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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: First [sic] Workers' Compensation Law (Historic Marker Erected 1985)


The Wisconsin Workmen's Compensation Act of 1911 assured victims of work-relat­ed accidents or illnesses just compensation regardless of fault. With this law, enact­ed on May 3, 1911, Wisconsin became the first state to have a constitutional system for providing medical expenses, wage loss payments, or death benefits to employ­ees or their families. The law is regarded as a pioneering act of social legislation and a major accomplishment of Wisconsin's progressive movement. On September 1, 1911, the date the law became fully effective, a mutual insurance company began operations in a one-room office in downtown Wausau. The company, which was formed by a group of central Wisconsin businessmen as a means of meeting their responsibilities under the new law, is today known throughout the world as Wausau Insurance Companies. The purchaser of the first policy issued by the fledgling insurer was the Mosinee Paper Corporation, then known as Wausau Sulphate Fibre Company. That contract is recognized as the nation's first valid workers' compensation policy.
[This marker has been confirmed missing, and its text is provided from a photograph in the possession of the Wisconsin Dept. of Workforce Development. It was likely located near 44° 46.233′ N, 89° 40.744′ in a wayside area along I-39/U.S. Hwy 51 at milepost 178, 1 mile south of State Highway 153 (on the right when traveling north) in Mosinee, Wisconsin. When the highway was upgraded, the wayside was closed, and the marker removed. It is said to have been stored in the back hallway of the Marathon County Historical Society ever since.  We are grateful to associate editor Kevin White of the The Historical Marker Database ( for calling our attention to it.

Note: although legislatures in Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana and New York all passed earlier workers' compensation laws, their legislation was blocked by their courts from taking effect. Washington state passed the nation's first workers' compensation law, seven weeks before Wisconsin's took effect. By 1920, 42 other states had secured similar legislation, often using the Wisconsin legislation as a model.]

[Source: Kevin White, The Historical Marker Database (]

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facing (railroads)
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fall (maritime)
Fallen Timbers, Battle of
Falling Waters, Battle of
fallowing (farming)
Falls of St. Anthony
false front or boomtown (architecture)
fantail (maritime)
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fastening (maritime)
fattigmanns bakkels (food)
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fires in Wisconsin
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first school in Wisconsin
First [sic] Workers' Compensation Law (Historic M
Fish (logging)
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fishing industry in Wisconsin
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floods in Wisconsin
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Folsom culture (archaeology)
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forest fires in Wisconsin
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Frank Holton Company
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Fugitive Slave Act
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fur trade companies
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fusee (Fr.)
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futtock (maritime)

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