Today In History: Wisconsin Becomes 30th State
Today in 1848, Wisconsin became the 30th state in the Union. The area had come under American governance after the Revolution, when it became part of the Northwest Territory. The region, however, continued to be more dominated by the British fur trade until the War of 1812 brought it strongly under American influence.
The early 19th Century saw a sharp uptick in immigration to Wisconsin, facilitated by the Erie Canal. The Canal brought a major influx of both American and European settlers to the territory. Immigrants from the New England area dominated the territory’s political and legal professions, and passed laws that further disenfranchised the area’s French-Canadian and Native American populations.
The Wisconsin territory also had strong Catholic and Lutheran civic institutions, resulting from German, Norwegian and Irish presence in the area.
In the decade following 1840, the area’s non-Native-American population exploded, growing from 31,000 to 305,000. Thanks to the population boom, Wisconsin was granted statehood on May 29, 1848.
More than a third of the state’s population was not originally born in America, with the majority of them being German, British and Irish. An additional third were immigrants from the East. In 1850, there were only 63,000 residents who had been born in Wisconsin itself.
The first governor of Wisconsin was Nelson Dewey, whose Democratic administration midwifed the transition from territory to statehood. Dewey pushed for big infrastructure projects, building a number of roads, railroads, harbors and canals to improve commerce. He was also an abolitionist, who forbade slavery in Wisconsin and campaigned against its spread into other new territories and states.