1. Home
  2. Countries
  3. United States
  4. Wisconsin

Wisconsin

Map of Wisconsin
Locator Map of Wisconsin

During the last Ice Age, North America was sculpted by massive glaciers and the subsequent craters formed by retreating (melting) ice. In that process the Great Lakes were born and this state named Wisconsin took shape.

An advanced mound-building culture (called the Mississippians) flourished in this area of North America from 800 A.D., up to the mid-15th century. That civilization vanished for unknown reasons.

winnebago indiansWhen European explorers arrived, the area was inhabited by a variety of Indian tribes, including the Kickapoo, Menominee, Sioux and Winnebago.

In 1634, while looking for a northwest passage to China, the French explorer Jean Nicolet was the first European to reach the area, coming ashore in what is now the city of Green Bay.

French traders and missionaries followed Nicolet into this uncharted land, and in 1660, a trading post and Roman Catholic mission were established near Ashland.

By the end of the century, scattered posts were constructed as small storehouses for furs; none had any permanent settlers as the French were apparently only interested in fur trading with the Indians.

Nicolas Perrot, a French explorer, diplomat, and fur trader, helped establish Green Bay as the center of regional fur trading. In 1686, the French formally claimed all of this region for France.

It subsequently became part of a vast slice of land across North America called New France. France held that land for decades, until the Treaty of Paris of 1763 when it was awarded to the British as a result of their victory in the French and Indian War (1754-1763).

The British dominated the area during the mid-18th century, and they (like the French) were in the fur trading business. British land possessions in America, including the Wisconsin region ended in 1783, after their crushing defeat in the American Revolution War.

In 1787, Wisconsin lands became a part of America's Northwest Territory, and in 1800, a part of the Indiana Territory. Later, it was merged into both the Illinois and Michigan territories.

A lead mining boom in the 1820's brought thousands of new settlers. The inevitable conflicts with indigenous Native Americans over land (and mining) rights motivated the Federal government to uproot and force (by treaty or by deception) entire tribes west of the Mississippi River.

black hawk warIn what proved to be a disastrous attempt to regain their indigenous homelands, the Fox and Saux Indians returned in 1832. The subsequent Black Hawk War and its final battle, the Battle of Bad Axe, resulted in the deaths (or massacre) of hundreds of Indians, and literally ended any future threat of Native American attacks.

Although an unwarranted fear of Native Americans remained for years, settlers continued to stream into Wisconsin. On April 20, 1836 the Wisconsin Territory was created by an act of the U.S. Congress. It included all of the present day states of Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as parts of North and South Dakota.

In the early 1840's, as settlements continued to be built, and farmland developed, the population exceeded 150,000 inhabitants. The territory applied for statehood; a constitution was drafted. and on May 29, 1848, Wisconsin was admitted to the Union as the 30th state.

With statehood for Wisconsin, the remaining portion of the original Wisconsin Territory was officially dissolved and incorporated into the Minnesota Territory in 1849.

Statehood brought economic growth, mostly fueled by Wisconsin's expanding railroad network. By 1860, railroads crisscrossed the state, enabling the continuing development of the mining industry (and others) as Wisconsin businesses could (now) ship their products across America, and beyond.

During America's Civil War (1861-1865), Wisconsin remained a member of the Union, and over 90,000 of its men marched off to war. Although Wisconsin was detached from the hostilities, its soldiers participated in many battles of that bloody war, and nearly 4,000 of its bravest were killed in action.

wisconsin cowWhile southern states suffered economically during the Civil War's reconstruction period, Wisconsin was quickly on an economic upswing. Its wheat farmers were productive and the meatpacking and beer-brewing industries in Milwaukee were expanding rapidly.

When immigrants from Europe (especially those from Scandinavia) arrived in large numbers, their knowledge of cheese-making techniques helped propel the state into prominence, and it became the leading producer of dairy products in the United States.

In the densely-forested northern regions of the state, logging and lumber industries were growing fast, and by the 1870's, lumbering was Wisconsin's most important industry; huge paper mills opened, and dozens of wood related business provided new jobs.

The tragic events of World War I (1914-1918) certainly slowed Wisconsin's economic boom, but it was the Great Depression (1929-1939) that played real havoc, especially in the industrialized Milwaukee area.

World War II (1939-1945) was a comeback of sorts for Wisconsin as the state participated aggressively in producing products for that war effort; shipbuilding proved a major catalyst for new jobs and many spinoff businesses. Later in the century high-tech and service industries rose to prominence, and Milwaukee's beer business exploded with growth.

green bay packersKnown for its natural beauty, clear (clean) lakes and rivers, and endless green forests, Wisconsin is also famous for its cultural attractions, and of course, Harley-Davidson Motorcycles, and the Green Bay Packers.

Wisconsin is one of the most popular vacation destinations in America's Midwest. It offers fabulous family vacation choices - spring, summer, fall or winter. Yes, winter, as those colder months bring exceptional hunting, ice fishing, skating, skiing and snowmobiling conditions to many areas of the state.

Latest by WorldAtlas