History of Wisconsin
The first people on the territory of present-day Wisconsin were Paleo-Indian tribes who arrived 10000 BC. They were primarily hunters. In the next, Archaic period, the tribes were hunting, but also fishing and gathering food. First agricultural societies emerged between 1000 BC and 100 AD, during the Woodland period. They were replaced by the Oneota and Mississippian cultures, who are considered ancestors of Ho-Chunk and Ioway tribes. Other native peoples who were present in the area when the Europeans came include Fox, Sauk, Pottawatomie and Ojibwa.
The first European in Wisconsin was Jean Nicolet, who arrived to Green Bay in 1634. Other French explorers came in the following years and decades, mostly for the purpose of fur trade with the natives. The French frequently visited the area, engaged in trade and explored the land, but they made no permanent settlements. After Britain won the land in the French and Indian War in 1763, the French continued working in the area and some even settled there.
Britain was holding Wisconsin until the American Revolutionary War. In 1783, they signed a treaty and passed the land to the United States. However, the US had no official power over Wisconsin and the British remained in de facto control until the War of 1812, when the Americans finally established their presence. Until that point, the economy in Wisconsin was mostly based on fur trade but now it started shifting towards mining. Several lead mines opened and attracted a new wave of immigrants, both from the US and from Europe. Most mineral deposits were located in Mineral Point and the surrounding areas.
The sudden arrival of a large wave of white immigrants was bound to cause difficulties and tensions with the Native Americans. The federal government decided they should be removed from the area and started the forced relocation to the lands west of the Mississippi. This escalated in violent conflicts, most notably the Winnebago War of 1827 and the Black Hawk War of 1832, which ended in Bad Axe massacre, survived by only 1000 Native Americans or less.
As the Native Americans no longer posed a threat in the area and since they vacated a lot of land, a second wave of immigrants started arriving. With the growing population, it was clear that the area needed to be organized in some sort of territorial unit and the Wisconsin Territory was established in 1836. The third wave of settlers came in early 1840s and in 1848 Wisconsin was admitted to the Union as the 30th state.
During that period, the national politics were dominated by the issue of slavery. Wisconsin was a free state from its foundation and it was the abolitionist center of the north. In 1854, a runaway slave from Missouri was arrested in Racine under the Fugitive Slave Law. The abolitionists from the area formed a mob and liberated the slave from the prison, arranging for his escape to Canada. After this, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin declared the law unconstitutional and abolished it. The same year, a group of anti-slavery activists founded the Republican Party in Ripon. The party became dominant not only in Wisconsin but in the north for the several decades.
During the Civil War, Wisconsin was part of the Union and fought for it with more than 90,000 soldiers.
The early years of statehood were also marked by certain changes in the state’s economy. Lead mining was replaced by agriculture as the state’s predominant industry. The southern parts of the state became the center of the wheat production in the state. Large production required better agricultural equipment and better transportation, which led to the foundation of new factories, companies and railroads.
The northern parts of the state, on the other hand, were dominated by the lumber production. Many new sawmills opened, the economy flourished, but all this had a detrimental effect on the environment. By the end of the 19th century, many parts of Wisconsin were completely deforested and the soil was ruined by aggressive farming. This, naturally, led to a severe decline in both the agriculture and the lumber industry.
In the late 19th century, many farmers abandoned wheat production and turned to dairy instead. The geography and climate in Wisconsin were suitable for dairy farming and, in addition, many immigrants carried their traditions in cheese-making. In the early 20th century, the state initiated a program for reestablishing the forests, which later allowed the new industrial boom of renewable lumber industry and also the development of tourism in northern parts of Wisconsin. In the same period, the manufacturing industry also boomed, mainly thanks to a massive flow of European immigrants, which gave rise to the growth of urban centers, such as Milwaukee, which produced everything, from food products to heavy machinery and tools.
Politically, the early 20th century was marked by the dominance of progressive politics. Some of the accomplishments of the progressive Republicans (the most notable of whom was Robert M. La Follette) include the introduction of worker’s compensation, the first income tax in the state and the America’s first statewide primary election system.
In the second half of the 20th century, Wisconsin saw several extreme political events, from the Senator McCarthy’s crusade against communists to radical student movements and antiwar protests that sometimes ended in blood (such as the Sterling Hall bombing).
In the last few decades, many things in Wisconsin have changed. The politics are more moderate and the economy relies less on heavy industries and manufacturing and more on services.
To the north, Wisconsin is bordered by lake Superior, Montreal River and Michigan, to the east by Lake Michigan, to the south by Illinois, to the southwest by Iowa and to the northwest by Minnesota. The state does not border with Canada.
Geographically, Wisconsin is quit diverse. It is divided into five regions. Lake Superior Lowland is along the banks of the lake and slightly inland. The Northern Highland is covered in forests, lakes and mountains, such as Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and the highest point in Wisconsin, Timms Hill.
The Central Plain region is located in the middle of the state and it is known for several unique sandstone formations. Some of the best farmland in the state is also located in this region.
The Eastern Ridges and Lowlands is the region in the southeast of Wisconsin and it’s where most of the large cities are located.
The Western Upland region in the southwest consists of farmland and forest and it is fairly rugged. This region is part of the Driftless Area that also includes parts of Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois and is characterized by deep bluffs in sedimentary rock.
Wisconsin has many protected areas. Those that fall under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service include Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, North Country National Scenic Trail and Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.
Some of the major rivers in the state are Mississippi River, Wisconsin River, St. Croix River and Chippewa River, while the major lakes are Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Winnebago.
Population of Wisconsin
Wisconsin has a population of 5,711,767, which makes it the 20th most populous US state. The state has always been very heterogeneous in terms of ethnicity. The first explorers and settlers were French, the first wave brought a lot of Cornish people, while the second wave was predominately “Yankee” – immigrants New England and New York. At the turn of the century, the large groups of immigrants consisted of Germans, Scandinavians, Belgians, Swiss, Dutch, Finns, Poles, Irish and Italians. Among the immigrants who came to Wisconsin in the 20th century, the largest groups are Mexicans and Hmongs from Vietnam. African Americans also came in the 20th century.
According to the US Census Bureau, 86.2% of the population in 2010 was White, 6.3% was African American or Black, 5.9% was Hispanic or Latino, 2.3% was Asian, 1% was American Indian or Alaska Native and 1.8% were of two or more races.
The most common ancestry in Wisconsin is German, followed by Irish, Polish, Norwegian, English and Italian.
Most of the African American population in the state lives in large urban centers. In fact, three-fourths of black Americans in Wisconsin live in Milwaukee.
As for the Asian population, a large portion of it are Hmongs who arrived after the Vietnam War.
The state is predominately Christian, with the largest denominational groups being Catholic, Mainline Protestant and Evangelical Protestant.
The largest city in Wisconsin is Milwaukee, with 594,833 inhabitants. The second-largest (and also the state capital) is Madison, followed by Green Bay, Kenosha, Racine, Appleton, Waukesha, Oshkosh, Eau Claire and Janesville.
With $248.3 billion in 2010, Wisconsin had the 21st highest gross state product in the United States. The basic economy sectors are agriculture, service (especially health care) and manufacturing. The unemployment rate in 2010 was 7.9%.
The largest employers in the state include Wal-Mart, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Milwaukee Public Schools, U.S. Postal Services and Wisconsin Department of Corrections.
Wisconsin is known as “The Dairy State” due to its large dairy production. The state is the largest producer of cheese in the United States and second-largest producer of milk. Other agricultural products of focus in Wisconsin include corn, ginseng, cranberries, oats, snap beans, potatoes, sweet corn, carrots and tart cherries. Food processing is also a significant industry, with brands and products such as Oscar Mayer, Johnsonville brats, Usinger’s sausage and Tombstone frozen pizza. The state is also a major beer producer. Some of the companies that used to have headquarters in Milwaukee include Miller, Blatz, Pabst and Schlitz.
Major manufacturing companies in Wisconsin include Miller Electric, Milwaukee Electric Tool Company, Mercury Marine, Kohler Company and Harley-Davidson.
The third largest industry in Wisconsin is tourism. Major tourist destinations and attractions include the famous House on the Rock, Circus World Museum, the Wisconsin Dells, Door Peninsula, as well as many parks, trails, forests and historic sites throughout the state.
Wisconsin Government and Legislation
The government in Wisconsin is divided into three branches: executive, legislative and judicial. The executive branch consists of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Treasurer and State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The legislative branch consists of the Wisconsin State Legislature, divided into Wisconsin State Assembly with 99 members and the Wisconsin State Senate with 33 members.
The court system of the state has four levels- the Supreme Court is the highest, followed by the Court of Appeals, circuit courts and municipal courts.
Wisconsin has eight congressional districts and two representatives in the U.S. Senate.
During and after the Civil War, Wisconsin was not only a predominately Republican state, but also the birthplace of the Republican Party. The Party experienced some difficulties and divisions, which lead to the revival of the Progressive Party, which was also very strong. After the end of the World War II, the state had been divided almost equally between the Democrats and the Republicans. In the 2010 elections, the Republicans massively prevailed over Democrats, taking both houses and also the governor’s office.
Education in Wisconsin
Wisconsin is famous for its long tradition of progressive ideas in education. Along with other Midwestern states, Wisconsin was the leader of the state university movement after the Civil War. In the beginning of the 20th century, the state was one of the strongest proponents of what was later called the “Wisconsin Idea” that promoted the contributions o f the public universities to the state, in form of providing the skills and information, offering advice and serving in office.
The major institution of higher education in Wisconsin is the University of Wisconsin System with 26 campuses, along with the state’s flagship university, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Wisconsin Technical College System with 16 campuses. Some of the top private colleges and universities in the state include Lawrence University, Carthage College, Cardinal Stritch University, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Ripon College and Marquette University.
The dominant form of transportation in Wisconsin is by car. The state has roughly 11,800 miles of interstate and state highways and 103,000 miles of county highways, town roads and streets. There are 5.5 million registered vehicles and 4.1 million drivers licenses issued in Wisconsin. The interstate highways in Wisconsin include I-535, I-43, I-90, I-94, I-794 and I-894.
Amtrak has two passenger lines in Wisconsin: the Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle and Portland and the Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee. Other passenger railroads in Wisconsin include Wisconsin Greath Northern Railroad, Laona and Northern Railway, Osceola and St. Croix Valley Railway and Metra. The state also has a very wide network of freight railroads.
The largest airport in Wisconsin is the General Mitchell International in Milwaukee. Madison also has a large airport – Dane County Regional Airport known as Truax Field, and Austin Straubel International Airport is located in Green Bay.