The Wisconsin region was first explored for France by Jean Nicolet, who landed near Green Bay at Red Banks in 1634. Great Britain won control of the region after the French and Indian Wars in 1763. Wisconsin became a territorial possession of the United States in 1783 after the American Revolutionary War. However, the British remained in de facto control until after the War of 1812.
Name origin: "Wisconsin" is the English spelling of a French version of a Miami Indian name for the river that runs 430 miles through the center of our state. Recent scholars have concluded that in Miami it meant, "this stream meanders through something red." Many different meanings of the word have been advanced. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, various authors who interviewed elderly Indians, French residents or fur traders have claimed it meant, "Stream of a Thousand Isles," "Gathering of Waters," "muskrat house," "grassy place," and even "holes in the bank of a stream, in which birds nest." Visit the Wisconsin Historical Society website for more detailed information.
Organized as territory: July 3, 1836
Statehood: May 29, 1848 (30th)
Present constitution adopted: 1848
Population: 5,818,409 (2018 est.)
Population: 5,686,986 (2010 Census)
Highest point: Timms Hill; 1,951.5 ft. (595 m). Located in north-central Wisconsin in Timms Hill County Park in the Town of Hill in Price County.
Area: 56,153 square miles
Geographic center: In Wood County, 9 mi. SE of Marshfield
Capital: Madison (Built on an isthmus between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. One of only two major U.S. cities built on an isthmus, the other being Seattle, Washington.)
Largest city: Milwaukee (on the shores of beautiful Lake Michigan)
Oldest city: Green Bay
Oldest incorporated village: Sauk City
Residents: Wisconsinite (see famous Wisconsinites)
Nicknames: The Badger State; America's Dairyland
Other "Capital" proclamations made by cities in Wisconsin:
Wisconsin State Symbols:
Animal: Badger (1957)
Ballad: "Oh Wisconsin, Land of My Dreams" (2001)
Beverage: Milk (1988)
Bird: Robin (1949)
Coat of Arms: Wisconsin State Coat of Arms (finalized 1881)
Dairy Product: Cheese (2017)
Dance: Polka (1994)
Dog: American Water Spaniel (1986)
Domestic Animal: Dairy Cow (1971)
Fish: Musky (Muskie, Muskellunge) (1955)
Flag: Wisconsin State Flag (amended in 1979)
Flower: Wood Violet (1949)
Fossil: Trilobite (1985)
Fruit: Cranberry (2004)
Grain: Corn (1990)
Insect: Honeybee (1977)
Mineral: Galena -Lead Sulphide (1971)
Motto: "Forward" (1851)
Pastry: Kringle (2013)
Rock: Red Granite (1971)
Seal: Wisconsin State Seal (finalized in 1881)
Soil: Antigo Silt Loam (1983)
Song: "On Wisconsin" (1959)
Symbol of peace: Mourning Dove (1971)
Tartan: The Wisconsin Tartan (2008)
Tree: Sugar Maple (1949)
Waltz: "The Wisconsin Waltz" (2001)
Wildlife Animal: White-tailed Deer (1957)
Microbe: Lactococcus lactis (ALMOST BUT NOT QUITE OFFICIAL)
Drink/Cocktail: Brandy Old Fashioned (NOT OFFICIAL)
Jim Abrahams - movie director and writer (Airplane); born on May 10, 1944 in Shorewood, Wisconsin.
Alan "The Horse" Ameche - Athlete/football fullback; born Lino Dante Ameche on March 1, 1933 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Heisman Trophy winner while at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was a cousin of noted actors Don Ameche and Jim Ameche. Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame.
Stephen Ambrose - Historian, teacher, author; born Stephen Edward Ambrose on January 10, 1936 in Lovington, Illinois but was raised in Whitewater, Wisconsin.
Don Ameche - Actor; born Dominic Felix Amici on May 31, 1908 in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Jim Ameche - Actor; born on August 6, 1915 in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Bonnie Bartlett - Actress; born on June 20, 1929 in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. She is best known for her role as Ellen Craig on the medical drama series "St. Elsewhere". She and her husband, actor William Daniels, who played her fictional husband Dr. Mark Craig, won 1986 Emmy Awards on the same night, becoming the first married couple to accomplish the feat since fellow Wisconsinites, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, in 1965.
Eric Benét - Singer; born Eric Benét Jordan on October 15, 1966 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Rowland Bernard "Bunny" Berigan - American jazz trumpeter; born on November 2, 1908 in Hilbert, Wisconsin. His 1937 classic jazz recording "I Can't Get Started" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1975.
Aaron Bohrod - Painter; born on November 21, 1907 in Chicago, Bohrod accepted a position as artist in residence in 1948, succeeding John Steuart Curry, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and remained in that capacity until 1973.
Pamela Britton - Actress; born Armilda Jane Owen on March 19, 1923 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Best known for appearing as Lorelei Brown in the television series "My Favorite Martian".
Rachel Brosnahan - Actress; born on December 15, 1990 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Most known for her Emmy Winning role in the Amazon Video period comedy-drama series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel who she stars with fellow Wisconsinite, Tony Shalhoub.
Laurel Blair Salton Clark - Medical doctor, United States Navy Captain and NASA astronaut; born on March 10, 1961 in Ames, Iowa but considered Racine, Wisconsin to be her hometown. Clark graduated from William Horlick High School in Racine, Wisconsin and received both her bachelor of science degree and doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Clark was a medical doctor, United States Navy Captain, NASA astronaut and Space Shuttle mission specialist who was killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
John Steuart Curry - Painter; born on November 14, 1897 in Dunavant, Kansas, Curry was appointed as the first artist in residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1936.
Seymour Cray - U.S. electrical engineer and supercomputer architect; born on September 28, 1925 in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Developed the super-computer.
Tyne Daly - Actress (Cagney & Lacey); born Ellen Tyne Daly on February 21, 1946 in Madison, Wisconsin.
Willem Dafoe - Actor; born William James Dafoe on July 22, 1955 in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Harley-Davidson - Motorcycle pioneers and manufacturers: Sometimes a name is more famous than the person(s) for which it is attached. In this case, the name "Harley" combined with "Davidson" is one of the most iconic brands in America — if not the world. The men attached to the hyphenated name were all born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Richard Davis - Musician, Double bass; born on April 15, 1930 in Chicago, Illinois, Davis moved to Wisconsin in 1977 and became a professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, teaching bass, jazz history, and improvisation.
August Derleth - Author; born on February 24, 1909 in Sauk City, Wisconsin.
Jeanne Dixon - Celebrity Astrologer; born on January 5, 1904 in Medford, Wisconsin.
Carl Eliason - Inventor; born in 1899 in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, he moved with his family to Sayner, Wisconsin in 1909. Invented the prototype of the modern snowmobile "motor toboggan" in his hometown of Sayner in 1924.
Ole Evinrude - Inventor; born Ole Andreassen Aaslundeie on April 19, 1877 in Vardal (now Gjøvik), in Oppland, Norway but grew up on a Lake Ripley farm near Cambridge, Wisconsin. Inventor of the outboard motor.
Chris Farley - Comedian/actor; born Christopher Crosby Farley on February 15, 1964 in Madison, Wisconsin.
Lynn Fontanne - Actress; born Lillie Louise Fontanne on December 6, 1887 in Woodford, London, England. Although she never relinquished her British citizenship, she lived for many years at Ten Chimneys, in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin with her husband Alfred Lunt. Lynn Fontanne is interred next to her husband at Forest Home Cemetery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Zona Gale - Novelist (Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1921); born on August 26, 1874 in Portage, Wisconsin.
Heather Graham. - Actress; born on January 29, 1970 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Uta Hagen - Actress; born June 12, 1919 in Göttingen, Germany and raised Madison, Wisconsin. She appeared in productions of the University of Wisconsin High School and in summer stock productions of the Wisconsin Players. Hagen also attended one semester at the University of Wisconsin, where her father was the head of the department of art history.
Deidre Hall - Actress; born on October 31, 1947 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Best known as Dr. Marlena Evans on NBC's daytime drama "Days of our Lives".
Jane Hamilton - Apple farmer, novelist; born on July 13, 1957 in Oak Park, Illinois but has lived in Rochester, Wisconsin since 1979.
Bobby Hatfield - Singer; born on August 10, 1940 in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Best known as one half of the Righteous Brothers.
Beth Heiden (Reid) - Olympian skater; born on September 27, 1959 in Madison, Wisconsin. Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame.
Eric Heiden - Olympian skater, Cyclist, Physician/Orthopedic Surgeon; born on June 14, 1958 in Madison, Wisconsin. Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame.
Woody Herman - Band leader; born on May 16, 1913 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Kevin Henkes - Children's book author and illustrator; born on November 27, 1960 in Racine, Wisconsin.
Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch - American football player; born on June 17, 1923 in Wausau, Wisconsin. Nicknamed for his unusual running style, Hirsch played for legendary coach Win Brockmeyer during his time at Wausau High School. Hirsch played his first college varsity season with the University of Wisconsin Badgers in 1942 and later became the Director of Athletics for the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Harry Houdini - Magician, Illusionist, stunt performer, actor, historian, film producer, pilot, spiritualist debunker; born on March 24, 1874 in Budapest, Hungary but grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin where he later claimed he was born.
Hans V. Kaltenborn - Journalist (American radio commentator) know as H.V. Kaltenborn; born on July 9, 1878 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and grew up in Merrill, Wisconsin. Played himself in three films, the Frank Capra film "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939), "The Babe Ruth Story" (1948), and (uncredited) in "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951).
Hildegarde - Singer; born Hildegarde Loretta Sell on February 1, 1906 in Adell, Wisconsin (cabaret singer whose career spanned seven decades).
Al Jarreau - Jazz singer; born on March 12, 1940 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Jane Kaczmarek - Actress; born on December 21, 1955 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Majored in theater at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Was married to fellow Wisconsinite, Bradley Whitford for 18 years. Best known for her role as the mother, Lois, in the TV series, "Malcolm in the Middle".
Pee Wee King - Singer; born Julius Frank Anthony Kuczynsk on February 18, 1914 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Ron Kovic - American anti-war activist, writer, and former United States Marine Corps sergeant; born Ronald Lawrence Kovic on July 4, 1946 in Ladysmith, Wisconsin. Known for book and movie, Born on the Fourth of July.
Belle Case La Follette - Lawyer and women's suffrage activist; born Belle Case on April 21, 1859 in Summit, Wisconsin. Wife of Robert La Follette, Sr. and mother of Fola La Follette. The first female graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School (1885).
Fola La Follette - Actress, women's suffrage and labor activist; born Flora Dodge "Fola" La Follette on September 10, 1882 in Madison, Wisconsin.
Robert "Fighting Bob" La Follette, Sr. - 20th Governor of Wisconsin, U.S. Senator, Congressman, Progressive Politician; born Robert Marion La Follette on June 14, 1855 in Primrose, Wisconsin.
Aldo Leopold - American ecologist, forester, and environmentalist. Born on January 11, 1887 in Burlington, Iowa, Leoplod was long-time Wisconsin resident. Associated with the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin and was a Professor of Game Management in the Agricultural Economics Department at the University of Wisconsin Madison. Author of A Sand County Almanac (1949).
Liberace - Pianist; born on May 16, 1919 in West Allis, Wisconsin. A child prodigy and the son of working-class immigrants, Liberace enjoyed a career spanning four decades of concerts, recordings, television, motion pictures, and endorsements.
James "Jim" Lovell, Jr. - NASA Astronaut; born in Ohio but his family moved to Milwaukee when he was young. Lovell graduated from Juneau High School and later attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Lovell is famous as the commander of the Apollo 13 mission.
Allen Ludden - TV host; born Allen Packard Ellsworth on October 5, 1917 in Mineral Point, Wisconsin.
Alfred Lunt - Actor; born Alfred Davis Lunt, Jr., on August 12, 1892 Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Resided at Ten Chimneys with wife, Lynn Fontanne, who was born in England in 1887 but died on July 30, 1983 in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin.
Frederic March - Actor; born Ernest Frederick McIntyre Bickel on August 31, 1897 in Racine, Wisconsin.
Steve Marker - Musician, songwriter, record producer, remixer (guitarist for Garbage); born on March 16, 1959 in Mamaroneck, New York. Marker attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and lived in Madison for 25 years.
Jackie Mason - Comedian; born on June 9, 1936 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
Joseph McCarthy - U.S. Senator from Wisconsin; born on November 14, 1908 in Grand Chute, Wisconsin.
Fred MacMurray - Actor; born on August 30, 1908 in Kankakee, Illinois. Before MacMurray was 2 years old, his native Wisconsin parents moved to Madison, Wisconsin where his father worked as a music teacher. The family then relocated within the state to Beaver Dam, where his mother had been born in 1880.
Golda Meir - Fourth Prime Minister of the State of Israel; Raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Israel's first woman prime minister.
Steve Miller - Musician (The Steve Miller Band); born on October 5, 1943 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Billy Mitchel - United States Army general; born in Nice, France, Mitchell grew up on an estate in what is now the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis, Wisconsin. Mitchell served in WWI and is regarded as the father of the U.S. Air Force. His grandfather Alexander Mitchell, a Scotsman, was the wealthiest person in Wisconsin for his generation and established what became the Milwaukee Road along with the Marine Bank of Wisconsin. Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee is named for General Mitchel.
John Muir - Naturalist and preservationist; born on April 21, 1838 in Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland, Muir's family emigrated to the United States in 1849, starting a farm near Portage, Wisconsin called Fountain Lake Farm. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Muir enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison when he was 22 where he took his first botany lesson.
Gaylord Nelson - United States politician; born on June 4, 1916 in Clear Lake, Wisconsin. He was the 35th Governor of Wisconsin, a United States Senator and the principal founder of Earth Day.
John Ringling North - Circus director (Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus); born on August 14, 1903 in Baraboo, Wisconsin.
Sterling North - Author (Rascal); born on November 4, 1906 in Lake Koshkonong, Wisconsin.
Chris Noth - Actor (Law & Order and Sex And The City), born on November 13, 1954 in Madison, Wisconsin.
Pat O'Brien - Actor; born William Joseph Patrick O'Brien on November 11, 1899 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Georgia O'Keeffe - Painter; born on November 15, 1887 in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.
Les Paul - Jazz and country guitarist, songwriter and inventor; born Lester William Polsfuss June 9, 1915 in Waukesha, Wisconsin. His family was of German ancestry and Paul's mother was related to the founders of Milwaukee's Valentin Blatz Brewing Company and the makers of the Stutz Bearcat automobile. Paul was a pioneer in the development of the solid-body electric guitar which "made the sound of rock and roll possible".
Charlotte Rae - Actress; born Charlotte Rae Lubotsky on April 22, 1926 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
William H. Rehnquist - 16th Chief Justice of the United States; born October 1, 1924 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Gena Rowlands - Actress; born Virginia Cathryn Rowlands on June 19, 1930 in Madison, Wisconsin.
Mark Ruffalo - Actor; born Mark Alan Ruffalo on November 22, 1967 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Ruffalo is best known for portraying the Marvel Comics character Bruce Banner/Hulk in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Tony Shalhoub - Actor (Monk); born Anthony Marcus Shalhoub October 9, 1953 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Bud Selig - The ninth Commissioner of Major League Baseball; born Allan Huber Selig on July 30, 1934 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Christopher Latham Sholes - Printer, publisher, politician and inventor; born on February 14, 1819 in Mooresburg, Pennsylvania and moved to Milwaukee in in 1837. He was the inventor of the QWERTY keyboard and, along with Samuel W. Soule and Carlos Glidden, is credited with inventing the first practical typewriter in 1869.
Ben Sidran - Jazz and rock keyboardist, producer, label owner, and music writer; born on August 14, 1943 in Chicago, Illinois, Sidran was raised in Racine, attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison and has been living in Madison since 1971.
Donald Kent "Deke" Slayton - NASA Astronaut; born on March 1, 1924, in Sparta, Wisconsin.
Kurtwood Smith - Actor; born on July 3, 1943 in New Lisbon, Wisconsin. Played Red Forman on "That '70s Show" for eight seasons.
Tom Snyder - Newscaster; born on May 12, 1936 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Clyde Stubblefield - Musician, drummer; born Clyde Austin Stubblefield on April 18, 1943 in Chattanooga, Tennessee but resided in Madison, Wisconsin from 1971- 2017.
Kathie Sullivan - American-born singer; born on May 31, 1953 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. She appeared on television's The Lawrence Welk Show from 1976 to 1982.
Greta Conway Van Susteren - Television news anchor; born on June 11, 1954 in Appleton, Wisconsin. She graduated from Xavier High School in Appleton in 1972 and the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1976.
Tommy Thompson - United States politician; born on November 19, 1941 in Elroy, Wisconsin. 42nd Governor of Wisconsin (having been elected to an unprecedented four terms) and served as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Spencer Tracy - Actor; born on April 5, 1900 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Daniel J. Travanti - Actor (Hill Street Blues); born Danielo Giovanni Travanti on March 7 1940 in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Bob "Mr. Baseball" Uecker - Sportscaster, comedian, and actor; born January 26, 1935 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. "Voice of the Brewers".
Butch Vig - Musician and record producer; born August 2, 1955 (age 55) in Viroqua, Wisconsin. Best known as the drummer of the Madison, Wisconsin-based alternative rockband Garbage and the producer of multi-platinum selling album Nevermind by Nirvana.
Peter Weller - Actor; born on June 24, 1947 in Sevens Point, Wisconsin. Best known for playing the title character in the 1987 movie, "Robocop".
Orson Welles - Actor and producer; born on May 6, 1915 in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Bradley Whitford - Actor; born October 10, 1959 in Madison, Wisconsin. Was married to fellow Wisconsinite, Jane Kaczmarek for 18 years. Best known for his role in the TV series, The West Wing
Gene Wilder - Actor; born Jerome Silberman on June 11, 1933 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Laura Ingalls Wilder - Author (Little House on the Prairie); born on February 7, 1867 in Pepin County, Wisconsin.
Thornton Wilder - Author; (Our Town); born on April 17, 1897 in Madison, Wisconsin.
Charles Winninger - Actor; born on May 26, 1884 in Athens, Wisconsin and grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin. Character actor known for appearing in Showboat, State Fair and Ziegfeld Girl.
Tom Wopat - Actor/singer; born on September 9, 1951 in Lodi, Wisconsin.
Frank Lloyd Wright - Architect. born June 8, 1867 in Richland Center, Wisconsin. Wright's well known works include the The S. C. Johnson and Son Administration Building in Racine, WI built in 1936; the Larkin Building in Buffalo, NY built in 1904; Fallingwater, a house in Mill Run, PA, built in 1936; the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, built in 1943; and The Unitarian Meeting House in Madison, WI (1947 to 1951). Wright's summer home, Taliesin, is located in Spring Green, Wisconsin.
David Zucker - Film director, producer and screenwriter (Airplane); born on October 16, 1947 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Jerry Zucker - Film director (Airplane, Ghst); born on March 11, 1950 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The Statue on top of the State Capitol dome is not "Forward" but is officially named "Wisconsin" and has also been nicknamed the "Golden Lady."
Wisconsin has more lakes than our neighbor to the west, Minnesota, that promotes itself as the "Land of 10,000 Lakes." Wisconsin boasts over 15,000 lakes within the state and an estimated 1017 miles of shore along the Great Lakes.
Madison was not the location of Wisconsin's first Capitol. The original Capitol was in Belmont, Wisconsin when Wisconsin was still a territory. From October 25 to December 9, 1836, Wisconsin's territorial government met in Belmont at the Territorial Council House to build the framework that would evolve into the state of Wisconsin 12 years later. For more information on Wisconsin's First Capitol, visit Wisconsin's Historical Society's First Capitol.
Wisconsin's contribution to the music world includes: Les Paul (the Wizard of Waukesha), "Bunny" Berigan, , Richard Davis, Woody Herman, Hildegarde, Al Jarreau, Pee Wee King, Butch Vig, Tom Wopat, Steve Miller and Liberace.