History of Wisconsin

French explorers from Canada were the first Europeans to explore the region. The first references to the lands of Wisconsin date back to the year 1634, when Jean Nicolet, of Samuel de Champlain’s expedition, saw the Green Bay. In 1659, Canadian leather traders M├ędard Chouart and Pierre Espirit Radisson explored northern Wisconsin. In 1672, French Jesuits founded a mission in DePere. A few years later it was the expedition of Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet, which crossed the territory on its way to the Mississippi.

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The importance that this region acquired gave rise to conflicts between the British and the French, a rivalry that led to the Indian wars. The conflict lasted for years, until 1763 and with the Treaty of Paris, France had to cede its territories in Canada and east of the Mississippi River to Great Britain, and to Spain the rest of the province of Louisiana, controlled by France since 1681. Wisconsin, once under British control, remained assimilated to the province of Quebec between 1774 and 1783. After the War of Independence, Britain had to cede to the United States the territories east of the Mississippi River and south of the Great Lakes and still preserved, the rest of Quebec.

Once the United States took possession of their new domains, they created an administrative system of territories that were not part of any of the thirteen colonies, and which were in any case under the control of Congress. Thus, in 1787, the Northwest Territory was established, which included the present state of Wisconsin. The gradual division of this territory followed the progress of colonization, and gradually new states were admitted into the Union, this meant that Wisconsin remained enclosed in different administrative units: it was part of the territory of Indiana, of the territory of Illinois and the Michigan territory until, finally, the Wisconsin territory was created, the first step for admission as a state into the union. This process was relatively rapid as Wisconsin experienced rapid colonization thanks to the discovery of lead deposits, the first in Hazel Green, and the activities of hunter-traffickers. As early as 1791, hunter Jacques Vieau had established the trading sites of Kewaunee, Sheyboygan, Manitowoc and Milwaukee. The settler settlements were of course not liked, the Indians of the area resisting the white invader until in 1832, the Sauk and Fox tribes, led by the Black Hawk chief, were slaughtered in the Battle of Bad Ax.

The territory of Wisconsin that was created in 1836 included the current states of Iowa and Minnesota, as well as a small portion of South Dakota and North Dakota. The reorganization of 1838 created the territory of Iowa and reduced that of Wisconsin. The arrival of new settlers in the region during 1846 allowed Wisconsin to solicit admission to the United States. Thus, two years later, Wisconsin became the 30th state of the Union. For the occupation of the territories, the government of the United States forced the Indian tribes, between 1829 and 1848, to accept treaties for the transfer of their lands to the new settlers.

During the Civil War (1860-1865), Wisconsin declared itself a supporter of the Union, so nearly 100,000 of its citizens participated in the conflict, (of which nearly 11,000 did not survive the war). After the war, Wisconsin’s basic wood and rail industries and agricultural activities enabled the region’s rapid economic growth. During those years, Wisconsin was beginning to consolidate the foundations of the dairy industry. In fact, the Wisconsin Dairy Association was created as early as 1872 and soon became the largest producer in the industry in the United States. Next to dairy products, wood was the main product of trade. Towards the beginning of the century, Wisconsin had become the country’s largest producer of this commodity whose demand was staggering over several decades of relentless growth. In addition, many of the industries were concentrated in the city of Milwaukee, on the shores of Lake Michigan, a city that was able to take advantage of its enviable advantages from the point of view of communications.

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For much of the twentieth century, the La Follette family emerged in the political landscape of this state whose members Robert and his son Philip held the post of governor for various legislatures. The La Follette elder had supported Roosevelt’s Progressive Party, created in 1912 as a result of the power struggles between Republican candidates, its own president Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft. The policy carried out by the two La Follette governors in Wisconsin was characterized by progressivism from a social and work point of view, and for the conservation of the environment. For example, during the governments of Philip F. La Follette, in the midst of the economic depression of the 1930s, the Congress of Wisconsin passed the first Unemployment Insurance Act in the United States.

After the Second World War, the Wisconsin economy continued to grow rapidly, and at the same time a policy of economic reconversion was practiced, an attempt was made to reduce the weight of agriculture in the state economy and to create a greater industrial fabric.

A leading figure in American politics after World War II was Senator Joseph McCarthy, elected in 1946 at the expense of Robert La Follette. McCarthy, for half a decade, concentrated his political activity on a particular campaign against subversion, a madness that went down in history as a ‘witch hunt.’ During his frantic campaign, he accused hundreds of politicians, soldiers, scientists, journalists, writers and movie stars of spying and conspiring to benefit the Soviet Union.

Despite subsequent reconversions, the most important economic sector in Wisconsin is still industry and agricultural products, especially dairy products. Hence the state’s nickname: ‘America’s dairy.’ Therefore, many of Wisconsin’s machinery industries are geared towards producing items to supply that industry. in addition to this, the beer industry and the forestry resources processing sector (wood and paper) continue to be vital to its economy. As recently as 1993, the state suffered the effects of a severe flooding of the Mississippi River.

Wisconsin State Flag

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