July 25, 2012

Wisconsin – “The Badger State”


Wisconsin map


Just the Facts…

bird – Robin
flower – Wood Violet
tree – Sugar Maple
capital – Madison
union – 30th state on May 29, 1848
population – almost 6 million



The Basics 

Wisconsin was originally explored by the French, and then transferred to America as part of the Northwest Territory (remember – that part of the country that was won by the British in the French & Indian War?).  It took a while for settlers to reach Wisconsin – for quite some time the only people who called Wisconsin home were hunters and fur traders.

Metal brought the first settlers to Wisconsin.  Lead and zinc were found in the southern part of Wisconsin and people came “West” to earn their fortune!  As a result, Mineral Point was the first town in Wisconsin and it grew as the lead mines grew.  Some people even think these miners are where the nickname “Badger” came from – many of them did not have the money to build a house when they first came to Wisconsin, so they made their homes in caves or holes they dug in the hillsides.


Its Claim to Fame

Cheese!  Wisconsin produces more cheese than any other state.  There are over 1 million cows in Wisconsin’s dairy farms, and most of the milk produced by those cows is made into cheese.  The Wisconsin cheesemaking industry began around 1850 – the very first cheese factory was started by a woman who used milk from her neighbor’s cows.  The idea took off and more cheese factories were built, giving Wisconsin a brand new industry.  The word spread and many cheesemakers and dairy farmers who immigrated to America made their way to Wisconsin.  They brought their secret recipes and techniques from their homeland.  Before long, the state of Wisconsin was producing cheeses from the “Old Country” – today more than 600 kinds of cheese are made in Wisconsin.   Now, Wisconsin is the only state to have a Master Cheesemaker program.  Many of the best chesemakers are second or third generation – they learned the family recipes from their parents, who learned from their grandparents!  Do you like cheese?  Try a new cheese that is made in Wisconsin – check the labels next time you are at the grocery store!

Frank Lloyd Wright.  He lived in the early 1900’s and some people think he is one of the greatest American architects.  He believed that buildings should fit naturally into their environment and there are some fine examples of his architectural style in Wisconsin.  In fact, he spent his summers in Wisconsin at his home named “Taliesin.”  Now, Taliesin is a National Historical Landmark and a studio and school for architects.


What Makes it Tick

Dairy farming is a big part of Wisconsin’s economy. But, it did not start out that way.  When Wisconsin was first settled, there was logging in northern Wisconsin and farming and mining in southern Wisconsin.  At first, farmers grew traditional crops like wheat and oats.  Eventually, the extensive farming depleted the soil’s nutrients and many farmers moved to dairy farming.  The cheese industry grew because of the high quality milk, and the dairy farms stayed in business because the cheese industry purchased most of its milk – the rest, as they say, is history.

For many years, logging was big business in northern Wisconsin.  From 1850-1900, Wisconsin timber provided lumber and paper for growing American businesses.  The first areas to be logged in Wisconsin were pine forests along the rivers.  Since pine wood floats, the loggers would send the logs down the river to the sawmills and paper mills in town.  Even now, paper making is a big part of Wisconsin’s economy.  More paper is made in Wisconsin than any other state – over 5 million pounds per year!   Maybe your workbooks from school are printed on Wisconsin paper.  Or your favorite book.  Or the programs you get at a hockey game.

If You Visited

Door County, Wisconsin is a popular tourist destination.  It is a peninsula in Lake Michigan and has a lot of natural harbors and bays – making it perfect for boating!  In fact, it has so much shoreline that some people call it the “Cape Cod” of the Midwest.  It technically is the largest county in Wisconsin, although about three-fourths of its territory is water!  If you visited Door County, you might pick your own cherries.  Door County has a long history of cherry orchards.  Or, you might visit one of its 5 state parks or 12 lighthouses.  Why so many lighthouses?  Well, some of the waters around Door County are hazardous and hard to navigate.  In fact, there are quite a few shipwrecks in the area.  Back when the French were exploring the area, they named it “Death’s Door,” which eventually evolved into its current name, Door County.

Or, you may visit the Wisconsin Dells.  The Dells are home to the “Ducks,” a special kind of vehicle that was developed for the army and can go both on land and on water.  The Ducks were first brought to the Wisconsin Dells in 1946 and have been giving rides to tourists ever since.  Shortly after their arrival, a traveling waterski show came through town.  It was so popular that The Tommy Bartlett Water Ski show made the Dells its permanent home in 1952.  It is still going strong – the Tommy Bartlett show is on many people’s list of things to do in the Dells.


Want to Know More? 

Check our Wisconsin state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

Do you live in Wisconsin?  Or, maybe you have visited Wisconsin?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite thing about Wisconsin?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of Wisconsin to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Wisconsin.  Visit these websites to learn more: