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Results of the May 2004 “It's My History” Poll

Online ballots were submitted at dozens of schools from Janesville to Ashland and from Wauzeka to Mishicot, as well as from homes, offices, museums and libraries. When the poll closed on Memorial Day, 108,158 votes had been cast by 3,656 voters.

What were the most popular topics? Two tables below contain the complete results. The first ranks the top 20 events in a single list, and the second ranks all the events under the ballot's ten topic areas (specified by the Dept. of Public Instruction in the Wisconsin history standards). You can also see an explanation of how the ballot was created.

If you know of specific books, manuscripts, images, or museum objects related to these events that ought to be digitized for the online collection, please tell us by using the “Email us” link at the very bottom of this page. We'll try to roll out the digital collection and lesson plans gradually during the fall, in the order shown in the second table.

Finally, thanks to the thousands of kids, teachers, parents, historians, and other citizens who took the time to vote and send us comments!

Top 20 Results

Rise of Dairy Farming 2,988 votes
Lumbering 2,729 votes
Arrival of the First Peoples 2,510 votes
Glacial Wisconsin and Physical Geography 2,427 votes
Abolitionist Movement and Civil Rights 2,381 votes
Iron Brigade, “Old Abe,” and Military Events 2,245 votes
Women's Suffrage 2,224 votes
Civil War Home Front 2,161 votes
Birth of the Labor Movement 2,161 votes
Mining 2,098 votes
Black Hawk War 2,056 votes
Great Lakes Steamships and Canals 1,986 votes
Iroquois Wars of mid-17th Century 1,914 votes
Creation of Wisconsin Territory & Selection of Madison as Capitol, 1836 1,881 votes
Development of the Railroads 1,819 votes
Jean Nicolet's Landfall in Wisconsin, 1634 1,798 votes
Rise of the Conservation Movement 1,796 votes
Robert M. LaFollette's Career 1,794 votes
Effigy Mounds Culture 1,751 votes
Wisconsin and the Founding of Republican Party 1,748 votes

Full Results

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1. Prehistory and Early History of Native Peoples.

vote for 3

2,510 votes

Arrival of the First Peoples
Settling in Wisconsin 12,000 years ago, the ancestors of today's Native peoples produced rock art, pottery, tools, and creation stories.

2,427 votes

Glacial Wisconsin and the Physical Geography of the State
The geological and environmental forces that shaped the landscape into the form we know today.

1,914 votes

Iroquois Wars of mid-17th Century
Conflict over hunting and trading territory far to our east disrupted the fur trade and prompted several American Indian nations to move into Wisconsin.

1,751 votes

Effigy Mounds Culture
These forebears of the Ho-Chunk created the unique burial mounds depicting animal and people that we find around the state.

1,640 votes

Mississippian Culture and Aztalan
Using corn agriculture around an extensive fortification on the Rock River, this early Wisconsin community maintained trade and communication with settlements throughout the Mississippi Valley.

2. Early Explorers, Traders, and Settlers, to 1812.

vote for 3

1,798 votes

Jean Nicolet's Landfall in Wisconsin, 1634
Began the French exploration and settlement of Wisconsin that lasted for the next 200 years.

1,602 votes

War of 1812
Ended British domination of Wisconsin and established control by the young U.S. government over our waterways.

1,600 votes

Marquette and Joliet Descend the Mississippi River, 1673
Identified the course of the Mississippi River, established French claim to Wisconsin, and was the first trip by Europeans across our state.French

1,484 votes

War and Disease Transform Native American Communities
Decimation of Native peoples altered their customs and lifestyles, and reorganized their alliances for future survival.

1,380 votes

Establish Fur Trading Posts
Initiated permanent settlement of Wisconsin and formation of trading alliances with Native peoples.

1,093 votes

Northwest Ordinance, 1787
Encouraged the settlement of Wisconsin by U. S. citizens, which threatened land ownership and trade relationships of the French and Indians.

701 votes

French Jesuit Priests Establish Missions
Introduced Christianity in Wisconsin and left the first detailed written records of our state.

623 votes

The Rise of Metis Culture
Alliances formed through intermarriage changed both Indian and white communities, and helped the new U.S. government oppose British influence in Wisconsin after the Revolutionary War.

3. Transition from Territory to Statehood, 1787-1848.

vote for 3

2,056 votes

Black Hawk War
Established U.S. government control over much of southern Wisconsin.

1,881 votes

Creation of Wisconsin Territory, and Selection of Madison as Capitol, 1836
Established the seat of territorial, and later, state government in Dane County, and formed the first American government in our state.

1,465 votes

State Constitutions of 1846 and 1848
Provided the foundation for our current political system and branches of government.

1,346 votes

Lead Mining in Southwestern Wisconsin
Encouraged large-scale migration into Wisconsin and bolstered territorial economy.

1,078 votes

Early U.S. Explorations
Encouraged westward migration and settlement by collecting and publishing data on the resources of the region.

892 votes

Treaty Councils, from Prairie du Chien to Madeline Island
Forced cessions of Indian lands and established U.S. government control over most of Wisconsin.

782 votes

Settlement of the “New York” Indians in Wisconsin
Forced removal of the Oneida, Mohican, and Brothertown Nations to Wisconsin.

756 votes

General Land Office Rectangular Survey
Divided the landscape into the system of townships and sections that still define our communities and farms today.

4. Immigration and Settlement in the 19th Century.

vote for 3

1.986 votes

Great Lakes Steamships and Canals
Brought tens of thousands of European and American immigrants into Wisconsin in the mid-19th century.

1,819 votes

Development of the Railroads
Permitted Wisconsin residents to ship farm produce and manufactured goods out of the state, and facilitated the arrival of new immigrants seeking homes in it.

1,465 votes

Founding of Major Cities
Created the metropolitan areas we know today along the lakeshores and in the river valleys (Milwaukee, Green Bay, Janesville, Appleton, Eau Claire etc.).

1,340 votes

Founding of the University of Wisconsin and Other Social Institutions
The mid-19th century gave birth to the most important universities, colleges, museums, libraries, and other cultural institutions we know today.

1,200 votes

Efforts to Promote Immigration
State-sponsored and commercially published emigrant guides helped tens of thousands of new immigrants decide to bring their knowledge and skills to Wisconsin.

1,126 votes

Attempts to “Americanize” Native Peoples
Federal reservation system and boarding schools attempted to destroy the languages, beliefs, and customs of Wisconsin's Native peoples and replace them with white ones.

1,100 votes

Ethnically Insulated Communities
Helped European immigrants preserve their languages, religions, and customs intact much longer than they did in large urban centers.

5. Wisconsin in the Civil War Era.

vote for 3

2,381 votes

Abolitionist Movement and Civil Rights
Wisconsin activists fought against slavery through the press, in court cases such as the Joshua Glover fugitive slave case and the Ezekiel Gillespie voting rights case, and, eventually, in the Union Army.

2,245 votes

Iron Brigade, “Old Abe,” and Military Events
Wisconsin soldiers helped the Union Army emerge victorious by fighting in every important campaign of the war.

2,161 votes

Civil War Home Front
From women's relief organizations to violent draft protests, the war touched everyone who stayed behind.

1,748 votes

Wisconsin and the Founding of Republican Party
After a planning meeting in Ripon, it quickly became the party of Abraham Lincoln and, ultimately, half of American political leaders and voters.

1,439 votes

Effect of the War on Party Politics
Caused the decline of the Democrats and rise of Republicans, who controlled state government for decades after the war as veterans dominated political life.

6. Mining, Lumber, and Agriculture in the 19th Century.

vote for 3

2,988 votes

Rise of Dairy Farming
After silos and refrigerated rail cars were adopted, milk products replaced wheat as the preferred cash crop and made Wisconsin “the Dairy State.”

2,729 votes

Forest products provided work and income for the northern parts of Wisconsin, cost-effective housing for the entire Midwest, and led to the birth of the modern paper industry.

2,098 votes

Extraction of iron and other minerals in the north facilitated the growth of cities such as Superior, Ashland and Hurley and helped develop heavy industry in the state.

1,307 votes

Wild Rice Harvesting
Native peoples maintained traditional agricultural practices even while European and American immigrants transformed the landscape around them.

973 votes

Wheat Cultivation
Wheat supported most farmers and immigrants as the principal cash crop until after the Civil War, as Wisconsin-milled flour was shipped across much of the nation.

7. La Follette and the Progressive Era, 1874-1914.

vote for 5

2,224 votes

Women's Suffrage
Ada James, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Belle Case LaFollette led thousands of women in the struggle to win the right to vote in 1919.

2,161 votes

Birth of Labor Movement
Early workers' organizing efforts and conflicts such as the Bay View massacre in 1886 led to the formation of unions.

1,796 votes

Rise of the Conservation Movement
Writings by John Muir and others led to the protection of wildlife and creation of state parks.

1,794 votes

Robert M. LaFollette's Career
Cleaned up corruption, restrained corporate power of railroads and utilities, and increased democracy through the direct primacy.

1,434 votes

1911 Legislature's Reforms
John Commons fashioned worker's compensation and similar programs to protect workers' health and safety that were later adopted all across the nation.

1,370 votes

Charles McCarthy and the Wisconsin Idea
Established government as the servant of the people by sharing its programs, services, and knowledge statewide through programs such as the Legislative Reference Bureau and UW Extension.

1,339 votes

Rise of the Co-operative Movement
Farmers and workers combined to create non-profit organizations that distributed their produce and manufactures outside traditional business channels.

1,243 votes

Bennett Law
Tried to establish English as the only language to be used in schools.

1,076 votes

Richard Ely and UW's “Winnowing and Sifting” Statement
Established academic freedom and tolerance as one of our state's cardinal principles.

8. World Wars and Conflicts in the 20th Century.

vote for 4

1,553 votes

Women on the WWI Home Front
Women who organized in support of the war effort also used their connections and organizational skills to win the vote and civil rights after the war was over.

1,506 votes

Military Events in WWI
Wisconsin fighters such as the Red Arrow division and pioneer aviator Billy Mitchell helped win the war and change the modern military.

1,386 votes

WWII Home Front
The war revived industry, changed gender roles, and brought insulated ethnic groups together.

1,360 votes

Military Events in WWII
Wisconsin soldiers, including General Douglas MacArthur and aviation ace Richard Bong, fought in the Pacific and in Europe to stop fascism.

1,357 votes

Suppression of German Culture and Identity during WWI
Anti-German prejudice threatened the use of the German language in Wisconsin, as well as traditional German customs and identity.

1,343 votes

Vietnam Home Front
Wisconsin played a leading role in the anti-war movement, which resulted in the bombing of Sterling Hall on the Madison campus.

1,152 votes

Opposition to U.S. Entry into WWI
German-Americans, socialists, and others saw the war as a ruse to benefit big business and insisted unsuccessfully on neutrality.

1,055 votes

1919 “Red Scare”
After the successful Russian Revolution in 1917, American authorities cracked down on radicals, socialists, and labor leaders.

1,029 votes

1918 Spanish Flu Epidemic
More Americans died from the influenza outbreak during and after WWI than died fighting in it.

848 votes

Military Events in the Vietnam War
Wisconsin soldiers participated at all levels, from enlisted men in the jungles to Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird in the Pentagon.

9. Prosperity, Depression, Industrialization, and Urbanization.

vote for 3

1,475 votes

The Introduction of Electrical Power
The birth of electrical generation in Appleton and the spread of electricity to rural areas transformed work and home life throughout the state.

1,388 votes

The Rise of Automobile Culture
From manufacturing plants in Kenosha and Janesville to tourism on the county trunk highway system, gasoline-powered cars and trucks forever altered all aspects of Wisconsin life after 1920.

1,148 votes

Depression and Unemployment
Millions of Wisconsin residents struggled to survive, the labor movement reached new strengths, and government programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration created tens of thousands of public sector jobs.

1,130 votes

Milwaukee “Sewer Socialism”
Wisconsin's largest city elected generations of socialist politicians who worked to continually improve and expand basic services to the community.

1,030 votes

Rise of Skilled Manufacturing
Visionary businessmen and highly skilled workers at companies such as Allis Chalmers, J.I. Case, and General Motors made our state a world leader in heavy industry.

1,014 votes

Temperance and Prohibition
The 19th-century temperance movement helped women enter public life, but when alcohol was made illegal in 1919 it strained ethnic relations and threatened the survival of Wisconsin's traditional brewing industry.

999 votes

Rise of Modernism
In the first half of the century, Wisconsin intellectuals like Frank Lloyd Wright, Georgia O'Keeffe, Orson Welles, and Brooks Stevens changed the way the world looks, sounds and feels.

872 votes

Modern Progressive Movement
Gov. Phillip LaFollette and his supporters introduced new social services such as unemployment compensation and public works programs that became models for the entire nation.

716 votes

Rise of Mass Media
Radio and television ended the isolation of rural families but also helped to replace Wisconsin's diverse ethnic cultures with a standardized American one.

380 votes

Mature Labor Movement
After three generations of growth, workers' organizations exercised their muscles in actions such as the Kohler Strike and reached institutional maturity in the State Federation of Labor.

10. Wisconsin's response to 20th-Century change.

vote for 3

1,382 votes

Rise of Professional Sports
The Packers, Braves and Bucks brought Green Bay and Milwaukee national recognition.

1,284 votes

African-American "Great Migration"
Following WWI, thousands of black families moved to Wisconsin cities from elsewhere in the nation to start new lives, and encountered de facto segregation on a large scale.

1,274 votes

American Indian Sovereignty
The U.S. government redefined its Indian policy and tribal leaders fought for greater self-determination, leading to reaffirmation of the tribes' status as sovereign nations and to validation in the courts of historic Indian treaty rights.

1,042 votes

Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his Anti-Communist Crusade
After beating Sen. Bob LaFollette, McCarthy's campaign helped dampen intellectual freedom nationwide in the early 1950's, before being exposed and discredited.

1,029 votes

Expansion of Civil Rights, 1970's - 1990's
The “second wave” of the women's movement, marital property law reform, and advocacy for gay rights brought issues of gender and sexual orientation into the forefront of public life.

866 votes

Modern Environmental Movement
Aldo Leopold's land ethic, the growth of the DNR, and Gaylord Nelson's Earth Day legislation changed our understanding and treatment of the natural world.

846 votes

Breaking the Welfare State
Through welfare reform, school choice, and similar programs, the administrations of Gov. Tommy G. Thompson dramatically reduced government intervention in and support for the lives of ordinary citizens.

750 votes

Re-birth of the Wisconsin Democratic Party in the 1950's
Effectively ended the Progressive Party and the La Follette dynasty in state and federal positions.

738 votes

Desegregation Struggle of the 1960's
Activists fought to overturn decades of de facto segregation in Milwaukee housing, education, employment, and other areas.

680 votes

Post-1970 Immigration
The arrival of large numbers of Hispanic Americans as both migrant farm workers and new homeowners, and the influx of refugee Hmong and Tibetan families, further diversified our state's already complex ethnic mix.

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