aerial view of madison wisconsin

The Unique History Of Madison, Wisconsin [Timeline]

Right in the middle of South-Central Wisconsin lies the beautiful town of Madison. If you’re a college football fan, you probably know that the infamous Bucky Badger mascot’s home is at The University of Wisconsin-Madison— Go Badgers!

You might also know that Madison is also the state’s capital and is showcased by its gigantic domed State Capitol Building in downtown Madison. No matter what you know about Madison, Wisconsin, the extensive and exciting history goes back almost 12,000 years! Here are some of the significant points on the timeline that makes up Madison’s extensive history.

Indigenous Inhabitants in Southern Wisconsin: 300 CE – 1,300 CE

Historians believe that humans have inhabited the area of Madison, Wisconsin, since at least 12,000 years ago. But the earliest known inhabitants were the Ho-Chunk nation, who was known as “mound builders,” building large effigy mounds. These Native Americans inhabited much of the upper Midwest during this time.

The First European Settlers: 1600s – 1800s

European immigrants may have flooded to the area as early as 1600 after trading posts began sprouting up on either side of Madison on Lake Michigan to the east and the Mississippi to the west. As settlers moved in, forcing Native Americans off their land, there was much conflict.

In 1783, The United States officially acquired the Wisconsin Territory in the Treaty of Paris. This may have only exacerbated conflicts among Natives and Settlers, leading to battles such as the Black Hawk War and the Winnebago War in 1827.

early american settlers from europe

Madison Becomes the State Capital: 1837

Madison became the capital city before Wisconsin was even an official state. In 1836, the Wisconsin Territory held a convention to draft a state constitution. They decided that the temporary capital would be Belmont, Wisconsin, until they could decide where to permanently locate the capital city.

However, just one year later, in 1837, Madison was declared the official state capital after much debate and discussion. This is likely because Madison was much more centrally located than Belmont and had already begun to grow rapidly. Wisconsin eventually became a state on May 29, 1848.

The First UW-Madison Classes Meet: 1849

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is the state’s flagship university and one of the top universities in the United States. It was founded in 1848, just one year after Wisconsin became a state, making it one of the oldest public universities in the Midwest.

The first classes met on February 5, 1849, with just twenty students total, including one just 11 years old. It has since grown to become one of the largest universities in the country, with over 30,000 students enrolled every year.

Wisconsin State Capitol Re-Constructed: 1906-1917

The Wisconsin State Capital that stands today is the third iteration of the state’s capital building. The first one took nearly ten years to be finished, only to be deemed too small and inadequate for the needs of the state. The second building was finished in 1869 and in 1904 sustained massive damage when a gas jet in a closet started on fire, causing nearly $1 million in damage. The gorgeous domed structure that stands today was built just two years later.

Madison, Wisconsin, USA state capitol building at dusk.

Wisconsin Becomes Second State to Ratify the 19th Amendment (Women’s Suffrage): 1920

Madison, Wisconsin, made history on June 10, 1919, when it became the second state to ratify the 19th amendment, granting women the right to vote. They were almost the first state, but in a tight race against Illinois to grasp the first ratification— Illinois won by just one hour. Before this amendment was passed, only men had the right to vote in elections— it was a significant advancement in equality for the nation at this time.

Inaugural Annual Winter Carnival: 1940

The first-ever Winter Carnivalwas held in 1940 as a way to try to get people to visit Madison during the winter months. It has since become an annual tradition that people look forward to every year. The carnival features ice sculptures, sledding, snowshoeing, and more winter activities for people of all ages to enjoy.

The First Successful Bone Marrow Transplant: 1968

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is home to many amazing medical discoveries and advancements. Still, the first successful bone marrow transplant is one particular marvel to come out of the University. Professor Fritz Bach, MD, performed the successful transplant on a 22-month-old boy living with an immunodeficiency disease, Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome.

More specifically, the testing method for ensuring a match was a breakthrough in allowing for siblings and other bone marrow matches to quickly get transplants done with more certainty of success than ever before.

Anti-War Protests Take Place on UW-Madison Campus: Late 1960s-Early 1970s

UW-Madison was no stranger to anti-war protests during the late 1960s and early 1970s. In fact, many of the most well-known and largest anti-war protests in United States history took place right on UW-Madison’s campus.

On October 18, 1967, the first major protest occurred when over 5,000 students protested the Vietnam War draft. This set the tone for the next few years as more and more protests against the war— and other social injustices— occurred on campus.

rally at UW madison for 1970s war protests
Photo Courtesy Of: University of Wisconsin Madison Library Archives (1970-1979)

The American Girl Company is Founded in Madison: 1985

The infamous American Girl Company was founded in Madison by a former teacher and writer, Pleasant Rowland. The company started with just three dolls in 1985. The company grew to be a national success, and eventually, Mattel bought the company in 1998 for $700 million.

First Successful Growth of Human Embryonic Stem Cells: 1998

Dr. James Thomson was the first scientist in the world to successfully grow human embryonic stem cells in a lab. This was a monumental discovery as it opened up new doors for medical research and advancements in the field of regenerative medicine.

One Final Milestone: Durashield Contracting was Founded in 2003

While it isn’t a medical marvel or a national stamp in history, we are proud of our place in Madison’s history— founding Durashield in 2003. The ability to provide premium roofs to the people of Madison, Wisconsin, and beyond means we’re making our mark in history as one of the best local roofers in the area— and that’s something to be proud of.

If you need roofing repairs or replacement, contact the professional team at Durashield today!

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