timeline of Wisconsin history, 1900 -1999 | Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Timeline of Wisconsin History, 1900 -1999

timeline of Wisconsin history, 1900 -1999 | Wisconsin Historical Society
Dictionary of Wisconsin History.


Adapted and expanded from Schafer, Joseph. "Outline History of Wisconsin." 1925 Wisconsin Blue book (Madison, 1925)  and materials prepared by the Society's Office of School Services, the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources, the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation, and the Wisconsin Dept. of Workforce Development. More information about most people and places listed here can be found by searching them in this dictionary.

1900 Interstate Park in Polk County becomes the first state park in Wisconsin.

1900. May 1-8, forest fires raged on Chequamegon Bay and Menomonee River, the damage reaching over $1,000,000.  July 6, a tornado swept Winnebago County, one person being killed and much damage done to property; August 20, a similar tornado swept Sheboygan, about seventy-five buildings being levelled. Robert M. La Follette elected governor.

1901.  January 7, Gov. Robert M. La Follette was inaugurated - the first native-born executive of the State. February 4, the battle-ship "Wisconsin" was put into commission; to it the people of the State presented, May 27, a silver service and bronze badger.

1903. A primary election law was passed, subject to a popular vote referendum, and Progressive taxes on railroads, mortgages, and inheritances were passed.

1904. February 27, a large part of the State capitol at Madison was burned.

1905. The legislature adopted a civil service act, regulating appointments to public office within the State. Automobile license law passed; forest fire control begins with the appointment of 249 town fire wardens around the state.

1906. April 5, Milwaukee elected a full Socialist municipal ticket , the first large city to be governed by that party. November 8, the Socialists carried Milwaukee county, electing Victor Berger first Socialist member of Congress. John Dietz of Cameron Dam, defied the state authorities and was besieged October 2-8, in his cabin; two of Dietz's children were wounded, and during the last days of the siege a deputy sheriff was shot.

1907 Legislature set the maximum hours of labor for children to 55 a week and adopted a list of dangerous occupations prohibited to children under 16.

1908 Constitution amended to allow state funding of construction and improvement of public highways.

1909 The first attempt at workers compensation legislation proposed (unsuccessfully). First outboard motor that was commercially successful was developed in Milwaukee by Ole Evinrude.

1911 On June 23, Wausau native John Schwister flies the state's first home-built airplane; State highway commission is established.

1911 Nation's first Workmen's Compensation Act (now Worker's Compensation) guaranteeing injury compensation as a legal right was enacted on May 3, 1911 and became effective September 1st to be administered by the Industrial Commission. The Constitutionality of the Act was upheld by the Wisconsin Supreme Court on November 1, 1911 (and by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1926).

1913 First minimum wage law. It specified that a "living wage" must be paid to women and minors. When it took effect in 1919, the minimum wage was set at 22 cents per hour for women and minors 17 years of age and older.

1917 The U.S. enters World War I; many key Wisconsin legislative leaders oppose the war; Wisconsin becomes first state to meet draft requirements; 120,000 soldiers serve in the military, and almost 4,000 die in the war.

1917 The 5,000 mile state trunk highway system is established. First Wisconsin roadmap is produced.

1918 Wisconsin develops a uniform highway classification and numbering system which is later adopted nationally.

1919 The Wisconsin legislature ratifies the nineteenth amendment (women's suffrage), then becomes first state to deliver ratification to Congress. E. L. "Curly" Lambeau starts a town team called the Green Bay Packers and coaches them to six world championships.

1920 the first electric blow dryers for hair are invented by two Wisconsin companies,  Racine Universal Motor Company and Hamilton Beach.

1924 Robert M. LaFollette Sr. runs unsuccessfully for president, receiving nearly five million votes and winning Wisconsin.

1927 The nation's first snowmobile patent was obtained by Carl J.E. Eliason of Sayner on November 22

1929 Stock market crashes and Wisconsin, with the rest of the country, slides into the Great Depression
1932 First unemployment compensation law, January 28. Wisconsin was the first state to establish an Unemployment Compensation program and issued the first Unemployment Compensation Check in the United States, on August 17, 1936.

1933 The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) established.

1934 Kohler Strike: when Kohler Co. employees attempt to organize a union, the company refuses to bargain with them and during the ensuing strike, two people are killed and 47 wounded on July 27th. The Wisconsin Progressive Party is organized.

1937 Wisconsin Labor Relations Board created to help resolve labor disputes.

1941 The United States enters World War II. 332,000 Wisconsin residents serve in U.S. military, including 9,000 women.

1945 Wisconsin became one of first three states to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin or ancestry in employment; this law became known as the Fair Employment Law.  The nation's first strike to last longer than a year started on December 26, 1945, when Local 180 of the United Automobile Workers of America struck the J.I. Case Manufacturing Company, Racine. On March 9, 1947, the workers voted 927¿448 in favor of accepting the company offer of an increase in wages from 25 cents to 26 cents an hour.

1946 The Wisconsin Progressive Party dissolves, and its members rejoin the Republican Party.

1948 Wisconsin celebrates its centennial as a state. Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand County Almanac, dies fighting a grass fire between Portage and Baraboo on April 28.

1951 Smokey Bear makes first public appearance in Wisconsin (Hurley).

1953 Hank Aaron signs contract with the Milwaukee Braves.

1956 Interstate Highway Act enacted under President Eisenhower to create a quality network of highways throughout the nation to serve national defense during the cold war.

1958 First segment of Interstate highway in WI dedicated - - 7.5 miles of I-94 between Goerke's Corners and CTH "SS" in Waukesha County.

1965 Open housing law passed, guaranteeing all persons equal opportunity for housing, regardless of race, religion, color, national origin, or ancestry. Wisconsin also becomes the first state to outlaw job discrimination on the basis of disability.

1967 Students at UW-Madison protest Dow Chemical co. recruiters on campus, resulting in confrontations with police and injuries.

1976 Shirley S. Abrahamson is appointed the first woman to serve as a justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. 

1978 Vel Phillips is elected secretary of state in Wisconsin, the first African American elected a constitutional officer.

1980 Brother and sister, Eric and Beth Heiden of Madison, compete in the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY. Eric sets a world record, winning five gold medals in speed skating.

1982-1983. State unemployment percentage reaches highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

1996 A new welfare plan called W-2 (Wisconsin Works) was signed into law.

1998 Wisconsin ended AFDC after seven  months transition to W-2.  Governor Tommy Thompson was present for the issuance of the last paper AFDC welfare check in Wisconsin.

View related articles at Wisconsin Magazine of History Archives.

DOT: www.dot.wisconsin.gov/about/overview/timeline.htm DNR: www.wnrmag.com/supps/2005/apr05/timeline.htm; DWD: www.dwd.state.wi.us/dwd/DWDHistory/default.htm

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