The Badger State

Where is it?

State Flag




Great Lakes
Geographic coordinates:
42°30'N to 47°3'N
86°49'W to 92°54'W
total: 65,503 sq mi
land: 54,314 sq mi
water: 11,190 sq mi
Great Lakes: 9,355 sq mi
coastline: N/A
shoreline: N/A
Bordering States:
Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Lake Michigan 579 ft
highest point: Timms Hill 1,951 ft
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 includes the state's highest point, Timms Hill, as well as massive forests and thousands of small glacial lakes. In the middle of the state, the Central Plain possesses 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.

The varied landscape of Wisconsin makes the state a vacation destination popular for outdoor recreation. Winter events include skiing, ice fishing and snowmobile derbies. Wisconsin has many lakes of varied size; in fact Wisconsin contains 11,188 square miles (28,977 km²) of water, more than all but three other states (Alaska, Michigan & Florida). The distinctive Door Peninsula, which extends off of the eastern coast of the state, contains one of the state's most beautiful tourist destinations, Door County. The area draws thousands of visitors yearly to its quaint villages, seasonal cherry picking, and ever-popular fish boils.




5,757,564 (2014)
Largest City:
Milwaukee: 594,833 (2010)
Age structure:
0-5 years old: 6.1%
<18 years old: 23.7%
65 years and over: 13.0%
Male: 49.5% Female:50.5%
Population growth rate:
3.2% (2000-2005)
Population density:
98.8 per sq mi
Race(2000 Census):
White non-Hispanic: 86.2%
Hispanic: 4.3%
Black: 5.9%
Asian: 1.9%
Native American: 0.9%
Multi-Race: 1.0%
Christian: 85%
Other: 1%
Non-Religious: 14%




In 1634, Frenchman Jean Nicolet became Wisconsin's first European explorer, landing at Red Banks, near modern-day Green Bay in search of a passage to the Orient. The French controlled the area until it was ceded to the British in 1763. After the American Revolutionary War, Wisconsin was part of the U.S. Northwest Territory. It was then governed as part of Indiana Territory, Illinois Territory, and Michigan Territory. Settlement began when the first two public land offices opened in 1834. Wisconsin Territory was organized on July 3, 1836, and it became the 30th state on May 29, 1848.

In the 1830-60 period, large numbers of Yankees from New England and New York flocked to Wisconsin. Some became farmers but most settled in towns or cities where they set up businesses, factories, mills, banks, schools, libraries, colleges, and voluntary societies. They created many Congregational, Presbyterian and Methodist churches that still exist. The Yankees created the Republican party in 1854—the first local meeting in the country came in Ripon. They gave strong support to the Civil War effort, as well as to reforms such as abolition, woman suffrage and, especially, prohibition.

Scandinavians comprised the third largest ethnic block, with Norwegians, Danes, Swedes and Finns becoming farmers and lumberjacks in the western and northern districts. A large Danish settlement in Racine gave the only large urban presence. The great majority were Lutheran, of various synods. The Scandinavians supported prohibition and voted Republican; in the early 20th century the were the backbone of the LaFollette movement. Irish Catholics came to Milwaukee and Madison and smaller cities as railroad workers. They quickly became prominent in local government and in the Democratic party. They wrestled with the German Catholics for control of the Catholic church in the state.




May 29, 1848 (30th State)
State Tree:
Sugar Maple
State Bird:
State Flower:
Wood Violet
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, who won a major victory.

The state has supported Democrats in the last five presidential contests. 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. Democrats Al Gore carried the presidential vote in 2000 by only 5,700 votes, John Kerry in 2004 by 14,000 votes. Republicans have strongholds in the Fox Valley and suburban Milwaukee (especially Waukesha County). Democrat strongholds include the City of Milwaukee, Madison and the state's Native American reservations. Most of Wisconsin's small towns and rural areas are swing regions.

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 had a base in Milwaukee; it faded out in the late 1950s, largely due to 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.

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 is the only openly lesbian U.S. Representative. In 2004, Gwen Moore, a Democrat from Milwaukee, became Wisconsin's first (and thus far, only) African-American U.S. Representative.

Since the anti-Vietnam movement in the late 1960s, the university community in Madison has supported a liberal Democratic party, known for support for gay rights and environmentalism, and for anti-war sentiment. In 1982, sexual orientation was added by the state legislature as a protected category under existing anti-discrimination laws. However, in November 2006, voters approved a referendum banning gay marriages or civil unions in the state by a margin of 59% to 41%.




According to the 2004 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis report, Wisconsin’s gross state product was $211.7 billion. The per capita personal income was $32,157 in 2004. The economy of Wisconsin is driven by agriculture, healthcare and manufacturing. Although manufacturing accounts for a far greater part of the state's income than farming, Wisconsin is usually recognized primarily as a farming state. Wisconsin produces more dairy products than any other state in the United States except California, and it leads the nation in cheese production. Although California has overtaken Wisconsin in the production of milk and butter, Wisconsin still produces more milk per capita than any other state in the Union. In addition to dairying, 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 and Jack's frozen pizza, and Johnsonville Bratwursts. Kraft Foods alone employs over five thousand people in the state. Milwaukee is a major producer of beer and the home of Miller Brewing Company's world headquarters, the nation's second largest brewer.

In addition to food processing, Wisconsin is home to several transportation equipment and machinery manufacturers. Major Wisconsin companies in these categories include the Kohler Company, Rockwell Automation, Johnson Controls, Briggs & Stratton, Miller Electric, Milwaukee Electric Tool Company, Oshkosh Truck, and Harley-Davidson. Wisconsin also ranks first nationwide in the production of paper products; the lower Fox River from Lake Winnebago to the Bay of Green Bay has twenty-four paper mills along its 39-mile (63 km) stretch. The largest paper companies with operations in Wisconsin are Kimberly-Clark and Georgia-Pacific, both of which rank among the state's top ten employers.

Tourism is also a major industry in Wisconsin. Tourism destinations such as the House on the Rock near Spring Green, Circus World Museum in Baraboo, and the collection of attractions around Wisconsin Dells each draw thousands of visitors every year, and festivals such as Summerfest and the EAA Oshkosh Airshow always attract large crowds.