History of Wisconsin

Knowing Wisconsin

Located in the Midwest, north-central and Great Lakes regions of the United States of America, Wisconsin is a state in the U.S.

Iowa borders it to the southwest, Minnesota to the west, Lake Michigan to the east, Illinois to the south, Lake Superior to the north, and Michigan to the northeast.

Based on total land area, Wisconsin is ranked 20th as the most populous and 23rd largest American state. Madison is the capital of the state, with Milwaukee as they largest city.

The Lake Michigan’s western shore is the location of the state; it has 72 counties.

Glaciers in the Ice Age affected the diverse geography of Wisconsin except the Driftless Area. The western part of the state is home to the Central Plain, Western Upland and Northern Highland.

The lowlands stretch all the way to the shore of Lake Michigan.


In terms of the coastline of the Great Lakes, Michigan has a longer coastline than Wisconsin.

European settlers mainly from Scandinavia and Germany arrived in Wisconsin in the 19th and 20th centuries. It’s home to many Scandinavian and German Americans, including related cultures.

Often referred to as “America’s Dairyland,” the state is the leading producer of dairy and related products in the nation. Cheese is synonymous with the state.

Major contributors to the economy of the Wisconsin state include:

  • Cranberries
  • IT
  • Ginseng
  • Manufacturing
  • Tourism

History of Wisconsin – Tips and Facts

Various Native American tribes were the first inhabitants of Wisconsin until the late 1800s. They include:

  • Oneida
  • Menominee
  • Chippewa
  • Ho Chunk
  • Potawatomi

Jean Nicolet was the first European explorer to settle in the state; he arrived in 1634 on his way to China across the Northwest Passage. In 1672, France claimed the state in 1672 as part of its New World territory.

The people who make up the history of Wisconsin include:

  • Native American tribes
  • Residents since Wisconsin became a U.S. state
  • American settlers when Wisconsin was a territory
  • British and French colonists

The Yankees were the first to arrive at Wisconsin from New England and New York. They dominated the finance, education, industry and politics of the state.

European immigrants arrived next between 1850 and 1900. They include:

  • German Americans, including Norwegian Americans
  • Dutch Americans
  • Irish Americans
  • Belgian Americans
  • Finnish Americans
  • Swiss Americans

African Americans and Polish Americans arrived in the 20th century and settled majorly in Milwaukee.

The state was initially Republican-dominated; it recently balanced to include Democrats. It took part in the Progressive Movement and pushed for higher learning in an effort to modernize the government. It’s also home to a network of popular state universities.


Father Jacques Marquette, an explorer, described regions around the river as “Meskousing; sandy and wide.” The current name Wisconsin was made legal in 1845.


Part of the territory that France ceded to Great Britain in the Paris Treaty is the Wisconsin state. However, the British relinquished claims to Wisconsin about two decades later; it then joined the United States of America.


Wisconsin joined the great territory in the west and north of River Ohio under the Northwest Ordinance. Other states created under the same ordinance include:

  • Indiana
  • Ohio
  • Michigan
  • Illinois


The Wisconsin territory was organized into the following states:

  • Minnesota
  • Iowa
  • Sections of the Dakotas
  • Wisconsin

The first territorial legislature was held about 5.5 miles to the north-east of Platteville at Belmont. The two-story frame structure and grounds neighboring the first Capital were converted to a state park.


Wisconsin joined the union as the 30th state. The third building on the site, the Madison Capitol, was built from 1906 to 1917.