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This article is about the state. For the river, see Wisconsin River. See also Wisconsin (disambiguation) and WI (disambiguation).
|State of Wisconsin|
|Nickname(s): Badger State; America's Dairyland (No official nickname)|
|Official language||English (de facto)|
|Largest metro||Milwaukee metropolitan area|
|• Total||65,497.82 sq mi
|• Width||260 miles (420 km)|
|• Length||310 miles (500 km)|
|• % water||17|
|• Latitude||42° 30' N to 47° 05′ N|
|• Longitude||86° 46′ W to 92° 53′ W|
|• Total||5,757,564 (2014 est)|
|• Density||105/sq mi (40.6/km2)
|• Median household income||$47,220 (15th)|
|• Highest point||Timms Hill
1,951 ft (595 m)
|• Mean||1,050 ft (320 m)|
|• Lowest point||Lake Michigan
579 ft (176 m)
|Before statehood||Wisconsin Territory|
|Admission to Union||May 29, 1848 (30th)|
|Governor||Scott Walker (R)|
|Lieutenant Governor||Rebecca Kleefisch (R)|
|• Upper house||Senate|
|• Lower house||State Assembly|
|U.S. Senators||Ron Johnson (R)
Tammy Baldwin (D)
|U.S. House delegation||5 Republicans, 3 Democrats (list)|
|Time zone||Central: UTC −6/−5|
|[show]Wisconsin state symbols|
Wisconsin's geography is diverse, with the Northern Highland and Western Upland along with a part of the Central Plain occupying the western part of the state and lowlands stretching to the shore of Lake Michigan. Wisconsin is second to Michigan in the length of its Great Lakes coastline.
Wisconsin is known as "America's Dairyland" because it is one of the nation's leading dairy producers, particularly famous for cheese. Manufacturing, especially paper products, information technology (IT), and tourism are also major contributors to the state's economy.
EtymologyThe word Wisconsin originates from the name given to the Wisconsin River by one of the Algonquian-speaking American Indian groups living in the region at the time of European contact. French explorer Jacques Marquette was the first European to reach the Wisconsin River, arriving in 1673 and calling the river Meskousing in his journal. Subsequent French writers changed the spelling from Meskousing to Ouisconsin, and over time this became the name for both the Wisconsin River and the surrounding lands. English speakers anglicized the spelling from Ouisconsin to Wisconsin when they began to arrive in large numbers during the early 19th century. The legislature of Wisconsin Territory made the current spelling official in 1845.
The Algonquian word for Wisconsin and its original meaning have both grown obscure. Interpretations vary, but most implicate the river and the red sandstone that lines its banks. One leading theory holds that the name originated from the Miami word Meskonsing, meaning "it lies red," a reference to the setting of the Wisconsin River as it flows through the reddish sandstone of the Wisconsin Dells. Other theories include claims that the name originated from one of a variety of Ojibwa words meaning "red stone place," "where the waters gather," or "great rock."
Main article: History of Wisconsin
The British gradually took over Wisconsin during the French and Indian War, taking control of Green Bay in 1761 and gaining control of all of Wisconsin in 1763. Like the French, the British were interested in little but the fur trade. One notable event in the fur trading industry in Wisconsin occurred in 1791, when two free African Americans set up a fur trading post among the Menominee at present day Marinette. The first permanent settlers, mostly French Canadians, some Anglo-New Englanders and a few African American freedmen, arrived in Wisconsin while it was under British control. Charles Michel de Langlade is generally recognized as the first settler, establishing a trading post at Green Bay in 1745, and moving there permanently in 1764. Settlement began at Prairie du Chien around 1781. The French residents at the trading post in what is now Green Bay, referred to the town as "La Baye", however British fur traders referred to it as "Green Bay", because the water and the shore assumed green tints in early spring. The old French title was gradually dropped, and the British name of "Green Bay" eventually stuck. The region coming under British rule had virtually no adverse effect on the French residents as the British needed the cooperation of the French fur traders and the French fur traders needed the goodwill of the British. During the French occupation of the region licenses for fur trading had been issued scarcely and only to select groups of traders, whereas the British, in an effort to make as much money as possible from the region, issued licenses for fur trading freely, both to British and French residents. The fur trade in what is now Wisconsin reached its height under British rule, and the first self-sustaining farms in the state were established as well. From 1763 to 1780, Green Bay was a prosperous community which produced its own foodstuff, built graceful cottages and held dances and festivities.
Wisconsin became a territorial possession of the United States in 1783 after the American Revolutionary War. However, the British remained in control until after the War of 1812, the outcome of which finally established an American presence in the area. Under American control, the economy of the territory shifted from fur trading to lead mining. The prospect of easy mineral wealth drew immigrants from throughout the U.S. and Europe to the lead deposits located at Mineral Point, Wisconsin, Dodgeville, Wisconsin, and nearby areas. Some miners found shelter in the holes they had dug and earned the nickname "badgers", leading to Wisconsin's identity as the "Badger State." The sudden influx of white miners prompted tension with the local Native American population. The Winnebago War of 1827 and the Black Hawk War of 1832 culminated in the forced removal of American Indians from most parts of the state. Following these conflicts, Wisconsin Territory was created by an act of the United States Congress on April 20, 1836. By fall of that year, the best prairie groves of the counties surrounding what is now Milwaukee were occupied by farmers from the New England states.
The Erie Canal facilitated the travel of both Yankee settlers and European immigrants to Wisconsin Territory. Yankees from New England and upstate New York seized a dominant position in law and politics, enacting policies that marginalized the region's earlier Native American and French-Canadian residents. Yankees also speculated in real estate, platted towns such as Racine, Beloit, Burlington, and Janesville, and established schools, civic institutions, and Congregationalist churches. At the same time, many Germans, Irish, Norwegians and other immigrants also settled in towns and farms across the territory, establishing Catholic and Lutheran institutions. The growing population allowed Wisconsin to gain statehood as the 30th state on May 29, 1848. Between 1840 to 1850, Wisconsin's non-Indian population had swollen from 31,000 to 305,000. Over a third of residents (110,500) were foreign born, including 38,000 Germans, 28,000 British immigrants from England, Scotland and Wales, and 21,000 Irish. Another third (103,000) were Yankees from New England and western New York state. Only about 63,000 residents in 1850 had been born in Wisconsin.
Nelson Dewey, the first governor of Wisconsin, was a Democrat. Born in Lebanon, Connecticut, Dewey's father's family had lived in New England since 1633, when their ancestor, Thomas Due, had come to America from Kent County, England. Dewey oversaw the transition from the territorial to the new state government. He encouraged the development of the state's infrastructure, particularly the construction of new roads, railroads, canals, and harbors, as well as the improvement of the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers. During his administration, the State Board of Public Works was organized. Dewey was an abolitionist and the first of many Wisconsin governors to advocate against the spread of slavery into new states and territories. The home Dewey built near Cassville is now a state park.
In the immediate aftermath of World War II, citizens of Wisconsin were divided over things such as the creation of the United Nations, support for the European recovery, and the growth of the Soviet Union's power. However, when Europe divided into Communist and capitalist camps and the Communist revolution in China succeeded in 1949, public opinion began to move towards support for the protection of democracy and capitalism against Communist expansion.
Wisconsin took part in several political extremes in the mid to late 20th century, ranging from the anti-communist crusades of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s to the radical antiwar protests at UW-Madison that culminated in the Sterling Hall bombing in August 1970. The state became a leader in welfare reform under Republican Governor Tommy Thompson during the 1990s. The state's economy also underwent further transformations towards the close of the 20th century, as heavy industry and manufacturing declined in favor of a service economy based on medicine, education, agribusiness, and tourism.
Two U.S. Navy battleships, BB-9 and BB-64, were named for the state.