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The state tartan was created by 2007 Wisconsin Act 217. Legislation was introduced at the request of Saint Andrew's Society of Milwaukee, which had formed a committee to recommend an appropriate design.
The design selected was chosen to reflect the diversity and uniqueness of the state. Historically, tartans served to identify Scottish highland clans and families.
At 2:45pm on April 7th, 2008, Governor James Doyle affixed his signature to AB 212, making the Wisconsin tartan official. The tartan bill is designated: 2007 WISCONSIN ACT 217 (i.e. the 217th act created by the legislature, signed by the governor.)
The idea of an official Wisconsin state tartan was born of a discussion about Scottish identity in Milwaukee, and the role the Society should play in nurturing it. While membership in the Saint Andrew's Society of the City of Milwaukee is not limited to Scots, wearing the tartan is appropriate and encouraged at all member gatherings. For those members who could not lay claim to Scottish descent, few options were available. The Wisconsin state tartan now fills that void.
Former Society president Robert McWilliam is credited with advancing the concept of a true Wisconsin tartan with his friend and world authority in tartan weaving, Dr. Phil Smith. Together they developed and submitted a number of tartan designs to a committee from the Saint Andrew's Society. The designs incorporated colors that were significant and/or representative of local industry and heritage.
Wisconsin's tartan is a hunting tartan with a blue green background and multiple stripes of various colors. The color scheme reflects the tartans of many notable Wisconsin families of Scottish ancestry and the natural resources and industries of Wisconsin. The color brown represents the fur trade; grey represents lead mining; green represents the lumber industry; blue reflects the two Great Lakes bordering Wisconsin, commercial and recreational fishing, and the resort industry; yellow signifies the dairy and brewing industries; red represents the University of Wisconsin System; and, where yellow and green stripes intersect, it represents Wisconsin's professional sports teams, exemplified by the Green Bay Packers
The information held within The Scottish Register of Tartans for the "Wisconsin" tartan is shown below.
STA ref: 5882
STWR ref: none
Designer: Smith, Dr Phil and McWilliam, Robert
Tartan date: 21/04/2008
Registration date: This tartan was recorded prior to the launch of The Scottish Register of Tartans.
Registration notes: There needed to be an official Wisconsin tartan to represent the state's history and culture and to be recognised as an official state symbol. Wisconsinites could wear the tartan as a recognised symbol of their home state. The Wisconsin legislature passed legislation establishing the official Wisconsin tartan in April 2008 and the Act was signed by the governor on 7 April 2008. The colours in the tartan are symbolic of the State history and culture: brown represents the fur trade that opened the state to new settlers; grey represents the lead miners who helped give the state its nickname 'Badgers' (the badger is also the State's mascot and the mascot of the University of Wisconsin); red represents the University system that has given Wisconsin so much innovation and industry; blue represents the state's waters that include the great lakes, commerce and recreation; green represents forests, agriculture and their contribution to Wisconsin; yellow represents both dairy and brewing - two industries that helped build Wisconsin. Yellow and green intersect to represent professional sports in the color combination of one of the state's teams.
The law designating the official Wisconsin statetartan is found in the Wisconsin Statutes, Chapter 1, Section 1.10(3)(s)
1.10 State song, state ballad, state waltz, state dance, and state symbols.
(3) The Wisconsin state symbols are as follows:
(s) The tartan whose thread count is described in this paragraph is the state tartan. The thread count for the state tartan shall begin with 44 threads of muted blue, followed by 6 threads of scarlet, 4 threads of muted blue, 6 threads of gray, 28 threads of black, 40 threads of dark green, 4 threads of dark yellow, 40 threads of dark green, 28 threads of black, 22 threads of muted blue, and 12 threads of dark brown, at which point the weave reverses, going through 22 threads of muted blue, and continuing the sequence in reverse order until the weave reaches the beginning point of 44 threads of muted blue, at which point the weave reverses again.