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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Monroe's Limburger War

Ah, cheese. Staple of the state economy, major food group member, and favorite of fondue lovers everywhere. Where would we be without it? In pioneer Wisconsin, we nearly found out.

When the Swiss farmers in Green County first realized that dairy could be more lucrative than their failing wheat farms, they jumped on the cheese-making wagon. But not all the people of southern Wisconsin loved this new idea. When expanding cheese manufacturers moved from New Glarus to Monroe in the 1870s, to be nearer the railroad, residents of the latter town protested.

What was their complaint? The smell of Limburger being carted through the city streets to the depot.

The citizens' objections to the odiferous product prompted them to try to change Monroe's laws. An ordinance was proposed to ban the traffic of the smelly cheese through city streets. Some sympathetic Yankee farmers outside town even refused to sell dairy to the Limburger makers. In the end, however, the ordinance was turned down and the Limburger industry continued. All concerned had come to the realization that profits, and thus the future of the entire region, depended heavily on cheese.

The rest, as they say, is history. Wisconsin is now famous for the cheese it produces, of all kinds and smells. The next time your neighbor wears that cheesehead on game day, pause just for a moment and be thankful that at least it isn't made of Limburger.

You can read historical newspaper articles on cheesemaking in Wisconsin here, and dozens of photographs are online at Wisconsin Historical Images. Those include this series of cheesemaking photos taken in Brodhead about 100 years ago.

:: Posted in Bizarre Events on April 22, 2010

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