Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Wisconsin
WISCONSIN, one of the North-Eastern Central States of the American Union, has the parallel of 42° 30' N. lat. for its southern limit, Lake Michigan for its border on the E., Lake Superior on the N., and the Mississippi on the W. Michigan on the E., Minnesota and Iowa on the W., and Illinois on the S. are its neighbour States. Its area, exclusive of water surface, is estimated at 54,450 square miles. Its length from north to south is 300 miles, its breadth 250 miles; its lake shore-line exceeds 500 miles. Its surface contours are gentle and pleasing. The lower parts of the State lie about 600 feet above the sea, the highest summits about 1800 feet. Few peaks rise more than 400 feet above their bases, and abrupt elevations of more than 200 or 300 feet are not common except along the Mississippi. The State is merely a swell of land between three notable depressions, the basins of Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and the Mississippi. The summit of the swell lies within 30 miles of Lake Superior, whence there is a rapid descent northward, with gentler declines to the south-east and south-west, separated by a low swell extending from the summit southward into Illinois. This is traversed in the south-central portion of the State by a remarkable diagonal valley, occupied by Green Bay and the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, cutting it down to within about 200 feet of the lake levels. The easterly slope is traversed longitudinally by a ridge of Niagara limestone, running nearly parallel to the shore of Lake Michigan, at an average distance of about 30 miles.
The greatest topographical interest—and it is very considerable—lies in the minor surface features. The ice of the Glacial period invaded in force the eastern and northern parts of the State, while an area of 10,000 square miles in the south-western portion was left untouched. Flowing but very irregular contours, accented by morainic peaks and ridges, by gravel knolls, and by domes of drift, mark the former area; while deep dendritic valleys, erosion cliffs, and castellated outliers give more striking relief to the latter. About 2000 minor lakes dot the eastern and northern portions, all lying within the glaciated area, and caused by the irregular heaping of the drift, or by the erosion of the glaciers. Numerous waterfalls occur in this portion, likewise due to the disturbance of the river-courses by the ice incursion. None occur in the unglaciated area.
Geology.—The geological structure of the State is unusually symmetrical (see general geological map in Plate XV.). It has for its nucleus a great mass of the most ancient crystalline rocks (Archæean). This nucleus occupies the north-central portion of the State, and about it are wrapped successive layers of later-formed rocks, lying concentrically upon each other, and occupying all the rest of the State. The ancient nucleus consists of granites, gneisses, syenites, and various highly crystalline schists. These are warped, contorted, and twisted among themselves in the most intricate fashion, and, since their original upheaval, have been extensively cut away, exhibiting what was formerly the interior of a much distorted mass. Whether this was originally sedimentary or igneous is undetermined, so great are the vicissitudes it has suffered since its original formation. It is extensively traversed by dykes and veins. As yet it has not proved to be productive in minerals of notable commercial value, but affords a wealth of the finest of building material. This formation is confidently referred to the Laurentian age, and ranks among the earliest known formations. Around the borders of this nucleus, though not skirting it continuously at the surface, are tracts of Huronian rocks. For the greater part these lie in highly inclined beds, and exhibit evidence of much disturbance since their original formation. Where they come in contact with the Laurentian nucleus, they show, by their unconformity to it, and the erosion of the strata at the contact, that a vast but unknown interval of time separated the two formations. The Huronian rocks are chiefly quartzites, with which are associated quartz-porphyries and various slates and schists, together with layers of igneous rock, either formed at the same time with other members of the series, or subsequently intruded. They embrace also, especially in the north-eastern and northern portions of the State, and extending into the upper peninsula of Michigan, valuable beds of iron-ore, as well as beds of carbonaceous material. The amount of carbon contained is large, but unfortunately impure and in the graphitic condition. Limestone also occurs, among the most ancient of its kind. The quartzites of Barren county embrace deposits of pipestone, which also occurs in the Baraboo quartzite, but less notably. Several isolated knobs of quartz-porphyry in central Wisconsin are referred to this formation, and are being extensively utilized for building material, paving, and macadamizing. Apart from the igneous beds, the members of this series were originally sediments, and even now show clearly their fragmental origin. The thickness of the Huronian beds reaches at least 13,000 feet. Overlying the Huronian rocks in the north-western part of the State is an immense series of igneous beds, sandwiched between which, and also overlying which, are layers of sandstone, shale, and conglomerate, the whole constituting the great copper-bearing (Keweenaw) formation of Lake Superior. This crosses the entire north-western corner of the State. The strata are bowed downwards, forming a great trough, the axis of which stretches from near the mouth of the Montreal river to the St Croix. The igneous beds were formed by great outwellings of molten matter, which spread widely over the surface, following each other at longer or shorter intervals, as shown by the presence or absence of intervening deposits or by erosion. The copper of the formation appears to have been brought up by these igneous ejections, and to have been subsequently concentrated by percolating water in the vesicular portions of the old lavas, or in the intervening sandstones or conglomerates, or in fissures traversing the beds,—all these forms being present. The formation in Wisconsin has not yet proved sufficiently rich to pay the expense of mining. The thickness of this formation is truly stupendous, estimates ranging from 25,000 to 45,000 feet.
The preceding formations are found tilted at various angles; those which follow lie nearly flat. The Potsdam sandstone, next in order, rests upon all of these at points, coining in contact with different ones in different places. The wear which they had suffered before it was placed upon them indicates a long interval of time. The thickness of the Potsdam is very irregular, owing to the uneven worn surface of these underlying formations. In places it is upwards of 1000 feet deep. Being an open-textured water-bearing formation, dipping south-eastward and south-westward from the central axis of the State, and embracing and being overlaid by impervious beds, it furnishes many fine-flowing wells to the districts bordering Lake Michigan and the Mississippi. Some of its beds supply excellent building material, though in general it is not sufficiently firm. The Potsdam sandstone forms a broad irregular crescentic belt, sweeping around the southern border of the Archæan nucleus. It also skirts the northern side in the Lake Superior basin. Overlying the Potsdam sandstone is a stratum of impure Magnesian Limestone, ranging from 50 to 250 feet in thickness. It forms the surface rock in an irregular ragged belt, stretching from the St Croix southward along the Mississippi, and south-easterly to the south-central part of the State, and thence north-easterly to the upper peninsula of Michigan. Small quantities of the ores of lead, iron, and copper are found in it, and certain portions furnish an excellent building stone. Overlying this, the Lower Magnesian Limestone, is an irregular stratum of nearly pure sandstone (St Peter's), ranging from a few feet to upwards of 200 feet in thickness. It is composed of nearly pure grains of quartz, and from the absence of cementing material generally crumbles with case, though in exceptional places it is sufficiently hard to be used as a building-stone. Being porous and gently dipping between impervious beds, it supplies some of the finest artesian fountains in the State. Its purer portions afford sand.
Upon the St Peter's sandstone rests a series of limestone beds, the lower part of which is known as Trenton, the upper as Galena. Their united thickness varies considerably, averaging about 250 feet. In the south-western part of the State they have yielded large quantities of lead and zinc ores, and some copper. The formation occupies a small area in the north-west of the State, a large area in the south-west, and a belt stretching from south to north through the valleys of Rock river and Green Bay.
Overlying the above limestones is a stratum of about 200 feet in thickness, composed of clay, earthy, and calcareous shales (Hudson River). This is a soft formation and easily eroded, and hence occupies little area at the surface. It forms a narrow north-and-south belt on the eastern margin of the Green Bay and Rock river valley. It has little economic value. At a few points on the surface of these shales there are accumulations of a peculiar Oolitic iron ore (Clinton), popularly known as “seed” or “shot ore,” from its concretionary structure. Its highest development is at Iron Ridge in Dodge county, where its thickness ranges from 15 to 25 feet. It is a soft ore, lying in regular horizontal beds, is quarried with great ease, and yields about 45 per cent. of metallic iron.
The next formation is a thick limestone stratum (Niagara), ranging from 400 to 800 feet. The different portions vary greatly in texture and purity, some being very fine-grained, others of admirable granular texture, and others uneven, cavernous, or full of chert nodules. It furnishes excellent building rock, and quicklime of high quality. The formation occupies a broad tract adjacent to Lake Michigan, reaching from the southern line of the State to the head of the Green Bay peninsula. It also caps the elevated mounds in the south-west of the State. The Lower Helderberg limestone, which attains great thickness farther east, is barely (indeed, somewhat doubtfully) represented in the State by some thin shaly beds of limestone found north of Milwaukee. The remainder of the normal Silurian beds and the Lower Devonian formations are not represented in the State, but just north of Milwaukee is a small area of limestone which represents the Hamilton period (Middle Devonian), a portion of which possesses hydraulic properties of a high degree of excellence, and is the basis of an important industry.
From the middle of the Devonian age until the ice incursion of the Glacial period, Wisconsin appears to have been a land surface, subjected to erosion, which developed the hills and valleys that diversify its surface, except as they were modified by the invading ice. As previously indicated, the ice of the Glacial period overrode the northern and eastern portions of the State, while it left about one-fifth of the State in the south-west untouched. The paths of the invading ice were determined by the great valleys of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Green Bay, aided by the diverting influence of the intervening heights. There appear to have been two important invasions, the earlier covering the larger area, while the later exhibited the more forceful action. There were also minor episodes of glacial advance and retreat. Both spread out an irregular sheet of mixed rock debris, partly derived from the old decomposed surface, and partly produced by the grinding action of the glaciers themselves. The underlying rock was smoothed, scratched, and polished, and in some moderate measure filed down by the overriding ice. A remarkable chain of hills formed about the edge of the ice (the Kettle moraine) constitutes an interesting feature topographically and geologically. It forms a part of an extensive series of terminal moraines that stretch from the Atlantic to the Saskatchewan.
Soils.—The soils of the State are varied. Those of the drift-bearing region are derived from the heterogeneous mixture of pre-glacial soils and glacial grindings, and constitute for the greater part loamy clays and sandy loams of a high degree of fertility and permanence. In the south-west a considerable portion of the soils are derived from the decomposition of the underlying limestone, and are highly fertile and easily tilled. In the central portion there is a considerable area underlaid by the Potsdam sandstone, from which sandy soils, of relatively low fertility, have been derived.
Vegetation.—The greater part of the State was originally covered by forest, but in the south and west considerable areas of prairies were found interspersed with woodlands. The prevalent trees of this region are the oaks, poplars, hickories, and their usual associates. Along the eastern border of the State, except at the very south, is an extensive tract of heavy timber, in which maple, elm, ash, and their usual associates predominate. Towards the north the pines, hemlocks, and spruces come in. The north part of the State was originally covered by an almost unbroken forest, composed of groves of pine, of hard wood, and of a promiscuous mixture of species embracing both conifers and deciduous trees. This constitutes the great lumber region of Wisconsin.
Climate.—Lying between 42½° and 47° N. lat., and near the centre of the continent, Wisconsin has a typical temperate continental climate. Its summers are warm, and diversified by short rains and clear skies; its winters are somewhat severe but relatively dry and stimulating, and are less chilly than more humid atmospheres at similar or even higher temperatures. The average rainfall is about 30 inches. The mean summer temperature varies from about 70° in the south to about 60° in the north; the mean winter temperature varies from about 25° in the south to about 15° in the extreme north. The great lakes produce a marked effect on the seasonal temperature of the State, elevating it in winter and depressing it in summer, so that the summer isotherms run from the north-west to south-east, forced south by the cooling influence of the lakes; while those of the winter run from south-west to north-east, forced north by their warming influence. As a result, productions requiring a high summer temperature flourish in the south-western and central portions of the State, but are precarious in the vicinity of the lakes, while fruits and crops requiring milder winters and more equable temperatures can be produced near the lakes, but are uncertain away from them. (T. C. C.)
Population.—In 1840 Wisconsin Territory had a population of 30,945. The accompanying table exhibits the population from 1850 to 1880. The State census of 1885 gives the number as 1,563,423. The Federal census of 1880 showed 1,309,618 whites, 2702 coloured, and 3161 Indians. The foreign-born population numbered 405,425, or 30.81 per cent. of the whole, of whom 184,328 came from the German empire, 66,284 from the Scandinavian countries, and 78,057 from Great Britain and Ireland.
Cities.—In 1885 Milwaukee had a population of 158,509; Oshkosh, 22,064; La Crosse, 21,740; Eau Claire, 21,668; Racine, 19,636; Fond du Lac, 12,726; Madison (the State capital), 12,064; Sheboygan, 11,727; Appleton, 10,927; and Janesville, 9941.
Agriculture.—By the United States census of 1880 Wisconsin had 134,322 farms, embracing 15,353,118 acres, of which 9,162,528 acres were improved land. Of these farms 122,163 were cultivated by the owners and 12,159 were rented. The State census of 1885 estimates the total number of persons engaged in agriculture at 332,500, and the value of farms and agricultural products at $568,187,288. The produce is estimated approximately as follows:—wheat, 21,000,000 bushels; Indian corn, 37,700,000; oats, 43,000,000; barley, 11,500,000; rye, 2,100,000; potatoes, 11,700,000; hay, 2,300,000 tons; sorghum, 599,000 gallons; apples, 1,671,000 bushels; berries, 71,000 bushels. 29,500 acres of tobacco produced nearly 29,595,000 ℔ (this is in demand for cigar wrappers). Of cheese nearly 33,480,000 ℔ were produced, and of butter 36,240,000 ℔. There were in 1886 about 389,000 horses, 1,256,000 cattle, 6700 mules and asses, 917,000 sheep and lambs, and 777,000 swine.
Manufactures, &c.—Large water-powers are found, chiefly on the Fox, Wisconsin, and Chippewa rivers. In 1885 the value of real estate and machinery used in manufacturing was over $38,000,000; stock and fixtures over $24,000,000; value of manufacturing establishments and their products, $193,700,000. There were about 58,500 men employed. The lumber, shingles, and lath manufactured amounted to $27,113,000; milling (including all flour manufactured from cereals), $19,870,000; wooden articles, $13,719,000; iron products and manufactured articles of iron, $10,300,000; beer, more than 1,445,000 barrels, valued at $9,081,000 (over 75 per cent. of this coming from the great brewing city of Milwaukee); manufactured articles of leather, $8,629,000; waggons, carriages, and sleighs, $4,678,000; paper, $2,804,000; woollen fabrics, $613,000; cotton fabrics, $556,000. The census of 1880 valued the slaughtering and meat-packing product at about 6,534,000 and agricultural implements at $3,742,000.
Lumbering.—The proximity of Wisconsin to the prairie States renders its lumbering interests especially important. In 1886 the total forest area of the State was 17,000,000 acres, or 48.8 per cent. of the whole area. According to the census of 1880, Wisconsin was exceeded only by Michigan and Pennsylvania in the value of its lumber product. Operations are chiefly carried on along the Menomonee, Peshtigo, Oconto, Wolf, Wisconsin, Yellow, Black, Chippewa, Red Cedar, and St Croix rivers; but the rapid increase in railroads has opened the northern forests very generally. The lumber, shingles, and lath manufactured amounted to about 3,323,390,000 feet in 1885.
Mines and Quarries.—In 1880 Wisconsin ranked sixth among the iron-producing States, but since then its importance has increased. The most extensive iron deposits occur in the Huronian formation in the Menominee region, and along the Montreal river. In 1882 the total product of the Menominee region was 276,017 tons; the Montreal range, divided between Wisconsin and Michigan, about a dozen miles south of Lake Superior, has just been opened up, and there is a rich deposit of Bessemer ore. In 1886 the product of the whole range was about 800,000 tons. The lead and zinc region lies in the south-west of the State; production had been declining, but recently new discoveries have revived it. There is a rich supply of building-stone; limestone quarries are most numerous, but the red-brown sandstone of Bayiield county and the granite of Marquette county are especially valued.
Fisheries.—The white fish and lake-trout fishing industries of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior are extensive, and the inland lakes and streams abound in bass, pike, pickerel, sturgeon, and brook-trout. A State fisheries commission annually stocks the waters with brook-trout, white fish, and pike.
Railways and Canals.—There were in Wisconsin in June 1886 4576 miles of railway. The leading lines are the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St Paul; the Chicago and North-Western; the Chicago, Minneapolis, St Paul, and Omaha; the Milwaukee, Lake Shore, and Western; and the Wisconsin Central. A canal connects the Fox and Wisconsin rivers at Portage, and the Sturgeon Bay Canal unites Green Bay and Lake Michigan.
Administration, &c.—The State, which is divided into sixty-eight counties, is represented in the Congress of the United States by two senators and nine representatives. The supreme court is composed of a chief justice and four associate justices; there are fourteen judicial circuits, each with a judge; and besides these are county and municipal judges and justices of the peace. The State legislature, composed of the senate (33 members) and the assembly (100 members), meets bienially.
Finances.—The value of all taxable property of the State for the year 1886, as determined by the State board of assessment, was as follows:—personal property, $114,922,900; city and village lots, $110,564,625; lands, $271,019,627; total assessed value of all property, $496,507,152. Taxes were as follows:—State tax, $241,137; county taxes, $2,590,375; town, city, and village taxes, $7,835,385. The total indebtedness of the towns, cities, villages, and school districts in 1885 was $6,848,123; total indebtedness of counties, $1,569,444; bonded debt of the State, $2,252,000.
Charitable, Reformatory, and Penal Institutions.—The State supports two hospitals for the insane, containing together 1141 inmates in 1885, while there are 1240 insane in county asylums, jails, and poorhouses. The school for the deaf has an attendance of 205, school for the blind, 62; industrial school for boys, 292; industrial school for girls, 268; State prison school, 443; a school for dependent children has just been established. The whole number of prisoners in all places of confinement during 1885 was 19,829, and in reformatories 771. The State board of control and the board of charities and reforms have charge of these institutions.
Education.—The State makes liberal provision for its public schools; it sets apart as a permanent fund the Federal grant of section 16 in each township, with 500,000 acres of land, and 5 per cent. of the proceeds of the sale of public lands in the State, together with less important items. In 1886 there were still 103,130 acres unsold, and the amount of the fund at interest was nearly $3,000,000. This school-fund income, which in 1887 was $341,289, is supplemented by a State tax of one mill on the dollar, which amounted to $396,138; the combined amount is annually apportioned among the counties, towns, villages, and cities in proportion to the number of children in each of from four to twenty years of age; in their turn the counties must levy upon each town, city, and village a tax equal to their proportion of the combined school fund and State mill tax. The total receipts from all sources for school purposes in 1886 was $4,192,962, and the disbursements $3,184,958. In the same year there were 556,093 persons of school age. Of these 59.4 per cent. were enrolled in the public schools. The enrolments in normal schools and university (2481), in colleges, seminaries, and academies (1131), and in private schools (14,164) made the total enrolment over 350,000. In 1879 attendance at a public or private school for at least twelve weeks each year was made compulsory on all children between the ages of seven and fifteen years. Women are eligible to all school offices, except that of State superintendent of public instruction. In 1888 there are 137 free high schools, receiving special aid from the State. Provision is made for the education of teachers by the five normal schools. The leading denominational colleges are Beloit, Ripon, Milton, Racine, and Lawrence university. The public school system is crowned by the State university at Madison, organized in 1848. It derives its support chiefly from an annual State tax of one-eighth of a mill on the dollar. The total regular income of the university in 1886 was $105,000; the attendance in 1887 was 600. Connected with the university are a teachers institute lectureship and farmers institutes held in different portions of the State, as well as over sixty accredited high schools.
The State historical society at Madison, the capital, has a reference library of 125,000 volumes and pamphlets, and is the richest in the nation upon the history of the Mississippi basin; the State law library there has 19,000 volumes, the university library 14,500, and the city library 9000. Milwaukee has a public library of 35,000 volumes.
Antiquities and History.—The State is noted for its exceptionally large number of animal mounds, the work of the “mound-builders.” They are found along rivers and lake banks, and are from 2 to 6 feet high, sometimes 200 feet long; remains of prehistoric circumvallations, with brick baked in situ, have been found, and the largest collection of prehistoric copper implements has been made in this State. Wisconsin was the meeting ground of the Algonkin and Dakota Indian tribes. Its water system connecting the Great Lakes and the Mississippi made it the keystone of the French possessions in Canada and Louisiana. The genesis of Wisconsin was from the fur trade. French explorers, ascending the Ottawa, crossed to Lake Huron, whence they easily passed through the Straits of Mackinaw to Green Bay, thence up the Fox to the portage between it and the Wisconsin, and on to the Mississippi. In 1634 an agent of Champlain, Jean Nicolet, first of recorded white men to reach Wisconsin soil, ascended the Fox a considerable distance. In 1658-59 Radisson and Groseilliers, two fur traders who afterwards induced England to enter the Hudson Bay region, passing along the south shore of Lake Superior, struck southward to the tributaries of the Mississippi. Radisson's journal describes a great river visited by him, which was probably the Mississippi. In 1665 Father Claude Allouez founded a Jesuit mission at La Pointe, and in 1669 the mission of St Francis Xavier on the shores of Green Bay. Louis Joliet, leaving Quebec under orders to discover the South Sea, in 1673, took with him Father Marquette from Mackinaw, and reached the Mississippi by the diagonal waterway of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers. In 1679 La Salle, accompanied by Father Hennepin, passed along the western shore of Lake Michigan to the Illinois, and in the next year Hennepin, ascending the Mississippi, met Du Luth, who had reached it by way of the western extremity of Lake Superior. Thus were traced out the bounds and principal river-courses of Wisconsin. The epoch of the fur trade followed, during which stockade posts were erected at various key-points on the trading routes; they became dependencies of Mackinaw, long the emporium of the fur trade. In the French and Indian war of 1755-60 Wisconsin savages served under Charles de Langlade against the English at Braddock's defeat and elsewhere. Near the middle of the 18th century De Langlade and his father had established a trading post at Green Bay, which afterwards became a fixed settlement; at the close of the revolutionary war Prairie du Chien, at the mouth of the Wisconsin, grew into a like settlement; and towards the close of the century Milwaukee, La Pointe, and Portage became permanent trading posts. The British garrison that was sent in 1761 to hold Green Bay left at the outbreak of Pontiac's war, and did not return. In the revolutionary war Wisconsin Indians under De Langlade supported the British. England having retained Mackinaw despite the treaty of 1783, American domination was not practically felt by the Wisconsin traders until after the war of 1812. In this war they favoured Great Britain, and in 1814 the latter wrested Prairie du Chien from an American detachment. But the formation of Astor's American Fur Company to deal in this region was followed by a United States law excluding English traders, which resulted in an increase of American influence. At the close of the war the United States placed forts at Green Bay and Prairie du Chien. By the ordinance of 1787 Wisconsin had been a part of the territory north-west of the river Ohio; in 1800 it was included in Indiana Territory, whence in 1809 it passed to Illinois Territory, and in 1818 to Michigan Territory. In 1825 the lead-mines in south-western Wisconsin, which had been known from the earliest days of French exploration, and had been worked by the Sacs and Foxes and by Winnebagoes, attracted a considerable mining population. Hostilities with the Winnebagoes followed, resulting in the cession by the latter of the lead region, and the erection of Fort Winnebago in 1828 at Portage. In 1832 occurred Black Hawk's War, occasioned by the refusal of a Sac band to remove beyond the Mississippi from Illinois, in accordance with treaty stipulations. Pursued by regulars and Illinois militia to the head-waters of Rock river, the band fled across south-western Wisconsin to the Mississippi, where they were nearly exterminated. This expedition disclosed the rich farming lands of the region. In 1836 Wisconsin Territory was formed. Before this the fur trade and lead-mining had been the chief factors in development, but a wave of land speculation and immigration reached here at this period. In 1840 there was a population of 30,945, more than double that of four years before. On August 9, 1846, Congress authorized Wisconsin to form a State government. The constitution framed in 1846 being rejected by the people, a second one was ratified in 1848, and Wisconsin became a State on May 29 of that year.
At an early period the State adopted the policy of attracting immigration by cheap lands, a work in which the railroads have greatly aided, with the result that Wisconsin has the remarkable proportion of persons of foreign parentage indicated above. There are whole communities of the same foreign nationality,—such as the German groups along the shore of Lake Michigan, the Scandinavian in various localities, the Swiss colony of New Glarus, the Belgians in Door county, and many others. The recent development of lumbering has rapidly built up northern Wisconsin, a process now being accelerated by the mining interests on the Montreal range. Wisconsin furnished to the Union armies in the civil war over 91,000 men, the famous Iron Brigade being chiefly from that State. (F. J. T.)
- There are about 3000 square miles of clear-water lakes.
|VOL. XXIV.||WISCONSIN||PLATE XV.|
|W. & A. K. Johnston|
|ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, NINTH EDITION|