Manufacturing in Wisconsin | Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Manufacturing in Wisconsin

Manufacturing in Wisconsin | Wisconsin Historical Society
Dictionary of Wisconsin History.


Although the Industrial Revolution in the U.S. began in the 1790s, very little industry got underway in Wisconsin until the population rose in the 1840s. The first Wisconsin factories, small skilled craft shops often run by immigrants who brought expertise with them across the Atlantic, provided a foundation for larger manufacturing concerns. Fueled by an abundance of raw materials and a rapidly expanding market for goods, industrial plants soon became a feature of every Wisconsin community that had access to water power and immigrant labor.

By the 1860s, factories producing agricultural implements, industrial equipment, furniture, steel, ships and boats, and other durable goods were a common feature of Wisconsin urban life. Meat packing and brewing evolved from family-sized businesses to corporations with national markets. For the next two generations, lakeshore cities from Kenosha to Green Bay and river towns such as Beloit and Janesville thrived as modern factories produced everything from paper toys to automobiles.

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[Source: Turning Points in Wisconsin History]