15 Interesting Facts About Wisconsin

Were you aware that the deadliest wildfire in the US happened in Wisconsin in 1871 and claimed around 3,000 lives?

Wisconsin, also known as “America’s Dairyland,” the “Cheese State,” and the “Badger State,” became the 30th state to join the United States on May 29th, 1848.

It boasts a population of 5,822,434 people as of 2019, making it the 20th most populous state in the country.

Wisconsin is surrounded by Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, and Illinois.

It is the 23rd largest state with a total land and water area of 65,498 square miles (169,640 square kilometers).

The capital city of Wisconsin is Madison, located in the state’s central region southward.

However, let’s move on to some of the more surprising facts about the Badger State!

Wisconsin has had human inhabitants for over 12,000 years!

The Paleo-Indians, who were the first people to settle in North America, are believed to have lived in the area now known as Wisconsin.

They migrated from modern-day Russia through a land bridge that used to exist where the Bering Strait is now and arrived in Alaska around 15,000 years ago.

Over the following several thousand years, they spread throughout the continent and hunted massive animals such as mammoths, giant beavers, and mastodons.

As these animals went extinct, the Paleo-Indians settled down and began developing agriculture around 1,000 BC, leading to substantial growth in their culture and societies.

Wisconsin’s early settlers built tens of thousands of raised mounds in the shape of animals.

Between 350 and 1300 AD, the people who lived in Wisconsin constructed many earthen mounds all over the region, more than any other part of North America.

Unlike other mounds, which were built to bury the dead, these were constructed in the form of various animals, such as lynxes, water spirits, panthers, bison, and birds.

While some of the mounds did house the dead, they were mostly built for religious reasons.

Between 15,000 and 20,000 of these mounds were built in the Wisconsin area, with approximately 4,000 remaining to this day.

When the Europeans arrived, there were at least three main Native American tribes living in Wisconsin.

Before the first European explorers arrived in modern-day Wisconsin, many cultures had risen and fallen.

Early European settlement had poor documentation of Native American tribes, resulting in some being mistakenly classified or lost due to the introduction of European diseases.

There were only three tribes that we are aware of:

  • The Chiwere-speaking Ho-Chunk (also known as the Winnebago, after whom the famous RV was named) in the southwest.
  • The Algonquian-speaking Menominee in the northeast.
  • The Dakota Oyate, who spoke a Siouan language in the northwest.

Following European settlement, other tribes moved into the region, mostly pushed out of their ancestral lands by force.

French explorers were the first Europeans to visit Wisconsin. In 1634, Jean Nicolet, a famous French explorer, was sent by the governor of New France to establish trade with the Ho-Chunk people of Wisconsin. Nicolet became the first European to reach Lake Michigan and lived with the Ho-Chunk in Green Bay for the winter before returning to New France. France’s contact with the region was peaceful compared to British attempts in the New England colonies. For the next hundred years, France established missions, forts, and trading hubs in the area. European settlement of Wisconsin began when Britain took control of the region in 1763 after the French and Indian War. Although some settlers established permanent residency, most operated trading posts instead of struggling to survive in the area. By 1780, the first farms were being tilled in the Green Bay region. Wisconsin was under US control by the 1820s and was a part of the Michigan Territory. Early American settlers took possession of Native American lead mines in the region, and a “gray gold rush” followed, with prospectors flocking to the area. The state gained its nickname, the Badger State, from the lead miners who often lived in shelters carved into the hillsides. The Republican Party was born in Ripon, Wisconsin, in 1854, as a response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which brought the issue of slavery into question. During the American Civil War, 91,379 Wisconsinites fought.

In 1848, Wisconsin became a part of the United States of America as a free state. During the American Civil War, it fought for the Union and sent soldiers to western Confederate states like Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. One in every nine people from Wisconsin fought in the war, but most of them died from diseases. Despite this, the state had many distinguished regiments of brave soldiers.

Wisconsin was the first state in the United States to establish a dairy school. When the University of Wisconsin-Madison opened the school, only two students enrolled in the first year. However, the school’s success skyrocketed when Professor Stephen Babcock developed a test to measure milk’s fat content easily. Farmers could use this test to prove the quality of their milk and sell it at a higher price. The “Babcock Test” was so successful that the dairy school’s attendance increased to 75 students in the second year. Today, Wisconsin is the second-largest milk producer in the US, and the Babcock test may have played a significant role in this achievement.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, hosts the “World’s largest Music Festival” called Summerfest. It has been held annually since 1968 and has twelve stages that host more than 1000 bands every year for eleven days. Despite attracting as many as 800,000 people, it is not the largest music festival in the world. Nevertheless, the festival still advertises itself as the world’s largest music festival.

People from Wisconsin are sometimes referred to as “cheeseheads.” This nickname comes from the state’s production of cheese en masse due to their excess milk. Football and baseball fans from Illinois used this as an opportunity to poke fun at their Wisconsin rivals, but Wisconsinites embraced the nickname. In fact, fans of the Wisconsin Green Bay Packers NFL team wear hats in the shape of big chunks of cheese!

Wisconsin’s Granite Peak ski resort, built in 1937, was one of the first ski resorts in North America. It quickly became a favorite among winter sports enthusiasts from all over the US. When the resort opened, it had six separate ski runs with a T-bar style ski lift powered by a Ford V8 engine.

The powerful engine of Granite Peak was designed to carry skiers half a mile up the slopes, which was the longest of its kind during its time of construction.

Nowadays, Granite Peak is considered the top destination for skiing in the region and offers an impressive 68 different runs and four distinct terrain parks.

The state of Wisconsin was named after the Wisconsin River, but the origin of the river’s name is somewhat uncertain.

In 1673, Jacques Marquette, a French-Canadian explorer and Jesuit, traveled through modern-day Wisconsin and named the river Meskousing. However, due to Marquette’s poor handwriting, the first two letters of the name were misread as “Ou,” which was printed on many maps and eventually became the river’s misspelled name.

The meaning of Meskousing is unclear, as the Miami nation who originally named it left the region shortly after. Attempts to decipher its meaning have yielded different interpretations, including “River Running Through a Red Place” and “Red Stone Place.”

In 1871, Wisconsin experienced the deadliest wildfire in US history.

During the summer of 1871, the forests surrounding Peshtigo in Wisconsin’s Green Bay were extremely dry due to the intense heat. Brush was typically cleared by burning it, and it’s believed that workers clearing brush for railway tracks may have started the blaze. On October 8, 1871, a ferocious fire broke out, engulfing Peshtigo and causing the deaths of approximately 3,000 people. Although it was the deadliest wildfire in US history, it is often overshadowed by the Chicago Fire, which occurred on the same day.

Yellow margarine was banned in Wisconsin for 72 years.

At the turn of the 20th century, Wisconsin’s dairy industry was the nation’s leader in dairy sales. In an effort to protect this industry, the sale and production of yellow oleomargarine, or yellow margarine, was banned in 1895. This ban lasted for 72 years, forcing fans of the spread to either use white margarine or smuggle yellow margarine from neighboring states. Although the ban was eventually lifted in 1967, restaurants and cafes in Wisconsin still only serve butter on their tables.

If restaurants are caught serving only margarine, their owners may receive a fine. Patrons can still request margarine, though. Repeat offenses may result in imprisonment. Wisconsin has much to offer, including rolling hills, numerous lakes, and delicious cheese that’s among the best in the world. It’s definitely worth taking a trip there.


1. What is the state motto of Wisconsin?

The official state motto of Wisconsin is “Forward”. It was adopted in 1851 and has been featured on the state seal since 1855. The motto represents the state’s continuous drive for progress and improvement, both economically and socially.

2. What is the significance of the Wisconsin State Capitol building?

The Wisconsin State Capitol building is an iconic landmark in the state’s capital city of Madison. Completed in 1917, it is one of the most impressive examples of the Beaux-Arts architectural style in the United States. The building features a dome that is taller than the dome of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C. The interior of the building is equally impressive, with ornate marble and mosaics throughout. The Capitol building is also home to the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the Wisconsin State Assembly and Senate chambers.

3. What is the state tree of Wisconsin?

The state tree of Wisconsin is the sugar maple. This tree is known for its beautiful fall foliage and is an important source of maple syrup. The sugar maple is also the state tree of New York, Vermont, and West Virginia.

4. What is the largest city in Wisconsin?

The largest city in Wisconsin is Milwaukee, with a population of over 590,000 people. Milwaukee is located on the western shore of Lake Michigan and is known for its breweries, museums, and festivals. The city is also home to several professional sports teams, including the Milwaukee Brewers and the Milwaukee Bucks.

5. What is the origin of the name “Wisconsin”?

The name “Wisconsin” comes from the Native American language of the Miami-Illinois people. The word “Meskonsing” means “this stream meanders through something red”, referring to the red sandstone bluffs along the Wisconsin River. The name was later anglicized to “Wisconsin” and was adopted as the name of the state when it was admitted to the Union in 1848.

Rate article
Add a comment