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 Capital 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.
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 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 figures 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