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State Secrets

Wisconsin

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According to local lore, Wisconsin's nickname, "the Badger State," comes from 19th-century lead miners who burrowed into hillsides for shelter rather than build houses.

When French explorer Jean Nicolet "discovered" Lake Michigan in 1634, he hoped it was a passage to the Pacific Ocean. Legend has it he landed on the shores of northeastern Wisconsin thinking he'd reached China. For the occasion he wore embroidered silk robes and fired pistols in the air. The Winnebago Indians were somewhat surprised.

In the 1930s the Marinette Smelt Carnival featured a variation on mud wrestling, in which a ring was filled with thousands of the stinky fish to make the grapplers slippery.

A little-known sobriquet for Wisconsin is "the Bong State," after World War II high-flier Richard Bong.

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