Our neighbor to the north has become a national newsmaker, wrenched by political battles, including attempts this month to recall lawmakers. Here are 10 things we can recall about Wisconsin:
1 Wisconsin is known as the Badger State because of lead miners in the 1800s who were nicknamed badgers because they lived underground in tunnels and mine shafts.
2 Even when Wisconsin had the deadliest fire in American history, it was overshadowed by Chicago. The Peshtigo disaster in the Green Bay area began Oct. 8, 1871 — the same day as the Great Chicago Fire, which dominated the nation's attention. Chicago's disaster killed about 250, while Peshtigo's death toll was at least 1,200, and perhaps twice that many.
3 The QWERTY keyboard layout was invented in Wisconsin. Christopher Latham Sholes, a Milwaukee printer and inventor, realized he could prevent his typewriter from jamming by separating the most popular keys.
4 Wisconsin ranks No. 1 among states in high school graduation rate (90.7 percent). But it's also No. 1 in drunken driving, according to the state's Transportation Department. A 2008 federal study found that 26.4 percent of Wisconsin adults surveyed admitted driving drunk in the previous year. (Illinois' percentage was 16.5.)
5 Wisconsin rightfully boasts it is "America's Dairyland" on its license plates. In the late 1960s, it went one step further with a bright yellow version that people called "butter plates."
6 Because of an insult, Wisconsin is home to the fantastical House on the Rock in Spring Green. A Madison architect named Alex Jordan Sr. hoped to impress Frank Lloyd Wright with his building designs for a women's dormitory. Wright was blunt: "I wouldn't hire you to design a cheese crate or a chicken coop." The story -- disputed by officials at House on the Rock -- goes that a furious Jordan vowed to build his own masterpiece to spite the famed architect. Today, about 500,000 people flock annually to his House on the Rock. Spring Green's other big attraction, Wright's Taliesin house, draws less than a 10th of that.
7 Madison is known as a center of political correctness, but it took a wrong turn in 2000 when the University of Wisconsin-Madison admissions office promoted diversity by digitally adding a black student into a photo of white people at a football game. The virtual spectator, Diallo Shabazz, said he'd never attended a UW game.
8 Before Tommy Bartlett thrilled thousands with his water-skiing show in the Wisconsin Dells, he worked in Chicago radio. He was just 17 in 1931 when he started at WBBM-AM, where he went on to host two very popular daytime programs targeted at housewives, "Meet the Missus" and "The Missus Goes to Market."
9 In 1951, divorced dressmaker Margaret Jorgenson of Oshkosh left nearly $100,000 in her will to a man after spending only four hours with him. The two began chatting in a hotel elevator while both were visiting Chicago, and they decided to have lunch together. Afterward, they parted, maintaining a correspondence but never again meeting face to face. Jorgenson's will left her relatives nothing, and they sued, winning more than half of the money intended for Jorgenson's four-hour friend.
10 Wisconsin boasts some funny names. There are places like Imalone, Ubet, Embarrass, Footville and Spread Eagle. Then there are people, such as the pride of Wisconsin Rapids, retired race car driver Dick Trickle.
Mark Jacob is a deputy metro editor at the Tribune; Stephan Benzkofer is the paper's weekend editor.
Sources: National Center for Education Statistics; "Cassell's Dictionary of Slang" by Jonathon Green; "The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English" by Eric Partridge; "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cheeses of the World" by Steve Ehlers and Jeanette Hurt; "Famous Wisconsin Inventors & Entrepreneurs" by Marv Balousek; "Firestorm at Peshtigo" by Denise Gess and William Lutz; "Wisconsin Biographical Dictionary" by Caryn Hannan; dot.wisconsin.gov; Wisconsin State Journal; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; wisconsinhistory.org; usgs.gov; imdb.com; snopes.com; channel3000.com.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times