Wisconsin is a U.S. state located in the north-central United States, in the Midwest and Great Lakes regions. It is bordered by Minnesota to the west, Iowa to the southwest, Illinois to the south, Lake Michigan to the east, Michigan to the northeast, and Lake Superior to the north. Wisconsin is the 23rd state by total area and the 20th most populous. The state capital is Madison, and its largest city is Milwaukee, which is located on the western shore of Lake Michigan. The state comprises 72 counties.
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.
Wisconsin has been home to a wide variety of cultures over the past 12,000 years. The first people arrived around 10,000 BCE during the Wisconsin Glaciation. These early inhabitants, called Paleo-Indians, hunted now-extinct ice age animals exemplified by the Boaz mastodon, a prehistoric mastodon skeleton unearthed along with spear points in southwest Wisconsin. After the ice age ended around 8000 BCE, people in the subsequent Archaic period lived by hunting, fishing, and gathering food from wild plants. Agricultural societies emerged gradually over the Woodland period between 1000 BCE to 1000 CE. Toward the end of this period, Wisconsin was the heartland of the "Effigy Mound culture", which built thousands of animal-shaped mounds across the landscape. Later, between 1000 and 1500 CE, the Mississippian and Oneota cultures built substantial settlements including the fortified village at Aztalan in southeast Wisconsin. The Oneota may be the ancestors of the modern Ioway and Ho-Chunk tribes who shared the Wisconsin region with the Menominee at the time of European contact. Other American Indian groups living in Wisconsin when Europeans first settled included the Ojibwa, Sauk, Fox, Kickapoo, and Pottawatomie, who migrated to Wisconsin from the east between 1500 and 1700.
The first European to visit what became Wisconsin was probably the French explorer Jean Nicolet. He canoed west from Georgian Bay through the Great Lakes in 1634, and it is traditionally assumed that he came ashore near Green Bay at Red Banks. Pierre Radisson and Médard des Groseilliers visited Green Bay again in 1654–1666 and Chequamegon Bay in 1659–1660, where they traded for fur with local American Indians. In 1673, Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet became the first to record a journey on the Fox-Wisconsin Waterway all the way to the Mississippi River near Prairie du Chien. Frenchmen like Nicholas Perrot continued to ply the fur trade across Wisconsin through the 17th and 18th centuries, but the French made no permanent settlements in Wisconsin before Great Britain won control of the region following the French and Indian War in 1763. Even so, French traders continued to work in the region after the war, and some, beginning with Charles de Langlade in 1764, now settled in Wisconsin permanently rather than returning to British-controlled Canada.
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 Bey", 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 led to 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.
Settlers from New England began pouring into the southern portion of the state. These were old stock Yankee immigrants, who were descended from the English Puritans who settled New England in the 1600s. The completion of the Erie Canal caused a surge in New England immigration to what was then the Northwest Territory. Some of them were from upstate New York and had parents who had moved to that region from New England shortly after the Revolutionary War. When they arrived in what is now the state of Wisconsin there was nothing but a virgin forest and wild prairie, the New Englanders laid out farms, constructed roads, erected government buildings and established post routes. They brought with them many of their Yankee New England values, such as a passion for education, establishing many schools as well as staunch support for abolitionism. They were mostly members of the Congregationalist Church though some were Episcopalian. New Englanders and New England transplants from upstate New York founded towns such as Racine, Beloit, Burlington and Janesville. Land surveys encouraged pioneers to settle in the area among the abundance of fertile farmland and woodlands. Many of these early settlers established farms and began cultivating wheat and other grains. Continued white settlement led to statehood in 1848.
By 1850 Wisconsin's population was 305,000. Roughly a third (103,000) were Yankees from New England and western New York state. The second largest group were the Germans, numbering roughly 38,000, followed by 28,000 British immigrants from England, Scotland and Wales. There were roughly 63,000 Wisconsin-born residents of the state. The Yankee migrants would be the dominant political class in Wisconsin for many years.
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.
Note: Wisconsin was part of the Northwest Territory organized in 1787, then of Indiana Territory (1800). In 1809 it was included in the new Illinois Territory, except for the northern part of the Door Peninsula, which remained in Indiana Territory. In 1818 Michigan Territory expanded to include the whole of present-day Wisconsin. Wisconsin Territory was organized in 1836 and briefly included all of Minnesota and Iowa and the Dakotas east of the Missouri River. After Iowa Territory was organized in 1838, only northeastern Minnesota, east of the Mississippi River and a line from its source north to the Canadian boundary, remained in Wisconsin Territory. Wisconsin was admitted as a State on May 29, 1848 with essentially its present boundaries. There was only limited census coverage of the present area of the State prior to 1840. In 1790 the Northwest Territory had no census coverage. The 1800 census for Indiana Territory reported populations for Green Bay (50) and Prairie du Chien (65); in 1810 any settlers enumerated in these or other Wisconsin communities were reported as part of Saint Clair County, Illinois Territory. In 1820 Crawford and Brown Counties, Michigan Territory, included nearly all of present-day Wisconsin; Crawford also included northeastern Minnesota but this had no census coverage. This also was the case in 1830, with the addition of Iowa County from part of Crawford. In 1840 some persons in northeastern Minnesota were enumerated in St. Croix County, Wisconsin Territory.. Total for 1820 is of Brown and Crawford Counties, Michigan Territory; total for 1830 is for these and Iowa County, Michigan Territory; the population enumerated in these counties was within the present boundaries of Wisconsin. Total for 1890 includes population (6,450) of certain Indian reservations, not reported by county.
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