State Facts - History Firsts
Facts - Wisconsin History Firsts
Catch up on your state trivia with these Wisconsin history firsts and interesting fun facts
about the state.
|Location & Region
||43.04405 N, 089.40954 W
||May 29, 1848
|Number of Counties
||72 Counties in Wisconsin
||242 sq mi.
- 1844 - On a farm near Janesville, George Esterly invented the first harvesting
machine. He subsequently invented several other farm implements.
- 1848 -
- The state's constitution is the oldest of any state west of the Allegheny Mountains.
It was adopted in 1848.
- Find out more about the Wisconsin
State Great seal
- 1854 - The State Historical Society of Wisconsin (founded 1846) became the first
state historical society to receive funding from a state government. The legislature appropriated
$500 for the purchase of books and other materials. Lyman C. Draper was one of the guiding
forces behind this institution.
- 1854 - The Republican Party was founded in Ripon in 1854.
- 1856 - In Watertown, German immigrants Margarethe Meyer Schurz and Carl Schurz
opened the first kindergarten in the United States. Classes were conducted in German.
- 1858 - On his stepfather's Iowa County farm, John Francis Appleby, at the age
of 18, invented the basic knotting device that would become the foundation for all farm
- 1863 - Find out more about the
Wisconsin State Flag
- 1867 - Frank Lloyd Wright was born in Richland Center on June 8, 1867.
- 1868 - Christopher Latham Sholes of Milwaukee, an inventor and journalist, patented
the first typewriter. It wrote only in capital letters. On the first model, the types, each
on a separate bar, struck upward against a sheet of paper and knocked the paper against
an inked ribbon. The paper was held flat in a moving frame. The world's first typist was
Lillian Sholes, his daughter.
- 1871 -
- Dr. John Carhart, a Methodist minister and physician from Racine, designed and built
the first steam-powered automobile. It had wagon wheels and a two-cylinder steam engine.
- One of the nation's worst natural disasters took place in Peshtigo in 1871, when
a forest fire killed more than 1000 people and damaged $5 million worth of property.
- 1873 - John Michael Kohler manufactured the first enameled cast-iron plumbing
fixtures. In 1873, Kohler purchased the Sheboygan Union Iron and Steel Foundry in Sheboygan.
In 1883, he took a product in his company called a horse trough/hog scalder, heated it to
1,700 degrees Fahrenheit and sprinkled on some enamel powder. This began the manufacturing
of the cast-iron fixtures.
- 1878 -
- Wisconsin hosted the nation's first automobile race when the state offered $10,000
to the inventor of a machine that could move from Green Bay to Madison under its own
power. With an average speed of six miles per hour, it took Alexander Gallagher of Oshkosh
approximately twenty-two hours to win the race.
- In 1878-1879 the Wisconsin legislature approved the creation of a state park
in Vilas County. The proposal was not successful and the state ended up selling two-thirds
of area land to lumber interest for $8 an acre in 1897.
- 1881 - Ed Berners' soda fountain in Two Rivers served the first ice cream sundae,
made with only vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup. George Hallauer asked Berners to top
a dish of ice cream with chocolate sauce, which before this was used only for ice cream
sodas. The concoction cost a nickel and soon became very popular, but was sold only on Sundays.
One day a ten-year-old girl insisted she have a dish of ice cream "with that stuff on top,"
saying they could "pretend it was Sunday." After that, the confection was sold every day
in many flavors. When a glassware salesman placed an order with his company for the canoe-shaped
dishes in which it was served, as "Sundae dishes," it started the name ice cream sundae.
- 1882 - The first commercial hydroelectric plant began to operate on the rapids
of the Fox River in Appleton. The Appleton power was used for a commercial electric lighting
system only three years after Thomas A. Edison developed his first practical electric light
bulb. The central station for this plant was called the Appleton Edison Light Company.
- 1883 - The Wisconsin legislature established the first agricultural experiment
- 1884 - The first performance of the Ringling Brothers' Circus, billed as the
World's Greatest Show, delighted its Baraboo audience.
- 1885 - Wisconsin created the first farmers' institutes, to spread agricultural
knowledge throughout the state, down to the local level. In the beginning the institutes
were strongly biased toward dairy farming. Institutes were held from November to April when
farm work was slack. Hudson had the first of the thirty institutes held that first season.
- 1886 - The first commercially successful electric streetcar system in America
began operation in Appleton.
- 1887 - Racine food manufacturer William Horlick invented malted milk. The Horlick
Malted Milk Company, started in 1875, was a pioneer in dried milk production.
- 1890 - University of Wisconsin Professor Stephen M. Babcock developed a tester
for measuring the amount of butterfat in milk.
- 1891 - Franklin Hiram King, a professor of natural science at River Falls State
Normal School, developed the round silo. The new design solved the problem of storing winter
cattle silage and thereby allowed dairying to become a major agricultural operation in Wisconsin.
- 1892 - The University of Wisconsin developed the first extension courses offered
by a state university.
- 1899 - Milwaukee's Arthur Oliver Smith developed the first steel automobile frame,
a significant contribution to the development of the automobile in the United States. The
pressed steel frame was considerably lighter and less costly than the structural steel frames
then available. At the time, the small Milwaukee manufacturer did not even have a customer
for this product. Soon the company sold frames to a number of auto makers, including Peerless
and Cadillac, but the big breakthrough came in 1906 when Henry Ford came to Milwaukee. Ford
was laying the groundwork for his Model N and needed a supplier for 11,000 frames. This
launched the company A.O. Smith. The company developed a way to economically produce large
quantities of car frames and by 1910 was supplying 60 percent of the automobile frames for
US car makers.
- 1900 - In 1900 land acquisition for Wisconsin's first state park began. The park
became Interstate State Park located in St. Croix Falls.
- 1901 - The Wisconsin legislature organized the first county agricultural high
- 1904 - First open primary election law. It was favored overwhelmingly in a referendum
- 1908 - Otto Zachow and William Besserdich invented the four-wheel- drive automobile
in Clintonville, at a company which came to be called Four Wheel Drive Auto Company (FWD
- 1910 - Ole Evinrude of Milwaukee designed the first commercially successful outboard
gasoline engine for boats. It was a 1 horsepower, 62-pound iron engine, and sold for $62.
- 1911 - Devil's Lake was established in 1911. The facility has become one of Wisconsin's
oldest and most famous state parks. It leads the state parks in attendance.
- 1911 - Wisconsin put into effect the first workers compensation law, which provided
monetary benefits for workers injured on the job. In 1905 a special committee was established
to investigate the feasibility of insurance for industrial accidents and they came up with
a system in which injured employees could opt out of the state-operated system only by purchasing
private insurance or through self-insurance. This led to the reforms in 1911.
- 1912 - Beloit's Arthur P. Warner perfected the automobile speedometer, which
became standard equipment on virtually every car manufactured in the United States.
- 1914 - Wisconsin enacted the first statewide building code covering both public
structures and places of employment.
- 1915 - The University of Wisconsin's experimental radio station 9XM (now WHA,
the nation's oldest radio station), began transmitting signals. This experimentation was
led by two University professors Edward Bennett and Earle M. Terry. It first initiated daily
weather reports in code and began the broadcasting of concerts and then basketball games
- 1918 - Wisconsin established the first statewide numbering system to direct highway
traffic, using odd numbers for state trunk highways running north-south and even numbers
for those going east-west.
- 1919 - Wisconsin introduced the first complete program of standardization in
the grading of fruits, vegetables, hay, honey, cheese, poultry, and eggs.
- 1921 - Wisconsin passed the first law eliminating all legal discrimination against
- 1929 - University of Wisconsin Professor Henry Steenbock produced vitamin D using
food irradiation and ultraviolet light.
- 1930's - In the 1930s the Flambeau River State Forest was established and became
a legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Project Administration.
- 1932 - Wisconsin passed the first law authorizing monetary benefits for unemployed
- 1933 - Wisconsin became the first state to prohibit the use of race or national
origin as factors in hiring teachers.
- 1935 - The Hamilton Manufacturing Company of Two Rivers produced the first automatic
- 1936 - A.O. Smith Corporation patented the first glass-lined water heater and
began to market the product three years later. In the late 1920s, engineers began experimenting
with using glass coatings to protect steel from corrosion. The original applications were
for steel pipe used to transport oil and natural gas. As the company perfected methods of
fusing glass to steel, it looked for other applications for this technology. In the 1930s,
the company began to develop a glass-lined water heater. Hot water is an extremely corrosive
material, capable of rusting through steel in as short a time as a few months. Prior to
this development, water heaters for the home used either galvanized steel of stainless steel
tanks and were prohibitively expensive. Following World War II, the company began to mass
produce glass-lined water heaters, and by the late 1940s, glass-fused-to-steel was the preferred
method of storing hot water.
- 1940's - The House on the Rock was designed and built in the early 1940s. It
is considered an architectural marvel and is perched on a 60-foot chimney of rock. The 14-room
house is now a complex of rooms, streets, buildings, and gardens covering over 200 acres.
The Infinity Room contains 3,264 windows.
- 1949 -
- 1951 - Wisconsin established the first statewide program for acquiring and managing
natural areas for scientific research, for teaching conservation and natural history, and
for preserving rare or valuable plant and animal species and communities.
- 1955 - The Muskellunge
(Esox masquinongy masquinongy) was designated as
Wisconsin State Fish
- 1957 -
- 1959 -
- Wisconsin enacted the first state public-sector collective- bargaining law, which
permitted public employees to negotiate labor conditions with their employers.
- "On, Wisconsin,"
by William Purdy is designated as Wisconsin
- 1963 - Wisconsin established the first program of tax relief for the elderly
through a homestead tax credit. Ten years later, the law was extended to cover all low-income
households, including renters.
- 1965 - Wisconsin became the first state to ban hiring discrimination based on
- 1966 - The three-hundred-mile "Wisconsin Bikeway" from Kenosha to La Crosse opened,
the first bike trail to cross an entire state. The Elroy-Sparta portion of the bike path
pioneered the ˘rails to trails÷ concept.
- 1967 - The Green Bay Packers, under the direction of Coach Vince Lombardi, won
the first Super Bowl game against the Kansas City Chiefs, 25 to 10, in Los Angeles on January
15, 1967, to top off the 66 season. They also won Super Bowl II against Oakland the following
year, 33 to 14. The Packers have won twelve championships, more than any other team in National
Football League history. The team was created in Green Bay in 1919 with the leadership of
Curly Lambeau and George Calhoun.
- 1968 - A team of scientists and surgeons at the University of Wisconsin in Madison
performed the first successful bone- marrow transplant.
- 1970 - Wisconsin became the first state to prohibit the sale and distribution
of DDT, a powerful pesticide also toxic to fish, mammals, and birds.
- 1971 -
- 1973 - Wisconsin established the Rustic Roads Program, which identifies and preserves
scenic rural roads. It remains the only statewide effort of its kind. It was created in
an effort to help citizens and local units of government preserve what remains of Wisconsin's
scenic, lightly traveled country roads for the leisurely enjoyment of bikers, hikers and
motorists. Unique brown and yellow signs mark the routes of all officially- designated Rustic
- 1977 - The Honeybee
(Apis mellifera) was designated as
Wisconsin State Insect
- 1982 - Wisconsin became the first state to prohibit discrimination in employment,
housing, and public places of accommodation or amusement on the basis of sexual orientation.
- 1983 - Antigo
silt loam is selected as
Wisconsin State Soil
- 1985 -
- 1987 - Milk
is selected as Wisconsin State
- 1989 - Corn
(Zea mays) is adopted as the
Wisconsin State Grain
- 1990 - Wisconsin enacted the first statute using a broad-based business tax to
fund recycling efforts.
- 1993 - Polka
is designated as Wisconsin State
- 2001 -
- 2004 - The Cranberry
(Vaccinium macrocarpon) was designated as
Wisconsin State Fruit
- 2008 - Find out more. about the
Wisconsin State Tartan
- 2013 - Kringle becomes Wisconsin State Pastry
More Wisconsin History Firsts - Wisconsin State Facts
- Protesters against the Kansas-Nebraska bill, which wanted to expand slavery to emerging
states, met in a Ripon schoolhouse. This meeting, called by Ripon's Alvan E. Bovay, founded
a new political group dedicated to the defeat of this legislation. The group called itself
the Republican Party.
- One of the most popular places to visit in the state is Wisconsin Dells, where the Wisconsin
River passes through a winding gorge about 13 km (about 8 mi) long.
- Milwaukee is home of Harley Davidson Motorcycles
- Wisconsin is among the nation's leaders in production of dairy products and is sometimes
called America's Dairyland.
- John Francis Appleby of Mazomanie invented the twine binder, an adaptation of the invention
from 1858. It would become the basis for farm machines produced by the McCormick, Champion,
and Osborn companies.
- Wisconsin ranks number one in # of milk cows (1,500,000) and produces over 15% of the
entire country's milk.
- Wisconsin has over 14,000 lakes, with Lake Winnebago the largest. It also has 7,446
streams and rivers, which if you stuck them end to end they'd stretch nearly 27,000 miles--enough
to circle the whole planet.
- Milwaukee's Summerfest is the nation's largest music festival, with over 2,500 performers.
- Wisconsin is known as the Badger State after the living habits of early miners in the
region who either lived in mine shafts or dug their homes out of the sides of hills--just
like Badgers do.
- House on the Rock was designed and built in the early 1940s. It is considered an architectural
marvel and is perched on a 60-foot chimney of rock. The 14-room house is now a complex of
rooms, streets, buildings, and gardens covering over 200 acres. The Infinity Room contains
- George Hinkley invented the band sawmill and installed it at the Jump River Lumber Company
in Prentice. The machine harnessed steam to do much of the heavy work in the mills that
formerly had been done by workers.
- Joseph Steinwand developed a new product at the cheese factory he and his father operated.
He named the new cheese for the nearby town of Colby.
- The State of Wisconsin created the Legislative Reference Library (now the Legislative
Reference Bureau) as the first nonpartisan legislative service agency. This was one of the
first pillars of the Wisconsin Idea*. Charles McCarthy was an integral part in building
this system. It became a model for other states, with two separate and independent departments
one for research, the other for drafting bills.
- (* Wisconsin Idea: the interaction among state officials and University of Wisconsin
faculty became known as the "Wisconsin Idea" -- that public leadership in combination with
academic expertise will improve the performance of government)
- Two University of Wisconsin mechanical engineering students, Charles W. Hart and Charles
H. Parr, built the first successful gasoline-powered traction engine, dubbed the ˘tractor.÷
They were recognized as the founders of the farm tractor industry.
- Wisconsin established the first state-supported system for vocational, technical, and
adult education. An interim commission had been assigned to look into this problem in the
education system and was charged with providing schooling for the "educationally disinherited"
or "forgotten groups" meaning those who dropped out of school at a young age to enter the
workforce. They studied other programs around the United States and the world. The result
was a report that led to this legislation.
- Wisconsin put into effect the first modern income-tax law. It levied a 1% rate on incomes
of over $1000 a year, thereby exempting the vast majority of working people. It further
advantaged lower income persons by providing for exemptions of $800 for single individuals
and $1200 for married couples, just a few provisions of this new legislation.
- Wisconsin issued the first limited, low-cost individual life insurance and annuity contracts
for state residents. The State Life Fund could issue policies to Wisconsin residents between
the ages of 20 and 50 in increments of $500, to a maximum of $3000. The law demanded medical
exams for purchasers of insurance, established the loan and surrender values of policies
and permitted annuity policies.
- The J. I. Case Company of Racine, one of the nationĂs leading manufacturers of agricultural
machinery, produced the first gasoline-powered tractor. Although developed in 1892, it took
them twenty years before they actually placed them on the market.
- On June 10, Wisconsin became one of the first two states (Illinois was the other) to
ratify the 19th Amendment for women's suffrage. It was the war movement which added the
pressure nationally and statewide. With the involvement of women in all aspects of the war
effort, stereotypes became outdated. President Woodrow Wilson put his support behind the
movement in 1918, leading to reform on the national level and in Wisconsin.
- The A.O. Smith Corporation, under the direction of Lloyd R. Smith, constructed the worldĂs
first fully automated assembly plant in Milwaukee. The operation was capable of producing
10,000 car frames per day and required only 181 men. The plant operated continuously for
the next 37 years.
- Wisconsin developed the nation's first large-scale demonstration of soil and water conservation
at the Coon Creek Watershed in Vernon County.
- Wisconsin visitors and residents enjoy the state's 7,446 streams and rivers. End-to-end
they'd stretch 26,767 miles. That is more than enough to circle the globe at the equator.
- Wisconsin's Door County has five state parks and 250 miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan.
These figures represent more than any other county in the country.
- Wausau is the Ginseng Capital of the World.
- The American Birkebeiner, a 52K cross-country ski race between Cable and Hayward, is
the largest on the North American continent.
- Wisconsin snowmobile trails total 15,210 miles of signed and groomed snow highways.
- Mount Horeb is the Troll Capital of the World and home to the Mustard Museum (see below.)
- Noah's Ark in Wisconsin Dells is the nation's largest water-themed park.
- Belleville is the Unidentified Flying Object Capital of Wisconsin.
- Potosi is the Catfish Capital of the state.
- Wisconsin is the dairy capital of the United States.
- Wisconsin produces more milk than any other state.
- The National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward is shaped like a Muskie.
- The original Barbie is from Willows. Barbie's full name is Barbie Millicent Roberts.
- Bloomer is the Jump Rope Capital of the World.
- Milwaukee is home of Harley Davidson Motorcycles.
- Somerset is the Inner Tubing Capital of the World.
- Green Bay is Wisconsin's oldest city.
- Two Rivers is the home of the ice cream sundae.
- Wisconsin's second oldest city is Prairie du Chien.
- Boscobeel is the Turkey Capital of the state.
- Hamburger Hall of Fame is located in Seymour.
- Monroe is the Swiss Cheese Capital of the World.
- Mercer is the Loon Capital of the World.
- With an average of 2,500 performers, Milwaukee's Summerfest is the nation's largest
- Famous Wisconsinites include: Harry Houdini, famous magician and escape artist. Douglas
MacArthur, well known World War II and Korean War general. Frank Lloyd Wright, America's
most famous architect. William H. Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme
Court. Don Ameche, actor and winner of an academy award for his performance in "Cocoon."
- Mount Horeb's internationally known Mustard Museum holds the world's largest mustard
collection. The museum contains more than 2,300 varieties of mustard. The museum celebrates
National Mustard Day each August.
- The National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame is in Hayward.
- Eagle River is known as the Snowmobile Capital of the World.
- Marshfield is located in the geographic center of the state and is known Hub City.
- Bonduel is the Spelling Capital of Wisconsin.
- Muscoda is the Morel Mushroom Capital of Wisconsin.
- Sauk City is Wisconsin's oldest incorporated village.
- Prairie du Sac hosts the State Cow Chip Throwing Contest on Labor Day weekend.
- Sturgeon Bay is the Shipbuilding Capital of the Great Lakes.
- Sheboygan is the Bratwurst Capital of the World.
- The falls in Niagara has the same geological feature as Niagara Falls, New York.
- Green Bay is the Toilet Paper Capital of the World.
County Information and County History
Adams, Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Brown, Buffalo, Burnett, Calumet, Chippewa, Clark, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Door, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Florence, Fond du Lac, Forest, Grant, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Iron, Jackson, Jefferson, Juneau, Kenosha, Kewaunee, La Crosse, Lafayette, Langlade, Lincoln, Manitowoc, Marathon, Marinette, Marquette, Menominee, Milwaukee, Monroe, Oconto, Oneida, Outagamie, Ozaukee, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, Portage, Price, Racine, Richland, Rock, Rusk, Sauk, Sawyer, Shawano, Sheboygan, St. Croix, Taylor, Trempealeau, Vernon, Vilas, Walworth, Washburn, Washington, Waukesha, Waupaca, Waushara, Winnebago, Wood
Britain's American colonies broke with their mother country in 1776 and were
then recognized as the new nation of the United States of America following the Treaty of Paris in 1783. During the 19th and 20th centuries, 37 new states were added to the original 13 as the nation expanded across the North American continent and acquired a number of overseas possessions.