15 Things You Might Not Know About Wisconsin
1. The first European to step foot in Wisconsin was probably a French explorer named Jean Nicolet. He canoed through the Great Lakes and came ashore by Green Bay.
2. Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, is the troll capital of the world. The city takes this theme to heart; you can find trolls everywhere from street signs to gift shops. Large carved troll statues can be found scattered around the main street, also known as “the Trollway.” Folklore suggests that these creatures protected crops and promised a bountiful harvest. The town also used to be home to the National Mustard Museum.
3. The first kindergarten in the country was established in Watertown, Wisconsin in 1856. As the name suggests, the first students to attend mostly spoke German. Today, the school is a museum.
4. Wisconsin is home to the largest six-pack in the world. Built in the late 1960s, the giant “cans” are storage units that were painted to look like beer. These giant beverage containers are equivalent in volume to 7 million twelve-ounce cans. The King of Beer resides across the street and holds his plaster goblet high for fellow beer lovers passing through.
5. Tons of whimsical slang words hail from Wisconsin. Some great ones include woopensocker (something that’s wonderfully unique) and wapatuli (any homemade alcoholic beverage).
6. The Wisconsin Cheesehead—you know, those foam hats shaped like cheese wedges that Green Bay Packers fans proudly wear on game day—actually started with a burnt couch cushion. A Milwaukee resident burned holes in the foam and painted it yellow before putting it on his head and going to a baseball game.
7. Lactococcus lactis, the bacterium used to make Colby, cheddar, and Monterey Jack cheeses, nearly became the first official state microbe in the country in 2010, but the bill didn't make it past the state Senate.
8. Milwaukee is experimenting with a cheese brine mix to help combat icy roads. Apparently, using a pre-wet substance (in this case, liquid cheese waste) helps the salt work at colder temperatures.
9. Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, throws an annual two-day festival dedicated to Cow Chip Throwing. The sport is basically a discus throw … but with dried cow poop.
10. Margarine was once illegal in Wisconsin. In 1897, in order to protect that dairy industry, margarine colored yellow to look like butter was banned in the state. While the law was repealed in 1967, it remained illegal for public places such as restaurants and prisons to use the butter substitute—unless they also served butter. These restrictions were finally lifted in 2011.
11. Wisconsin’s state symbol, the badger, actually refers to lead miners in the 1820s, not the animal. At the time, miners would travel a lot for work and often did not have shelter. When it grew colder, the workers would dig holes to sleep in, not unlike badgers.
12. The Republican Party was born in Ripon, Wisconsin, in 1854. Former Whig members gathered there to discuss creating a new party that would oppose the further spread of slavery.
13. While the popular Fox sitcom That '70s Show was set in the fictional suburb Point Place, Wisconsin, Kurtwood Smith was the only cast member to actually call the state his home.
14. Several cities in Wisconsin claim to be the UFO Capital of the World. Belleville, Dundee, and Elmwood all argue that they are the true capital. The jury's out on what Roswell, New Mexico, has to say about that.
15. Green Bay is, however, indisputably the toilet paper capital of the world. Northern Paper (a precursor to Quilted Northern) invented the first splinter-free toilet paper in the 1930s.