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Wisconsin became aU.S. territoryfollowing the American Revolution and soon after began attracting settlers looking for work inits mining, lumber and dairy industries. It was admitted to the union as the 30th state in 1848.In the years leading up to the Civil War,Wisconsin was an important stop on the Underground Railroad, with manyslaves passing through the state on their way to freedom in Canada. Today, Wisconsin leads the nation in dairy production and is known for the quality of its cheddar cheese–residents even sometimesrefer to themselves as “cheeseheads.” Famous Wisconsinites include architect Frank Lloyd Wright, magician Harry Houdini andU.S. Army General Douglas MacArthur.
The Wisconsin region was first explored for France by Jean Nicolet, who landed at Green Bay in 1634. In 1660 a French trading post and Roman Catholic mission were established near present-day Ashland.
Great Britain obtained the region in settlement of the French and Indian Wars in 1763; the U.S. acquired it in 1783 after the Revolutionary War. However, Great Britain retained actual control until after the War of 1812. The region was successively governed as part of the territories of Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan between 1800 and 1836, when it became a separate territory.
Wisconsin is a leading state in milk and cheese production. Other important farm products are peas, beans, beets, corn, potatoes, oats, hay, and cranberries.
The chief industrial products of the state are automobiles, machinery, furniture, paper, beer, and processed foods. Wisconsin ranks first among the paper-producing states. The state’s mines produce copper, iron ore, lead, and zinc.
Wisconsin is a pioneer in social legislation, providing pensions for the blind (1907), aid to dependent children (1913), and old-age assistance (1925). In labor legislation, the state was the first to enact an unemployment compensation law (1932) and the first in which a workman’s compensation law actually took effect. In 1984, Wisconsin became the first state to adopt the Uniform Marital Property Act.
The state has over 14,000 lakes, of which Winnebago is the largest. Water sports, ice-boating, and fishing are popular, as are skiing and hunting. The 95 state parks, forests, and recreation areas take up one-seventh of the land.
Among the many points of interest are the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore; Ice Age National Scientific Reserve; the Circus World Museum at Baraboo; the Wolf, St. Croix, and Lower St. Croix national scenic riverways; and the Wisconsin Dells.
For several weeks in early 2011, tens of thousands of state employees and teachers staged protests in Madison, Wisconsin, camping out near the Capitol’s rotunda. They were protesting Governor Scott Walker’s plan to cut collective bargaining rights and workers’ benefits in an effort to solve the state’s budget problems. The protests received international attention, especially from countries like Egypt, which were involved in their own political uprisings at the same time.
In June 2012, Scott Walker became the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election. Once again he beat Tom Barrett, mayor of Milwaukee and Walker’s 2010 opponent.