History | Symbols | Interesting Facts | Famous People
The Winnebago, Menominee, and
Dakota Indians lived in Wisconsin when the first French explorer arrived
in 1634. Jean Nicolet
landed along the shore of Green Bay while striving to reach China from
French Canada. Fur traders and missionaries arrived about 25 years later.
The French and Indian Wars
(1689-1763) were fought between France and Great Britain for claim to
American land. In 1763, Britain received all French territory east of the
Mississippi River, including Wisconsin.
In 1774, the Quebec Act gave the Wisconsin region to Quebec.
This along with restricted trade and rising taxes caused the
American Revolutionary War. At
the end of this war in 1783, all territory east of the Mississippi and
south of the Great Lakes became the United States of America.
Miners began settling
southwestern Wisconsin after the discovery of lead ore during the 1820s.
Native Americans fought to keep their lands in a series of
battles called the Black Hawk War of 1832.
When the war ended, only about 150 Indians remained. Without the threat of Indian raids, thousands of settlers
moved into Wisconsin. On
May 29, 1848, Wisconsin became the 30th state of the Union.
In 1854, Congress passed the
Kansas-Nebraska Act. This
act allowed settlers of the two states to decide the question of slavery
in their state. Many Wisconsinites opposed slavery and held a meeting
to protest the possibility of slavery within the new states. This meeting in Ripon, led to the foundation of the
Several men from Wisconsin
fought for the Union during the Civil War.
After the war ended in 1865, slavery was completely abolished.
In 1871, disaster hit northeastern Wisconsin.
The Peshtigo forest fire killed about 1,200 people, completely
destroying the town of Peshtigo and part of Michigan.
By the early 1900s, the lumber industry flourished in Wisconsin. New companies opened in the state, creating furniture, wagons, and paper products. Robert M. La Follette was chosen governor and formed a new political party, the Progressive Party. He helped to set a minimum wage and state pensions for workers. He also adopted regulation of railroad rates and services.
Philip F. La Follette, son to
Robert, became governor during the Great Depression (1929-1939).
He helped create jobs by expanding roads throughout the state.
Wisconsin became the first state to pay unemployment during this
During the mid-1900s,
Wisconsin’s economy shifted importance from agriculture to
manufacturing. Farm prices
rose while dairy products decreased in demand.
Many lost their jobs as dairy farms and cheese factories closed.
New improved farm equipment also replaced many workers who left
to find work in the cities.
During the 1960s, money needed
for education and state programs such as welfare brought an increase in
state taxes, and the first sales tax in Wisconsin.
New state legislature passed laws establishing possible fines and
imprisonment for misconduct on school campuses.