The Wisconsin State Capitol
Wisconsin is one of the fifty U.S. states. Located in the north-central United States, Wisconsin is considered part of the Midwest. 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's capital is Madison, and its largest city is Milwaukee. As of 2008 the state has an estimated 5.6 million residents.
The word Wisconsin has its origins in the name given to the Wisconsin River by one of the Algonquian speaking American Indian groups living in the region at the time of European contact. French explorer Jacques Marquette was the first European to reach the Wisconsin River and record its name, arriving in 1673 and calling the river Meskousing in his journal. This spelling was later corrupted to Ouisconsin by other French explorers, and over time this version became the French name for both the Wisconsin River and the surrounding lands. English speakers anglicized the spelling to its modern form when they began to arrive in greater numbers during the early 19th Century. The current spelling was made official by the legislature of Wisconsin Territory in 1845.
Through the course of its many variations, the Algonquian source word for Wisconsin and its original meaning have both grown obscure. Interpretations vary, but most implicate the river and the red sandstone that line its banks. One leading theory holds that the name originated from the Miami word Meskonsing, meaning "it lies red," a reference to the setting of the Wisconsin River as it flows by the reddish sandstone of the Wisconsin Dells. Numerous other theories have also been widely publicized, including claims that name originated from one of a variety of Ojibwa words meaning "red stone place," "gathering of the waters," or "great rock."
Painting of Jean Nicolet's 1634 arrival in Wisconsin Introduction to the West
Wisconsin in 1718, Guillaume de L'Isle map, approximate state area highlighted.In 1634, the Frenchman Jean Nicolet became the first European to explore what was to become Wisconsin. He founded the Green Bay colony. During the next 150 years, the area was settled primarily by French fur traders. France then transferred the territory to Britain in 1763. The United States acquired the Wisconsin territory after the Revolution in 1783, but it remained under de facto British control until the War of 1812. The nineteenth century saw settlement by "Yankees" (New Englanders and people from upstate New York), Cornish miners, and German, Scandinavian and Swiss settlers. In 1793, Dominique Ducharme was the first white European to settle in the Fox Valley. He paid two barrels of rum to two Indians for land on both sides of the Fox River near the Kaukauna rapids, giving him control of the lower Fox and the portage around it. The Ducharme deed was Wisconsin's first recorded deed. He built a house on the land and settled there. He began trading with the Menominee and Chippewa Indians. At the time, 1,500 Indians lived in the village of Kaukauna. The following year, he and another trader, Jacob Franks, obtained from the Menominee Indians “for value received,” a 999-year lease on a total of 1,200 acres (4.9 km2) on both sides of the Fox at La Baye; at the time Ducharme already possessed a concession on one side of the river beside one of the leased lots. He is presumed to have continued to engage in fur trading in the west for the next 15 years; certainly he acquired a working knowledge of several native dialects.
Welcome sign.Wisconsin, bordered by the states of Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois, as well as Lakes Michigan and Superior, has been part of United States' territory since the end of the American Revolution; the Wisconsin Territory (which included parts of other current states) was formed on July 3, 1836. Wisconsin ratified its constitution on March 13, 1848, and was admitted to the Union on May 29, 1848, as the 30th state.
A border dispute with Michigan was settled by two cases, both Wisconsin v. Michigan, in 1934 and 1935.
Wisconsin's economy was originally based on farming (especially dairy), mining, and lumbering. The state is rich in virgin stands of old growth white pine and hemlock. As lumber companies sawed the forest for timber, migrant farmers settled the cleared land. Wisconsin's topography of rolling glacial hills with rich (but rocky) soil coupled with unpredictable seasons favored dairy farming. Industrial centers sprung up along Lake Michigan and in the Fox Valley where there was easy access to raw materials (lumber, iron ore) and shipping ports, most notably at Milwaukee. After WWI Wisconsin became a major exporter of durable goods, with Milwaukee being known as the "tool box of the world." In the northern half of the state, farming had lost significance due to short growing seasons and reverted back to forest where staple crops of trees supplied a booming paper industry that had access to cheap power sources along the Wisconsin, Chippewa, and Fox Rivers. In the latter half of the twentieth century, tourism became important, as many people living on former farms commuted to jobs elsewhere. In recent decades, service industries, especially medicine and education, have become dominant as heavy industry declined. Wisconsin is also noted for having a stable economy compared to most other states.This may be attributed to a diversified economy as well as a low net population growth. Wisconsin's landscape, largely shaped by the Wisconsin glaciation of the last Ice Age, makes the state popular for both tourism and many forms of outdoor recreation due to the many lakes, streams, and rolling hills. Popular tourist destinations include Door County, Wisconsin Dells, and the northern forest/lake region. Most tourism is from neighboring states within driving distance, especially Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota.
The U.S. Navy battleship, USS Wisconsin, was named in honor of this state.
Wisconsin state welcome signWisconsin is bordered by the Montreal River; Lake Superior and Michigan to the north; by Lake Michigan to the east; by Illinois to the south; and by Iowa and Minnesota to the west. The state's boundaries include the Mississippi River and St. Croix River in the west, and the Menominee River in the northeast. Wisconsin is the northernmost state that does not share a border with Canada. With its location between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, Wisconsin is home to a wide variety of geographical features. The state is divided into five distinct regions. In the north, the Lake Superior Lowland occupies a belt of land along Lake Superior. Just to the south, the Northern Highland has massive mixed hardwood and coniferous forests including the 1,500,000 acres (6,100 km2) Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, as well as thousands of glacial lakes, and the state's highest point, Timms Hill. In the middle of the state, the Central Plain has some unique sandstone formations like the Dells of the Wisconsin River in addition to rich farmland. The Eastern Ridges and Lowlands region in the southeast is home to many of Wisconsin's largest cities. In the southwest, the Western Upland is a rugged landscape with a mix of forest and farmland, including many bluffs on the Mississippi River. This region is part of the Driftless Area, which also includes portions of Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota. This area was not covered by glaciers during the most recent ice age, the Wisconsin Glaciation.
The Driftless Area of southwestern Wisconsin is characterized by bluffs carved in sedimentary rock by water from melting Ice Age glaciers.Overall, 46% of Wisconsin's land area is covered by forest. Langlade County has a soil rarely found outside of the county called Antigo Silt Loam.
Areas under the management of the National Park Service include the following
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore along Lake Superior
Ice Age National Scenic Trail
North Country National Scenic Trail
Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway
There is one national forest managed by the U.S. Forest Service in Wisconsin, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.
Wisconsin has sister-state relationships with the Germany's Hesse, Japan's Chiba Prefecture, Mexico's Jalisco, China's Heilongjiang, and Nicaragua.
Wisconsin's climate is classified as humid continental. The highest temperature ever recorded in the state was in the Wisconsin Dells, on July 13, 1936, where it reached 114 °F (46 °C). The lowest temperature ever recorded in Wisconsin was in the village of Couderay, where it reached –55 °F (-48 °C) on both February 2 and February 4, 1996.
Monthly Normal High and Low Temperatures For Selected Wisconsin Cities [°F (°C)]
City Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Green Bay 24/7
La Crosse 26/6
Census Pop. %±
1850 305,391 —
1860 775,881 154.1%
1870 1,054,670 35.9%
1880 1,315,457 24.7%
1890 1,693,330 28.7%
1900 2,069,042 22.2%
1910 2,333,860 12.8%
1920 2,632,067 12.8%
1930 2,939,006 11.7%
1940 3,137,587 6.8%
1950 3,434,575 9.5%
1960 3,951,777 15.1%
1970 4,417,731 11.8%
1980 4,705,767 6.5%
1990 4,891,769 4.0%
2000 5,363,675 9.6%
Est. 2009 5,654,774 5.4%
Wisconsin Population Density MapAccording to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2000, Wisconsin had a population of 5,363,675. Wisconsin's population was reported as 6.4% under the age of 5, 25.5% under 18, and 13.1% were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 50.6% of the population.
Since its founding, Wisconsin has been ethnically heterogeneous. Following the period of French fur traders, the next wave of settlers were miners, many of whom were Cornish, who settled the southwest area of the state. The next wave was dominated by "Yankees," migrants from New England and upstate New York; in the early years of statehood, they dominated the state's heavy industry, finance, politics and education. Between 1850 and 1900, large numbers of European immigrants followed them, including Germans, Scandinavians (the largest group being Norwegian), and smaller groups of Belgians, Dutch, Swiss, Finns, Irish, Poles and others. In the 20th century, large numbers of Mexicans and African Americans came, settling mainly in Milwaukee; and after end of the Vietnam War came a new influx of Hmongs.
The five largest ancestry groups in Wisconsin are: German (42.6%), Irish (10.9%), Polish (9.3%), Norwegian (8.5%), English (6.5%). German is the most common ancestry in every county in the state, except Menominee, Trempealeau and Vernon. Wisconsin has the highest percentage of residents of Polish ancestry of any state. The various ethnic groups settled in different areas of the state. Although Germans settled throughout the state, the largest concentration was in Milwaukee. Norwegians settled in lumbering and farming areas in the north and west. Small colonies of Belgians, Swiss, Finns and other groups settled in their particular areas, with Irish and Polish immigrants settling primarily in urban areas. African Americans came to Milwaukee, especially from 1940 on. Menominee County is the only county in the eastern United States with an American Indian majority.
Demographics of Wisconsin (csv)
By race White Black AIAN* Asian NHPI*
2000 (total population) 91.52% 6.15% 1.30% 1.92% 0.08%
2000 (Hispanic only) 3.35% 0.17% 0.11% 0.03% 0.01%
2005 (total population) 91.00% 6.48% 1.30% 2.21% 0.09%
2005 (Hispanic only) 4.17% 0.20% 0.12% 0.04% 0.01%
Growth 2000–05 (total population) 2.64% 8.89% 3.13% 18.59% 6.85%
Growth 2000–05 (non-Hispanic only) 1.65% 8.53% 2.43% 18.63% 6.18%
Growth 2000–05 (Hispanic only) 28.67% 21.23% 10.54% 16.75% 10.87%
* AIAN is American Indian or Alaskan Native; NHPI is Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
86% of Wisconsin's African-American population live in four cities: Milwaukee, Racine, Beloit, Kenosha, with Milwaukee home to nearly three-fourths of the state's black Americans. Milwaukee is among the 10 major U.S. cities with the most African Americans per capita. In the Great Lakes region, only Detroit and Cleveland have a higher percentage of African-American residents.
33% of Wisconsin's Asian population is Hmong, with significant communities in Milwaukee, Wausau, Green Bay, Sheboygan, Appleton, Madison, La Crosse, Eau Claire, Oshkosh, and Manitowoc.
Christianity is the predominant religion of Wisconsin. The largest Christian denominations are Roman Catholic and Lutheran; Lutherans primarily belong to the ELCA, Missouri Synod, and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS). The religious affiliations of the Wisconsin residents are shown below:
Christian – 85%
Protestant – 55%
Lutheran – 23%
Methodist – 7%
Baptist – 5%
Presbyterian – 2%
United Church of Christ – 2%
Other Protestant or general Protestant – 15%
Roman Catholic – 29%
Other Christian – 1%
Other religions – 1%
Non-affiliated – 15%
Law and government
The capital is Madison, Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin State CapitolState Executive Officers
Governor: James Doyle, Jr. (D)
Lieutenant Governor: Barbara Lawton (D)
Attorney General: J.B. Van Hollen (R)
Secretary of State: Douglas LaFollette (D)
Treasurer: Dawn Marie Sass (D)
State Superintendent of Public Instruction (Non-partisan Office): Tony Evers
Governors of Wisconsin
Wisconsin State Legislature
Wisconsin State Senate
Wisconsin State Assembly
Wisconsin Supreme Court
U.S. Congressional Delegations from Wisconsin
Map of congressional districts
List of U.S. Senators from Wisconsin
Presidential elections results Year Republican Democratic
2008 42.31% 1,262,393 56.22% 1,677,211
2004 49.31% 1,478,120 49.71% 1,489,504
2000 47.56% 1,237,279 47.83% 1,242,987
1996 38.48% 845,029 48.81% 1,071,971
1992 36.78% 930,855 41.13% 1,041,066
1988 47.80% 1,047,794 51.41% 1,126,794
During the period of the Civil War, Wisconsin was a Republican and pro-Union stronghold. Ethno-religious issues in the late 19th century caused a brief split in the Republican coalition. Through the first half of the 20th century, Wisconsin's politics were dominated by Robert La Follette and his sons, originally of the Republican Party, but later of the revived Progressive Party. Since 1945, the state has maintained a close balance between Republicans and Democrats. Republican Senator Joe McCarthy was a controversial national figure in the early 1950s. Recent leading Republicans include former Governor Tommy Thompson and Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.; prominent Democrats include Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold, and Congressman David Obey.
Much of the state's political history involved coalitions among different ethnic groups. The most famous controversy dealt with foreign language teaching in schools. This was fought out in the Bennett Law campaign of 1890, when the Germans switched to the Democratic Party because of the Republican Party's support of the Bennett Law, which led to a major victory for the Democrats.
The cities of Wisconsin have been active in increasing the availability of legislative information on the internet, thereby providing for greater government transparency. Currently three of the five most populous cities in Wisconsin provide their constituents with internet based access of all public records directly from the cities’ databases. Wisconsin cities started to make this a priority after Milwaukee began doing so, on their page, in 2001. One such city, Madison, has been named the Number 1 digital city by the Center for Digital Government in consecutive years. Nearly 18 percent of Wisconsin’s population has the ability to access their municipality’s information in this way.
Wisconsin has voted for the Democratic presidential nominee in the last six elections. The urban centers of Milwaukee and Madison tend to vote strongly Democratic. The suburbs of those cities are politically diverse, but tend to vote Republican. Counties in the western part of the state tend to be liberal, a tradition passed down from Scandinavian immigrants. The rural areas in the northern and eastern part of the state are the most solidly Republican areas in Wisconsin.
In the 2008 presidential election, Wisconsin voted for the Democratic presidential nominee, Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Obama captured 56% of the vote statewide, with the urban centers of Milwaukee and Madison voting strongly Democratic. Bucking the historic trend, Brown County (home to Green Bay) and Outagamie County (home to Appleton) voted for Obama over John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee. In all, McCain captured approximately 42% of the vote statewide and won 13 of the state's 72 counties. Of the counties won by McCain, only a handful were by greater than 55% of the vote (Florence, Green Lake, Ozaukee, Washington, and Waukesha, with Washington County providing his largest single-county percentage victory in the state). In all, Obama was successful in 59 counties, transcending the state's usual east/west and urban/suburban/rural divides.
Wisconsin ranked second in voter turnout in the 2008 presidential election, behind Minnesota.
Further information: Political party strength in Wisconsin
Lawmakers in Wisconsin
The last election in which Wisconsin supported a Republican Presidential candidate was in 1984. However, both the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections were close, with Wisconsin receiving heavy doses of national advertising because it was a "swing," or pivot, state. Al Gore carried the presidential vote in 2000 by only 5,700 votes, and John Kerry won Wisconsin in 2004 by 11,000 votes. However, in 2008, Barack Obama carried the state by 381,000 votes and with 56%. Republicans had a stronghold in the Fox Valley but elected a Democrat, Steve Kagen, of Appleton, for the 8th Congressional District in 2006. Republicans have held Waukesha County. The City of Milwaukee heads the list of Wisconsin's Democratic strongholds, which also includes Madison and the state's Native American reservations. Wisconsin's largest Congressional district, the 7th, has been a Democratic stronghold since 1969. Its representative, David Obey, chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee.
Wisconsin's political history encompasses, on the one hand, "Fighting Bob" La Follette and the Progressive movement; and on the other, Joe McCarthy, the controversial anti-Communist censured by the Senate during the 1950s.
In the early 20th century, the Socialist Party of America had a base in Milwaukee. The phenomenon was referred to as "sewer socialism" because the elected officials were more concerned with public works and reform than with revolution (although revolutionary socialism existed in the city as well). Its influence faded in the late 1950s, largely because of the red scare and racial tensions. The first Socialist mayor of a large city in the United States was Emil Seidel, elected mayor of Milwaukee in 1910; another Socialist, Daniel Hoan, was mayor of Milwaukee from 1916 to 1940; and a third, Frank P. Zeidler, from 1948–1960. Socialist newspaper editor Victor Berger was repeatedly elected as a U.S. Representative, although he was prevented from serving for some time because of his opposition to the First World War.
William Proxmire, a Democratic Senator (1957–89) dominated the Democratic party for years; he was best known for attacking waste and fraud in federal spending.
Democrat Russ Feingold was the only Senator to vote against the Patriot Act in 2001.
Democrat Tammy Baldwin from Madison was the first, and is currently the only, openly lesbian U.S. Representative.
In 2004, Gwen Moore, a Democrat from Milwaukee, became Wisconsin's first African-American U.S. Representative.
In 2006, Democrats gained in a national sweep of opposition to the Bush administration, and the Iraq War. The retiring GOP 8th District Congressman, Mark Green, of Green Bay, ran against the incumbent Governor Jim Doyle. Green lost by 8% statewide, making Doyle the first Democratic Governor to be re-elected in 32 years. The Republicans lost control of the state Senate. Although Democrats gained eight seats in the state Assembly, Republicans retained a five vote majority in that house. In 2008, Democrats regained control of the State Assembly by a 52-46 margin, marking the first time since 1987 the both the governor and state legislature were both Democratic.
Wisconsin collects personal income taxes (based on five income brackets) which range from 4.6% to 7.75%. The state sales and use tax rate is 5.0%. Fifty-nine counties have an additional sales/use tax of 0.5%. Milwaukee County and four surrounding counties have an additional temporary 0.1% tax which helps fund the Miller Park baseball stadium, which was completed in 2001. Retailers who make sales subject to applicable county taxes must collect this tax on their retail sales.
The most common property tax assessed on Wisconsin residents is the real property tax, or their residential property tax. Wisconsin does not impose a property tax on vehicles, but does levy an annual registration fee. Property taxes are the most important tax revenue source for Wisconsin's local governments, as well as major methods of funding school districts, vocational technical colleges, special purpose districts and tax incremental finance districts. Equalized values are based on the full market value of all taxable property in the state, except for agricultural land. In order to provide property tax relief for farmers, the value of agricultural land is determined by its value for agricultural uses, rather than for its possible development value. Equalized values are used to distribute state aid payments to counties, municipalities, and technical colleges. Assessments prepared by local assessors are used to distribute the property tax burden within individual municipalities.
Wisconsin does not assess a tax on intangible property. Wisconsin does not collect inheritance taxes. Until January 1, 2008 Wisconsin's estate tax was decoupled from the federal estate tax laws; therefore the state imposed its own estate tax on certain large estates.
There are no toll roads in Wisconsin; highway and road construction and maintenance is funded by motor fuel tax revenues.
The US Bank Center in Milwaukee is Wisconsin's tallest skyscraper.In 2008 Wisconsin’s gross state product was $240.4 billion, making it 21st among states.The per capita personal income was $35,239 in 2008. The economy of Wisconsin is driven by manufacturing, agriculture, and health care. Although manufacturing accounts for a far greater part of the state's income than farming, Wisconsin is often perceived as a farming state.
The largest employers in Wisconsin are:
University of Wisconsin system
U.S. Postal Service
Milwaukee Public Schools
Wisconsin Department of Corrections
Ultra Mart Foods aka Roundy's
City of Milwaukee
Wisconsin produces more dairy products than any other state in the United States except California and leads the nation in cheese production. Wisconsin ranks second behind California in overall production of milk and butter, and third in per-capita milk production, behind Idaho and Vermont. Based on poll results, a Holstein cow, an ear of corn, and a wheel of cheese were chosen for Wisconsin's 50 State Quarters design. Wisconsin ranks first in the production of corn for silage, cranberries, ginseng, and snap beans for processing. Wisconsin is also a leading producer of oats, potatoes, carrots, tart cherries, maple syrup, and sweet corn for processing.
Given Wisconsin's strong agricultural tradition, it is not surprising that a large part of the state's manufacturing sector deals with food processing. Some well-known food brands produced in Wisconsin include Oscar Mayer, Tombstone frozen pizza, Johnsonville brats, and Usinger's sausage. Kraft Foods alone employs over 5,000 people in the state. Milwaukee is a major producer of beer and was once the headquarters of Miller Brewing Company, the nation's second-largest brewer, until it merged with Coors Brewing Company. At one time, Schlitz, Blatz, and Pabst were cornerstone breweries in Milwaukee. Today, Milwaukee's economy is more diverse with an emphasis on health care. In 2004, four of the city's ten largest employers (including the top two) were part of the health care industry.
State Animal: Badger
Animal: Dairy cow
State Wild Animal: White-tailed deer
State Beverage: Milk
State Fruit: Cranberry
State Bird: Robin
State Capital: Madison
State Dog: American water spaniel
State Fish: Muskellunge
State Flower: Wood violet
State Fossil: Trilobite
State Grain: Corn
State Insect: European honey bee
State Motto: Forward
State Song: "On, Wisconsin!"
State Tree: Sugar maple
State Mineral: Galena (Lead sulfide)
State Rock: Red granite
State Soil: Antigo silt loam
State Dance: Polka
State Symbol of
Peace: Mourning dove
Wisconsin is also home to several transportation equipment and machinery manufacturers. Major Wisconsin companies in these categories include the Kohler Company, Mercury Marine, Rockwell Automation, Johnson Controls,Seagrave Fire Apparatus, Pierce Manufacturing(fire apparatus), Briggs & Stratton, Miller Electric, Milwaukee Electric Tool Company, Bucyrus International, Super Steel Products Corp., Oshkosh Truck, and Harley-Davidson. Wisconsin also ranks first nationwide in the production of paper products; the lower Fox River from Lake Winnebago to Green Bay has 24 paper mills along its 39 miles (63 km) stretch.
The development and manufacture of health care devices and software is a growing sector of the state's economy with key players such as GE Healthcare, Epic Systems, and TomoTherapy.
Tourism is also a major industry in Wisconsin – the state's third largest, according to the Department of Tourism. This is attributed to the many resorts in northern Wisconsin and the family attractions in the Wisconsin Dells area, which attract nearly 3 million visitors per year. Tourist destinations such as the House on the Rock near Spring Green and Circus World Museum in Baraboo also draw thousands of visitors annually, and festivals such as Summerfest, Northern Wisconsin Metalfest, and the EAA Oshkosh Airshow draw international attention, along with hundreds of thousands of visitors.
Given the large number of lakes and rivers in the state, water recreation is very popular.
The distinctive Door Peninsula, which extends off the eastern coast of the state, contains one of the state's most beautiful tourist destinations, Door County. Door County is a popular destination for boaters because of the large number of natural harbors, bays and ports on the Green Bay and Lake Michigan side of the peninsula that forms the county. The area draws hundreds of thousands of visitors yearly to its quaint villages, seasonal cherry picking, and ever-popular fish boils.
On January 1, 2008, a new tax incentive for the film industry came into effect. The first major production to take advantage of the tax incentive was Michael Mann's Public Enemies. While the producers spent $18 million dollars on the film, it was reported that most of that went to out-of-state workers and for out-of-state services; Wisconsin taxpayers had provided $4.6 million in subsidies, and derived only $5 million in revenues from the film's making.
Wisconsin countiesWisconsin's self-promotion as "America's Dairyland" sometimes leads to a mistaken impression that it is an exclusively rural state. However, Wisconsin contains cities and towns of all sizes. Over 68% of Wisconsin residents live in urban areas, with the Greater Milwaukee area home to roughly one-third of the state's population. Milwaukee is at the northern edge of an urban area bordering Lake Michigan that stretches southward into greater Chicago and northwestern Indiana, with a population of over 11 million. With over 602,000 residents Milwaukee proper is the 22nd-largest city in the country. The string of cities along the western edge of Lake Michigan is generally considered to be an example of a megalopolis. Madison's dual identity as state capital and college town gives it a cultural richness unusual in a city its size. With a population of around 220,000, Madison is also a very fast-growing city. Madison's suburb, Middleton, was also ranked the "Best Place to Live in America" in 2007 by Money Magazine. Medium-size cities dot the state and anchor a network of working farms surrounding them. As of 2007, there were 12 cities in Wisconsin with a population of 50,000 or more. Cities and villages are incorporated urban areas in Wisconsin. Towns are unincorporated minor civil divisions of counties.
Further information: List of municipalities in Wisconsin by population and Political subdivisions of Wisconsin
Wisconsin, along with Minnesota and Michigan, was among the Midwestern leaders in the emergent American state university movement following the Civil War in the United States. By the turn of the century, education in the state advocated the "Wisconsin Idea," which emphasized for service to the people of the state. The "Wisconsin Idea" exemplified the Progressive movement within colleges and universities at the time. Today, public education in Wisconsin includes both the 26-campus University of Wisconsin System, with the flagship university University of Wisconsin–Madison, and the 16-campus Wisconsin Technical College System which coordinates with the University of Wisconsin. Notable private colleges and universities include Marquette University, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Medical College of Wisconsin, Concordia University Wisconsin, Edgewood College, Beloit College, St. Norbert College, Lakeland College, and Lawrence University, among others. Elementary, middle and high school education are mandatory by law.
Citizens of Wisconsin are referred to as Wisconsinites. The traditional prominence of references to dairy farming and cheesemaking in Wisconsin's rural economy (the state's license plates have read "America's Dairyland" since 1940) have led to the nickname (sometimes used pejoratively among non-residents) of "cheeseheads" and to the creation of "cheesehead hats" made of yellow foam in the shape of a block of cheese.
Numerous ethnic festivals are held throughout Wisconsin to celebrate its heritage. Such festivals include Summerfest, Oktoberfest, German Fest, Festa Italiana, Bastille Days, Syttende Mai (Norwegian Constitution Day), Brat(wurst) Days in Sheboygan, Cheese Days in Monroe and Mequon, African World Festival, Indian Summer, Irish Fest, Arab Fest, and many others.
The Milwaukee Art Museum
Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin
Music stage at Summerfest in 1994, currently called the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse, with Downtown Milwaukee and an approach to the Hoan Bridge in the background.The Milwaukee Art Museum in Milwaukee, designed by Santiago Calatrava, is known for its interesting architecture. The Milwaukee County Zoological Gardens cover over 200 acres (0.81 km2) of land on the far west side of the city. Madison is home to the Vilas Zoo which is free for all visitors, and the Olbrich Gardens conservatory, as well as the hub of cultural activity at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. It is also known for Monona Terrace, a convention center that was designed by Taliesin Architect Anthony Puttnam, based loosely on a 1930s design by Frank Lloyd Wright, a world-renowned architect and Wisconsin native who was born in Richland Center. Wright's home and studio in the 20th century was at Taliesin, south of Spring Green. Decades after Wright's death, Taliesin remains an architectural office and school for his followers.
Main article: Music of Wisconsin
Wisconsin has more country music festivals than any other state, including Miller Lite Presents Country Fest, Bud Light Presents Country Jam USA, the Coors Hodag Country Festival, Porterfield Country Music Festival, Country Thunder USA in Twin Lakes, and Ford Presents Country USA.
The state's largest city, Milwaukee, also hosts Summerfest, dubbed "The World's Largest Music Festival," every year. This festival is held at the lakefront Henry Maier Festival Park just south of downtown.
Wisconsin has both the Milwaukee Metalfest and the Northern Wisconsin Metalfest, which is held in Lake Nebagamon.
The Wisconsin Area Music Industry provides an annual WAMI event where it presents an awards show for top Wisconsin artists.
Alcohol and Wisconsin culture
The Wisconsin Tavern League is a strong political force and the state legislature has been reluctant to lower DUI offense from BAC 0.10 to 0.08 (only through Federal government influence) and raise the alcoholic beverage tax. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel series "Wasted in Wisconsin" examined this situation. Popular belief is that the state's large German heritage population, climate (long cold winters, short warm summers), and abundant leisure opportunities contribute to high drinking rates, though data collected by the Journal Sentinel do not conclusively support this.
The varied landscape of Wisconsin makes the state a popular vacation destination for outdoor recreation. Winter events include skiing, ice fishing and snowmobile derbies. Wisconsin has many lakes of varied size; the state contains 11,188 square miles (28,980 km2) of water, more than all but three other states (Alaska, Michigan and Florida).
Outdoor activities are popular in Wisconsin, especially hunting and fishing. One of the most prevalent game animals is the whitetail deer. Each year in Wisconsin, well over 600,000 deer hunting licenses are sold.In 2008, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources projected the pre-hunt deer population to be about 1.5 to 1.7 million.
Wisconsin is represented by major league teams in three sports: football, baseball, and basketball. Lambeau Field, located in Green Bay, Wisconsin is home to the National Football League's Green Bay Packers. The Packers have been part of the NFL since the league's second season in 1921 and hold the record for the most NFL titles, earning the city of Green Bay the nickname "Titletown USA". The Green Bay Packers are one of the most successful small-market professional sports franchises in the world and have won 12 NFL championships, including the first two AFL-NFL Championship games (Super Bowls I and II) and Super Bowl XXXI. The state's support of the team is evidenced by the 81,000-person waiting list for season tickets to Lambeau Field.
The Milwaukee Brewers, the state's only major league baseball team, play in Miller Park in Milwaukee, the successor to Milwaukee County Stadium since 2001. In 1982, the Brewers won the American League Championship, marking their most successful season (they later switched to the National League).
The Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Association play home games at the Bradley Center. The Bucks won the NBA Championship in 1971.
The state also has minor league teams in hockey (Milwaukee Admirals and baseball (the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, based in Appleton and the Beloit Snappers of the Class A minor leagues). Wisconsin is also home to the Madison Mallards, the La Crosse Loggers, the Eau Claire Express, the Green Bay Bullfrogs, and the Wisconsin Woodchucks of the Northwoods League, a collegiate all-star summer league. In arena football Wisconsin is represented by four teams: the Wisconsin Wolfpack in Madison and the Milwaukee Bonecrushers, both in the CIFL; and the Green Bay Blizzard and Milwaukee Iron, both in the AF2.
Wisconsin also has many college sports programs, including the Wisconsin Badgers, of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The Wisconsin Badgers football former head coach Barry Alvarez led the Badgers to three Rose Bowl championships, including back-to-back victories in 1999 and 2000. The Badger men's basketball team won the national title in 1941 and made a second trip to college basketball's Final Four in 2000. The Badgers claimed a historic dual championship in 2006 when both the women's and men's hockey teams won national titles.
The Marquette Golden Eagles of the Big East Conference, the state's other major collegiate program, is known for its men's basketball team, which, under the direction of Al McGuire, won the NCAA National Championship in 1977. The team returned to the Final Four in 2003.
Wisconsin is also home to the world's oldest operational racetrack. The Milwaukee Mile, located in State Fair Park in West Allis, holds that distinction, with races there dating to before the famed Indy 500.