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Automobile Culture

Although Detroit is known today as the home of the automobile industry in the United States, Wisconsin - - and the Milwaukee area in particular - - made many contributions to the industry in its earliest years. Since 1900, more than eighty different makes of cars and trucks have been manufactured in Wisconsin. In 1873, the first steam-powered, self-propelled vehicle in the United States was designed and operated by Reverend Dr. J.W. Carhart of Racine. Two years later, the Wisconsin Legislature offered a $10,000 prize to the winner of a race between Green Bay and Madison in an effort to... more...

Original Documents and Other Primary Sources

Link to article: The early days of driving in Wisconsin  The early days of driving in Wisconsin
Link to article: An 1897 bamboo bicycle  An 1897 bamboo bicycle
Link to article: La Crosse's first motor-bike, 1900  La Crosse's first motor-bike, 1900
Link to article: The automobile population of Madison in 1903  The automobile population of Madison in 1903
Link to article: A Racine pastor invents a horseless carriage in 1873.  A Racine pastor invents a horseless carriage in 1873.
Link to article: The great Green Bay to Madison automobile race of 1878.  The great Green Bay to Madison automobile race of 1878.
Link to artifacts: An original "Big Boy" plastic sculpture from a Marc's restaurant, ca. 1971  An original "Big Boy" plastic sculpture from a Marc's restaurant, ca. 1971
Link to book: The Pneumatic, a progressive monthly paper for cyclists  The Pneumatic, a progressive monthly paper for cyclists
Link to book: The making of a Mitchell Car, 1911  The making of a Mitchell Car, 1911
Link to book: The newest automobile from Kenosha's Thomas B. Jeffery Company  The newest automobile from Kenosha's Thomas B. Jeffery Company
Link to book: A 1910 automobile travel guide to Wisconsin  A 1910 automobile travel guide to Wisconsin
Link to book: A Tourist Brochure for Marinette Co., ca. 1923  A Tourist Brochure for Marinette Co., ca. 1923
Link to book: A Tourist Brochure for Shawano and the Menominee Indian Reservation, ca. 1925  A Tourist Brochure for Shawano and the Menominee Indian Reservation, ca. 1925
Link to book: A Guide to Wisconsin Automobile Routes, 1916  A Guide to Wisconsin Automobile Routes, 1916
Link to collections: The evolution of gas stations in Wisconsin  The evolution of gas stations in Wisconsin
Link to images: Harley-Davidson's first factory  Harley-Davidson's first factory
Link to images: Images of the Winther Motor Truck Company  Images of the Winther Motor Truck Company
Link to images: Photographs of automobile manufacturing in Wisconsin, 1905-1968.  Photographs of automobile manufacturing in Wisconsin, 1905-1968.
Link to manuscript: A Wisconsin sailor recounts the attack on his ship at Pearl Harbor  A Wisconsin sailor recounts the attack on his ship at Pearl Harbor
Link to places: Walworth Avenue, Delavan's brick road  Walworth Avenue, Delavan's brick road
Link to places: A 1920s thematic gas station  A 1920s thematic gas station
Link to places: The nation's first unified electric power utility in Milwaukee  The nation's first unified electric power utility in Milwaukee
Link to places: Oatman Filling Station  Oatman Filling Station
Link to places: Car ownership helps to create a Madison suburb  Car ownership helps to create a Madison suburb
Link to places: The Kissel Motor Car Industrial District  The Kissel Motor Car Industrial District

Primary Sources Available Elsewhere

Link to article: A cross-country drive in 1914  A cross-country drive in 1914
Link to artifacts: A radiator emblem from Hartford's Kissel Kar Company  A radiator emblem from Hartford's Kissel Kar Company
Link to book: Wisconsin Blue Books  Wisconsin Blue Books
Link to images: Blue Mound Road, Wisconsin's first divided highway  Blue Mound Road, Wisconsin's first divided highway
Link to images: A 1915 ad for a motor scooter  A 1915 ad for a motor scooter
Link to images: An ad for the newest Rambler model rolling out of Kenosha, ca. 1914  An ad for the newest Rambler model rolling out of Kenosha, ca. 1914
Link to images: Automobiles transform the Wisconsin Dells  Automobiles transform the Wisconsin Dells
Link to images: Historic postcards of Milwaukee  Historic postcards of Milwaukee
Link to images: Out for a drive in 1903  Out for a drive in 1903

Related Links

Discover classroom resources available from our Office of School Services
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.
Learn about other topics from our new book, Wisconsin History Highlights
Explore early automobiles at historic sites, museums, and race tracks
Visit the Harley-Davidson Museum Information Center
Read more about the history of bicycling in Wisconsin from the DOT
Learn more about the history of rest areas along Wisconsin roadways
Take a driving tour of the Dells/Baraboo region
Read about the history of transportation in the La Crosse River Valley

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