Wisconsin (state), in the north central United States, bordered by Lake Superior on the north, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on the northeast, Lake Michigan on the east, Illinois on the south, and Iowa and Minnesota on the west. Wisconsin received its name from the Wisconsin River, the name of which is derived from the French version of an Ojibwa term that may mean “gathering of the waters” or “place of the beaver.” It is customarily known as the Badger State because the miners who were among the first settlers in the region lived in mine shafts or dug their homes out of the hillside and lived underground, as badgers do. Madison is the capital of Wisconsin. Milwaukee is the largest city.
Wisconsin entered the Union on May 29, 1848, as the 30th state. It is one of the leading states in agriculture. Especially noted for its cheese production, the state is sometimes called the Cheese Capital of the Nation or America’s Dairyland. The greater part of the state is composed of rolling plains that yield productive crops and fodder for the dairy industry. Wisconsin also has substantial heavy industry, centered around Milwaukee and nearby cities along the shore of Lake Michigan.
In Wisconsin at the beginning of the 20th century, Robert La Follette and the Progressives evolved their theories of good government in close collaboration with leading scholars at the University of Wisconsin. Roughly half a century later, Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy stirred deep controversy among Americans with his views on Communism and how to eradicate it in the United States.
Wisconsin ranks 22nd in size among the states. It covers 169,639 sq km (65,498 sq mi), including 4,740 sq km (1,830 sq mi sq mi) of inland water. Also under jurisdiction of the state is 24,237 sq km (9,358 sq mi) of waters in lakes Michigan and Superior. Wisconsin is roughly rectangular in shape, except for the Door Peninsula, which is about 130 km (about 80 mi) long and separates Green Bay from Lake Michigan. Wisconsin has a maximum length from north to south of about 480 km (about 300 mi) and a width from east to west of about 450 km (about 280 mi).
Wisconsin is customarily divided into two major natural regions, or physiographic provinces, each of which is a part of one of the broader physiographic divisions of North America. The two natural regions are the Central Lowland and the Superior Upland. The Central Lowland, which is a part of the larger physiographic division known as the Interior Plains, covers southern Wisconsin. The Superior Upland, a southward extension of the Canadian Shield, or Laurentian Upland, occupies northern Wisconsin.
The Central Lowland is the larger of the two natural regions. It is a predominantly low-lying area and swings in a broad belt across the southern two-thirds of the state. Over the eastern part of the region the underlying rocks have been covered by thick deposits of glacial clays and sands known as till, or drift. Most of this glaciated area is referred to as the Eastern Lake section of the Central Lowland, but a small area in the south is a continuation of the Till Plains, a section that covers adjoining areas of Illinois. During the Ice Age, which ended about 10,000 years ago, a number of ice sheets pushed southward across Wisconsin and adjoining areas. These ice sheets planed off the hills of the preglacial landscape, filled up the ancient valleys, and created the fairly smooth plain that now covers most of the southeast.
The unglaciated Wisconsin Driftless section of the southwest is believed to look the way the rest of the Central Lowland looked before the Ice Age. Some sections, especially those south of the Wisconsin River, are quite rocky, steep, and rugged, but most land is only moderately hilly and is suitable for farming. Among the more prominent features are the Military Ridge, Blue Mounds, and Baraboo Range, which provide sweeping views of the countryside. Unusual for this part of the country are the steep-sided, flat-topped hills found in the vicinity of Camp Douglas that are similar in appearance to the mesas and buttes of the arid Western states.
The Superior Upland occupies northern Wisconsin and is underlain by ancient and very hard rocks. The region is higher than the Central Lowland and for this reason is sometimes referred to as the Northern Highland. Most of its hills are from 400 to 430 m (1,300 to 1,400 ft) above sea level. Several isolated peaks rise considerably above this level, however. They include Timms Hill, which at 595 m (1,951 ft) is the highest point in Wisconsin, and Sugarbush Hill, Rib Mountain, and the Gogebic, or Penokee, Range. Forests cover much of the Superior Upland, and there are numerous small lakes of glacial origin. A low-lying and partially swampy plain, known as the Lake Superior Lowland, occupies the areas along the southern shore of Lake Superior.
|B||Rivers and Lakes|
The rivers of Wisconsin drain into either the Mississippi River system, which flows southward into the Gulf of Mexico, or into the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence system, which flows eastward into the Atlantic Ocean.
The Mississippi is the only river in Wisconsin navigable by commercial vessels, and for its entire length in the state it forms part of the Minnesota border and all of the Iowa state line. Its principal tributaries in the state are the Saint Croix, which also forms part of the Minnesota state line, and the Chippewa, Black, Rock, and Wisconsin rivers. The principal rivers draining into Lake Michigan are the Menominee, which forms part of the Michigan state line, and the Fox and its tributary the Wolf River. Several small streams drain into Lake Superior.
Wisconsin has many lakes. In addition to lakes Superior and Michigan, there are nearly 9,000 smaller lakes scattered over the surface of the Superior Upland and Central Lowland. The largest natural lake is Lake Winnebago, which covers 534 sq km (206 sq mi). Other lakes include Lake Pepin, which was formed behind silt that acted as a dam on the Mississippi River; Green Lake; and lakes Poygan, Mendota, and Koshkonong. The largest artificially created lakes are Petenwell and Castle Rock reservoirs on the Wisconsin River, Lake Chippewa, and Flambeau Reservoir.
Wisconsin has a humid continental climate. Winters are long and cold throughout the state. Summers are short and fairly hot, especially in southern Wisconsin. The waters of lakes Superior and Michigan modify the climate of the coastal areas to a noticeable extent. These areas are generally milder in winter and cooler in summer than interior sections of the state.
Average July temperatures range from more than 22° C (72° F) in the southwest to less than 19° C (66° F) in some northern areas. Daytime temperatures are seldom much higher than 32° C (90° F), and cool weather is not unusual. Summer nights are generally cool, and July temperatures have been known to dip to the freezing point in northern areas. January averages fall below freezing throughout Wisconsin. They range from less than -12° C (less than 10° F) in the interior northern areas to -6° C (22° F) in the southeast, along the Lake Michigan shore. During winter extremely cold weather persists for several weeks at a time.
Average annual precipitation ranges from 700 to 800 mm (28 to 32 in). Rainfall is generally heaviest during the spring and summer, and snowfall is generally moderate in the south, but can be quite heavy in the north. Thunderstorms, sometimes accompanied by devastating tornadoes, are common in spring and summer, particularly in the southern part of the state.
The growing season ranges from less than 90 days in some areas of the north to more than 160 days along parts of the Lake Michigan shore. Land situated within about 3 km (about 2 mi) of Lake Superior has an extended frost-free period averaging 114 days.
Spodosols, which are generally acidic, coniferous forest soils of sandy outwash and loamy till, cover most of the northern one-third of the state. These soils are seldom used for agriculture in Wisconsin. The gray-brown alphasols that are found to the south are more productive, although applications of lime and fertilizer are needed to maintain their fertility. It is on these soils that Wisconsin’s prosperous agriculture has developed. Areas of fertile prairie soil exist in the southern quarter of Wisconsin, and there are scattered areas of bog and alluvial soil in the state.
Extensive forests once covered most of the state. They now cover 46 percent of the state’s land area. Most forest land in Wisconsin is privately owned.
Northern Wisconsin is covered by forests of northern hardwoods mixed with conifers. Around the beginning of the 20th century, young pioneer species of hardwoods replaced the stands of white pines destroyed by deforestation in the 19th century. The aspen and birch are the two most common trees in these second-growth forests, with sugar maple (the state tree) also appearing. Other trees in the northern forests are the white pine, red pine, jack pine, basswood, spruce, hemlock, and red maple. Shrubs of the area include the blueberry, raspberry, beaked hazel, chokecherry, bog rosemary, and red-berried elder.
The hardwood forests of southern Wisconsin are dominated by red and white oaks, hickories, maples, and basswoods. Beeches occur in the extreme east of the state. Characteristic shrubs in the southern forests are the chokecherry, dogwood, Juneberry, poison ivy, staghorn sumac, and prickly ash.
Wisconsin’s animal populations have endured many changes in the past century. The black bear is once again growing in number, while the resident population of timber wolves remains on the state’s endangered list. The Canada lynx, an infrequent visitor to Wisconsin, is also on the list of endangered species. Elk have been reintroduced to the northwestern portion of the state, as have the fisher and pine marten in the northern forested areas. Among the mammals found throughout Wisconsin are the white-tailed deer, muskrat, woodchuck, red fox, coyote, skunk, raccoon, mink, otter, beaver, cottontail, flying squirrel, and gray squirrel. Mammals found in some parts of Wisconsin include the badger, opossum, gray fox, porcupine, and snowshoe hare.
Wisconsin lies on the Mississippi Flyway, one of the migratory paths followed by millions of birds each spring and fall. Among the waterfowl commonly seen in Wisconsin during the migrations are Canada geese and several species of wild ducks. Horicon Marsh, in south central Wisconsin, is a major stopover for migrating waterfowl.
Upland game birds include the ring-necked pheasant, Hungarian partridge, sharp-tailed grouse, bobwhite, ruffed grouse, and woodcock. Hawks and owls are common, and wild turkeys have made a remarkable comeback in recent years. The Wisconsin River is known for its sizable population of bald eagles. Songbirds include the robin, the state bird, and juncos, house finches, English sparrows, nuthatches, cardinals, blue jays, bluebirds, tufted titmice, red-winged blackbirds, western meadowlarks, and prothonotary warblers. Also found in the state are flickers; hairy, downy, and red-headed woodpeckers; yellow-bellied sapsuckers; crows; and ravens. The cedar waxwing summers in the state.
Among the popular game fish are the muskellunge, northern pike, walleye, lake trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, perch, bullhead, and crappie. The lake sturgeon and shovelnose sturgeon were once abundant but have become quite rare in Wisconsin waters, along with the true paddlefish, which is now protected.
Reforestation, soil erosion, and wildlife management are the principal concerns of conservationists in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is the agency responsible for carrying out state conservation programs. Federal agencies concerned with conservation in Wisconsin include the United States Forest Service, the United States Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
In 2006 Wisconsin had 37 hazardous waste sites placed on a national priority list for cleanup due to their severity or proximity to people. Progress was being made in efforts to reduce pollution; in the period 1995–2000 the amount of toxic chemicals discharged into the environment was reduced by 20 percent.
Herds of dairy cows grazing Wisconsin’s green pasturelands are the foundation of a dairy industry that produces a large part of the nation’s butter and cheese. The output of such farms has earned Wisconsin the nickname America’s Dairyland; and over the years, dairying and crop farming have been vital parts of Wisconsin’s economy. The state’s rich forests have also generated a lumber and paper industry, while extensive water resources have been important for fishing and transportation. The water, forest, and farms combine to give the state a natural beauty, which in turn has made the state a popular destination for tourists. Meanwhile, manufacturing grew rapidly in the 20th century, becoming a dominant segment of the state’s economy.
In 2006, 3,063,000 people held jobs in Wisconsin. As in much of the country, the nature of employment is changing in the state. By 1993 employment on farms had decreased 26 percent from ten years before, while manufacturing employment grew 17 percent in the same period. But service occupations, such as nursing, restaurant serving, and computer programming, are showing the largest gains. Service occupations in 2000 employed 32 percent of the workers; 20 percent worked in wholesale or retail trade; 17 percent in manufacturing; 15 percent in federal, state, or local government, including those in the military; 15 percent in finance, insurance, or real estate; 4 percent in construction, 19 percent in transportation or public utilities; and 3 percent in farming (including agricultural services), forestry, or fishing; only 0.1 percent percent worked in mining. In 2005, 16 percent of Wisconsin’s workers were unionized.
Farmland covered about one-half the land area of the state in the late 1990s. Slightly less than two-thirds of the farmland is cropland, while the rest is pastureland and woodland. The number of farms has declined in the second half of the 20th century, numbering about 76,500 in 2005. As farms have consolidated, the average size of each has grown to 81 hectares (201 acres).
Some 30,000 farms specialize in dairying, and dairy and livestock products account for 74 percent of total farm income. Wisconsin is first among the states in its number of milk cows and is second, behind California, in fluid milk production. Beef, hogs, and eggs are also important livestock products.
Wisconsin is a Corn Belt state, and corn is its major crop, grown chiefly for livestock feed. Other leading crops are soybeans, hay, sweet corn, potatoes, green peas, snap beans, cranberries, and oats. Wisconsin leads the nation in the value of its oats, cranberries, snap beans, beets, and cabbage; is second in the nation in production of dark red kidney beans; and is third in sweet corn, green peas, fall potatoes, and spearmint.
|A1||Patterns of Farming|
Corn is the typical crop in the southern half of the state, while hay, oats, and forage are more characteristic of north central and western Wisconsin. Potatoes, vegetables, and cranberries are raised mostly on the sandy plain of central Wisconsin. The Door Peninsula, extending into Lake Michigan, is Wisconsin’s leading fruit-growing area and is especially noted for cherries. Dairying is carried on throughout most of the state. The eastern and southeastern counties provide fluid milk for Chicago, Milwaukee, and other large urban markets in the region. The central and western areas of Wisconsin process most of their milk production into cheese and butter.
Most of Wisconsin’s small commercial fishing industry makes use of Lake Michigan. Although fish in the lake were depleted by the sea lamprey, which invaded the Great Lakes in the 20th century, a restoration program has been partially successful. Important species are whitefish, lake trout, perch, chub, alewife, and carp. Commercial river fishing yields mainly catfish, bullhead, and buffalo fish.
Although forestry is neither a major labor-using industry nor a leading income producer for Wisconsin, the industries based on wood are important to the state. Much of the hardwood cut goes into the manufacture of plywood and veneer, and the pulp and paper industry consumes much of the softwood harvest. The concentration of pulp and paper products industries around Green Bay and Appleton is one of the nation’s largest.
Wisconsin’s mineral output is limited, and it ranks low among the states in value of production. The state produces stone, sand and gravel, copper, and lime. The once-important high-grade iron ore reserves are no longer available. The lead and zinc ores of southwestern Wisconsin were the first of the state’s mineral resources to be exploited and are still quite abundant, but their production depends on market prices. Wisconsin has ample supplies of sandstone, limestone, quartzite, and silica sand. The state is the country’s second largest producer of dimension stone used for buildings.
By far the largest share of Wisconsin’s income from the production of goods is derived from industry. The leading industry groups ranked by employment were industrial machinery and equipment, food and food products, paper products, electronic equipment, and fabricated metal products. The machinery produced in Wisconsin is diverse, including internal combustion engines, construction machinery, farm equipment, machinery for the paper industry, refrigeration and heating equipment, and computers.
Food processing is one of the state’s mainstays. Wisconsin ranks first in the nation in output of cheese and condensed and evaporated milk, and it produces a great majority of the country’s malted milk. It also ranks high in vegetable and fruit canning. The brewing of beer is one of Wisconsin’s oldest industries.
Other chief industries in Wisconsin are paper mills and associated industries, creating goods such as paper packaging, boxes, and household sanitary products; the makers of electrical industrial equipment and household appliances; manufacturers producing fabricated metal products, such as general hardware, metal plates, formed sheet metal, cans for food products, and stamped parts for the automotive industry; transportation equipment manufacturers, particularly those producing automobiles and motorcycles; and the primary metal industries, which include iron and steel foundries and firms casting aluminum.
Manufacturing is widely distributed, but the Milwaukee metropolitan area accounts for more than one-third of the state’s industrial income. Although it is known as the Beer Capital of the Nation, Milwaukee is also a major meat-packing center. Iron and steel mills, automobile and machinery plants, and chemical plants are some of the city’s many industries. Other parts of the southeast are also heavily industrialized, particularly the cities of Racine, Kenosha, Sheboygan, Beloit, and Janesville. Farther north, along the Fox River, the Chippewa River, and the Wisconsin River, are large centers for paper and wood products, including Green Bay, Appleton, Oshkosh, Eau Claire, and Wausau. Food-processing plants are more widely distributed. Wisconsin’s well-known cheddar cheese is produced in the east central and central sections of the state, processed cheese in the Green Bay area, Swiss cheese in the southwest, and butter in the west.
Thermal plants, primarily fueled by coal, produce 79 percent of Wisconsin’s electricity. The state has many small hydroelectric power plants, although they generate only 3 percent of the state’s electricity. Nuclear power plants at Kewaunee and Point Beach combine to produce 16 percent of Wisconsin’s electric power.
Wisconsin had 178,597 km (114,141 183,692 mi) of highways by 2005, of which 1,196 km (743 mi) were part of the federal interstate highway system.
Railroad mileage in Wisconsin totaled 5,472 km (3,400 mi) in 2004. Nonmetallic minerals, pulp and paper, food products, lumber and wood products, and farm products are the principal goods originating in the state shipped by rail.
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway links Wisconsin with the Atlantic Ocean. Interstate commerce is most important, several lake ports also handle foreign cargoes. Among Wisconsin’s lake ports, Superior, which shares its harbor with Duluth, Minnesota, handles the most tonnage, shipping wheat and iron-ore. Wisconsin’s leading general-cargo port is Milwaukee. The other important waterway is the Mississippi River.
Wisconsin is served by 9 airfields, many of which are private. The principal airport, in Milwaukee, serves more than two million passengers each year. The state’s other major airport is in Madison.
|IV||THE PEOPLE OF WISCONSIN|
According to the 2000 national census, Wisconsin ranked 18th among the states, with a total population of 5,601,640. This figure represented an increase of 9.6 percent over the 1990 census figure. Urban growth has outpaced rural increases, and in 2000 some 68 percent of the people lived in urban areas. However, while most urban areas are growing, the city of Milwaukee proper continues a loss of population begun in the 1970s. This occurred even as growth in the city’s surrounding suburban area pushed the total metropolitan population ahead. In 2006 the average population density was 40 persons per sq km (102 per sq mi); most of the northern third of the state, however, has a much lower population density.
Whites represented the largest ethnic group in Wisconsin, with 88.9 percent of the population. Blacks constituted 5.7 percent, Asians were 1.7 percent, Native Americans were 0.9 percent, and those of mixed or not reporting a racial heritage were 2.8 percent of the total. Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders numbered 1,630. Hispanics, which are of any race, represent 3.6 percent of the population. The largest Native American tribes are the Chippewa and Menominee. There are six Native American reservations in northern Wisconsin. The state was known as a recipient of massive European immigration during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Festive culture across the state still reflects the diverse origins of the population.
Milwaukee, a major Great Lakes port and industrial center, is Wisconsin’s largest city, a leading producer of both beer and machinery, and the historic home of large German and Polish populations, which give it a European flavor. The Milwaukee metropolitan area had 1.7 million inhabitants in 2000. Madison, the state capital, as well as a university city, had 543,000 inhabitants in the metropolitan area in 2006. Other major cities include Racine, a Lake Michigan port and industrial city; West Allis, an industrial satellite of Milwaukee; and Kenosha, a port and industrial city on Lake Michigan. Green Bay, on an arm of Lake Michigan, is Wisconsin’s oldest city. Superior shares the great port facilities at the western terminus of Lake Superior with Duluth, Minnesota. A single metropolitan area centers on the two cities.
About 64 percent of the population of Wisconsin claim adherence to the Christian Church, of which nearly two-fifths are Roman Catholic. The largest Protestant denomination is Lutheran, who represent about one-quarter of all adherents. Less than 1 percent of the population are Jewish.
|V||EDUCATION AND CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS|
The first free elementary school in what is now Wisconsin was founded at Southport (now Kenosha) in 1845, and the first free high school was established in the same community four years later. In 1856 Margaretta Schurz, the wife of the political reformer Carl Schurz, established the first kindergarten in the United States, in Watertown. The first statewide vocational and adult-education network in the nation was established in Wisconsin in 1911. By the early 20th century the public education system of Wisconsin had been well developed.
School attendance is compulsory for children from ages 6 to 18, or upon graduation from high school. Of the state’s children, 16 percent attend private schools, one of the higher rates in the country. In the 2002–2003 school year Wisconsin spent $10,347 on each student’s education, compared to a national average of about $9,299. There were 15.1 students for every teacher (the national average was 15.9). Of those older than 25 years of age in the state, 88 percent had a high school diploma. The national norm was 84 percent.
The first institution of higher education in the state was Milton College, in Milton, founded in 1844. In 2004–2005 Wisconsin had 31 public and 36 private institutions of higher learning. By far the largest institution is the University of Wisconsin System, with 13 four-year campuses, including the flagship campus at Madison, and 13 two-year campuses (see Wisconsin-Madison, University of). Other schools include Marquette University and Mount Mary College, in Milwaukee; Lawrence University, in Appleton; Beloit College, in Beloit; Ripon College, in Ripon; and Carroll College, in Waukesha.
A commission was established in 1895 to promote and coordinate library service throughout Wisconsin. Members of the original library commission founded the Legislative Reference Library in Madison in 1901. Now called the Legislative Reference Bureau, it provides research services for state legislators and assists them in the drafting of legislation. The largest public library in the state is the Milwaukee Public Library. The library of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin is in Madison. In 2002 Wisconsin had 380 tax-supported public library systems. Libraries each year circulated an average of 9.7 books for every resident, placing it in the top one-fifth of the states.
The State Historical Society of Wisconsin owns and operates the State Historical Museum in Madison, which interprets Wisconsin’s past from prehistory to the present. The society also maintains several historic sites, including Stonefield, a museum complex near Cassville that depicts 1890s rural and village life; the Circus World Museum, in Baraboo, which was the original winter quarters of the Ringling Brothers Circus; and Old World Wisconsin, an open-air museum of architecture and culture in Eagle that mirrors the state’s diverse ethnic history. Fine-arts museums include the Wright Museum of Art, at Beloit College; the Paine Art Center and Arboretum, in Oshkosh; and the Milwaukee Art Museum, which is housed in the well-known War Memorial Center. The Milwaukee Public Museum is a natural and cultural history museum that features walk-through exhibits including a live-butterfly garden, a modern Native American powwow, and an authentic rainforest. Noted special museums include the Prairie du Chien Museum at Fort Crawford; the Rhinelander Logging Museum, where exhibits are housed in a replica of an old-time logging camp; the National Railroad Museum, in Green Bay; and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Airventure Museum, in Oshkosh.
Almost 400 newspapers are published in Wisconsin, including 33 dailies. The first newspaper in what is now Wisconsin was the weekly Green-Bay Intelligencer, founded in 1833. Established as a weekly in 1837, the Milwaukee Sentinel developed into the most influential newspaper in the state during the Civil War (1861-1865). The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which began publishing in 1995 after the merger of the Milwaukee Journal and the Milwaukee Sentinel, the state’s oldest existing newspaper, is Wisconsin’s largest daily in terms of circulation.
The first radio station in Wisconsin, 9XM, at the University of Wisconsin, began broadcasting in 1919. Station WIBA, licensed in 1925, is the state’s oldest commercial station. Wisconsin’s first television station was WTMJ-TV, which began broadcasting at Milwaukee in 1947. In 2002 Wisconsin had 94 AM and 144 FM radio stations and 35 television stations.
|VI||RECREATION AND PLACES OF INTEREST|
Wisconsin’s many fine recreational facilities and beautiful scenery are enjoyed by thousands of vacationers and outdoor enthusiasts each year. Numerous state forests and parks exist throughout the state, with lakes for water sports and campgrounds, picnic sites, and nature trails. In addition, there are streams, rivers and the Great Lakes for fishing, as well as numerous state canoe trails. Wisconsin’s abundant wildlife provides hunting enthusiasts with a wide variety of game. Numerous places of historical interest throughout the state are noted by official state markers.
|A||National Parks and Forests|
The National Park Service administers two areas in Wisconsin. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a recreational area comprising islands and the nearby Bayfield Peninsula on Lake Superior. Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway encompasses 406 km (252 mi) of the Saint Croix and Namekagon rivers.
The two national forests in Wisconsin, both in the northern part of the state, include a number of recreation areas with facilities for riding, hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, and nature study. Chequamegon National Forest is the larger of the two. Nicolet National Forest is named for the 17th-century French explorer Jean Nicolet.
|B||State Parks and Forests|
Most of Wisconsin’s ten state forests have facilities for camping, water sports, picnicking, and hunting. The largest, Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, covers about 89,000 hectares (about 222,000 acres) of natural area in northern Wisconsin. It includes a tract crossed by the Wisconsin River and popular for summer vacationing. Kettle Moraine State Forest, consisting of two separate units, is characterized by glacial features known as kettles, which are depressions caused by the melting of buried blocks of ice in the till deposited by glaciers.
Peninsula State Park, one of the largest of the 47 state parks and recreation areas in Wisconsin, encompasses a forested headland in Green Bay. In the center of Door Peninsula, along Sturgeon Bay, lies Potawatomi State Park. The park’s wooded shoreline rises gradually to high bluffs from which there are beautiful views of the area. There are also magnificent views from Rib Mountain State Park, one of the highest points in the state.
Pattison State Park features Big Manitou Falls, where the Black River makes a steep plunge. Interstate Park lies on the Saint Croix River on the western border of the state. The oldest of Wisconsin’s state parks, it is noted for its river gorge and rocky bluffs. The Baraboo Range of south central Wisconsin is the site of Devils Lake State Park. Kohler-Andrae State Park, south of Sheboygan, includes a wide sandy beach on Lake Michigan with beautiful sand dunes and white pine woods. Point Beach State Forest also lies on Lake Michigan.
There are several state monuments of historic interest in Wisconsin. First Capitol State Park, near Belmont, contains the restored building in which the legislature of the territory of Wisconsin met in 1836. Another point of interest is the schoolhouse in Ripon where the meeting was held in 1854 that launched the Republican Party. Villa Louis, near Prairie du Chien, is a mansion built in 1843 and maintained by the State Historical Society. Aztalan State Park, east of Madison, preserves a prehistoric Native American village that has been partially reconstructed, together with a number of burial mounds.
|C||Sports and Recreation|
Hiking, camping, swimming, boating, golfing, hunting, and fishing are among Wisconsin’s foremost outdoor recreational activities. In winter, skating, skiing, snowmobiling, and tobogganing are popular sports. Wisconsin is the home of several professional sports teams. The Green Bay Packers are a well-known professional football team, and the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame contains displays relating to the team. Milwaukee is the home of the Milwaukee Brewers, a major-league baseball team, and the Milwaukee Bucks, a professional basketball team. The National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame is in Hayward.
|D||Other Places to Visit|
Among the state’s many historic homes is the Tank Cottage, in Green Bay, the oldest house existing in the state. In Portage is the restored surgeon’s quarters of old Fort Winnebago. The only remaining building of the fort, it contains a collection of medical books, historic documents, and other items relating to the fort’s history. The Milton House, in Milton, is a poured concrete building constructed on a hexagonal plan. Dating from 1844, the building was a stagecoach stop, and it also served as a station of the Underground Railroad for escaping slaves. Mineral Point has a street of restored houses used by Cornish miners during the early days of the state’s lead mining industry.
Taliesin, in Spring Green, was the home of the famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Another of his well-known buildings is the Johnson Wax Building, in Racine. One of the most popular places to visit in the state is Wisconsin Dells, where the Wisconsin River passes through a winding gorge about 13 km (8 mi) long.
Syttende Mai, held at Blue Mounds and at Stoughton on May 17, celebrates Norway’s Independence Day. An annual Wilhelm Tell Pageant is staged every Labor Day weekend at New Glarus. Milwaukee hosts the annual Great Circus Parade, featuring restored 19th-century wagons, and Summerfest on the Lake Michigan lakefront every July. Also in July are the Oneida Indians Pow-Wow, held in Green Bay, and the Lumberjack World Championships in Hayward. The city of La Crosse hosts an annual Oktoberfest celebration in October, and Oshkosh is the site of the annual Experimental Aircraft Association Fly-In Convention every August. West Allis is the site of Wisconsin’s State Fair, which is held every August.
Wisconsin still uses the constitution it adopted at the time of statehood in 1848. It is one of the oldest state constitutions. An amendment to the constitution may be proposed by the legislature or by a constitutional convention. To be ratified, an amendment must be approved by a majority of people voting on the issue in a general election.
The state’s chief executive, the governor, is elected for a four-year term. Other elected executive officials in the state are the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and state treasurer. All of the elected officials serve four-year terms.
The Wisconsin legislature consists of a Senate of 33 members and an Assembly of 99 members. Senators are elected for four-year terms, and representatives are elected for two-year terms. Regular sessions of the legislature are held annually. Special legislative sessions may be called by the governor or by a majority of the legislators.
The highest state court in Wisconsin is the Supreme Court. Most of its work consists in hearing appeals from lower state courts. The court is made up of seven justices, who are elected for ten-year terms. The justice with the longest service on the state supreme court serves as its chief justice. The major trial courts in the state are circuit courts. The decisions of the circuit courts may be appealed to the state court of appeals. Both the circuit court judges and the judges of the court of appeals are elected for six-year terms. The state also has municipal courts, whose justices are elected for four-year terms. All judges are elected on a nonpartisan basis.
Each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties is governed by a board of supervisors elected for a two-year term. Following a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in 1965, these boards have been elected on the basis of population, rather than area. Other elected county officials include the clerk, treasurer, sheriff, clerk of the circuit court, registrar of deeds, coroner, surveyor, and district attorney. All are elected for two-year terms.
In the early 1990s Wisconsin had 188 incorporated cities and 397 incorporated villages. Each of the more than 1,200 towns, which are civil subdivisions of counties and similar to townships in other states, is governed by a board consisting of a chairperson and two to four supervisors. All are elected for two-year terms. The cities are governed under the mayor and city council or council and city manager form of municipal government. Villages in Wisconsin are governed by elected supervisors.
Wisconsin has two U.S. senators and eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The state has ten electoral votes.
The earliest inhabitants of Wisconsin were Paleo-Indians, a nomadic people who appeared in the Great Lakes region about 11,000 bc, during the last Ice Age. Evidence from archaeological sites indicates the Paleo-Indians hunted with spears, killing caribou and other large animals. About 7,000 BC, with the warming climate, an Archaic culture emerged. The area was later inhabited by a number of groups known as Mound Builders, who created large earth mounds as burial and ceremonial sites. Remains of some of these mounds may be seen at Butte des Morts (Hill of the Dead), near Neenah; at Aztalan Mound Park, near Lake Mills; and near Baraboo.
When Europeans first entered present-day Wisconsin, they encountered a number of Native American groups. The Menominee, Kickapoo, and Miami were Algonquian-speaking groups, while the Winnebago, Iowa, and Dakota, better known as Sioux, spoke Siouan languages. Most native peoples lived in villages, raised corn and other crops, and hunted and fished. In the mid-1600s many other groups entered Wisconsin, mostly Algonquian people fleeing enemy tribes farther east. These new groups included the Fox, Sac (Sauk), Potawatomi, and Ojibwa, also called Chippewa.
The first European known to have set foot on Wisconsin soil was Jean Nicolet, a French explorer. In 1634, while searching for a water route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, he reached Green Bay. In 1659 and 1660 the French fur trader Médard Chouart, Sieur des Groseilliers, and his brother-in-law, Pierre Esprit Radisson, explored the Lake Superior area. During the next 15 years the Jesuits, a Roman Catholic religious order, established the first missions in the territory, near present-day Ashland and at De Pere. In 1673 the French explorers Louis Joliet and Father Jacques Marquette crossed Wisconsin by way of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers to the Mississippi River.
|C||The Fur Trade|
The explorers had found the Wisconsin region rich in fur-bearing animals, particularly beaver, whose pelts were in great demand in Europe. Soon trappers and traders from Québec and Montréal entered the Wisconsin wilderness. The first trading post was established at La Baye (now Green Bay) in 1684, and soon after others were built—Fort Saint Nicolas, near Prairie du Chien, and Fort Saint Antoine, on Lake Pepin. In 1689 Nicolas Perrot, French commandant of the Green Bay region, claimed the Upper Mississippi Valley, including what is now Wisconsin, for France. The profitable fur trade of the region soon attracted English trappers, and competition between France and England for the trade with the Native Americans was intense.
The French soon came into conflict with the Fox people, who controlled a strategic trade route along the Fox and Wisconsin rivers. From about 1700 to 1740 the French and the Fox fought a series of battles, until the Fox were nearly wiped out. The surviving Fox were taken in by the Sac. The long struggle weakened French defenses in the region and turned many of France’s former Native American allies against it, at the same time France was fighting Britain for domination of the continent. Under the Treaty of Paris that ended the French and Indian War (1754-1763), France ceded all its territories east of the Mississippi River, including Wisconsin, to Britain. Under British rule the fur trade continued as the basis of Wisconsin’s economy.
British possession of Wisconsin officially ended in 1783, when Britain signed the Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolution (1775-1783). Under the treaty, Britain ceded to the United States all its territory east of the Mississippi River. The region was included in the Northwest Territory that the U.S. government organized with the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, but the government exercised no effective control over the Wisconsin area. It remained under the unofficial control of the British, who continued to monopolize the fur trade. There was no great influx of American settlers after the war, and the area’s few white inhabitants remained predominantly French-speaking. In 1800 there were only about 200 settlers in the region.
|D||End of British Domination|
In 1800 the Wisconsin area became part of the Indiana Territory, which included all the Northwest Territory except the present state of Ohio. In 1809 Wisconsin was included in the new Illinois Territory, which was separated from the Indiana Territory.
The British still exercised control, however, and encouraged Native Americans to oppose American expansion. Some Wisconsin tribes, particularly the Winnebago, joined the Shawnee chief Tecumseh, who tried to form an alliance to drive the Americans out of the Midwest. Tecumseh urged native peoples to return to their traditions and to reject the white concept that individual tribes could sell land shared by all. Tecumseh’s forces were defeated in 1811 at the Battle of Tippecanoe in Indiana, but many native peoples in Wisconsin remained hostile to the Americans.
In 1812 war again broke out between the United States and Britain, caused by disputes over the rights of neutral American shipping. During the War of 1812 (1812-1815), most of Wisconsin’s Native Americans sided with the British. Only after the war ended did American settlement begin, and the Wisconsin fur trade also came under American control. The U.S. Army governed the vast territory from Fort Howard, at Green Bay, and Fort Crawford, at Prairie du Chien. A future president of the United States, General Zachary Taylor, was in command of the post at Prairie du Chien. While the fur trade continued to be the chief economic activity in the region, small settlements around the forts grew steadily.
In 1818 the Wisconsin region became part of the Michigan Territory, which also included all of what is now Minnesota. The first great rush of American settlers into Wisconsin occurred in the 1820s, as a result of a mining boom around the Fever River (now the Galena River), in northwestern Illinois. By 1823 mining had spread north into southwestern Wisconsin, where more extensive lead deposits were found. The population of Wisconsin’s lead-mining region increased from a few hundred to several thousand in a few years, with most of the early miners coming from Tennessee, Kentucky, and other states in the South. In about 1840 the Wisconsin lead region produced almost one-half the total U.S. output of lead ore. The region established close trade relations with the South, since most of the ore was transported down the Mississippi by flatboat or steamboat to markets at St. Louis or New Orleans.
|E||Black Hawk War|
The movement of white settlers into the Midwest caused severe friction as the federal government and settlers attempted to displace the Native Americans from their lands. Federal policy under President Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) included uprooting entire tribes and forcing them to resettle west of the Mississippi. In 1832 about 1,000 Sac people, who had been forced to move to a reservation in Iowa, tried to return to their lands east of the Mississippi in northwestern Illinois. But Illinois settlers shot a peace emissary sent by their leader, Black Hawk, setting off the Black Hawk War. As Black Hawk and his followers retreated through Wisconsin, trying to return to Iowa, they were pursued by U.S. troops and local militiamen and fought a series of battles. The Native Americans reached the Mississippi near a stream called the Bad Axe River, but before they could flee back to Iowa, almost all of them were killed by the army on August 3 in the Bad Axe Massacre. Only 150 of Black Hawk’s people survived. Over the next few years other Wisconsin tribes, realizing that resistance would bring a similar fate, gave up title to their lands east of the Mississippi. Some, however, negotiated for reservation lands in central and northern Wisconsin as well as other rights.
With Native American resistance eliminated, a second great wave of settlers came to Wisconsin. These new arrivals came mainly from New England and the Middle Atlantic states, particularly New York. Most of them traveled through the newly built Erie Canal, completed in 1825, and the Great Lakes and settled along the shores of Lake Michigan. Milwaukee served as the chief port of entry for settlers and became the center of commerce for southeastern Wisconsin. These settlers were interested in farming, trading, and building cities.
The population grew rapidly in this period, from around 3,000 in 1830 to 11,683 in 1836. Residents of Wisconsin, which was still part of the Michigan Territory, began to call for their own territory. In 1836 the Wisconsin Territory was organized, including the Wisconsin area, all of the present states of Iowa and Minnesota, and parts of North and South Dakota. Two years later the Wisconsin Territory was reduced when the region west of the Mississippi River was reorganized as the Iowa Territory.
The capital of the Wisconsin Territory was first located at Belmont in the heart of the lead district, where almost half the settlers lived. In succeeding years the southeastern counties along the shore of Lake Michigan grew more rapidly than the lead region, and by 1838 the legislature had moved to the new capital of Madison, which lay between the two areas. The first governor of the territory was Henry Dodge, one of the region’s most prosperous miners. Until the 1850s settlement in the territory was confined to the area south of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers.
A third wave of settlers, including a large number of European immigrants, came to Wisconsin during the territorial period. The first important group included highly skilled miners from Cornwall, England, who arrived in Wisconsin’s lead district after 1835. In the next 15 years they were followed by large numbers of Germans, Scots, Irish, Welsh, Swiss, and Norwegians. By 1850 Wisconsin’s population was 305,391, and more than one-third of the residents were foreign-born.
Most of the new settlers of the 1830s and 1840s were attracted to Wisconsin by good farmland rather than mining opportunities. In response to the demand for acreage, the first government lands in Wisconsin were put on public sale in 1834. By the 1840s wheat had become the principal crop, and after ten years Wisconsin’s wheat crop was the second largest in the nation.
In the lead district of southwestern Wisconsin, mining remained the major economic activity until the late 1840s. Farming on lands containing mineral ore was discouraged by the federal government, which owned all such lands and until 1847 leased, rather than sold, tracts to individuals and companies for mining. Lead mining reached its peak in 1845, then declined rapidly as richer mines were exhausted and the price of lead dropped. Many miners then turned to farming, but about half of the miners, including many of the Cornish settlers, left for California after gold was discovered there in 1848.
The need for internal improvements, such as roads, railroads, harbors, and canals, was a major reason that residents of the Wisconsin Territory began to press for statehood. Both the population and the economy were expanding rapidly. As a state, it was argued, Wisconsin would be able to secure more federal money and land and could issue charters for transportation companies. Residents also hoped statehood would bring political strength and stability and attract Eastern capital with which to build needed improvements.
After rejecting several proposals for statehood, voters endorsed admission to the Union in 1846 and called for a convention to draw up a constitution for the future state. The first constitution was rejected by the territory’s voters in 1847, but a second similar constitution was approved a year later. This constitution is still in use, though it has been much amended. It prohibited the use of state funds to construct internal improvements, such as canals, because the framers wished to avoid the financial chaos that occurred when neighboring states had undertaken vast canal-building projects. The constitution also sharply limited the amount of debt the state could incur for any purpose. The provisions for voting rights were very liberal for that time, although women were excluded.
In May 1848 Wisconsin was admitted to the Union as the 30th state. Its first governor was Nelson Dewey, a Democrat. Contrary to expectations, statehood did not bring rapid development of transportation facilities. Despite the clamor for canals in Wisconsin, few were completed. Even after a canal was opened in 1851 at the portage of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, the route was little used. Railroad building also proceeded slowly. Railroad promoters engaged in widespread bribery of state officials to secure railroad charters, and many charters were issued for railroads that were never built. The prohibitions on state spending for internal improvements meant the railroads had to turn elsewhere for financing. An unusual arrangement was devised, in which several thousand farmers mortgaged their land to raise funds for the earliest railroad lines. In 1857 one railroad was completed, reaching across the state from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. Soon afterward, however, a widespread financial panic hit, resulting in the bankruptcy of all the railroad companies in Wisconsin. Farmers who had mortgaged their land to support their railroad held almost worthless pieces of paper.
To attract European immigrants to Wisconsin, the state established an office in New York City in 1852 that distributed pamphlets and placed advertisements in European and U.S. newspapers. In the next few years thousands of Europeans, the majority of them Germans, settled in Wisconsin. Some of the German immigrants were political refugees from the revolutions that swept Europe in 1848. The intellectuals of this group soon provided important leadership in Wisconsin’s political, cultural, and social development.
|I||The Civil War|
Before the outbreak of the Civil War (1861-1865), Wisconsin opposed the extension of slavery into the Western territories. Sympathy for fugitive slaves was widespread, and in 1854 the Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to honor the Fugitive Slave Act, which Congress passed as part of the Compromise Measures of 1850, an effort to settle the disputes over slavery that were dividing the nation. There was also widespread opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which would allow the extension of slavery into the Western territories. Wisconsin opponents of the bill met in Ripon in 1854 to discuss what measures to take and founded the state’s Republican Party, one of the first in the nation. The next year the Republicans won many state offices, including the governorship.
Some European immigrants in Wisconsin, especially the Germans, opposed the Civil War and the draft, since some of them had left Europe to avoid fighting for their own countries. In 1862 antidraft riots broke out in several Wisconsin counties. However, most Wisconsin communities easily raised their quotas of troops, and conscription was not widely used. Wisconsin suffered many casualties, and veterans became a political force for the remainder of the century.
|J||Postwar Economic Growth|
The postwar period was a time of great development and change for Wisconsin’s industry and agriculture. Of primary importance was the expansion of the state’s railroad system in these years. Rail lines increased from little more than 1,400 km (900 mi) in 1860 to 4,760 km (2,960 mi) in 1880 and more than 10,400 km (6,500 mi) by 1900. Tracks were first laid into northern Wisconsin in the 1870s.
Before this time, logging was limited to a few miles on each side of Wisconsin’s rivers, which provided the sole means of transporting the logs to mills and markets. The coming of the railroads opened up remote timberlands to exploitation and also made it possible to ship and sell timber to many parts of the country. By 1890 lumbering had become the state’s leading industry. The production of paper and wood products, particularly shingles, accompanied the growth of the lumber industry. By 1905 Wisconsin had become one of the top paper-producing states.
In the late 19th century, dairy farming gradually replaced wheat as the chief agricultural pursuit in Wisconsin. The trend away from wheat, begun during the Civil War, accelerated in the postwar years as superior wheat lands opened up in Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. The shift to dairying was encouraged by the introduction of the refrigerated railroad car, which allowed perishable products to reach a larger market. Because cheese was not highly perishable, cheese making was the first aspect of the dairy industry to be developed. Wisconsin’s dairying pioneers were mostly Scandinavian, Dutch, Swiss, and German immigrants or settlers from New York, then the nation’s leading dairy state.
As the northlands were stripped of trees, some of the cleared land was converted to farmland by new immigrants and by farmers from southern Wisconsin, where the soil was rapidly being depleted. Although the cleared land was unsuitable for growing wheat, it supported small-scale farming until nearly 1920.
Among the important industries that began in Wisconsin during the postwar years were meatpacking and tanning, natural accompaniments to livestock raising. Because it was close to the iron mines of Minnesota and Wisconsin’s Gogebic Range, Milwaukee flourished as a metalworking center and as a manufacturer of farming, dairying, and milling machinery. As industry and agriculture expanded and diversified in the 35 years after the Civil War, Wisconsin’s population more than doubled, reaching more than 2 million by 1900.
|K||The Granger Movement|
As the economy became more industrialized, businesses became large and powerful. Large industries wielded great influence over the state and national governments, enjoying immunity from taxes and from regulation of their business practices. Corruption among politicians was widespread. Many citizens, especially farmers, became outraged. Among the heavy burdens facing farmers were the exorbitant and discriminatory freight rates charged by the railroads, the banks’ high interest rates, and the high prices charged by retail companies for farm supplies.
In an early attempt to bring about reform through political pressure, many Wisconsin farmers supported the national Granger Movement of the 1870s, which tried to improve the social, economic and political status of farmers. In 1873 the Wisconsin Grangers supported and helped elect Democrat William R. Taylor governor. During his administration the Potter Law and the Vance Act, the first of the so-called Granger laws in the nation, established a state railroad commission to regulate railroad practices and rates. The Taylor administration was turned out of office after only one term, however, and its reforms were soon undone.
Wisconsin suffered one of its worst natural disasters in October 1871, when a forest fire swept through its northeastern counties. The Peshtigo fire killed more than 1,000 people and damaged $5 million worth of property, beginning the same night as the great Chicago fire.
|L||La Follette and the Wisconsin Idea|
For the rest of the century, many other movements campaigned for reform, including the Greenback Party and the Populist Party. But little was accomplished in Wisconsin until after 1900, when a group of political reformers known as Progressives gained control of the Republican Party. In their crusade for reform on a state and national level, the Progressives were led by Robert Marion La Follette, governor of Wisconsin from 1901 to 1906 and a U.S. senator from 1906 to 1925.
La Follette and the Progressive Republicans believed that a government should conscientiously serve its people, and they sought to restrict the power of big business when it interfered with the needs of the individual citizen. Specialists in law, economics, and several social and natural sciences, most from the faculty of the University of Wisconsin, participated in political reform in the state, helping legislators to draft laws and serving as experts on governmental commissions. This collaboration became known as the Wisconsin Idea.
During La Follette’s three terms as governor he won passage of a number of landmark reform laws. Anti-corruption and civil-service measures were passed. Direct primary elections were established, which gave voters, not conventions run by political bosses, the power to select candidates for public office. The powerful railroads came under state regulation and were made to pay their share of the state’s taxes. Later the railroad commission was given power to regulate other public utilities. Laws were also passed to help farmers form cooperatives to purchase supplies and sell their products directly.
Wisconsin continued to pass reform legislation after La Follette had left the state to serve in the U.S. Senate, especially while Francis S. McGovern was governor from 1911 to 1915. The Wisconsin legislature in 1911 created the nation’s first effective worker’s compensation program to protect workers injured on the job; passed laws to regulate factory safety and working hours for women and children; established a state income tax and state life insurance fund; and passed forest and waterpower conservation acts.
Many of these social and industrial reforms were supported by a third party, Wisconsin’s Socialists. They were led by Victor Louis Berger, who helped found the national Social Democratic Party in the late 1890s with labor leader Eugene V. Debs. It was later reorganized as the Socialist Party. With a base of support among German immigrants, the Wisconsin Socialists were most powerful in Milwaukee, winning most city and county offices in 1910. That year, Berger became the first Socialist elected to Congress, and a number of Socialists were elected to the state legislature.
La Follette took his reform campaign to a national stage in 1924, when he ran for president as the candidate of the Progressive Party. He was overwhelmingly defeated, but received more than 4.8 million votes, about 16.5 percent of the total. After his death in 1925, his family continued to play a major role in Wisconsin and national politics.
|M||World War I to the Great Depression|
During the years of World War I (1914-1918), the Progressives were turned out of office by the conservative faction of the Republican Party known as the Stalwarts. Wisconsin’s new leaders, however, kept most of the Progressive reforms. During the war, high farm prices and the demand for farm goods at home and abroad encouraged farmers to cultivate many additional acres, even marginal land in cleared northern areas. Dairy production increased greatly, and Wisconsin soon surpassed New York as the nation’s leading dairy state. The war spurred the growth of the machinery, heavy equipment, and transportation industries. Shipbuilding, which had first developed with the growth of commerce on the Great Lakes, flourished in Manitowoc and Superior. Wisconsin’s industrial expansion continued unabated after the war, although the state’s large brewing industry was badly hurt by Prohibition, the national ban on alcohol that took effect in 1920.
The state’s farmers began to suffer from falling farm prices in the 1920s. Their distress became acute during the Great Depression, the national economic disaster of the 1930s. It became clear that most of the cleared northern land was better suited to trees than crops, and reforestation and rural zoning programs were adopted. Constitutional amendments passed in the 1920s permitted the state and county governments to buy land to convert to forests and parks. Nicolet and Chequamegon National Forests also were established. Industry as well as agriculture suffered severely during the Great Depression. The state’s important machine tool and machinery industries were badly hurt, and only the paper industry continued to prosper.
In 1931, when the full effects of the depression struck Wisconsin, Philip F. La Follette, a son of Robert La Follette, became governor. Under his administration, thousands of jobless Wisconsin residents were given work on road-building projects. In 1932 the legislature passed the nation’s first unemployment compensation law, which served as a model for laws later passed by other states and the federal government. La Follette’s efforts anticipated some of the programs of the New Deal, the economic strategy used by President Franklin Roosevelt (1933-1945) to combat the depression.
When the depression worsened in 1932, Wisconsin voters elected their first Democratic governor in almost 40 years, Albert G. Schmedeman, and voted overwhelmingly for Roosevelt for president. Two years later, Philip La Follette was elected governor for his second term, this time as the candidate of the newly organized Progressive Party, a coalition with farmer, labor, and Socialist groups.
His brother Robert La Follette, Jr., filled their father’s seat in the U.S. Senate from 1925 until 1946, when he was defeated in a Republican primary by Joseph R. McCarthy. At that time the Progressive Party rejoined the Republican Party, ending a long era of La Follette leadership. In the early 1950s McCarthy became the leader of a campaign against Communist influence, but he made unsubstantiated allegations and used abusive investigating tactics. He was censured by the Senate in 1954, and McCarthyism became a synonym for wild, unfounded accusations of disloyalty.
|N||Economic Development After World War II|
World War II (1939-1945) stimulated the state’s economy and helped it recover from the depression. Southeastern manufacturing cities with a skilled labor force, especially Milwaukee, readily converted to war production. In the 1950s and 1960s Wisconsin continued to fare well economically as both its agriculture and industry prospered. The opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 allowed some oceangoing vessels to reach state ports, but the amount of such traffic was not as large as expected.
Wisconsin’s economy began to weaken in the 1970s. Smaller markets for milk, changes in eating habits, and the costly mechanization of milk production seriously affected the dairy industry. The number of dairy farmers dropped sharply, while the size of their farms and production costs rose. The traditional family farm that had long dominated rural Wisconsin and had possessed economic, political, and social power almost disappeared.
A much sharper setback occurred in the state’s manufacturing industries, located in Milwaukee, along the Lake Michigan shore, in the Fox, Rock, Chippewa, and Wisconsin river valleys, and on the Mississippi. Workers were laid off as some businesses became more automated or changed to new processes, producing more with fewer and more highly skilled workers. Large industrial employers began to relocate to the suburbs, the southern United States, and abroad. Some major firms reduced their Wisconsin operations, and the state’s largest employer, the Allis-Chalmers Company, which built machinery, closed. Some industries survived but lost their previous prominence. Breweries, for example, had once existed in 100 of the state’s cities, and Milwaukee had been a major influence on the national market for beer. By the 1990s brewing had been reduced to one major brewery (Miller) and many microbreweries.
|O||Postwar Political Developments|
Wisconsin became a Republican state before the Civil War. After 1904 the direct primary allowed the Progressives to split the Republican Party between Progressive Republicans and Stalwarts. Progressive Republicans dominated Wisconsin politics for many years.
A resurgence of the Democratic Party began in the late 1940s, and in 1958 a Democrat, Gaylord Nelson, was elected governor, the first Democratic governor since 1932. Since then competition between the two parties has been greater than ever before in state history. In 1964, for the first time since 1892, the Democratic Party won all statewide offices and control of both houses of the legislature. In 1994 the Republicans resumed legislative control. The governor’s office has been split almost evenly between the two parties since 1959, and on the whole governors have been moderates.
In recent decades most state issues have not been clearly partisan, and most voting blocs have not been fixed. Republicans reflect the views of business and professional people and the suburbs, while the Democrats represent labor and the cities. Both have areas of strength in rural and farm areas, with Republicans stronger among the wealthier farmers, but each party needs support from unpredictable independent voters to win.
The most persistent issues, ones often crossing party lines, have involved taxes and state financial aid. Since the Progressive Era, the state had used the graduated personal and corporate income tax it pioneered in 1911 and an inheritance tax, while local government depended on property taxes. After World War II, state spending grew, requiring more revenue, and a selective state sales tax was adopted. The income and sales taxes produced enough money that the state became more generous, with a variety of state aid programs for local governments that depended largely on property taxes. By the 1980s, as local governments were pressed to expand commitments, bipartisan support grew for property tax relief. In the mid-1990s the legislature approved a measure pledging that the state would cover two-thirds of the overall cost of local education, beginning in 1997.
Starting in the Progressive Era and the 1930s, the state has had a reputation for high taxes, heavy spending, and regulation of business. Since about 1970 the trend has been reversed by efforts to hold down or reduce the cost of government; to turn some government functions, such as auto-emission testing, over to private contractors; to reduce the regulatory role of the state; and to involve the state directly in economic expansion through tax changes, subsidies, and an aggressive search for business expansion. The legislature has also expanded the concept of Cabinet government to widen the governor’s role in such economic intervention, a contrast to the state’s Progressive tradition of strong, independent state agencies. Other major issues have included welfare reform, gun control, abortion restrictions, and control of crime and drugs.
Republican Governor Tommy Thompson advocated major changes in welfare that attracted national attention. From 1987 to 1995, under Thompson’s administration, Wisconsin’s welfare rolls were cut significantly, and programs were established to link parents’ welfare grants to their children’s school attendance. In 1996 Wisconsin passed a law aimed at ending welfare and putting recipients to work. The law abolished welfare payments by late 1997 but created a system of programs to help residents find jobs and assist them with child care, transportation, and housing.
Wisconsin was the first state to ratify the women’s suffrage amendment to the Constitution of the United States in 1919, but women’s rise to political prominence has lagged. By the early 21st century, no woman had yet been elected governor or U.S. senator, although many women served in the state legislature, on local legislative bodies, and as mayors of smaller municipalities. Women have held major non-elective positions in state and federal service, in the universities, and as chief executives of several major Wisconsin corporations.
State higher education in the first half of the 20th century was limited to the University of Wisconsin in Madison and a system of ten state teachers colleges. The university gained a national reputation for the social and natural sciences and for two extension systems serving the public statewide. Changes beginning in 1951 led to a merger creating the University of Wisconsin system in 1971, with 13 major campuses and about 150,000 students governed by a single board of regents.
Urban and rural areas of Wisconsin were affected by the social ferment that began in the 1960s, inspired by the civil-rights movement, protests against the Vietnam War (1959-1975), and youth rebellion. Unrest was concentrated among college-age students and on the state’s four-year college campuses, especially in Madison, which had a long history of student activism. Another focus for civil rights was in Milwaukee, which had the largest black population in the state and a high degree of segregation. Milwaukee also had growing Hispanic and Native American communities.
Three notable incidents of unrest occurred in Wisconsin during this period. The first was a race riot in Milwaukee’s inner city in the summer of 1967. The mayor enforced a curfew, only one death occurred, and race relations after that in Milwaukee remained relatively peaceful, despite later conflict over segregated housing. Student activism against the Vietnam War on the Madison campus reached a climax in 1970, when the Army Mathematics Research Center building was bombed, killing a researcher. In the third incident, several people were sentenced to prison for a raid on the draft board headquarters in Milwaukee and burning of draft cards.
Milwaukee, the state’s largest city and home to the largest concentration of blacks, experienced ongoing controversy over open housing in the 1970s, in both the central city and the suburbs. Desegregation efforts led to two federal lawsuits. In the first, blacks alleged discriminatory treatment by Milwaukee public schools. In 1976 a federal court ordered the schools to implement a desegregation plan, and in the mid-1990s schools were still operating under the court order. The second suit was brought by the Milwaukee public schools against the surrounding suburbs, alleging blacks were denied access to the suburbs, which worsened segregation within the city. That 1987 suit was dismissed but resulted in a limited, voluntary student exchange program with the schools.
Public dissatisfaction with public schools’ performance, especially in Milwaukee, led to intervention by the state legislature in the 1990s. Business interests have strongly supported reforms, including vouchers for private schools, mandated achievement testing of students, stronger school boards, and authorization of state-funded, privately run charter schools.
Wisconsin has experienced slow but steady population growth. Since World War II, large numbers of blacks and Spanish-speaking immigrants have arrived, and the population of Southeast Asians has increased since the end of the Vietnam War in the 1970s. At the same time some job seekers and retirees have migrated from Wisconsin to Southern states.
|Q||Native Americans in the 20th Century|
Most native groups were forced to leave Wisconsin in the 1830s and 1840s, and most of those who remained, mainly Menominee and Ojibwa, lived on reservations established in the northern part of the state. In the 1820s a group of Oneida from New York resettled in the state, and some Winnebago returned in the 1880s after their people were relocated.
In the 20th century, the Menominee used timber resources on their reservation to become fairly prosperous and self-sufficient. But under a 1954 law the Menominee tribe was terminated, part of a federal policy that sought to assimilate Native Americans into white society and end their special status. Economic decline followed; by 1972 Menominee County, which included the former reservation, was the poorest in the state. The federal action was reversed in 1973, restoring the reservation.
The Wisconsin Ojibwa, living on six reservations, also struggled with poverty and unemployment. In the 1980s and 1990s they asserted rights under 19th-century treaties to hunt and spear fish on traditional lands off their reservations. These rights were upheld by federal court decisions, prompting some violent reaction from whites in reservation areas.
The most important change in Native Americans’ status came from the expansion of gambling in Wisconsin. Since statehood, Wisconsin had rejected legalized gambling, but in 1987 voters approved a state lottery to raise money for property-tax relief. The lottery expanded into multiple games and multi-state games with huge prizes, then opened up other gambling avenues. Gaming compacts allowed Native Americans to operate casinos, and some have been highly profitable, especially in Milwaukee and Wisconsin Dells and near Green Bay. Restricted to high-stakes bingo, slot machines, and video poker, these casinos have brought unprecedented prosperity to some native groups, providing jobs and money for education, health, and cultural programs. This economic boom, however, has not been shared by all of the state’s 47,000 Native American residents.