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Wisconsin in the 1870s


Wisconsin landscape
Wisconsin landscape

As the economy became more industrialized, businesses became large and powerful. Large industries wielded great influence over the state and national governments, enjoying immunity from taxes and from regulation of their business practices. Corruption among politicians was widespread. Many citizens, especially farmers, became outraged. Among the heavy burdens facing farmers were the exorbitant and discriminatory freight rates charged by the railroads, the banks’ high interest rates, and the high prices charged by retail companies for farm supplies.

In an early attempt to bring about reform through political pressure, many Wisconsin farmers supported the national Granger Movement of the 1870s, which tried to improve the social, economic and political status of farmers. In 1873 the Wisconsin Grangers supported and helped elect Democrat William R. Taylor governor. During his administration the Potter Law and the Vance Act, the first of the so-called Granger laws in the nation, established a state railroad commission to regulate railroad practices and rates. The Taylor administration was turned out of office after only one term, however, and its reforms were soon undone. Wisconsin suffered one of its worst natural disasters in October 1871, when a forest fire swept through its northeastern counties. The Peshtigo fire killed more than 1,000 people and damaged $5 million worth of property, beginning the same night as the great Chicago fire. "Wisconsin" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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