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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: timeline of Wisconsin history, 1900 -1999


Adapted and expanded from Schafer, Joseph. "Outline History of Wisconsin." 1925 Wisconsin Blue book (Madison, 1925)  and materials prepared by the Society's Office of School Services, the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources, the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation, and the Wisconsin Dept. of Workforce Development. More information about most people and places listed here can be found by searching them in this dictionary.

1900 Interstate Park in Polk County becomes the first state park in Wisconsin.

1900. May 1-8, forest fires raged on Chequamegon Bay and Menomonee River, the damage reaching over $1,000,000.  July 6, a tornado swept Winnebago County, one person being killed and much damage done to property; August 20, a similar tornado swept Sheboygan, about seventy-five buildings being levelled. Robert M. La Follette elected governor.

1901.  January 7, Gov. Robert M. La Follette was inaugurated - the first native-born executive of the State. February 4, the battle-ship "Wisconsin" was put into commission; to it the people of the State presented, May 27, a silver service and bronze badger.

1903. A primary election law was passed, subject to a popular vote referendum, and Progressive taxes on railroads, mortgages, and inheritances were passed.

1904. February 27, a large part of the State capitol at Madison was burned.

1905. The legislature adopted a civil service act, regulating appointments to public office within the State. Automobile license law passed; forest fire control begins with the appointment of 249 town fire wardens around the state.

1906. April 5, Milwaukee elected a full Socialist municipal ticket , the first large city to be governed by that party. November 8, the Socialists carried Milwaukee county, electing Victor Berger first Socialist member of Congress. John Dietz of Cameron Dam, defied the state authorities and was besieged October 2-8, in his cabin; two of Dietz's children were wounded, and during the last days of the siege a deputy sheriff was shot.

1907 Legislature set the maximum hours of labor for children to 55 a week and adopted a list of dangerous occupations prohibited to children under 16.

1908 Constitution amended to allow state funding of construction and improvement of public highways.

1909 The first attempt at workers compensation legislation proposed (unsuccessfully). First outboard motor that was commercially successful was developed in Milwaukee by Ole Evinrude.

1911 On June 23, Wausau native John Schwister flies the state's first home-built airplane; State highway commission is established.

1911 Workmen's Compensation Act (now Worker's Compensation) guaranteeing injury compensation as a legal right was enacted on May 3, 1911, and became effective September 1st to be administered by the Industrial Commission. The Constitutionality of the Act was upheld by the Wisconsin Supreme Court on November 1, 1911 (and by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1926).

1913 First minimum wage law. It specified that a "living wage" must be paid to women and minors. When it took effect in 1919, the minimum wage was set at 22 cents per hour for women and minors 17 years of age and older.

1917 The U.S. enters World War I; many key Wisconsin legislative leaders oppose the war; Wisconsin becomes first state to meet draft requirements; 120,000 soldiers serve in the military, and almost 4,000 die in the war.

1917 The 5,000 mile state trunk highway system is established. First Wisconsin roadmap is produced.

1918 Wisconsin develops a uniform highway classification and numbering system which is later adopted nationally.

1919 The Wisconsin legislature ratifies the nineteenth amendment (women's suffrage), then becomes first state to deliver ratification to Congress. E. L. "Curly" Lambeau starts a town team called the Green Bay Packers and coaches them to six world championships.

1920 the first electric blow dryers for hair are invented by two Wisconsin companies,  Racine Universal Motor Company and Hamilton Beach.

1924 Robert M. LaFollette Sr. runs unsuccessfully for president, receiving nearly five million votes and winning Wisconsin.

1927 The nation's first snowmobile patent was obtained by Carl J.E. Eliason of Sayner on November 22

1929 Stock market crashes and Wisconsin, with the rest of the country, slides into the Great Depression
1932 First unemployment compensation law, January 28. Wisconsin was the first state to establish an Unemployment Compensation program and issued the first Unemployment Compensation Check in the United States, on August 17, 1936.

1933 The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) established.

1934 Kohler Strike: when Kohler Co. employees attempt to organize a union, the company refuses to bargain with them and during the ensuing strike, two people are killed and 47 wounded on July 27th. The Wisconsin Progressive Party is organized.

1937 Wisconsin Labor Relations Board created to help resolve labor disputes.

1941 The United States enters World War II. 332,000 Wisconsin residents serve in U.S. military, including 9,000 women.

1945 Wisconsin became one of first three states to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin or ancestry in employment; this law became known as the Fair Employment Law.  The nation's first strike to last longer than a year started on December 26, 1945, when Local 180 of the United Automobile Workers of America struck the J.I. Case Manufacturing Company, Racine. On March 9, 1947, the workers voted 927¿448 in favor of accepting the company offer of an increase in wages from 25 cents to 26 cents an hour.

1946 The Wisconsin Progressive Party dissolves, and its members rejoin the Republican Party.

1948 Wisconsin celebrates its centennial as a state. Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand County Almanac, dies fighting a grass fire between Portage and Baraboo on April 28.

1951 Smokey Bear makes first public appearance in Wisconsin (Hurley).

1953 Hank Aaron signs contract with the Milwaukee Braves.

1956 Interstate Highway Act enacted under President Eisenhower to create a quality network of highways throughout the nation to serve national defense during the cold war.

1958 First segment of Interstate highway in WI dedicated - - 7.5 miles of I-94 between Goerke's Corners and CTH "SS" in Waukesha County.

1965 Open housing law passed, guaranteeing all persons equal opportunity for housing, regardless of race, religion, color, national origin, or ancestry. Wisconsin also becomes the first state to outlaw job discrimination on the basis of disability.

1967 Students at UW-Madison protest Dow Chemical co. recruiters on campus, resulting in confrontations with police and injuries.

1976 Shirley S. Abrahamson is appointed the first woman to serve as a justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. 

1978 Vel Phillips is elected secretary of state in Wisconsin, the first African American elected a constitutional officer.

1980 Brother and sister, Eric and Beth Heiden of Madison, compete in the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY. Eric sets a world record, winning five gold medals in speed skating.

1982-1983. State unemployment percentage reaches highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

1996 A new welfare plan called W-2 (Wisconsin Works) was signed into law.

1998 Wisconsin ended AFDC after seven  months transition to W-2.  Governor Tommy Thompson was present for the issuance of the last paper AFDC welfare check in Wisconsin.

View related articles at Wisconsin Magazine of History Archives.

[Source: DOT: DNR:; DWD: ]

172 records found

1888 Bohemian Schoolhouse (Historic Marker)
Abert, George 1817 - 1890
Ameche, Don 1908 - 1993
Bacon, Edward Payson 1834 - 1916
ballast (railroads)
bank (railroads)
Barron, Henry Danforth 1833 - 1882
Bashford, Coles 1816 - 1878
Bay View Rolling Mill (Historic Marker Erected 198
Belgian Settlement in Wisconsin (Historic Marker E
Bluffton, Marquette Co.
bobber (railroads)
boiler (railroads)
boxcar (railroads)
brakeman (railroads)
branch line (railroads)
Brandemuehl, David A. 1931
Breske, Roger M. 1938
broad gauge (railroads)
Brookfield [brief history]
Browne, Edward L. 1830 - 1925
Buffalo City [brief history]
Burnham, George 1816 - 1889
Burnham, Jonathan Levi 1818 - 1891
caboose (railroads)
cant (railroads)
Carhart, John W. 1834 - 1914
Carpenter, Matthew Hale [B. "Carpenter","Decatur M
Civil War: 29th Infantry
Civil War: 43rd Infantry
Civil War: home front
Colby, Gardner 1810 - 1879
Commons, John Rogers 1862 - 1945
conductor (railroads)
Cooper, Henry Allen 1850 - 1931
coupler (railroads)
Crocker, Hans 1815 - 1889
Cross, James B. 1819 - 1876
crummy (railroads)
Davidson, James Henry 1858 - 1918
De Pere [brief history]
dead man's handle (railroads)
Dheinsville Settlement (Historic Marker Erected 19
Doty, James Duane 1799 - 1865
Edgerton, Benjamin Hyde 1811 - 1886
Eldred, Anson 1820 - 1895
Esch, John Jacob 1861 - 1941
express train (railroads)
facing (railroads)
fettle, fettling (railroads)
firebox (railroads)
fireman (railroads)
First Rural Zoning Ordinance (Historic Marker Erec
flatcar (railroads)
floods in Wisconsin
flying junction (railroads)
Fond du Lac [brief history]
Foster, Nathaniel Caldwell 1834 - 1923
four-foot (railroads)
gandy dancer (railroads)
Garland, Hamlin 1860 - 1940
gauge (railroads)
gondola (railroads)
Good Roads Movement
grab bar (railroads)
Granger Movement
Green Bay [brief history]
Guppey, Gen. Joshua J. (1820-1893)
hack (railroads)
Hasenohrl, Donald W. 1935
Hatton, William H. 1856 - 1937
Hayward [brief history]
Highway Marking (Historic Marker Erected 1956)
Hirst, Arthur Roscoe 1881 - 1932
Hoard, William Dempster 1836 - 1918
hogger (railroads)
Holmes, Frederick Lionel 1883 - 1946
Holton, Edward Dwight 1815 - 1892
hotels in Wisconsin
island platform (railroads)
Janesville, Rock Co.
Jefferson, Jefferson Co.
Johnstown Center, Rock Co.
Jones, Burr W. 1846 - 1935
junction (railroads)
Juneau, Solomon 1793 - 1856
Keep, Albert 1826 - 1907
Kenosha [brief history]
Keyes, Elisha Williams 1828 - 1910
Kilbourn, Byron 1801 - 1870
Kincaid, Lloyd H. 1925
Kneeland, Moses 1809 - 1864
La Crosse [brief history]
La Follette, Robert Marion Sr. 1855 - 1925
Lasee, Alan J. 1937
Lawe, George William 1810 - 1895
Lawler, John 1832 - 1891
level junction (railroads)
Lime industry in Wisconsin
local train (railroads)
long lots
Ludington, Harrison 1812 - 1891
Mack, John Givan Davis 1867 - 1924
Madison, Dane Co.
mainline (railroads)
Manitowoc, Manitowoc Co.
Mapes, David Parshall 1798 - 1890
Marin, Paul, 1692-1753
Mcdougal, Milton 1917
meat packing industry
Miller, Roswell 1843 - 1913
Mohrsville [origin of place name]
narrow gauge (railroads)
North Freedom [origin of place name]
Omro, Winnebago Co.
pantograph (railroads)
per diem (railroads)
Pewaukee [brief history]
Philipp, Emanuel Lorenz 1861 - 1925
piston (railroads)
Plache, Kimberly M. 1961
plank road
Potter Law (1874)
Price, William Thompson 1824 - 1886
Putnam, Henry Cleveland 1832 - 1912
quarrying industry in Wisconsin
Racine [brief history]
Racine, Racine Co.
railroads in Wisconsin
Reed, George 1807 - 1883
Rest Areas on the I-Roads (Historic Marker Erected
Ringling [Rungeling], Albert 1852 - 1916
Road gang (logging)
road monkey (logging)
roads in Wisconsin (early)
roads in Wisconsin (modern)
rolling stock (railroads)
Rustic Road (Historic Marker Erected 1976)
Sanders, Col. Horace T. (1820-1865)
Shaw, Daniel 1813 - 1881
Sheboygan, Sheboygan Co.
shoofly (railroads)
siding (railroads)
six-foot (railroads)
standard gauge (railroads)
Stevens Point [brief history]
Stone, Jeff 1961
swamper (logging)
switchman (railroads)
Taylor, William Robert 1820 - 1909
Teasdale, Howard (1855 - 1936)
ten-foot (railroads)
The "Dinky" (Historic Marker Erected 1989)
The Point of Beginning (Historic Marker Erected 19
The Saukville Trails (Historic Marker Erected 1998
The Upper Mississippi (Historic Marker Erected 198
Thompsonville, Racine Co.
through platform (railroads)
timeline of Wisconsin history, 1900 -1999
Tittemore, James Nelson 1864 - 1949
trainman (railroads)
turntable (railroads)
Van Hise Rock (Historic Marker Erected 1997)
Vanderperren, Cletus 1912
Village of Cooksville (Historic Marker Erected 199
Washburn, Gov. Cadwallader Colden (1818-1882)
Watertown, Jefferson Co.
Wauwatosa, Milwaukee Co.
way car (railroads)
wheat cultivation
WPA (in Wisconsin)
yard (railroads)

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