Wisconsin (French: Ouisconsin) is a state located near the center of the North American continent. It touches two of the five Great Lakes and is one of the fifty states that constitutes the United States of America. Wisconsin’s capital is Madison, and its largest city is Milwaukee.
Jim Doyle has been the Governor of Wisconsin since January 6, 2003.
Since its founding, Wisconsin has been ethnically heterogeneous, with Yankees being among the first to arrive from New York and New England.
They dominated the state’s heavy industry, finance, politics and education. Large numbers of European immigrants followed them, including Germans, mostly between 1850 and 1900, Scandinavians (the largest group being Norwegian) and smaller groups of Belgians, Dutch, Swiss, Finns, Irish, Poles and others; in the 20th century, large numbers of Mexicans and African Americans came, settling mainly in Milwaukee; and after end of the Vietnam War came a new influx of Hmongs.
Today, 42.6% of the population is of German ancestry, making Wisconsin one of the most German-American states in the United States. Numerous ethnic festivals are held throughout Wisconsin to celebrate its heritage. Such festivals are world renowned, and include Summerfest, Oktoberfest, Festa Italiana, Bastille Days, Syttende Mai (Norwegian Constitution Day), Brat(wurst) Days in Sheboygan, Cheese Days in Monroe and Mequon, African World Festival, Indian Summer, Irish Fest and many others.
The state is bordered by the Montreal River; Lake Superior and Michigan to the north; by Lake Michigan to the east; by Illinois to the south; and by Iowa and Minnesota to the west.
The state’s boundaries include the Mississippi River and St. Croix River in the west, and the Menominee River in the northeast.
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 has massive mixed hardwood and coniferous forests including the 1.5 million acre (6,000 km²) Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, as well as thousands of glacial lakes, and the state’s highest point, Timms Hill.
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, including many bluffs on the Mississippi River.
This region is part of the Driftless Area, which also includes portions of Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota.
This area was not covered by glaciers during the most recent ice age, the Wisconsin Glaciation.
Overall, 46% of Wisconsin’s land area is covered by forest.
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 and Florida).
The distinctive Door Peninsula, which extends off 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.
Areas under the management of the National Park Service include the following:
* Apostle Islands National Lakeshore along Lake Superior
* Ice Age National Scenic Trail
* North Country National Scenic Trail
* Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway
* Nicolet National Forest.
The highest temperature ever recorded in Wisconsin was in the Wisconsin Dells, on July 13, 1936, and was 114 °F (46 °C).
The lowest temperature ever recorded in Wisconsin was in Couderay, on both February 2 and 4, 1996, and was –55 °F (-48 °C).
It may come from an ancient Ojibwe word, Miskwasiniing, meaning “Red-stone place,” which was probably the name given to the Wisconsin River, and was recorded as Ouisconsin by the French.
The spelling was revised to its current form in 1845 by Wisconsin’s territorial legislature.
The modern Ojibwe name, however, is Wiishkoonsing or Wazhashkoonsing, meaning “muskrat-lodge place” or “little muskrat place.”
Other theories are that the name comes from words meaning “Gathering of the Waters” or “Great Rock.” Originally, Ouisconsin was applied to the Wisconsin River, and later to the area as a whole when Wisconsin became a territory.
Introduction to the West
In 1634, the French Jean Nicolet was the first European to explore Wisconsin. He founded Green Bay colony. The area was mainly colonized by German, Scandinavian and Swiss settlers.
France transferred the territory to Britain in 1763. The United States acquired the Wisconsin territory after the Revolution in 1783 but it remained under British administration until the War of 1812.
Wisconsin, bordered by the states of Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois, as well as Lakes Michigan and Superior, has been part of the United States’ territory since the end of the American Revolution; the Wisconsin Territory (which included parts of other current states) was formed on July 3, 1836.
Wisconsin ratified its constitution on March 13, 1848, and was admitted to the Union on May 29, 1848, as the 30th state.
Wisconsin’s economy was originally based on farming (especially dairy), mining, and lumbering. In the 20th century, tourism became important, and many people living on former farms commuted to jobs elsewhere.
Large-scale industrialization began in the late 19th century in the southeast of the state, with the city of Milwaukee as its major center.
In recent decades, service industries, especially medicine and education, have become dominant. Wisconsin’s landscape, largely shaped by the Wisconsin glaciation of the last Ice Age, makes the state popular for both tourism and many forms of outdoor recreation.
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 manufacturing, agriculture, and health care. Although manufacturing accounts for a far greater part of the state’s income than farming, Wisconsin is often perceived as a farming state.
It produces more dairy products than any other state in the United States except California, and leads the nation in cheese production.
Wisconsin ranks second behind California in overall production of milk and butter, and it ranks third in per-capita milk production, behind Idaho and Vermont.
Based on poll results, Governor Jim Doyle chose for Wisconsin’s 50 State Quarters design a Holstein cow, an ear of corn, and a wheel of cheese. 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 frozen pizza, Johnsonville brats, and Usinger’s sausage. Kraft Foods alone employs over 5,000 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. Schlitz, Blatz, and Pabst used to be cornerstone breweries within the city of Milwaukee.
Today, Milwaukee’s economy is more diverse with an emphasis on health care. In 2004, four of the city’s ten largest employers (including the top two) were part of the health care industry.
The largest employers in Wisconsin in 2007 were:
6) Marshfield Clinic;
7) Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center;
9) Target Stores;
Wisconsin is also 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, Bucyrus International, Super Steel Products Corp., 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 24 paper mills along its 39 mile (63 km) stretch.
The development and manufacture of health care devices and software is a growing sector of the state’s economy with key players such as GE Healthcare, Epic Systems, and TomoTherapy.
Tourism is also a major industry in Wisconsin — the state’s third largest, according to the Department of Tourism.
This is largely attributed to the 90 attractions in the Wisconsin Dells family vacation destination area, which attracts nearly 3 million visitors per year. Tourist destinations such as the House on the Rock near Spring Green and Circus World Museum in Baraboo also draw thousands of visitors annually, and festivals such as Summerfest and the EAA Oshkosh Airshow draw national attention along with hundreds of thousands of visitors.
Door County is a popular destination for boaters due to the large number of natural harbors, bays and ports on the Bay of Green Bay and Lake Michigan side of the peninsula that forms the county.
Wisconsin collects personal income tax based on four income-level brackets, which range from 4.6% to 6.75%.
The state sales and use tax rate is 5%. Fifty-nine counties have an additional sales/use tax of 0.5%.
The counties surrounding Milwaukee County have an additional 0.1% tax imposed upon them to fund the new baseball stadium, Miller Park, which was constructed around the turn of the century.
Retailers who make sales subject to applicable county taxes must collect 5.6% tax on their retail sales.
The most common property tax assessed on Wisconsin residents is the real property tax, or their residential property tax.
Wisconsin does not impose a property tax on vehicles but does levy an annual registration fee. Property taxes are the most important tax revenue source for Wisconsin’s local governments, as well as major methods of funding school districts, vocational technical colleges, special purpose districts and tax incremental finance districts.
Equalized values are based on the full market value of all taxable property in the state, except for agricultural land.
In order to provide property tax relief for farmers, the value of agricultural land is determined by its value for agricultural uses, rather than for its possible development value. Equalized values are used to distribute state aid payments to counties, municipalities, and technical colleges.
Assessments prepared by local assessors are used to distribute the property tax burden within individual municipalities.
Wisconsin does not assess a tax on intangible property.
Wisconsin does not collect inheritance taxes. Wisconsin’s estate tax is decoupled from the federal estate tax laws; therefore the state imposes its own estate tax on certain large estates.