum of the visual arts, emphasizes European works of the 17th to 19th centuries. The Madison Art Center, founded in 1901, has European, Japanese, Mexican, and American paintings and sculpture, as well as 17th-century Flemish tapestries. The Charles Allis Art Library in Milwaukee, founded in 1947, houses collections of Chinese porcelains, French antiques, and 19th-century American landscape paintings. Other leading art museums include the Elvehjem Museum of Art in Madison and the Theodore Lyman Wright Art Center at Beloit College.

The Circus World Museum at Baraboo occupies the site of the original Ringling Brothers Circus. Other museums of special interest include the Dard Hunter Paper Museum (Appleton), the National Railroad Museum (Green Bay), and the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame. More than 500 species of animals are on exhibit at the Milwaukee County Zoological Park; Madison and Racine also have zoos. Historical sites in Wisconsin include Villa Louis, a fur trader's mansion at Prairie du Chien; the Old Wade House in Greenbush; Old World Wisconsin, an outdoor ethnic museum near Eagle; Pendarvis, focusing on lead mining at Mineral Point; and the Taliesin estate of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, in Spring Green.


About 95.5% of the state's households had telephones in 2004. In addition, by June of that same year there were 2,831,645 mobile wireless telephone subscribers. In 2003, 63.8% of Wisconsin households had a computer and 57.4% had Internet access. By June 2005, there were 732,706 high-speed lines in Wisconsin, 682,073 residential and 50,633 for business. In 2005 there were 34 major AM and 99 major FM radio stations. The state also had 28 major television stations. The Milwaukee area had 815,640 television households, 63% of which subscribed to cable in 1999. A total of 77,862 Internet domain names were registered within the state in the year 2000.


The state's first newspaper was the Green Bay Intelligencer, founded in 1833. Some early papers were put out by rival land speculators who used them to promote their interests. Among these was the Milwaukee Sentinel, launched in 1837 and a major daily newspaper today. As immigrants poured in from Europe in succeeding decades, German, Norwegian, Polish, Yiddish, and Finnish papers sprang up. Wisconsin journalism has a tradition of political involvement. The Milwaukee Leader, founded as a Socialist daily by Victor Berger in 1911, was denied the use of the US mails because it printed antiwar articles; the Madison Capital Times, still important today, also started as an antiwar paper. Founded in 1882 by Lucius Nieman, the Milwaukee Journal (now known as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ), won a Pulitzer Prize in 1919 for distinguished public service and remains the state's largest-selling and most influential newspaper.

In 2005, Wisconsin had 11 morning papers, 24 evening papers, and 18 Sunday papers.

The following table shows leading dailies with their approximate 2005 circulations:

Green Bay Press-Gazette (m,S) 68,944 83,395
Madison Wisconsin State Journal (m,S) 101,639 152,943
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (m,S) 227,387 435,127

As of 2005 there were also 223 weekly newspapers, as well as some 300 periodicals directed to a wide variety of special interests. Among the largest are Hoard's Dairyman, founded by William D. Hoard in 1885, with a 81,133 paid subscribers in 2005; it is the only paid dairy publication in the United States. Kalmbach Publishing Co. located in Brookfield originally published rail magazines, Model Railroader, Trains, Classic Toy Trains, Garden Railways and Classic Trains, and later diversified with Birder's World, Scale Auto, and Bead & Button, BeadStyle and Art Jewelry, The Writer, and American Snowmobiler. Other publications are Bowling Magazine, Coin Prices, Coin, and Old Cars Weekly. Other notable periodicals are the Wisconsin Magazine of History, published quarterly in Madison by the state historical society; and Wisconsin Trails, another quarterly, also published in Madison.


In 2006, there were over 8,188 nonprofit organizations registered within the state, of which about 5,639 were registered as charitable, educational, or religious organizations.

The Wisconsin Historical Society, founded in 1846, is one of the largest organizations of its kind. It has a museum, a library, and research collections in Madison and is a prominent publisher of historical articles and books. The Wisconsin Arts Board is also in Madison. There are several city and county historical societies throughout the state as well.

National organizations based in Wisconsin include the United States Bowling Congress, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Experimental Aircraft Association, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, the John Birch Society, the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches, the Seventh Day Baptist General Conference, the National Funeral Directors Association, the United States Curling Association, and World Council of Credit Unions.

The Purebred Dairy Cattle Association is a national agricultural organization. State agricultural organizations include the Wisconsin Cheesemakers' Association, the Wisconsin Dairy Products Association, the Wisconsin Apple Growers Association, the Wisconsin Christmas Trees Producers, and the Wisconsin Berry Growers Association. There are professional organizations for a variety of professions. The Natural Heritage Land Trust and the North American Lake Management Society are local conservation groups.


Wisconsin had estimated tourism revenues of $11.7 billion in 2004, reflecting a 2% increase over the previous year. Tourism supports 309,000 jobs in the state.

The state has ample scenic attractions and outdoor recreational opportunities. There are over 33 state parks. In addition to the famous Wisconsin Dells gorge, visitors are attracted to the Cave of the Mounds at Blue Mounds, the sandstone cliffs along the Mississippi River, the rocky Lake Michigan shoreline of the Door Peninsula, the lakes and forests of the Rhinelander and Minocqua areas in the north, and Lake Geneva, a resort, in the south. Several areas in southern and northwestern Wisconsin, preserved by the state as the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve, still exhibit drumlins, moraines, and unusual geological formations. The town of Hayward hosts the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. Hank Aaron State Trail is named for the Milwaukee baseball star. Wisconsin hosts the World's Championship Snowmobile Derby in Eagle River. There are 43 auto race tracks. The Milwaukee Mile is the oldest racetrack in the world. Spring Green is the home of Frank Lloyd Wright's home, Taliesin. America's largest waterpark, Noah's Ark, is located in the Wisconsin Dells.

There are three national parks in Wisconsin: Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, on Lake Superior, and the St. Croix and Lower St. Croix scenic riverways. There are 48 state parks, covering 65,483 acres (26,193 hectares).


Wisconsin has three major professional sports teams: the Milwaukee Brewers of Major League Baseball (MLB), the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League (NFL), and the Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The Brewers won the American League Pennant in 1982 but lost the World Series to St. Louis. The Brewers have since been realigned and now play in the National League. The Packers won five league championships prior to the establishment of the Super Bowl and then won Super Bowls I, II, and XXXI in 1967, 1968, and 1997, respectively. The Bucks won the NBA championship in 1971. Milwaukee is the site of the Greater Milwaukee Open in professional golf. There are also numerous minor league baseball, basketball, and hockey teams in the state.

The University of Wisconsin Badgers compete in the Big Ten Conference. Badger ice hockey teams won the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship in 1973, 1977, 1981, 1983, 1990, and 2006. In football, they won the Rose Bowl in 1994, 1999, and 2000 after losing their first three appearances, in 1953, 1960, and 1963. Overall, they have eight bowl game victories. The basketball team from Marquette University in Milwaukee won the NCAA Division I title in 1977 and the National Invitation Tournament championship in 1970. They advanced to the NCAA Final Four in 2003.

Other annual sporting events include ski jumping tournaments in Iola, Middleton, and Wetsby; the World Championship Snowmobile Derby in Eagle River in January; the American Birkebeiner Cross-Country Race at Cable and Hayward in February; and the Great Wisconsin Dells Balloon Race in the Dells. Famous athletes native to Wisconsin include Eric Heiden, Elroy (Crazy Legs) Hirsch, and Chris Witty.


Wisconsinites who have won prominence as federal judicial or executive officers include Jeremiah Rusk (b.Ohio, 183093), a Wisconsin governor selected as the first head of the Agriculture Department in 1889; William F. Vilas (b.Vermont, 18401908), who served as postmaster general under Grover Cleveland; Melvin Laird (b.Nebraska, 192292), a congressman who served as secretary of defense from 196973; and William Rehnquist (19242005), named to the Supreme Court in 1971 and the 16th Chief Justice from 19862005.

The state's best-known political figures achieved nationwide reputations as members of the US Senate. John C. Spooner (b.Indiana, 18431919) won distinction as one of the inner circle of Senate conservatives before he retired in 1907 amid an upsurge of Progressivism within his party. Robert La Follette (18551925) embodied the new wave of Republican Progressivismand, later, isolationismas governor and in the Senate. His sons, Robert Jr. (18951953), and Philip (18971965), carried on the Progressive tradition as US senator and governor, respectively. Joseph R. McCarthy (190857) won attention in the Senate and throughout the nation for his anticommunist crusade. William Proxmire (b.Illinois, 19152005), a Democrat, succeeded McCarthy in the Senate and eventually became chairman of the powerful Senate Banking Committee. Representative Henry S. Reuss (19122002), also a Democrat, served in the House for 28 years and was chairman of the Banking Committee. Democrat Clement Zablocki (191283), elected to the House in 1948, was chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Victor L. Berger (b.Transylvania, 18601929), a founder of the Social-Democratic Party, was first elected to the House in 1910; during World War I, he was denied his seat and prosecuted because of his antiwar views.

Besides the La Follettes, other governors who made notable contributions to the state include James D. Doty (b.New York, 17991865), who fought to make Wisconsin a separate territory and became the territory's second governor; William D. Hoard (b.New York, 18361918), a tireless promoter of dairy farming, as both private citizen and chief executive; James O. Davidson (b.Norway, 18541922), who attempted to improve relations between conservatives and progressives; Francis E. McGovern (18661946), who pushed through the legislature significant social and economic reform legislation; and Walter J. Kohler (18751940), an industrialist who, as governor, greatly expanded the power of the office.

Prominent figures in the state's early history include the Jesuit Jacques Marquette (b.France, 163775) and the explorer Louis Jolliet (b.Canada, 16451700); and the Sauk Indian leader Black Hawk (b.Illinois, 17671838), who was defeated in the Battle of Bad Axe. John Bascom (b.New York, 18271911) was an early president of the University of Wisconsin. Charles Van Hise (18571918), a later president, promoted the use of academic experts as government advisers; John R. Commons (b.Ohio, 18621945), an economist at the university, drafted major state legislation. Philetus Sawyer (b.Vermont, 18161900), a prosperous lumberman and US senator, led the state Republican Party for 15 years, before Progressives won control. Carl Schurz (b.Germany, 18291906) was a prominent Republican Party figure in the years immediately before the Civil War. Lucius W. Nieman (18571935) founded the Milwaukee Journal, and Edward P. Allis (b.New York, 182489) was an important iron industrialist.

Wisconsin was the birthplace of several Nobel Prize winners, including Herbert S. Gasser (18881963), who shared a 1944 Nobel Prize for research into nerve impulses; William P. Murphy (18921987), who shared a 1934 prize for research relating to anemia; John Bardeen (190891), who shared the physics award in 1956 for his contribution to the development of the transistor; and Herbert A. Simon (19162001), who won the 1978 prize in economics. Stephen Babcock (b.New York, 18431931) was an agricultural chemist who did research important to the dairy industry. In addition, Wisconsin was the birthplace of the child psychologist Arnold Gesell (18801961), and of naturalist and explorer Chapman Andrews (18841960). John Muir (b.Scotland, 18381914), another noted naturalist and explorer, lived in Wisconsin in his youth. Conservationist Aldo Leopold (18871948) taught at the University of Wisconsin and wrote A Sand County Almanac.

Frederick Jackson Turner (18611932), historian of the American frontier, was born in Wisconsin, as were the economist and social theorist Thorstein Veblen (18571929) and the diplomat and historian George F. Kennan (19042005). Famous journalists include news commentator H. V. Kaltenborn (18781965), award-winning sports columnist Red Smith (Walter Wellesley Smith, 190582), and television newsman Tom Snyder (b.1936).

Thornton Wilder (18971975), a novelist and playwright best known for The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1927), Our Town (1938), and The Skin of Our Teeth (1942), each of which won a Pulitzer Prize, heads the list of literary figures born in the state. Hamlin Garland (18601940), a novelist and essayist, was also a native, as were the poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox (18501919) and the novelist and playwright Zona Gale (18741938). The novelist Edna Ferber (b.Michigan, 18871968) spent her early life in the state.

Wisconsin is the birthplace of architect Frank Lloyd Wright (18691959) and the site of his famous Taliesin estate (Spring Green), Johnson Wax Co. headquarters (Racine), and first Unitarian Church (Madison). The artist Georgia O'Keefe (18871986) was born in Sun Prairie. Wisconsin natives who have distinguished themselves in the performing arts include Alfred Lunt (18931977), Frederic March (Frederick Bickel, 18971975), Spencer Tracy (19001967), Agnes Moorehead (190674), and Orson Welles (191585). Magician and escape artist Harry Houdini (Ehrich Weiss, b.Hungary, 18741926) was raised in the state, and piano stylist Liberace (Wlad Ziu Valentino Liberace, 19191987) was born there. Speed skater Eric Heiden (b.1958), a five-time Olympic gold medalist in 1980, is another Wisconsin native.


Council of State Governments. The Book of the States, 2006 Edition. Lexington, Ky.: Council of State Governments, 2006.

Davenport, Don. Natural Wonders of Wisconsin: Exploring Wild and Scenic Places. Lincolnwood, Ill.: Country Roads Press, 1999.

Erickson, Sue. Ojibwe Treaty Rights: Understanding and Impact. 4th ed. Odanah, Wis.: Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, 2004.

John, Tim. The Miller Beer Barons: The Frederick J. Miller Family and Its Brewery. Oregon, Wis.: Badger Books, 2005.

Klement, Frank L. Wisconsin in the Civil War: The Home Front and the Battle Front, 18611865. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1997.

Pederson, Jane Marie. Between Memory and Reality: Family and Community in Rural Wisconsin, 18701970. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992.

Reading, William H. Wisconsin Timber Industry [microform]: An Assessment of Timber Product Output and Use, 1999. St. Paul, Minn.: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Research Station, 2003.

Risjord, Norman K. Wisconsin: The Story of the Badger State. Madison: Wisconsin Trails, 1995.

Strohschank, Johannes. The Wisconsin Office of Emigration, 18521855, and Its Impact on German Immigration to the State. Madison: Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies, University of Wisconsin, 2005.

Thomas, Stacy. Guarding Door County: Lighthouses and Life-saving Stations. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia, 2005.

US Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, US Census Bureau. Wisconsin, 2000. Summary Social, Economic, and Housing Characteristics: 2000 Census of Population and Housing. Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 2003.

Yatzeck, Richard. Hunting the Edges. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1999.

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WISCONSIN. Wisconsin's people have been molded by their diverse immigrant heritage, honest government born of midwestern progressivism, and glacial gifts of rich soils, scenic rivers, and about 9,000 freshwater lakes. Cradled between Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and the Mississippi River, Wisconsin's population in 2000 was 5,363,675.

Exploration and Fur Trade

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Winnebago, Menominee, Chippewa, Potawatomi, Fox, and Sauk peoples lived in harmony with the rolling hills, grassland prairies, pine forests, and scattered marshlands that became the state of Wisconsin. Deer, wolves, bald eagles, trumpeter swans, sand hill cranes, geese, and other wildlife populated the land. Native Americans grew corn and potatoes, harvested wild rice, speared fish, and built over 90 percent of North America's effigy mounds.

Jean Nicoletin 1634 and subsequent French explorers recognized that the cold climate of the Lake Superior basin produced the richest fur-bearing animals in French North America. In 1673, the Jesuit Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet discovered the Fox River–Wisconsin River all-water route from Green Bay, via a one-mile land portage, to the Mississippi River. The Fox-Wisconsin river route connecting Forts Howard (Green Bay), Winnebago (Portage), and Crawford (Prairie du Chien) became the key to the Wisconsin fur trade for 150 years. Marquette named the area Wisconsin, which he spelled Meskousing, roughly translated as "a gathering of waters." French voyageurs (licensed traders) and coureurs de bois (woods rangers) lived among and intermarried with Native Americans. Wisconsin beaver pelts and other furs were shipped to France via Fort Mackinac and Montreal. The 1763 British victory in the French and Indian War resulted in Scottish fur merchants replacing the French in Montreal. British Canadians traded in Wisconsin even after the American Revolution, until the American John Jacob Astor gained control in the early 1800s.

Wisconsin Territory and Early Settlement

In 1832, the Sauk chief Black Hawk returned from Iowa with 1,000 Native American men, women, and children to farm the southwestern Wisconsin homelands from which they had recently been expelled by settlers. Unplanned conflict erupted between the U.S. Army and the Sauk, who retreated up the Rock River and westward to the Wisconsin River. Following a rejected surrender attempt at Wisconsin Heights, Black Hawk withdrew down the Wisconsin River toward Iowa. He was trapped near the Mississippi–Wisconsin River confluence in a massacre at Bad Axe that left 150 survivors. The Black Hawk War resulted in Native American cession of most Wisconsin land to the United States in 1832–1848, opening the way for rapid population growth, from 3,245 in 1830 to 305,391 in 1850.

The lead mine region of southwestern Wisconsin experienced an influx of migrants from the southern frontier of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri in the 1830s. They worked the mines, and gave the "Badgers" nickname to Wisconsin, because they burrowed into the earth like badgers. Family wheat farmers and shopkeepers from Yankee New England and upstate New York migrated to southeastern Wisconsin via the Erie Canal and Great Lakes in even larger numbers. As the majority, their territorial representatives passed an 1839 law prohibiting "business or work, dancing … entertainment … or sport" on Sunday. European immigrants would later ignore those restrictions.

Previously a part of Michigan Territory, Wisconsin Territory was established in 1836. It encompassed present-day Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and the eastern Dakotas. The territorial legislature selected the pristine and unpopulated Four Lakes wilderness (which would become Madison) to be the permanent state capital location over numerous other contenders, because it was both scenic and centrally located between the two population centers of the wheat-farming southeast and lead-mining southwest. Additionally, the Whig politician and land speculator James Doty owned much Four Lakes property, some of which he generously shared with legislators.

Statehood and Civil War

Wisconsin became the thirtieth state in 1848, establishing a 15–15 balance between free and slave states. The Wisconsin constitution and ensuing laws implemented the frontier concepts of elected judges, voting rights for immigrant noncitizens, and property ownership rights

for married women. Transplanted New Englanders, descended from the Puritans and carrying the religious conviction that slavery was a moral evil, meant that Wisconsin would become a flash point of abolitionism in the 1850s.

Underground railroad activity flourished in Wisconsin following the passage of the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Wisconsin church colleges (Beloit and Milton) established by New Englanders regularly helped runaway slaves. When the abolitionist newsman Sherman Booth was arrested for inciting a Milwaukee mob that freed the runaway Joshua Glover from jail, the Wisconsin Supreme Court nullified the Fugitive Slave Act. A group met in Ripon, Wisconsin, in response to the Booth arrest and the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and established the Republican Party. Despite competing claims, the Republican National Committee has historically recognized Ripon as the GOP birthplace.

About 75,000 Wisconsinites (10 percent of the 1860 population) served in uniform during the Civil War. Most of them trained at Madison's Camp Randall, where the University of Wisconsin football stadium of the same name now stands. The war stimulated prosperity for wheat farmers and lead miners. Wisconsin women who were active in the Sanitary Commission provided medical and food supplies to soldiers. They were instrumental in building convalescent hospitals for Union soldiers and Confederate prisoners in Wisconsin. Although most residents supported the war effort, antidraft sentiments were strong in some immigrant communities.

European Immigrants Populate Wisconsin

Wisconsin's population grew from 305,391 in 1850 to 1,315,497 in 1880, of which 72 percent were foreign born or of foreign parentage. Additional European immigrants helped double the population to 2,632,067 by 1920. More than one hundred foreign-language newspapers were printed in Wisconsin in 1900. Most European immigrants were poor farm laborers who were drawn to America's farm frontier, which included Wisconsin. Not only could they find familiar work, but over time could own farms that dwarfed the largest old-country estates.

Due to their diverse backgrounds, Wisconsin's immigrants usually settled in communities and neighborhoods with their own countrymen. Consequently, for example, Koshkonong developed a Norwegian identity, Berlin a German identity, Monroe a Swiss identity, and Milwaukee neighborhoods were clearly Polish or Irish or German. The Fourth of July was celebrated exuberantly in immigrant communities as a statement of loyalty to the United States.

Wisconsin was populated most heavily by immigrants from Norway and the Germanies, but large numbers of Irish, Poles, English, Danes, Swedes, Swiss, Dutch, Belgians, and others also came. Most Hispanics, Greeks, Italians, southeast Asians, and African Americans from the South arrived later. Norwegian farmers formed the power base of twentieth-century La Follette progressivism. Germans from Mecklenburg, Pomerania, and elsewhere organized the turnverein (gymnastics) and liederkranz (singing) societies. Many Finnish dockworkers in Ashland and Superior embraced International Workers of the World union radicalism. Racine's J. I. Case and Mitchell Wagon Works had "Danes only" employment policies for decades. Wisconsin's rich and varied immigrant heritage is still celebrated in annual community events such as Stoughton's Syttende Mai (17 May, Norwegian Independence Day), New Glarus' Heidi Festival and William Tell Pageant, Jefferson's Gemuetlichkeit Days, and Milwaukee's International Folk Fair.

Pine Lumbering: Paul Bunyan's Footprints

Pine lumbering dominated northern Wisconsin from 1865 to 1920. Lumber barons such as Governor Cadwallader Washburn and Senator Philetus Sawyer controlled state politics. Lumber operations determined rail routes in the region, and the depots became the hubs around which Wisconsin small towns developed. With the exception of iron mining communities (Hurley) and shipping centers, most northern Wisconsin communities began as lumber or sawmill towns.

Lumberjacks cut trees from dawn to dusk during harsh Wisconsin winters. They lived in barracks, and their enormous appetites became legendary. As melting ice cleared, lumberjacks conducted huge river drives and faced the constant dangers of logjams up to fifteen miles long. After logs were processed by downstream sawmills, Wisconsin lumber was used by Milwaukee, Chicago, Great Lakes ships, and Mississippi River steamboats for construction and fuel. Iron and copper mines in northern Wisconsin and upper Michigan consumed lumber for mine shafts and smelting. When the process to manufacture paper from wood pulp was developed, the once separate paper and lumber industries were linked. Dairy farms used lumber for barns, fences, and fuel.

Northern Wisconsin's economy rose and fell with lumbering. When only the pine barrens remained, land values and population of northern Wisconsin counties declined from 1920 to 1970. Tax-delinquent land and abandoned farms were all too common until after World War II. Remaining woodlands were located primarily in national and state forests and on reservations.

Red Barn Country: America's Dairyland

A sign over the barn door of the dairy farmer W. D. Hoard (who served as governor from 1889 to 1891) carried the reverent reminder that "This is the Home of Mothers. Treat each cow as a Mother should be treated." Dairying became Wisconsin's agricultural giant as the wheat belt shifted to Kansas in the post–Civil War decades. Norwegian, Dutch, and German immigrants were familiar with dairying. Hoard founded Hoard's Dairyman magazine (1885) and the Wisconsin Dairyman's Association, and successfully promoted mandatory annual tuberculin testing for cows. Refrigeration added extensive milk and butter sales to an already profitable international cheese market. The University of Wisconsin College of Agriculture provided inventions (cream separator and butterfat tester) and improved breeding, feeding, and sanitary techniques to all Wisconsin farmers. By 1930, there were 2 million cows and 2,939,006 people in Wisconsin, and in rural counties the cows were in the majority. After the 1930s, Rural Electrification Administration power lines allowed farmers to milk by machine instead of by hand.

Although Wisconsin became "America's Dairyland," some farmers concentrated on hogs, corn, vegetables, hay, and other grains. The Door County peninsula became a leading cherry producer. Potato and soybean expansion came later. Almost all farmers raised chickens and joined their area farm cooperative.

Wisconsin family farms became a basic social unit as well as an efficient food producer. Neighbors collectively "exchanged works" during planting and harvesting seasons, and helped "raise" each other's barns. Their children attended one-room country schools from first through eighth grade. Farm social life centered around barn square dances, church socials, the county fair, and the country school. Until the advent of the automobile and tractor, workhorses pulled the plough, and livery stables and hitching posts dotted village business streets.

Industry and Transportation

Wisconsin's early industry was related to agriculture. Farm implement manufacturing (J. I. Case and Allis-Chalmers), meatpacking (Oscar Mayer and Patrick Cudahy), and leather tanning created jobs. Flour milling was the leading industry in 1880, and was surpassed only by lumber products (Kimberly-Clark paper) in 1900. The dairy industry was number one by the 1920s. Wisconsin's numerous breweries (Miller, Pabst, Schlitz, and Huber among them) were established by German immigrants. Ice harvesting provided refrigeration for the early dairy, meat, and brewery industries.

In the twentieth century, automobile (General Motors and Nash) and motorcycle (Harley-Davidson) manufacturing grew along with small-engine (Evinrude and Briggs Stratton) production. Oshkosh-b-Gosh jeans, Kohler plumbing ware, Ray-o-Vac batteries, and Johnson's Wax became familiar names worldwide. Machine tools and missile-control systems were less familiar but equally important components of Wisconsin's economy.

Wisconsin transportation evolved with the state's industrial growth. Inefficient plank roads and the old Military Road gave way to Milwaukee-based railroads that linked the rest of the state to Great Lakes shipping. Madison and Milwaukee city streetcars, mule driven and then electric powered, were replaced by buses. Paved-road construction steadily accelerated in the twentieth century, spurred initially by pressure from bicyclists. By the late twentieth century, Wisconsin's Midwest Express had become a major airline.

Progressivism and Politics

Wisconsin became a twentieth-century laboratory for progressive reform under the leadership of Robert La Follette (governor, 1901–1906; U.S. senator, 1906–1925) and his successors. Progressives democratized state politics by establishing the open primary election system, and democratized economic opportunity by creating state regulatory commissions. Wisconsin passed the first workers' compensation (1911) and unemployment compensation (1932) laws in the nation. Legislation required the creation of adult technical schools statewide. Public utilities were regulated. La Follette's sons "Young Bob" (U.S. senator, 1925–1947) and Philip (governor, 1931–1933, 1935–1939) continued the progressive tradition. Progressivism in Milwaukee translated into Socialist Party control of city government from the 1890s to 1960. The Socialists stayed in power by being good-government moderates who created neighborhood parks, improved city services, and won votes from the German ethnic population.

Conservation of natural resources has been a hallmark of twentieth-century Wisconsin progressivism. The Forest Crop Law (1927) encourages reforestation. The U.S. Forest Products Laboratory in Madison conducts wood, pulp, and paper research with a goal of more efficient usage. The state buyout and restoration of the Horicon Marsh began in 1940. Governors Gaylord Nelson (1959–1963) and Warren Knowles (1965–1971) signed Outdoor Recreation Act programs that became international conservation models. U.S. Senator Nelson (1963– 1981) sponsored the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and founded Earth Day.

Wisconsin had been a one-party Republican state since the Civil War. In 1934, the La Follette brothers left the Republican Party and formed the Wisconsin Progressive Party. Following a decade of Progressive versus Republican rivalry, the Progressives disintegrated. Youthful ex-Progressives joined the moribund Democratic Party and built it into a political equal of the Republicans by the 1960s.

Wisconsin during Two World Wars

During World War I, tensions ran high in Wisconsin. Many first-generation German Americans bought German war bonds prior to the U.S. entry into the war and were sympathetic to the old country throughout. Most Wisconsin families contributed their sons or home-front efforts to the war, even though the neutralist senator Robert La Follette and nine of the state's eleven congressional representatives voted against the declaration of war.

A generation later, Wisconsin was loyally in the World War II home-front lines with the rest of the nation. About 330,000 Wisconsin citizens served in uniform during the war, and more than 8,000 of them were killed in action. State industry rapidly converted to World War II production. The Badger Ordnance Works sprouted from farm fields near Baraboo to produce ammunition. General Motors and Nash Rambler plants assembled military vehicles. Ray-o-Vac developed leakproof batteries and manufactured shell casings and field radios. Allis-Chalmers made bomber electrical systems. Oscar Mayer packaged K rations. Manitowoc's Lake Michigan shipyard built 28 submarines, which would sink 130 Japanese and German warships. The University of Wisconsin developed the U.S. Armed Forces Institute to provide correspondence courses for soldiers recuperating in military and veterans' hospitals, many of whom enrolled at the University of Wisconsin on the GI Bill after the war.

Wisconsin Life in the Twenty-first Century

Cultural, educational, and recreational opportunities provide a high quality of life in modern Wisconsin. Free public education, the State Historical Society (1846), the Wisconsin School for the Visually Handicapped (1849), and America's first kindergarten (1856) established a state educational tradition. The University of Wisconsin (Madison) opened its classrooms in 1848 and was recognized worldwide as a leading research and teaching institution by 1900. The university's WHA Radio is America's oldest operating station. Alumni Research Foundation support has led to breakthroughs in cancer treatment. The Madison and Milwaukee Symphony Orchestras are nationally acclaimed. Two medical schools, at the University of Wisconsin (Madison) and the Medical College of Wisconsin (Milwaukee), result in high-quality health care throughout the state.

Wisconsin Badger football transcends the events on the field. Friday fish fries, Lutheran church lutefisk suppers, and Door County fish boils became beloved institutions. The Green Bay Packers, community-owned since the Great Depression, are so-named because the team founder, Curly Lambeau, a meatpacking-house worker, convinced his employer to buy the first uniforms. The annual Circus Train from Baraboo's Circus World Museum culminates in the Milwaukee Circus Parade. Northern Wisconsin holds the cross-country Birkebeiner ski race. Prior to the Milwaukee Brewers, baseball's Braves counted more than 300 booster clubs statewide during their Milwaukee years (1953–1965). Oshkosh hosts the annual Experimental Aircraft Association Fly-in. Wisconsin Dells' amphibious "ducks" (converted World War II landing craft) show river-and-woods scenery to tourists. Wisconsin's natural outdoor beauty invites people to fish, camp, hike, hunt, and boat.


Gard, Robert E. The Romance of Wisconsin Place Names. Minocqua, Wis.: Heartland Press, 1988.

Leopold, Aldo. A Sand County Almanac. New York: Ballantine, 1970.

Logan, Ben. The Land Remembers: The Story of a Farm and Its People. Minnetonka, Minn.: Northword Press, 1999.

Thompson, William Fletcher, ed. The History of Wisconsin. 6 vols. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin Press, 1973–1998.

Wisconsin Blue Book. Madison: Wisconsin Legislative Reference Library, 1931–. Various publishers before 1931. Biennial since 1879.

Wisconsin Cartographers' Guild. Wisconsin's Past and Present: A Historical Atlas. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998.

Wisconsin Magazine of History. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin Press, 1917–.

Richard CarltonHaney

See alsoBlack Hawk War ; Dairy Industry ; French Frontier Forts ; Fur Trade and Trapping ; Lumber Industry ; Milwaukee ; Progressive Party, 1924 ; Sauk ; University of Wisconsin ; Wisconsin Idea .

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Wisconsin (state, United States)

Wisconsin (wĬskŏn´sən, –sĬn), upper midwestern state of the United States. It is bounded by Lake Superior and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, from which it is divided in part by the Menominee River (N); Lake Michigan (E); Illinois (S); and Iowa and Minnesota (W), with the Mississippi River forming much of that border.

Facts and Figures

Area, 56,154 sq mi (145,439 sq km). Pop. (2010) 5,686,986, a 6% increase since the 2000 census. Capital, Madison. Largest city, Milwaukee. Statehood, May 29, 1848 (30th state). Highest pt., Timms Hill, 1,952 ft (595 m); lowest pt., Lake Michigan, 581 ft (177 m). Nickname, Badger State. Motto, Forward. State bird, robin. State flower, wood violet. State tree, sugar maple. Abbr., Wis.; WI


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 G. Thompson, a Republican, was elected governor in 1986 and reelected in 1990, 1994, and 1998. Lieutenant Governor Scott McCallum succeeded Thompson as governor in 2001 when the latter became U.S. secretary of health and human services. In 2002, Jim Doyle, a Democrat, was elected to the office; he was reelected in 2006. Republican Scott Walker was elected governor in 2010, survived a recall vote in 2012, and was reelected in 2014. Wisconsin's legislature has a senate with 33 members and an assembly with 99 members. The state elects two senators and eight representatives to the U.S. Congress and has ten 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 College, 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.

British-American Struggles

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 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.


See C. W. Rowe, The Effigy Mound Culture of Wisconsin (1956, repr. 1970); A. H. Robinson and J. B. Culver, ed., The Atlas of Wisconsin (1974); C. N. Current, Wisconsin: A History (1977); I. Vogeler, Wisconsin: A Geography (1986); R. C. Nesbit, Wisconsin: A History (rev. ed. 1989); R. F. Fries, The History of Lumbering in Wisconsin (1989).

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Appleton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 571

Green Bay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 583

Madison . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 595

Milwaukee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 607

Racine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 621

The State in Brief

Nickname: Badger State

Motto: Forward

Flower: Wood violet

Bird: Robin

Area: 65,498 square miles (2000; U.S. rank: 23rd)

Elevation: Ranges from 579 feet to 1,951 feet above sea level

Climate: Tempered by the Great Lakes, with winters more severe in the north and summers warmer in the south

Admitted to Union: May 29, 1848

Capital: Madison

Head Official: Governor Jim Doyle (D) (until 2007)


1980: 4,706,000

1990: 4,891,769

2000: 5,363,675

2004 estimate: 5,509,026

Percent change, 19902000: 9.6%

U.S. rank in 2004: 20th

Percent of residents born in state: 73.4% (2000)

Density: 98.8 people per square mile (2000)

2002 FBI Crime Index Total: 176,987

Racial and Ethnic Characteristics (2000)

White: 4,769,857

Black or African American: 304,460

American Indian and Alaska Native: 47,228

Asian: 88,763

Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander: 1,630

Hispanic or Latino (may be of any race): 192,921

Other: 84,842

Age Characteristics (2000)

Population under 5 years old: 342,340

Population 5 to 19 years old: 1,189,753

Percent of population 65 years and over: 13.1%

Median age: 36 years (2000)

Vital Statistics

Total number of births (2003): 69,963

Total number of deaths (2003): 46,194 (infant deaths, 451)

AIDS cases reported through 2003: 1,848


Major industries: Manufacturing; agriculture; finance, insurance, and real estate; wholesale and retail trade; services

Unemployment rate: 4.5% (April 2005)

Per capita income: $30,723 (2003; U.S. rank: 21)

Median household income: $46,782 (3-year average, 2001-2003)

Percentage of persons below poverty level: 8.8% (3-year average, 2001-2003)

Income tax rate: Ranges from 4.6% to 6.75% (tax year 2000)

Sales tax rate: 5.0%

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Wisconsin State in n central USA, sw of the Great Lakes and e of the River Mississippi; the state capital is Madison. Milwaukee is the largest city. The land is rolling plain that slopes gradually down from the n. There are numerous glacial lakes. The French claimed the region in 1634, but Britain seized it in 1763, and it was ceded to the USA in 1783. Settlement of the region was slow. The Territory of Wisconsin was established in 1836. Wisconsin is the leading US producer of milk, butter, and cheese. The chief crops are hay, maize, oats, fruit, and vegetables. Wisconsin's most valuable resource is timber: 45% of the land is forested. Mineral deposits include zinc, lead, copper, iron, sand, and gravel. Industries: food processing, farm machinery, brewing, tourism. Area: 145,438sq km (56,154sq mi). Pop. (2000) 5,363,675.

Statehood :

May 29, 1848

Nickname :

The Badger State

State bird :


State flower :

Wood violet

State tree :

Sugar maple

State motto :


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The state of Wisconsin is located in mid-America between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. The land it encompasses had several built-in advantages for development. From the early fur traders to the modern industrialists, Wisconsin entrepreneurs used the state's waterways and water ports for transporting goods to markets elsewhere. Immigrants from northern, central, and eastern Europe created a prosperous farming region on the Wisconsin prairie. In modern times the area became known mostly for its dairy herds. Other industries have thrived in Wisconsin as well, particularly its breweries, lumber mills, and canning factories.

Native American tribes in Wisconsin first encountered Frenchmen in the 1630s, and became dependent on them for trading in furs. Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet traversed Wisconsin territory on their way to the Mississippi in 1673. Many other Frenchmen came during that period to establish missions or to trade in furs. Following the French and Indian War (175663), the British took control of Wisconsin. They ceded it to the United States in 1783. The Ordinance of 1787 included Wisconsin in the Northwest Territory; later parts of Wisconsin were included in the Indiana Territory, the Illinois Territory, and the Michigan Territory.

Lead mining originally brought white miners, called "Badgers," to Wisconsin in the 1820s. They received their nickname because like badgers miners too must dig into the ground. The 1832 Black Hawk War drove out most of the remaining native Americans. White settlement began in earnest after that, and those indigenous people who stayed were eventually settled on reservations within the state. Wisconsin became a separate territory in 1836. New Englanders and southerners, lured by the lead mining in the southwestern part of the territory, flocked to the area during the 1830s. In 1848 Wisconsin became the thirtieth state of the Union.

Transportation and industry developed more slowly in the territory than some speculators had hoped. A canal was finally opened between the Fox and Wisconsin rivers in 1851. But it was not heavily traveled, despite millions of dollars in expenditures by the state and the federal government. The first rail line was built in the 1850s between Milwaukee and Prairie du Chien. Speculation reigned as farmers along the proposed route bought up railroad stock, often with disastrous economic consequences. Communities also competed fiercely to be included on the route. By the 1860s, the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad and the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul railroads dominated the state's transportation system. They helped foster the growth of Wisconsin's emerging lumber, dairy, and food processing industries.

The development of the state would not have occurred without a major influx of immigrants, primarily from northern Europe. In the 1820s these included mostly the Irish and the English, but by 1860 the predominance of German arrivals led some to call Wisconsin a "German state." Yet, the area was attractive to many nationalities. In the 1880s the state lured as many Scandinavians as Germans, and later many immigrants from southern and eastern Europe settled there.

Many of these foreign-born Americans established farms across the entire state. At first they planted wheat, which was the biggest cash crop of the prairie because the McCormick reaper, first produced in Chicago in 1846, enabled farmers to harvest vast amounts of wheat in a short period of time. During the American Civil War (186165), sales of wheat to Great Britain provided the cash needed to finance the war effort. Usually departing from Milwaukee, the wheat shipments found their way through the Great Lakes and on to the eastern states and the rest of the world. After decades of wheat production, the soil began to be depleted of its resources. In response, Wisconsin farmers began to diversify, turning to the production of wool, sorghum, flax, sugar beets, tobacco, and hops.

Eventually dairy farming came to be identified with Wisconsin. The industry was established by New Yorkers and northern European immigrants who had brought their dairy-farming and cheese-making experience with them. By 1899 nearly 90 percent of the farms in Wisconsin had milk cows. Cheese factories proliferated, producing mostly "American" cheese or Cheddar, usually in a Wisconsin version that was called Colby. By 1919 Wisconsin was distributing almost two-thirds of the country's cheese.

Wisconsin also became a major producer of pork and pork products. A pioneer in that industry was Philip D. Armour (18321901). He made his reputation by supplying cured pork to soldiers in the American Civil War. Vegetable canning also became an important sector of Wisconsin's economy. In the infancy of the pressure-canning industry, Albert Landreth achieved significant success canning peas in Manitowoc. By 1918 Wisconsin canned as many peas as all the other states combined. Other vegetables such as sweet corn and beans also became important in the canning industry. The industry got a boost when large amounts of canned products were needed to supply soldiers in World War II (193945). Wisconsin remained a leader in the canning business thereafter.

Beer breweries are most prominently associated with Wisconsin in the public's mind. German immigrants had brought with them the technique for producing a lager beer that withstood storage better than earlier versions made in the region. Milwaukee became the center of brewing, with the Blatz, Schlitz, Pabst, and Miller families leading the industry. Many other cities produced beer, mostly for local consumption, but Milwaukee exported large amounts to other states and countries. The city became identified as the producer of the best brews. The bigger breweries survived the days of the Prohibition era by producing other products like soft drinks and candies.

Since the days of progressive Republican governor Robert La Follette (18551925) in the early twentieth century, Wisconsin has been known for its forward-looking approach to government and the economy. La Follette obtained legislative approval for increased taxation of railroads, the first state income tax in the nation (1911), and the first workmen's compensation program. La Follette's son Philip continued the reform tradition during the 1920s by supporting state regulation of electric power, labor disputes, and business practices. Philip La Follette's (18971965) so-called Little New Deal paralleled many of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's (18821945) national policies during the 1930s.

Although Wisconsin's economy diversified after World War II, the dairy industry remained its backbone into the 1990s. Cattle and calves in Wisconsin numbered 3.7 million in 1997 and were valued at 2.627 billion dollars. Dairy farming was also connected to two controversial environmental issues in the 1990s. The first linked agricultural runoff from animal wastes to contamination of Milwaukee's drinking water in 1993; the second involved a dispute over the use of bovine growth hormone to increase milk production.

Southeast Wisconsin, especially the Milwaukee area, was the cradle of industry by the late 1990s. Although some major breweries left the city, others continued to produce there and in other Wisconsin cities like La Crosse. Important paper and lumber products firms included Consolidated Paper in Wisconsin Rapids and Fort Howard Paper in Green Bay. Racine became home to Johnson & Son, a wax products company, and J.I. Case, a producer of agricultural equipment. Meat-packer Oscar Mayer located his operations in Madison. New and existing industries were assisted by the state Department of Development, as well as hundreds of local development corporations.

Wisconsin's water ports continued to be vital to the state's economy. In 1959 oceangoing vessels were first allowed access to Wisconsin via the Great Lakes through the St. Lawrence Seaway. Traffic to Wisconsin on the seaway, however, failed to meet expectations. In the 1990s, the busiest of all U.S. ports was Superior on Lake Superior; it handled mostly iron ore and coal. Important Lake Michigan ports, which also depended heavily on coal, included Milwaukee, Green Bay, Port Washington, Oak Creek, Manitowoc, and Sturgeon Bay. On the Mississippi River, Prairie du Chien and La Crosse processed the largest amount of cargo.

See also: Brewing Industry, Robert LaFollette, Prohibition, Saint Lawrence Seaway


Current, Richard N. Wisconsin: A Bicentennial History. New York: Norton, 1977.

Gara, Larry. A Short History of Wisconsin. Madison, WI: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1962.

Nesbit, Robert C. Wisconsin: A History. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1973.

Risjord, Norman K. Wisconsin: The Story of the Badger State. Madison: Wisconsin Trails, 1995.

Smith, Alice E. The History of Wisconsin. Vol. 1, From Exploration to Statehood. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1973.

cheese and beerwhen you think of either of the two, you think of wisconsin.

richard nelson current, wisconsin: a bicentennial history, 1977

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Wisconsin (river, United States)

Wisconsin, river, c.430 mi (690 km) long, rising in the lake district, NE Wis., and flowing generally SW across central Wis. to the Mississippi River near Prairie du Chien. At Portage it is connected by a short canal with the Fox River, and thus with Lake Michigan. There are many hydroelectric power facilities on the river. The scenic Dells of the Wisconsin are a famous gorge.

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