Symbols of Wisconsin – A List

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Wisconsin is a midwestern state of the U.S., bordering two Great Lakes: Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. It’s a beautiful land of farms and forests and is famous for its dairy farming. Wisconsin is a highly popular tourist destination thanks in part to the cultural activities it has to offer. Tourists enjoy visiting the state, going fishing, boating and getting to experience some of the best biking and hiking trails in the country.

Wisconsin joined the Union in 1848 as the 30th U.S. state and since then, the state legislature has adopted many symbols to officially represent it. Here’s a look at some of the most important Wisconsin symbols.

The Flag of Wisconsin

The state flag of Wisconsin consists of a blue field with the state coat of arms in its center. The flag was originally designed in 1863 for use in battle and it wasn’t until 1913 that the state legislature specified its design. It was then modified and the state name was added above the coat of arms (which is also featured on the state seal), with the year of statehood beneath it.

The flag’s design is featured on both sides since double-sided flags are easier to read than single-sided ones. However in a survey conducted by the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA), Wisconsin’s flag was ranked among the bottom 10 flags in terms of its design.

The Great Seal of Wisconsin

The state seal of Wisconsin, created in 1851, displays the coat of arms, consisting of a large golden shield with the U.S.  shield in its center with the motto Pluribus Unum surrounding it.

The bigger shield contains symbols representing:

  • the agriculture and farmers of the state (the plow)
  • the laborers and artisans (arm and hammer)
  • the shipping and sailing industry (an anchor)
  • Beneath the shield is a cornucopia (a symbol of abundance and plenty of the state)
  • the state’s mineral wealth (bars of lead).

Under these items is a banner with 13 stars on it, representing the thirteen original colonies

The golden shield is supported by a miner and a sailing, symbolizing two of the most important industries of Wisconsin at the time it was founded and above it is a badger (the official state animal) and a white banner inscribed with the state motto: ‘Forward’.

State Dance: Polka

Originally a Czech dance, the polka is popular throughout the Americas as well as Europe. The polka is a couple dance, performed to music in 2/4 time and characterized by the steps: three quick steps and a little hop. Today, there are many varieties of the polka and it’s performed at all kinds of festivals and events.

The Polka originated in Bohemia, in the middle of the 19th century. In the U.S., the International Polka Association (Chicago), promotes the dance to honor its musicians and preserve its cultural heritage. Polka is extremely popular in Wisconsin where it was made the official state dance in 1993 to honor the rich German heritage of the state.

State Animal: Badger

Badger

Badgers are ferocious fighters with an attitude and are best left alone. Commonly found throughout Wisconsin, the badger was designated as the official state animal in 1957 and it appears on the state seal, the state flag and is also mentioned in the state song.

The badger is a short-legged, omnivorous animal with a squat body that can weigh up to 11 kg. It has a weasel-like, elongated head with small ears and its tail length varies depending on the species. With a black face, distinctive white markings and a grey body with a lighter-colored stripe from the head to the tail, the American badger (the hog badger) is a much smaller species than Euopean and Eurasian badgers.  

State Nickname: Badger State

Many people think that Wisconsin got its nickname ‘The Badger State’ from an abundance of badgers, but in reality, the state has just about the same number of badgers as its neighboring states.

In fact, the name originated back in the 1820’s, when mining was a huge business. Thousands of miners worked in iron ore mines in the Midwest, digging tunnels in search of lead ore in the hillsides. They turned abandoned mine shafts into their temporary homes and because of this, they became known as ‘badgers’ or ‘badger boys’. Over time, the name came to represent the state of Wisconsin itself.

Wisconsin State Quarter

In 2004, Wisconsin released its commemorative state quarter, the fifth in that year and the 30th in the 50 State Quarters Program. The coin displays an agricultural theme, featuring a round of cheese, an ear or corn, a dairy cow (the state domesticated animal) and the state motto ‘Forward’ on a banner.

The state of Wisconsin produces more than 350 different varieties of cheese than any other state in the U.S. It also produces more than 15% of the nation’s milk, earning the name ‘America’s Dairy Land’. The state ranked 5th in the production of corn, contributing $882.4 million to its economy in 2003.  

State Domesticated Animal: Diary Cow

Dairy cow

The dairy cow is a cattle cow bred for its ability to produce large amounts of milk used for the making of dairy products. In fact, certain breeds of dairy cow can produce up to 37,000 lbs of milk each year. 

The dairy industry has always been highly important to Wisconsin’s heritage and economy, with each dairy cow producing up to 6.5 gallons of milk daily. More than half of this milk is used for making ice cream, butter, milk powder and cheese while the rest of it is consumed as a beverage.

Wisconsin is the leading milk-producing state in the U.S. and in 1971, the dairy cow was designated the official state domesticated animal.

State Pastry: Kringle

Kringle is an oval-shaped, flaky pastry with a nut or fruit filling. It’s a variety of pretzel that’s popular in the United States, especially in Racine, Wisconsin, known as the ‘Kringle Capital of the World’. In the U.S., this pastry is made by hand-rolling Danish pastry dough that’s been allowed to rest overnight before being shaped, filled and baked.

Making kringles was a tradition of Denmark which was brought to Wisconsin in the 1800s by the Danish immigrants and some bakeries throughout the state still use recipes that are decades old. In 2013, the kringle was named the official pastry of Wisconsin due to its popularity and history.

State Symbol of Peace: Mourning Dove

Mourning dove Wisconsin state

The American mourning dove, also known as the rain dove, turtle dove and Carolina pigeon, is one of the most widespread and abundant North American birds. The dove is a light brown and grey colored bird that feeds on seeds but feeds its young on crop milk. It forages on the ground for its food, feeding in flocks or pairs, and swallows gravel which helps it to digest seeds.

The mourning dove is named for its sad, haunting cooing sound which is usually mistaken for the call of an owl since both are quite similar. In 1971, the state legislature of Wisconsin designated the bird as the official state symbol of peace.

Milwaukee Art Museum

Located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Art Museum is one of the largest art museums in the world, containing a collection of almost 25,000 works of art. Starting in 1872, several organizations were founded to bring an art museum to the city of Milwaukee and over the period of 9 years, all attempts failed.  However, thanks to Alexander Mitchell, considered the wealthiest person in Wisconsin in the mid-1800s, who donated his entire collection to the museum, it was finally founded in 1888 and has had many new extensions added to it over the years.

Today, the museum stands as an unofficial symbol of the state and a tourist attraction, with almost 400,000 people visiting it annually.  

State Dog: American Water Spaniel

The American water spaniel is a muscular, active and hardy dog with a tightly curled outer coat and protective undercoat. Bred to work the marshy bank sand icy waters of the Great Lakes area, these dogs are perfectly outfitted for the job. Their coats are dense and waterproof, their feet are thickly padded with webbed toes and their body is small enough to hop in and out of a boat without rocking it and toppling it over. While the dog isn’t flashy in terms of appearance or performance, it works hard and earns it keep as a watchdog, family pet or outstanding hunter.

In 1985, the American water spaniel was named the official dog of the state of Wisconsin due to the efforts of the 8th grade students at Washington Junior High School.  

State Fruit: Cranberry

Cranberry state fruit Wisconsin state

Cranberries are low, creeping vines or shrubs that grow up to 2 meters in length and only about 5-20 centimeters in height. They produce edible fruit with an acidic taste that usually overpowers its sweetness.

Before the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, cranberries were an important part of the Native Americans diets. They ate them dried, raw, boiled with maple sugar or honey and baked into bread with cornmeal. They also used this fruit to dye their rugs, blankets and ropes as well as for medicinal purposes.

Cranberries are commonly found in Wisconsin, grown in 20 of the state’s 72 counties. Wisconsin produces over 50% of the nation’s cranberries and in 2003, the fruit was designated as the official state fruit to honor its value.

Check out our related articles on other popular state symbols:

Symbols of Nebraska

Symbols of Hawaii

Symbols of Pennsylvania

Symbols of New York

Symbols of Alaska

Symbols of Arkansas

Symbols of Ohio

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