Wisconsinites (people who live in Wisconsin) have invented lots of stuff. The state claims that the first kindergarten in the US, possibly the world, took place here in a city called Watertown. Love milk shakes or smoothies? The blender was created in Wisconsin. So was the first ice cream sundae and modern typewriter. Let’s not forget smooth toilet paper. There was a time when toilet paper rolls often had splinters of wood in them. Ouch!
As the 30th state admitted to the Union in 1848, this midwestern state is bordered by Minnesota, Michigan, and Lake Superior to the north, Lake Michigan to the east, Illinois to the south, and Iowa and Minnesota to the west. It’s sometimes called the “Badger State”, but that has nothing to do with the animal as most people think. It refers to the lead miners of the 1820s who traveled for work and even dug tunnels to find somewhere to sleep and stay warm, in the same way as a badger.
While its western neighbor, Minnesota, is called the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Wisconsin actually has more lakes, 15,000 of them! They were created during the last Ice Age about 12,000 years ago.
What really happened
- People may have lived in this area 14,500 years ago. Archaeologists (people who study humans from ancient times and the objects they used called artifacts) discovered 14,500-year-old mammoth bones that had marks on them made by human tools.
- Thousands of years later, the land was inhabited by many Native American tribes that included the Dakota Sioux, Winnebago, and Menominee. Today, 11 federally recognized tribes call the state home.
- In 1634, the first European came, a French explorer named Jean Nicolet. He was really searching for a Northwest Passage to China but instead, found a land rich in beaver furs. Soon Europeans began trading their goods for furs and then took these furs back home where they were in high demand.
- In 1689, a French trader named Nicolas Perrot claimed this land for France.
- In 1754, war broke out between France and Britain. The British won the war in 1763 and gained control of the French land, which included Wisconsin.
- Wisconsin became part of the United States in 1783 after the American Revolution.
- The British were forced out of the area during the War of 1812.
- In the 1820s, lead ore was discovered in Wisconsin. This attracted many new settlers who began to take over the land. The United States government forced Native Americans to move out of Wisconsin, but they later returned and fought battles against the US Army known as the Black Hawk War. Did you know that before he became a US president, Abraham Lincoln was a member of the US Army during the Black Hawk War?
- Before the Civil War (1861-1865), people met in Wisconsin to discuss stopping the spread of slavery. The state became an important part of the Underground Railroad, which helped escaped slaves reach freedom in Canada.
- The most destructive fire in US history took place in 1871 in Wisconsin. Two billion trees burned and twelve hundred people died in what was called “The Great Peshtigo Fire“. According to people who survived the fire, railroad workers clearing land for tracks started a brush fire that moved so fast that it was “like a tornado”.
- In 1882, the first hydroelectric plant in the world (that generates electricity from water) was built at Fox River in Appleton.
Stuff you should know
- In 1917, Wisconsin was the first state to use a numbered system to organize trails and roads throughout the state.
- Wisconsin is America’s undisputed Dairyland.It is the number one producer of cheese in the US and ranks second in terms of the best milk producers. That’s why Wisconsinites are sometimes called Cheeseheads. Nearly every year, master and retired cheesemakers at the National Historic Cheesemaking Center create a 90-pound wheel of Swiss cheese as it was done over a century ago.
- The Republican Party was founded in 1854 as the anti-slavery party in the city of Ripon.
- Practically all the natural lakes in Wisconsin have resulted from glaciers.
Crazy, funny, or just plain weird
- Snowball fights are illegal in the city of Wausau.
- The Fox River is one of the few rivers in the nation that flows north.
- According to Wisconsin lore, the state contains more ghosts per square mile than any other state in the nation. Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever seen one?
- Farm animals have the right of way on Wisconsin roads and highways.
- There are three different UFO festivals held around Wisconsin every year in locations known to have an unusually high number of UFO sightings.
Tell me more
- The coldest temperature ever recorded in Wisconsin happened in Sawyer County in 1996. The temperature dropped to -55 degrees Fahrenheit. Brrr!
- In 2021, a man in Green Lake County almost made history. He grew a pumpkin that weighed 2,520 pounds, which would have set a record in this country as the heaviest pumpkin ever grown and also second heaviest in the world. But he didn’t win any prize. The pumpkin cracked, which disqualified it from competition.
- If you use a computer keyboard, thank Christopher Latham Sholes who invented the QWERTY keyboard, which everyone still uses today. He also invented the first practical typewriter in Wisconsin in 1868. Likewise, other inventions created in the state include the first commercial telephone answering machine and computer zip files.
- Bloomers is considered the rope jumping capital of the world. The city hosts an annual jump rope competition. Here’s just one classic rhyme that you can say while jumping rope:
“Cinderella, dressed in yellow
Went upstairs to kiss a ‘fella
Made a mistake
And kissed a snake
How many doctors
Did it take?”
Do you live in Wisconsin? What do you like best about this state? Or if you visited there, what did you think was interesting that other kids would like to know? Share it with us and we’ll post it along with your first name, age, and state where you live on Mo’s social media pages!