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The Rise of Dairy Farming

Wheat was the earliest and most important cash crop for white settlers in Wisconsin. It required a small initial capital investment and was fairly easy to grow, allowing farmers to harvest two crops a year. The high rate of financial return made wheat an especially attractive crop for homesteaders during the middle of the 19th century.

Wheat provided a way for new immigrants in Wisconsin to farm cheaply and to deliver a product that many people needed. From 1840 to 1880, Wisconsin was considered "America's breadbasket" because one-sixth of the wheat grown in the nation came from Wisconsin. The early... more...

Original Documents and Other Primary Sources

Link to article: An interview with Dr. Babcock (1923)  An interview with Dr. Babcock (1923)
Link to article: Recollections of Old Superior  Recollections of Old Superior
Link to article: A Sauk Co. farmer recalls turning from wheat to dairy in the 1850s.  A Sauk Co. farmer recalls turning from wheat to dairy in the 1850s.
Link to article: Cheese-making in Monticello, ca. 1870  Cheese-making in Monticello, ca. 1870
Link to article: The legacy of the farm magazine, Hoard's Dairyman (1935)  The legacy of the farm magazine, Hoard's Dairyman (1935)
Link to article: A history of cheesemaking in Green County  A history of cheesemaking in Green County
Link to article: William Dempster Hoard looks back on the start of dairy farming in Wisconsin  William Dempster Hoard looks back on the start of dairy farming in Wisconsin
Link to artifacts: The oldest toast in Wisconsin  The oldest toast in Wisconsin
Link to artifacts: Hoard's Dairyman Farm milk bottle  Hoard's Dairyman Farm milk bottle
Link to artifacts: Racine's malted milk transforms American soda fountains  Racine's malted milk transforms American soda fountains
Link to artifacts: A copper Swiss cheese kettle  A copper Swiss cheese kettle
Link to artifacts: A quilt made by hand, 1908-1934, from prize ribbons  A quilt made by hand, 1908-1934, from prize ribbons
Link to book: A 1944 cookbook featuring dairy products  A 1944 cookbook featuring dairy products
Link to book: A history and statistical summary of dairying, 1860-1931.  A history and statistical summary of dairying, 1860-1931.
Link to images: Advertisements for farm equipment  Advertisements for farm equipment
Link to images: Pictures of the founders of Wisconsin's dairy industry.  Pictures of the founders of Wisconsin's dairy industry.
Link to images: Photos and information about the UW Dairy Barn  Photos and information about the UW Dairy Barn
Link to images: Picture of Dr. Stephen Babcock with his butterfat tester.  Picture of Dr. Stephen Babcock with his butterfat tester.
Link to images: Photos and advertisements showing dairy farmers at work, 1900-1950  Photos and advertisements showing dairy farmers at work, 1900-1950
Link to manuscript: William Dempster Hoard discusses his vision for the dairy industry  William Dempster Hoard discusses his vision for the dairy industry
Link to manuscript: A female leader in Wisconsin dairying  A female leader in Wisconsin dairying
Link to places: A co-operative creamery spurs the growth of dairying in Prentice  A co-operative creamery spurs the growth of dairying in Prentice
Link to places: University of Wisconsin Dairy Barn  University of Wisconsin Dairy Barn
Link to places: Stonefield, home of Gov. Nelson Dewey and the State Agricultural Museum  Stonefield, home of Gov. Nelson Dewey and the State Agricultural Museum
Link to places: Hoard buys a farm to test his dairying theories  Hoard buys a farm to test his dairying theories
Link to places: Nashold Twenty-Sided Barn  Nashold Twenty-Sided Barn

Primary Sources Available Elsewhere

Link to article: One hundred years of cheesemaking in Wisconsin, 1850-1950  One hundred years of cheesemaking in Wisconsin, 1850-1950
Link to article: The "dos" and "don'ts" of cooperatives  The "dos" and "don'ts" of cooperatives
Link to article: The Early History of the UW-Madison College of Agriculture  The Early History of the UW-Madison College of Agriculture
Link to article: Saving time and labor through dairy cooperatives, 1903  Saving time and labor through dairy cooperatives, 1903
Link to book: Wisconsin Blue Books  Wisconsin Blue Books
Link to images: Images of Round Barns  Images of Round Barns
Link to images: A well-known cooperative creamery in Westby  A well-known cooperative creamery in Westby
Link to images: A farm and village in Wisconsin's dairy country  A farm and village in Wisconsin's dairy country

Related Links

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Search our catalogs for materials on this topic that aren't yet available online.
Borrow books about this topic through our interlibrary loan service
Borrow manuscripts about this topic through our Area Research Center network.
Company history of Hoard's Dairyman and the Dairyman today
Learn about other topics from our new book, Wisconsin History Highlights
Arrange a tour on this topic at our Museum
Read more about the Americanization of European barn styles
Learn about an African American barn builder

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