AMONG THE STATES OF THE MIDWEST- WISCONSIN IS 6 th in size, with more than fifty-six thousand square miles, and

     sixth in population, with nearly four million people.


                                                  (1961 DoubleDay)

 In shape Wisconsin is irregular, with only one straight-line border, its southern, Illinois. The eastern border is the shore of Lake Michigan in the south, a diagonal land border in the northeast where Wisconsin loins the northern peninsula of Michigan. The relatively short northern border of the state is the shore of Lake Superior, with the Canadian province of Ontario opposite.

Most of the western border is the winding course of two rivers, the St. Croix in the north, with Minnesota opposite, and the channel of the widening Mississippi in the south, with Minnesota and Iowa beyond.

The greatest north-south dimension of Wisconsin is three hundred miles, its greatest width—across the northern half of the state—two hundred and eighty miles. Wisconsin was the thirtieth state to enter th e Union (1848).

Its name is derived from an Indian word, Misconsing, meaning “Grassy Place.” The state flower is the butterfly violet; the state tree, sugar maple; the state bird, robin; the state animal, badger —from which its nickname, the “Badger State,”



Wisconsin’s natural features include several important rivers, more than eight thousand lakes, including two of the Great Lakes, Michigan and Superior , low wooded mountains, a vast expanse of rolling, once forest-covered alluvial plain, now converted to some of the richest farm and grazing land in the nation.

All of the state except the southwest section (a region of once low mountains now eroded to bold bills) was covered with glacial ice, the same ice sheet which scoured out the basins of the Great Lakes. It left behind the basins for the thousands of smaller lakes which stretch across the whole northern half of the state, contributing to making an outdoor play-ground area of unique opportunity for the visitor.

But the largest lake in the state, Winnebago, lies in the east-central part, fifty-five miles long, connected with Lake Michigan by the Fox River, leading into Wisconsin’s Green Bay.

Wisconsin’s biggest river, shared with Minnesota and Iowa, is the Mississippi along its western limit. Into it flow the Wisconsin, rising in the center of the state, winding south and southwest in a series of broad lake-like channels . Its channel is very close to the channel of the Fox River, flowing into Lake Michigan, a fact which accounted for the early exploration of the state and the discovery of the Mississippi River.

Other important rivers are the St. Croix, the Chippewa and the Black, all flowing into the Mississippi. In several places Wisconsin’s rivers have carved picturesque gorges, the most celebrated the Dells, in the south-central part of the state, in the channel of the Wisconsin River . It is not far from the state’s highest point, nearly two thousand feet, Sugarbush Hill in the Baraboo Range. The lowest point of the state is on the shore of Lake Michigan at about the point where Wisconsin joins Illinois.

The southern third of the state has rich farms and dairy lands, merging gradually into the lakes and forests in the far north.


Wisconsin’s climate is a continental one, subject to extremes of heat and cold, and often sudden changes of weather . In the north, winters are likely to be severe, with heavy snowfall, low temperatures. In the summer, the temperatures in the north are seldom high. In the southern part, particularly along the shore of Lake Michigan, the climate is milder . Rain and snowfall average from thirty to thirty- five inches throughout the year. Mean temperatures range from 15 degrees in January to 73 in July. The most pleasant time for a visit to Wisconsin is during the summer, from about mid-June to early September.


Wisconsin was discovered and settled because French explorers from Canada were seeking a northwest passage to China . The date was 1634, when Jean Nicolet sailed in to Green Bay. Thereafter a trickle of French explorers and trappers followed.

The most famed were the team of Jesuits, Marquette and Joliet, who paddled up the Fox River, made the short portage to the Wisconsin, and, sailing down that river, discovered the Mississippi. It was this portage that gave the state its great value to the French.

To protect it, French forts and pioneer settlements were built, the chief and first being at Prairie du Chien in 1686, at the point where the Wisconsin joins the Mississippi.

The fur trade went on for about two hundred years, with the French naming places and features of the land: La Crosse, Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, Butte des Morts, Flambeau, Lac Vieux Desert.

But there never were many French fur traders in Wisconsin. As late as 1820 there were only two settlements in the state, Green Bay and Prairie du Chien, each with about five hundred people.

Subsequently, successive waves of immigration began to fill the state, reducing the forest areas to farmed fields. First came settlers following the Mississippi north from southern areas into southwestern counties. They found that the great rolling hills of the region contained rich veins of lead. Within the next few years Cornish miners from Cornwall in England, more than seven thousand of them, moved to Wisconsin to work the veins of lead. They built snug stone cottages like their homes in England. There is a whole street of them still in the town of Mineral Point today. Yankee farmers moved into the southeastern part of the state. In 1840 the state’s population, almost entirely in the southern part, was about thirty thousand. Eight years later, 1848, when Wisconsin became a state, it had then increased to more than two hundred thousand.

By 1850 most of the population was either native-born or came from the British Isles. But the decades that followed brought large numbers of Irish, followed by Norwegians and Germans. A Swiss group established New Glarus. Germans settled along the Lake Michigan shore, giving the chief city of Milwaukee its beer-making industry and love of music and culture . Scandinavians helped develop the lumber industry in the northern forests.

Beginning about 1910, a large migration of Polish workers came, settling in industrial centers like Milwaukee and Racine. The last few decades have now brought groups that form ethnic islands throughout the state. One county has a substantial group of Dutch and another county is predominantly Belgian. One offshore island has the only group of Danish-Icelanders in America. Green County is predominantly Swiss, produces more Swiss cheese than any region of the country.

In Wisconsin (1965) today more than 40 per cent of the people are of Germanic origin. About 10 per cent are of Polish ancestry and about 15 per cent then are Scandinavian.

A few of the varied peoples who have migrated to Wisconsin within the past hundred years left distinctive architectural marks on the land. One was a Florentine named Mazzuchelli, who built the first church in Wisconsin in 1831 at Green Bay. Another, Hercules Dousman, a fur trading agent, built the classic Victorian mansion named Villa Louis at Prairie du Chien in 1843. A third, a son of Norway, built a curious and characteristic Norse mansion at Mount Horeb . A fourth, one of the world’s most gifted architects, Frank Lloyd Wright, left monuments to his special genius like the Johnson Wax office and factory at Racine, and his own remarkable home, Taliesin, near Spring Green.


 Wisconsin has more than sixteen million acres of commercially important forest lands, and more than twenty-four million acres in farm and range land. It is the largest milk -producing state of the United States

(more than sixteen billion pounds annually), has more dairy cows than any state, and ranks first in production of hay and cheese. Potatoes are an important crop and Wisconsin ranks high in the production of cranberries. The Door Peninsula, which helps frame Green Bay, is one of the most important cherry-growing districts in the country. Wisconsin also produces half the canning peas of the country. Tobacco is produced in several southern counties.

Commercial mink farming is important in the state. Forest products, derived chiefly from white pine and native hardwoods, account for huge quantities of pulp used in paper and various plastics. Many of the commercial forests have second-growth stands, grown after the ruthless cutting of the original forests during the last half of the nineteenth century.


Though Wisconsin is not generally regarded as a dominant industrial state, it has some big industries and important industrial concentrations in several cities. Breweries, chiefly in Milwaukee, produce more beer than is made in any other state. Automobiles and automobile accessories rank high, so does farm machinery. Specialized plants of national importance make malted milk, floor waxes and polishes. There are important paper mills and furniture factories. Plants that process products from Wisconsin fields make huge quantities of cheese, pack big quantities of meat.


Most of the zinc and lead mines have now played out. Iron ore is mined in a row of northern counties flanking Lake Superior, shipped by the Great Lakes from the port of Ashland. The annual production of ore exceeds one and a half million tons.


 Wisconsin is essentially an area of small towns and villages. Of nearly twenty- seven hundred communities in the state, only five have more than fifty thousand people, and only one city has a population over one hundred thousand, but more than twenty-five hundred communities have less than a thousand people. Of the larger centers, four are of likely interest to visitors.

MILWAUKEE, with a population of about six hundred and fifty thousand, is far and away the largest city in Wisconsin, thirteenth largest city in the nation. About eight miles north of Chicago, and fifty miles north of the Illinois state line in southeastern Wisconsin, Milwaukee spreads west from bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan. Though essentially a business center and a manufacturing city, it has some sights and facilities of interest. There are several excellent restaurants featuring German and Polish dishes.

The city’s industries include the largest breweries in the world (they have

made Milwaukee famous), packing plants, diesel and gas engine and out-motor plants. The breweries offer conducted tours, with free samples.

There are several excellent city parks, one of which has a good zoo, another an interesting botanical garden, and a third restorations of interesting old houses. Along the shore of Lake Michigan to the north, there is a scenic drive.

Milwaukee is the home of the Milwaukee Braves, in the National Baseball League. The city is a good base for exploring the nearby area where, within an hour’s drive, there are more than a hundred and fifty lakes scattered over rich and rolling farmlands, offering fishing and boating.

MADISON is the capital of Wisconsin —and the state’s second largest city (population nearly one hundred thousand). From the visitor standpoint Madison is the most important city in the state . It lies among rolling, wooded hills, set with many lakes, seventy-five miles west of Milwaukee. The city itself is built on an isthmus between two lakes, whose wooded shores provide dramatic sites for homes and institutions . There are at least half a dozen other lakes within a short distance of the city. They all provide fishing and boating, water sports in summer, winter sports in winter. In addition to being the state capital (the imposing Capitol is set on an eastern hill, in a wooded park), Madison is also the seat of the state university, whose handsome buildings spread over a big lake-shore campus on the western side of the city . The campus itself, one of the very most attractive in the country, is worth seeing and some of the buildings offer special exhibits . Nearby on the lake shore the university maintains a twelve-hundred-acre arboretum. Just west of the university is the unique U S. Forest Products Laboratory.

Madison is an excellent base for visiting the more interesting sites and natural features of southern Wisconsin. About thirty-five miles northwest is the state’s most celebrated scenic novelty, the Wisconsin Dells, a series of cliff-walled gorges cut by the winding course of the Wisconsin River. Forty miles to the southwest is quaint and charming Mineral Point, center for the once brisk mining of lead, settled by miners from Wales.

FOND DU LAC, at the southern end of Lake Winnebago, largest in Wisconsin, with a population of about thirty thousand, though primarily industrial, is also a resort, with excellent facilities for the use of the lake’s waters and shores . From the city a scenic highway rims the lake, providing interesting drives and easy access to resort villages that line the shore . From Lake Winnebago the Fox River leads northeast to

GREEN BAY, the oldest settled community in the state, is about a hundred miles north of Milwaukee, has a strategic setting at the bead of Green Bay, at the mouth of the Fox River. It has one of the finest harbors on the Great Lakes, serving various industrial interests, which include paper making and cheese processing. It is the best base for visiting the shores of Green Bay, one of the most attractive summer vacation regions in the Midwest. The bay itself offers superb boating and fishing. Within the town are several historic old buildings. Green Bay has received national fame as the home of a professional football team, the Green Bay Packers.


at the head of big Chequamegon Bay, on Wisconsin’s shore of Lake Superior, has a population of about fifteen thousand, and is the chief ore shipping center for the mines of the nearby Gogebic Range. The city itself is a convenient base for the use of the cold clear waters of Lake Superior, stretching north and east. Just north in the lake is a cluster of islands called Apostle Islands, famed for colorful cliffs, home of picturesque fishermen. On one of them is an old mission built in 1832. The islands are a center for fishing and hunting.

Ashland is the nearest city base, and best outfitting point, for the vast region of forests and lakes which extend across the northern end of the state. The lakes, more than four thousand of them, are in two clusters, each of which is within fifty miles of Ashland. Part of the area is primeval wilderness, with almost no highways, a summer paradise for fishermen and campers.


Within the forest areas of the northern part of the state there are more than seven thousand lakes. Fishing in most of them is good. The waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior also provide fishing and boating opportunity. Altogether the state has more than eight thousand lakes, and more than seven thousand miles of navigable streams. Facilities provided for the use of them are complete, ranging from fishing camps (often served by airplane shuttle) in wilderness areas, to exclusive resorts near large city centers.

Fish found in the waters of Wisconsin include muskellunge , pike, bass, several species of trout, catfish (in the rivers), smelt. Wisconsin forests provide some of the best hunting in the Midwest, all controlled by license and seasonal limits. Hunters find deer, bear, fox, mink, pheasant, duck, partridge, quail, geese.

Points of historical interest and sights of scenic importance are limited. In the older, larger cities there are a few historic houses, some buildings of architectural importance. The state’s most famed scenic place is the river gorge of the Wisconsin called the Dells.

Wisconsin probably has the best and most extensive winter sports facilities in the Midwest, with ski tournaments, toboggan slides, winter carnivals in many areas, chiefly near larger centers in the southern and central part of the state. Most important are near Madison, one of the few cities in the country where ice-boating is a consistent winter sport. An interesting winter contest is dog-sled racing, staged in some of the northern forest areas.


Wisconsin dining takes color and flavor from three things: water resource, in lakes large and small, provides a rich harvest of fresh-water fish, served delightfully in the better restaurants; the state’s varied production of cheese, with dozens of io types available in most communities and better restaurants; the strong German heritage of the state, which has given larger cities in the southern part of the state many excellent restaurants serving German dishes. Particular regions of the state offer local specialties, such as fresh cherries in the Green Bay section. During the fall bunting season some restaurants give special emphasis to venison.

Cheese provides Wisconsin’s most of interesting opportunity for the shoppers. In the cheese-producing areas of the south and eastern parts of the state dozens of varieties are available, packaged in many ways. They are found at roadside stands, in food stores throughout the area. Some communities feature cheese specialties locally produced and not available elsewhere.



Doubleday and Cooley - copyright @ 1961 (pgs. 188-193)

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