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The post-Civil War period


City of Wisconsin
City of Wisconsin

The post-Civil War period was a time of great development and change for Wisconsin’s industry and agriculture. Of primary importance was the expansion of the state’s railroad system in these years. Rail lines increased from little more than 1,400 km (900 mi) in 1860 to 4,760 km (2,960 mi) in 1880 and more than 10,400 km (6,500 mi) by 1900. Tracks were first laid into northern Wisconsin in the 1870s.

Before this time, logging was limited to a few miles on each side of Wisconsin’s rivers, which provided the sole means of transporting the logs to mills and markets. The coming of the railroads opened up remote timberlands to exploitation and also made it possible to ship and sell timber to many parts of the country. By 1890 lumbering had become the state’s leading industry. The production of paper and wood products, particularly shingles, accompanied the growth of the lumber industry. By 1905 Wisconsin had become one of the top paper-producing states.

In the late 19th century, dairy farming gradually replaced wheat as the chief agricultural pursuit in Wisconsin. The trend away from wheat, begun during the Civil War, accelerated in the postwar years as superior wheat lands opened up in Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. The shift to dairying was encouraged by the introduction of the refrigerated railroad car, which allowed perishable products to reach a larger market. Because cheese was not highly perishable, cheese making was the first aspect of the dairy industry to be developed. Wisconsin’s dairying pioneers were mostly Scandinavian, Dutch, Swiss, and German immigrants or settlers from New York, then the nation’s leading dairy state.

As the northlands were stripped of trees, some of the cleared land was converted to farmland by new immigrants and by farmers from southern Wisconsin, where the soil was rapidly being depleted. Although the cleared land was unsuitable for growing wheat, it supported small-scale farming until nearly 1920.

Among the important industries that began in Wisconsin during the postwar years were meatpacking and tanning, natural accompaniments to livestock raising. Because it was close to the iron mines of Minnesota and Wisconsin’s Gogebic Range, Milwaukee flourished as a metalworking center and as a manufacturer of farming, dairying, and milling machinery. As industry and agriculture expanded and diversified in the 35 years after the Civil War, Wisconsin’s population more than doubled, reaching more than 2 million by 1900. "Wisconsin" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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