Badger History: Why Are We the Badger State? | Wisconsin Historical Society

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Badger History: Why Are We the Badger State?

Badger History: Why Are We the Badger State? | Wisconsin Historical Society

Ever wonder where we got the nickname of the Badger state? Think of the possibilities! Maybe…

  • Giant badgers roamed pre-historic Wisconsin?
  • Our First Peoples kept badgers as pets?
  • American and European colonizers found badger quite tasty?
  • None of the above?
EnlargeWisconsin, The Badger State

The Badger State

View the original source document: WHI 79692

It turns out that the nickname “badger” comes from our rich lead mining past. Ho-Chunk and other First Nations peoples had mined for lead in the southwest region of Wisconsin for hundreds if not thousands of years. Some of the earliest territorial conflicts in Wisconsin history arose over this mineral rich territory, as colonizing Americans and European settlers began moving into the area.

In the years leading up to statehood in 1848, Native nations were forced to cede more and more land to the colonizers, including the mineral rich southwestern portion of the Wisconsin territory. Americans and Europeans flocked to the area by the tens of thousands, increasing the voting population of white males to the point that Wisconsin went quickly from territory to statehood. But why are we the Badger state?

It turns out that those early miners were either too poor, too busy, or both to build a home on their lead mining claim. Instead, in order to get through the harsh Wisconsin winters, they lived right in their mines. People mocked them, calling them badgers for living in burrows in the ground like animals.

Well, if you know anything about badgers, you know they are tough, strong, and ferocious animals! The miners were proud to be associated with such a beast! And so they became the badgers, and we became the Badger state.

You can find this and even more information on our lead mining past in Chapter 5 of Wisconsin: Our State, Our Story.

Contact for more information on how to access your digital copy of Wisconsin: Our State, Our Story.