Wisconsin Before the Civil War

When we look at history we tend towards categorizing topics the same way school history books do. In reality, people writing about recent events (from their perspective) can, and often do, include material ranging over a large number of topics that they feel are relevant to an event.

For example, in a book in our collections on the role the people of Wisconsin played in the Civil War, there is this extended section about the history and growth of Wisconsin itself. The author uses this information (and far more not included in this excerpt) to set the stage for the book by explaining the kind of people and industries that produced the young men who went to war to preserve the Union.

Background on Wisconsin

From 1840 to 1860, twenty years, the cereal crop of the State grew from 1,020,000 bushels to 56,051,000 bushels. The cereal crop of 1861 was 31,414,000 bushels greater than the whole of that of all the New England States. Our wheat crop of that year was 3,000,000 bushels greater than that of Ohio, New York, and all the New England States combined, for 1860, and more than the entire wheat crop of Canada.

The area of our farms is more than that of the entire State of Massachusetts. The value of our farming lands increased from $28,500,000 in 1850, to $131,000,000 in 1860. In 1850 we had 1,046,000 acres of lands under cultivation; in 1860, 3,746,036 acres. Our exports in 1840 were, in value, $53,000; in 1848 they had risen to $3,328,000; and in 1862, to upward of $20,000,000.

The population in 1830 was only 3,245. Ten years later it had increased to 30,945. In 1850 it was 305,391, and in 1860, 776,455. The increase from 1830 to 1840 was 854 per cent.; from 1840 to 1850, 887 per cent.; and from 1850 to 1860, 154 per cent. No State of the Union ever before grew as fast in population for ten years, as Wisconsin did from 1840 to 1850.

Illinois increased in that time only 79 per cent., and Iowa 346 per cent., although the latter State is only two years older than Wisconsin. From 1810 to 1820 Indiana gained 500 per cent. and from 1830 to 1840 Michigan increased 571 per cent. These two States make the nearest approach to the increase of Wisconsin’s 887 per cent. from 1840 to 1850–except Minnesota since that decade. The ratio of increase in the United States from 1850 to 1860, was only 35.5 per cent.; in the North-West, only 68 per cent.; in Wisconsin, 150 per cent.; and in Minnesota, 2,761 per cent. Wisconsin is the second State in the Union distinguished for rapidity of growth. *

By the census of 1865, the whole number of inhabitants was 868,937. Only 2,159 are enumerated as “colored,”–less than one four hundredth part of the whole–and some of these may be Indians.

Source: Wisconsin in the War of the Rebellion; A History of all Regiments and Batteries The State Has Sent To The Field and deeds of her Citizens, Governors and other Military Officers, and State and National Legislators to suppress the Rebellion, 1866

Reference

USA Territorial Expansion 1840

United States Territorial Expansion 1840

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