10 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Wisconsin

1. Wisconsin is modest about its lakes.
Minnesota’s official motto may be the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, but Wisconsin is not one to brag. The lake count comes in somewhere over 15,000, but the Wisconsin DNR modestly publishes a listing of 16,692 lakes.

2. Madison wasn’t always the Capitol of Wisconsin.
Belmont was the original. The capitol was established in 1836, when Wisconsin was not yet a state but a territory. You can still visit the Council House and a lodging house for then legislators at this historic site just west of Belmont Mound State Park.

3. The oldest city in Wisconsin isn’t Madison or even Milwaukee.
It’s actually Green Bay. Its roots go all the way back to French explorer Jean Nicolet who started a small trading post in 1634. There’s a lot more history to be told of “Titletown” than that of the Packers, but most Wisconsinites’ favorite fact about Green Bay is still the 13 world championships.

4. The Swiss Cheese Capitol of the World isn’t located in Switzerland, it’s right here in Wisconsin.
Monroe is known for their cheese. Visit Monroe in September of every even numbered year for Green County Cheese Days.

5. Wisconsin is the “Land of Bratwurst”
Most Wisconsinite’s know that the “World’s Largest Brat Fest” is located in Madison every Memorial Day weekend. But, not nearly as many know that Sheboygan is also known as the “Bratwurst Capitol of the World.”

6. Wisconsin shaped modern music.
The electric guitar was first brought to market by George Beauchamp and Adolph Rickenbacker. Their configuration, a lap steel guitar fitted with crude coil windings that sent a signal to an amplifier, wasn’t quite the instrument we enjoy today.

What we now refer to as the solid-body electric guitar was brought into popularity in-part part by Wisconsin’s very own Les Paul. Les was aptly nicknamed the Wizard of Waukesha due to his innovations and inventions in guitar playing and recording styles. His legacy lives on with the modern interpretations of the Gibson Les Paul. Other companies have followed suit with replicas of Les Paul’s paying homage to his signature design. You can visit the Waukesha County Museum to take-in the Les Paul Experience. Enjoy a collection of Les’ personal guitars, equipment, awards and much more on display at this permanent exhibit.

7. The Statue Atop the State Capitol is not “Forward.”
Often mistaken as the “Forward statue”, the sculpture at the highest point of the Wisconsin’s State Capitol building is officially named “Wisconsin” but has also been nicknamed the “Golden Lady” (it’s actually clad in gilded bronze). The statue is a nod to the Greek goddess, Athena. The figure’s outstretch right arm is said to symbolize the state motto, “Forward”. This is probably where the misnomer comes in.

The Forward statue in question is actually located at ground level at the west entrance of the Capitol. (Bonus point if you can tell us what’s perched atop the “Golden Lady’s” helmet in the comments below!)

8. Wisconsin is a contributor to cinema history.
The creator of what many consider the greatest movie ever made, Citizen Kane, did not hail from Hollywood. He was an export of Wisconsin. Orson Welles was born in Kenosha and went on to become an accomplished writer, producer and director. His works have appeared on Broadway, in legendary films and in the production of an infamous radio broadcast.

9. Wisconsin is vertically challenged…sorta.
The highest natural point in Wisconsin isn’t a mountain – it’s actually a hill. Timm’s Hill is recorded at 1,951 feet. Due to Wisconsin’s mostly glaciated terrain, there aren’t a lot of craggy peaks. In exchange for leveling our landscape, glaciation has left us some of the most beautiful rolling hills, valleys, prairies and fertile farm fields. Timm’s Hill is located on Highway 13 near Ogema and the admission is free for all to visit.

10. Wisconsin leads the nation.
Known for her dairy production, Wisconsin actually leads the nation in exports of cranberries, whey, ginseng root and sweet corn.

How many of these facts about Wisconsin did you know? Feel free to share any other little known facts in the comments below!


Jeff Finup is a writer, motorcycle enthusiast and lover of all things Wisconsin. When he’s not roaming the countryside, you can find him cheering on his favorite Wisconsin sports teams or hanging out at his Northwood’s cabin. You can follow him on twitter: @ChallengeAway 


62 Responses to “10 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Wisconsin”

  1. Joan Stoltz

    Does Wisconsin have a magazine that promotes its beauty and history? I am looking for such to give as a Christmas gift.

  2. Carol

    A badger sits atop her head. Strange, as I don’t think I would want a badger on my head.

  3. Jennifer

    A badger sits on her head. Just toured the Capitol a few weeks ago and learned quite a bit.

  4. Mike

    The Badger on the head is a throwback to early settlers with head badger. It was a common ailment in prairie settlers. Wisconsin also has humor or at least many people that think they are funny, this is accentuated by consumption of beer.

  5. Dave Larsen

    The Wisconsin badger nickname is not for the animal,but for the miners in the SW part of wis..who holed out in the zinc mines, or lead mines,for a place to live and work.. resembling the animal.an unknown fact to most of Wisconsinites Does any one know the term SHAG RAG????? It was what the ladies of the miners did to call their husbands home for dinner go out an shake the rag to tell them dinner was ready!!!!!!

    • Mariah Haberman

      Yes! I learned about this at Pendarvis in Mineral Point 🙂 Very interesting!

    • Wisconsin Historical Markers

      I believe the term is “shake rag” . . .

    • Chris

      Actually, the shake rag story is also mostly made up. Think about it. Would you, as a miner, come out from the mine to go eat lunch, then go back? If so, why are pasties said to be taken into the mine. Furthermore, who is watching the homes to see when the rags are shaking? No one, that’s who.
      That whole legend was pretty much made up by the gents who owned Pendarvis.

  6. Eloise Bates

    Correction: The Orson Wells movie is “Citizen Kane.” “Rosebud” was the character’s dying word…

    • dan maruszak

      Rosebud was the name of the sled Mr Kane owned as a young boy.also John Muir was from Wisconsin.

  7. Eloise Bates

    Oops, “Welles.”

  8. Lynda Burdorf

    A Badger sits upon her head

  9. Tena Carroll

    There are also several other famous people who came from this great state…Fred Mc Murry from Beaver Dam and Spencer Tracy, to name a few. 🙂

  10. Deanna Haney

    My great grandparents lived in the first “capital” building in Belmont. I have pictures of my great grandmother on the steps.

  11. Brad Waite

    I did not realize Les Paul was from Wisconsin. Very Cool!

  12. Virginia Saxe

    Liberace was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

    • Tena Carroll

      Actually he was from West Milwaukee, a little town near the old County Stadium. 🙂

      • Sandra Gregoire

        Liberace was born in West Allis, Wisconsin not West Milwaukee.

  13. Patti Adams

    There is a fairly new magazine called Our Wisconsin with beautiful photos and interesting stories. A phone # is 1-877-902-9760. I have enjoyed this magazine I hope you do too. Don’t forgetthe llittle bits of information on the edge of the pages 🙂

  14. Barb Kretlow

    Liberace in the late fifties was visiting Wausau Most likely stayed at the Wausau Hotel.From the lobby you could enter the Mint Cafe.In their tiny bar was a piano.Friends of my Dad where there.Liberace was calling himself Buster keys sat at the piano and was playing up a storm.Pretty cool for them.

    • Joan Kiewit

      I’ve eaten at the Mint Cafe. Nice place, good food.

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    […] Clark A little known fact and something I omitted from my list of 10 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Wisconsin is that Green Bay is the toilet paper capital of the […]

  16. Joan Ervey

    Don’t forget the Wisconsin Dells. Ride “The Ducks” WW II landing craft. It is a blast and the upper and lower
    Dells boat tours.

  17. Tim Somers

    Let’s not forget…

    The World’s Largest Trivia Contest is held every April in Stevens Point, hosted by the UW-Stevens Point campus radio station 89.9FM – WWSP.

  18. Melissa

    I love Wisconsin, I was born and lived my. fist 21 years in Boyd Wisconsin now I live in Louisiana I don’t like it near as much.I miss Wisconsin

  19. Robin

    I loved Wisconsin Trails magazine, but, sadly, it went out of publication a couple of years back. BTW, don’t forget that Harley-Davidson motorcycles began in Milwaukee!

  20. Cathy A.

    The longest brat is cooked for Oktoberfest in Dallas, WI.

  21. Darlene Wulf

    About #5, Bratfest in Harrisville (Marq. Cty) has been around for over 50 years. We might not be the biggest seller of brats, but we were at one point the largest one day festival in the state.

  22. Jane S

    Also, I believe that Flanagan Bros. in Bear Creek produce the largest amount of sauerkraut in the world.

  23. Clint Nievinski

    Very interesting!

  24. graham foley

    long live Wisconsin the Wisconsin dells happy times there

  25. John Griffith

    Frak Lloyd Wright, internationally renowened archietct whose hoe and studios are preserved and open for tours in Spring Green, Also Baraboo is home to the Circus World Museum, the 100 hundered year old Al ringling Theator known as America’s Prettiest Playhouse and many of the Ringling Brother’s Original Homes are ope for tours as well and finnally the International Crane Foundation & Aldo Leapold’s cottage where he wrote “A Sand County Almanac” considered the bible of the modern ecological movement all near Baraboo

  26. Larry Young

    Two Rivers, Wisconsin is home to the invention of the Hot Fudge Sundae, or “Black Cow”.

  27. Vicki Garro

    You will be looking a long time for Timm’s Hill if you stay on Hwy 13. It actually is east of Ogema a few miles off of Hwy 86. (can take either cty rd C or cty rd RR to get there) Beautiful park, great observation point and easy climb. Be sure to visit.

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  29. jody

    the world premier of “The Wizard of Oz” was in Oconomowoc, WI

  30. Bob fisher

    I’m studying Wisconsin and this was a very helpful website 🙂

  31. Elise

    i lived in Wisconsin for seven years and the weird thing is that i only knew about half of these

  32. neil

    this is a cool site thank u to whoever put up this site 😀

  33. charlie lamb

    the statue is a badger

  34. Charlie lamb

    I like the bobber it has helped me on my projects

  35. Hans Bobby

    Oh My Gosh I am polish and I love living in Wisconsin. If anyone is thinking about moving here you totally should.

  36. Emma

    it has helped me on many projects

  37. rebeca gonzales

    what is Wisconsin known for???

  38. Britt

    On top of the capitols lady is not only a badger but also some grapes… (SHOULD be cranberries lol)

  39. Steve Suhonen

    Appleton was the first in the world to have a hydroelectric power plant. September 30, 1882

  40. Jay

    Wisconsin DNR counts lakes in much smaller acreage than MN does. If MN counted lakes in the same way as WI, MN would have many more lake on their census than WI. I am from WI and love it but MN is also much larger.


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