10 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Wisconsin

Chain of Lakes by AJ Marz

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 


72 replies
  1. Joan Stoltz
    Joan Stoltz says:

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

  2. Mike
    Mike says:

    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.

  3. Dave Larsen
    Dave Larsen says:

    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!!!!!!

  4. Tena Carroll
    Tena Carroll says:

    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. 🙂

  5. Deanna Haney
    Deanna Haney says:

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

  6. Patti Adams
    Patti Adams says:

    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 🙂

  7. Barb Kretlow
    Barb Kretlow says:

    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.

  8. Joan Ervey
    Joan Ervey says:

    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.

  9. Tim Somers
    Tim Somers says:

    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.

  10. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    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

  11. Robin
    Robin says:

    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!

  12. Darlene Wulf
    Darlene Wulf says:

    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.

  13. John Griffith
    John Griffith says:

    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

  14. Vicki Garro
    Vicki Garro says:

    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.

  15. John Schmitz
    John Schmitz says:

    The Forward Statue outside the West wing of the Capitol is actually a replica. The original is at the WI State Historical Society building – John Schmitz Volunteer Capitol Tour Guide.


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