For other uses see Wisconsin (disambiguation).
Wisconsin (French: Ouisconsin) is one of the fifty states in the United States of America, located in the north central part of the United States. It borders two of the five Great Lakes and four U.S. states (Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota). Wisconsin's capital is Madison, and its largest city is Milwaukee.
The word Wisconsin has its origins in 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 and record its name, arriving in 1673 and calling the river Meskousing in his journal. This spelling was later corrupted to Ouisconsin by other French explorers, and over time this version became the French name for both the Wisconsin River and the surrounding lands. English speakers anglicized the spelling to its modern form when they began to arrive in greater numbers during the early 19th Century. The current spelling was made official by the legislature of Wisconsin Territory in 1845.
Through the course of its many variations, the Algonquian source word for Wisconsin and its original meaning have both grown obscure. Interpretations vary, but most implicate the river and the red sandstone that line 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 by the reddish sandstone of the Wisconsin Dells. Numerous other theories have also been widely publicized, including claims that name originated from one of a variety of Ojibwa words meaning "red stone place," "gathering of the waters," or "great rock."
See main article: History of Wisconsin.
In 1634, the Frenchman Jean Nicolet became the first European to explore what was to become Wisconsin. He founded the Green Bay colony. During the next 150 years, the area was settled primarily by French fur traders. France then transferred the territory to Britain in 1763. The United States acquired the Wisconsin territory after the Revolution in 1783, but it remained under de facto British control until the War of 1812. The nineteenth century saw settlement by "Yankees" (New Englanders and people from upstate New York), Cornish miners, and German, Scandinavian and Swiss settlers.
Wisconsin, bordered by the states of Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois, as well as Lakes Michigan and Superior, has been part of United States' territory since the end of the American Revolution; the Wisconsin Territory (which included parts of other current states) was formed on July 3, 1836. Wisconsin ratified its constitution on March 13, 1848, and was admitted to the Union on May 29, 1848, as the 30th state.
Wisconsin's economy was originally based on farming (especially dairy), mining, and lumbering. In the 20th century, tourism became important, and many people living on former farms commuted to jobs elsewhere. Large-scale industrialization began in the late 19th century in the southeast of the state, with the city of Milwaukee as its major center. In recent decades, service industries, especially medicine and education, have become dominant. Wisconsin's landscape, largely shaped by the Wisconsin glaciation of the last Ice Age, makes the state popular for both tourism and many forms of outdoor recreation.
The state is bordered by the Montreal River; Lake Superior and Michigan to the north; by Lake Michigan to the east; by Illinois to the south; and by Iowa and Minnesota to the west. The state's boundaries include the Mississippi River and St. Croix River in the west, and the Menominee River in the northeast. With its location between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, Wisconsin is home to a wide variety of geographical features. The state is divided into five distinct regions. In the north, the Lake Superior Lowland occupies a belt of land along Lake Superior. Just to the south, the Northern Highland has massive mixed hardwood and coniferous forests including the 1.5 million acre (6,000 km²) Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, as well as thousands of glacial lakes, and the state's highest point, Timms Hill. In the middle of the state, the Central Plain has some unique sandstone formations like the Dells of the Wisconsin River in addition to rich farmland. The Eastern Ridges and Lowlands region in the southeast is home to many of Wisconsin's largest cities. In the southwest, the Western Upland is a rugged landscape with a mix of forest and farmland, including many bluffs on the Mississippi River. This region is part of the Driftless Area, which also includes portions of Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota. This area was not covered by glaciers during the most recent ice age, the Wisconsin Glaciation. Overall, 46% of Wisconsin's land area is covered by forest.
The varied landscape of Wisconsin makes the state a popular vacation destination for outdoor recreation. Winter events include skiing, ice fishing and snowmobile derbies. Wisconsin has many lakes of varied size; in fact Wisconsin contains 11,188 square miles (28,977 km²) of water, more than all but three other states (Alaska, Michigan and Florida). The distinctive Door Peninsula, which extends off the eastern coast of the state, contains one of the state's most beautiful tourist destinations, Door County. The area draws thousands of visitors yearly to its quaint villages, seasonal cherry picking, and ever-popular fish boils.
Additionally there is one national forest managed by the US Forest Service in Wisconsin:
The highest temperature ever recorded in Wisconsin was in the Wisconsin Dells, on July 13, 1936, where it reached 114 °F (46 °C). The lowest temperature ever recorded in Wisconsin was in the village of Couderay, where it reached –55 °F (-48 °C) on both February 2 and February 4, 1996.
|Monthly Normal High and Low Temperatures For Selected Wisconsin Cities [°F (°C)]|
|Green Bay||24/7 (-4/-14)||29/12 (-2/-11)||40/23 (4/-5)||55/34 (13/1)||68/45 (20/7)||77/54 (25/12)||81/59 (27/15)||78/56 (26/13)||70/48 (21/9)||58/37 (14/3)||42/26 (6/-3)||29/13 (-2/-11)|
|La Crosse||26/6 (-3/-14)||32/13 (0/-11)||45/24 (7/-4)||60/37 (16/3)||72/49 (22/9)||81/58 (27/14)||85/63 (29/17)||82/61 (28/16)||74/52 (23/11)||61/40 (16/4)||44/27 (7/-3)||30/14 (-1/-10)|
|Madison||25/9 (-4/-13)||31/14 (-1/-10)||43/25 (6/-4)||57/35 (14/2)||69/46 (21/8)||78/56 (26/13)||82/61 (28/16)||79/59 (26/15)||71/50 (22/10)||60/39 (16/4)||43/28 (6/-2)||30/16 (-1/-9)|
|Milwaukee||28/13 (-2/-11)||32/18 (0/-8)||43/27 (6/-3)||54/36 (12/2)||66/46 (19/8)||76/56 (24/13)||81/63 (27/17)||79/62 (26/17)||72/54 (22/12)||60/43 (16/6)||46/31 (8/-1)||33/19 (1/-7)|
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2000, Wisconsin had a population of 5,363,675. Wisconsin's population was reported as 6.4% under the age of 5, 25.5% under 18, and 13.1% were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 50.6% of the population.
Since its founding, Wisconsin has been ethnically heterogeneous. Following the period of French fur traders, the next wave of settlers were miners, many of whom were Cornish, who settled the southwest area of the state. The next wave was dominated by "Yankees," migrants from New England and upstate New York; in the early years of statehood, they dominated the state's heavy industry, finance, politics and education. Between 1850 and 1900, large numbers of European immigrants followed them, including Germans, Scandinavians (the largest group being Norwegian), and smaller groups of Belgians, Dutch, Swiss, Finns, Irish, Poles and others. In the 20th century, large numbers of Mexicans and African Americans came, settling mainly in Milwaukee; and after end of the Vietnam War came a new influx of Hmongs.
The five largest ancestry groups in Wisconsin are: German (42.6%), Irish (10.9%), Polish (9.3%), Norwegian (8.5%), English (6.5%). German is the most common ancestry in every county in the state, except Menominee, Trempealeau and Vernon. Wisconsin has the highest percentage of residents of Polish ancestry of any state. The various ethnic groups settled in different areas of the state. Although Germans settled throughout the state, the largest concentration was in Milwaukee. Norwegians settled in lumbering and farming areas in the north and west. Small colonies of Belgians, Swiss, Finns and other groups settled in their particular areas, with Irish and Polish immigrants settling primarily in urban areas. African Americans came to Milwaukee, especially from 1940 on. Menominee County is the only county in the eastern United States with an American Indian majority.86% of Wisconsin's African American population lives in five cities: Milwaukee, Racine, Madison, Kenosha and Green Bay; Milwaukee itself is home to nearly three-fourths of the state's African Americans. Milwaukee ranks in the top 10 major U.S. cities with the highest number of African Americans per capita. In the Great Lakes region, only Detroit and Cleveland have a higher percentage of African Americans.
Numerous ethnic festivals are held throughout Wisconsin to celebrate its heritage. Such festivals include Summerfest, Oktoberfest, German Fest, Festa Italiana, Bastille Days, Syttende Mai (Norwegian Constitution Day), Brat(wurst) Days in Sheboygan, Cheese Days in Monroe and Mequon, African World Festival, Indian Summer, Irish Fest and many others.
The largest denominations are Roman Catholic and Lutheran, primarily of the ELCA, Missouri Synod, and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS). The religious affiliations of the Wisconsin residents are shown below:
According to the 2004 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis report, Wisconsin’s gross state product was $211.7 billion. The per capita personal income was $32,157 in 2004. Wisconsin's state budget is facing a $652.3 million shortfall.
The economy of Wisconsin is driven by manufacturing, agriculture, and health care. Although manufacturing accounts for a far greater part of the state's income than farming, Wisconsin is often perceived as a farming state.
The largest employers in Wisconsin are:
Wisconsin produces more dairy products than any other state in the United States except California, and leads the nation in cheese production. Wisconsin ranks second behind California in overall production of milk and butter, and it ranks third in per-capita milk production, behind Idaho and Vermont. Based on poll results, a Holstein cow, an ear of corn, and a wheel of cheese were chosen for Wisconsin's 50 State Quarters design. Wisconsin ranks first in the production of corn for silage, cranberries, ginseng, and snap beans for processing. Wisconsin is also a leading producer of oats, potatoes, carrots, tart cherries, maple syrup, and sweet corn for processing.
Given Wisconsin's strong agricultural tradition, it is not surprising that a large part of the state's manufacturing sector deals with food processing. Some well-known food brands produced in Wisconsin include Oscar Mayer, Tombstone frozen pizza, Johnsonville brats, and Usinger's sausage. Kraft Foods alone employs over 5,000 people in the state. Milwaukee is a major producer of beer and the site of the headquarters of Miller Brewing Company, the nation's second-largest brewer. At one time, Schlitz, Blatz, and Pabst were cornerstone breweries in Milwaukee. Today, Milwaukee's economy is more diverse with an emphasis on health care. In 2004, four of the city's ten largest employers (including the top two) were part of the health care industry.
|State Wild Animal:||White-tailed deer|
|State Dog:||American water spaniel|
|State Flower||Wood violet|
|State Insect||European honey bee|
|State Song||"On, Wisconsin!"|
|State Tree||Sugar maple|
|State Mineral||Galena (Lead sulfide)|
|State Rock||Red granite|
|State Soil||Antigo silt loam|
|State Symbol of |
Wisconsin is also home to several transportation equipment and machinery manufacturers. Major Wisconsin companies in these categories include the Kohler Company, Rockwell Automation, Johnson Controls,Seagrave Fire Apparatus, Pierce Manufacturing(fire apparatus), Briggs & Stratton, Miller Electric, Milwaukee Electric Tool Company, Bucyrus International, Super Steel Products Corp., Oshkosh Truck, and Harley-Davidson. Wisconsin also ranks first nationwide in the production of paper products; the lower Fox River from Lake Winnebago to Green Bay has 24 paper mills along its 39 mile (63 km) stretch.
Tourism is also a major industry in Wisconsin – the state's third largest, according to the Department of Tourism. This is attributed to the many attractions in the Wisconsin Dells family vacation destination area, which attracts nearly 3 million visitors per year, as well as to the many resorts in northern Wisconsin. Tourist destinations such as the House on the Rock near Spring Green and Circus World Museum in Baraboo also draw thousands of visitors annually, and festivals such as Summerfest and the EAA Oshkosh Airshow draw national attention along with hundreds of thousands of visitors. Door County is a popular destination for boaters because of the large number of natural harbors, bays and ports on the Green Bay and Lake Michigan side of the peninsula that forms the county.
Wisconsin collects personal income tax based on four income-level brackets, which range from 4.6% to 6.75%. The state sales and use tax rate is 5.0%. Fifty-nine counties have an additional sales/use tax of 0.5%. Milwaukee County and four surrounding counties have an additional temporary 0.1% tax which helps fund the Miller Park baseball stadium, which was constructed around the turn of the century. Retailers who make sales subject to applicable county taxes must collect this tax on their retail sales.
The most common property tax assessed on Wisconsin residents is the real property tax, or their residential property tax. Wisconsin does not impose a property tax on vehicles, but does levy an annual registration fee. Property taxes are the most important tax revenue source for Wisconsin's local governments, as well as major methods of funding school districts, vocational technical colleges, special purpose districts and tax incremental finance districts. Equalized values are based on the full market value of all taxable property in the state, except for agricultural land. In order to provide property tax relief for farmers, the value of agricultural land is determined by its value for agricultural uses, rather than for its possible development value. Equalized values are used to distribute state aid payments to counties, municipalities, and technical colleges. Assessments prepared by local assessors are used to distribute the property tax burden within individual municipalities.
Wisconsin does not assess a tax on intangible property. Wisconsin does not collect inheritance taxes. Until January 1, 2008 Wisconsin's estate tax was decoupled from the federal estate tax laws; therefore the state imposed its own estate tax on certain large estates.
There are no toll roads in Wisconsin; highway and road construction and maintenance is paid for from general public revenues.
The capital is Madison.
State Executive Officers
During the period of the Civil War, Wisconsin was a Republican and pro-Union stronghold. Ethno-religious issues in the late 19th century caused a brief split in the Republican coalition. Through the first half of the 20th century, Wisconsin's politics were dominated by Robert La Follette and his sons, originally of the Republican Party, but later of the revived Progressive Party. Since 1945, the state has maintained a close balance between Republicans and Democrats. Republican Senator Joe McCarthy was a controversial national figure in the early 1950s. Recent leading Republicans include former Governor Tommy Thompson and Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.; prominent Democrats include Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold, and Congressman David Obey.
Much of the state's political history involved coalitions among different ethnic groups. The most famous controversy dealt with foreign language teaching in schools. This was fought out in the Bennett Law campaign of 1890, when the Germans switched to the Democratic Party because of the Republican Party's support of the Bennett Law, which led to a major victory for the Democrats.
The cities of Wisconsin have been active in increasing the availability of legislative information on the internet, thereby providing for greater government transparency. Currently three of the five most populous cities in Wisconsin provide their constituents with internet based access of all public records directly from the cities’ databases. Wisconsin cities started to make this a priority after Milwaukee began doing so, on their page, in 2001. One such city, Madison, has been named the Number 1 digital city by the Center for Digital Government in consecutive years. Nearly 18 percent of Wisconsin’s population has the ability to access their municipality’s information in this way.
Wisconsin has voted for the Democratic presidential nominee in the last six elections. The urban centers of Milwaukee and Madison tend to vote strongly Democratic. The suburbs of those cities are politically diverse, but tend to vote Republican. Counties in the western part of the state tend to be liberal, a tradition passed down from Scandinavian immigrants. The rural areas in the northern and eastern part of the state are the most solidly Republican areas in Wisconsin.
In the 2008 presidential election, Wisconsin voted for the Democratic presidential nominee, Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Obama captured 56% of the vote statewide, with the urban centers of Milwaukee and Madison voting strongly Democratic. Bucking the historic trend, Brown County (home to Green Bay) and Outagamie County (home to Appleton) voted for Obama over John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee. In all, McCain captured approximately 42% of the vote statewide and won 13 of the state's 72 counties. Of the counties won by McCain, only a handful were by greater than 55% of the vote (Florence, Green Lake, Ozaukee, Washington, and Waukesha, with Washington County providing his largest single-county percentage victory in the state). In all, Obama was successful in 59 counties, transcending the state's usual east/west and urban/suburban/rural divides.
Wisconsin ranked second in voter turnout in the 2008 presidential election, behind Minnesota.
The last election in which Wisconsin supported a Republican Presidential candidate was in 1984. However, both the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections were close, with Wisconsin receiving heavy doses of national advertising because it was a "swing," or pivot, state. Al Gore carried the presidential vote in 2000 by only 5,700 votes, and John Kerry won Wisconsin in 2004 by 11,000 votes. However, in 2008, Barack Obama carried the state by 381,000 votes and with 56%. Republicans had a stronghold in the Fox Valley but elected a Democrat, Steve Kagen, of Appleton, for the 8th Congressional District in 2006. Republicans have held Waukesha County. The City of Milwaukee heads the list of Wisconsin's Democratic strongholds, which also includes Madison and the state's Native American reservations. Wisconsin's largest Congressional district, the 7th, has been a Democratic stronghold since 1969. Its representative, David Obey, chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee.
In 2006, Democrats gained in a national sweep of opposition to the Bush administration, and the Iraq War. The retiring GOP 8th District Congressman, Mark Green, of Green Bay, ran against the incumbent Governor Jim Doyle. Green lost by 8% statewide, making Doyle the first Democratic Governor to be re-elected in 32 years. The Republicans lost control of the state Senate. Although Democrats gained eight seats in the state Assembly, Republicans retained a five vote majority in that house. In 2008, Democrats regained control of the State Assembly by a 52-46 margin, marking the first time since 1987 the both the governor and state legislature were both Democratic.
Wisconsin's self-promotion as "America's Dairyland" sometimes leads to a mistaken impression that it is an exclusively rural state. However, Wisconsin contains cities and towns of all sizes. Over 68% of Wisconsin residents live in urban areas, with the Greater Milwaukee area home to roughly one-third of the state's population. Milwaukee is at the northern edge of an urban area bordering Lake Michigan that stretches southward into greater Chicago and northwestern Indiana, with a population of over 11 million. With over 602,000 residents Milwaukee proper is the 22nd-largest city in the country. The string of cities along the western edge of Lake Michigan is generally considered to be an example of a megalopolis. Madison's dual identity as state capital and college town gives it a cultural richness unusual in a city its size. With a population of around 220,000, Madison is also a very fast-growing city. Madison's suburb, Middleton, was also ranked the "Best Place to Live in America" in 2007 by Money Magazine. Medium-size cities dot the state and anchor a network of working farms surrounding them. As of 2007, there were 12 cities in Wisconsin with a population of 50,000 or more. Cities and villages are incorporated urban areas in Wisconsin. Towns are unincorporated minor civil divisions of counties.
Wisconsin, along with Minnesota and Michigan, was among the Midwestern leaders in the emergent American state university movement following the Civil War in the United States. By the turn of the century, education in the state advocated the "Wisconsin Idea," which emphasized for service to the people of the state. The "Wisconsin Idea" exemplified the Progressive movement within colleges and universities at the time. Today, public education in Wisconsin includes both the 26-campus University of Wisconsin System, headquartered in Madison, and the 16-campus Wisconsin Technical College System which coordinates with the University of Wisconsin. Notable private colleges and universities include Marquette University, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Medical College of Wisconsin, Concordia University Wisconsin, Edgewood College, Beloit College, and Lawrence University, among others. Elementary, middle and high school education are mandatory by law.
See also: List of high schools in Wisconsin.
See also: List of school districts in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin has more country music festivals than any other state, including Miller Lite Presents Country Fest, Bud Light Presents Country Jam USA, the Coors Hodag Country Festival, Country Thunder USA in Twin Lakes, and the ever-popular Ford Presents Country USA.
See main article: Sports in Wisconsin. Wisconsin is represented by major league teams in three sports: football, baseball, and basketball. Lambeau Field, located in Green Bay, Wisconsin is home to the National Football League's Green Bay Packers. The Packers have been part of the NFL since the league's second season in 1921 and currently hold the record for the most NFL titles, earning the city of Green Bay the self-given nickname "Titletown". The Green Bay Packers are one of the most successful small-market professional sports franchises in the world and have won 12 NFL championships, including the first two AFL-NFL Championship games (Super Bowls I and II) and Super Bowl XXXI. The city fully supports their team, as evidenced by the 60,000 person waiting list for season tickets to Lambeau Field, which is referred to as the "frozen tundra" and is considered by many football enthusiasts to be "hallowed ground." The Milwaukee Brewers, the state's major league baseball team, are based out of Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Before Miller Park was opened in 2001, the Brewers played their home games at Milwaukee County Stadium. In 1982, the Brewers won the American League Championship, marking their most successful season. The Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Association play home games at the Bradley Center. The Bucks won the NBA Championship in 1971. The state also has minor league teams in hockey (Milwaukee Admirals) and baseball (the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, based in Appleton and the Beloit Snappers of the Class A minor leagues). Wisconsin is also home to the Madison Mallards, La Crosse Loggers, Eau Claire Express, Green Bay Bullfrogs, and Wisconsin Woodchucks of the Northwoods League, a collegiate all-star summer league.
In addition to professional teams, Wisconsin is home to many successful college sports programs. The Wisconsin Badgers, teams based out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, hold many NCAA division championship titles in their respective sports. This includes a historic dual-championship in 2006 when both the women's and men's hockey teams won national titles. The Wisconsin football team has also seen much success after the hiring of Barry Alvarez as head coach. Alvarez led the Badgers to three Rose Bowl victories, including back to back victories in the years 1999 and 2000. The Badgers football program, playing at Camp Randall Stadium, enjoys similar loyalty to the Packers; both teams are known to sell out their entire schedules far in advance.The Wisconsin Badger men's basketball team has also seen success over the past decade, with a trip to college basketball's Final Four in 2000.
The Marquette Golden Eagles of the Big East Conference are the state's other major collegiate program. They are known nationally for their Men's Basketball team which, under the direction of Al McGuire, won the NCAA National Championship in 1977. The team, led by Dwyane Wade, returned to the Final Four in 2003.
The USS Wisconsin was named in honor of this state.
Known as "America's Dairyland," Wisconsin is well known for cheese. Citizens of Wisconsin are referred to as Wisconsinites, although a common nickname (sometimes used pejoratively) among non-residents is "Cheeseheads." This is due to the prevalence and quality of cheesemaking in the state, and for the novelty hats made of yellow foam in the shape of a triangular block of cheese. Cheese curds are an extremely popular treat, exported as gifts throughout the country. The state is also known for its alcohol production and consumption, and it is historically home to a large number of breweries and bars per capita. A lesser known, but still significant nickname for Wisconsin is "The Copper State," referring to the copper mines in the northwestern part of the state.
Wisconsin is very popular for outdoor activities especially hunting and fishing. One of the most popular game animals is the Whitetail deer. In 2008, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reported the pre-hunt deer population projection to be about 1.5 - 1.7 million. Each year in Wisconsin, well over 600,000 deer hunting licenses are sold. Visitors to Wisconsin during the Thanksgiving holiday will see many hunters in rural areas wearing blaze orange gear for Wisconsin's gun-deer hunting season.
The Milwaukee Art Museum in Milwaukee, designed by Santiago Calatrava, is known for its interesting architecture. The Milwaukee County Zoological Gardens cover over 200 acres (800,000 m²) of land on the far west side of the city. Madison is home to the Vilas Zoo which is free for all visitors, and the Olbrich Gardens conservatory, as well as the hub of cultural activity at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It is also known for Monona Terrace, a convention center that was designed by Taliesin Architect Anthony Puttnam, based loosely on a 1930s design by Frank Lloyd Wright, a world-renowned architect and Wisconsin native who was born in Richland Center. Wright's home and studio in the 20th century was at Taliesin, south of Spring Green. Decades after Wright's death, Taliesin remains an architectural office and school for his followers.
The shape of the Wisconsin along with the Door County peninsula, have lead many of its residents to refer the state in the shape of a hand, often pointing on their hand to someone unfamiliar with certain locations.
Langlade has a unique soil that is rarely found outside of the county called Antigo Silt Loam.
See additional books at History of Wisconsin
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