Wisconsin has a rich manufacturing history and it continues to grow across the state and change as new technologies move all of us forward. We are celebrating Wisconsin Manufacturing Month with Wisconsin Manufacturing and Commerce, highlighting what makes Wisconsin manufacturing so special.
Wisconsin Manufacturing History
Beer: As we all know, some of the first manufacturing plants in the Badger State revolved around beer. The first brewery in the state and third oldest brewery in the entire country was Pabst. Founded in 1844 in Milwaukee and originally called Empire Brewery, the Milwaukee brewery kicked off a beer boom in the state. Phillip Best, the creator the brewery turned it over to his daughter’s husband, Frederick Pabst in 1889. Best’s two sons had left their father’s business in 1855 to start a little brewery called Miller. The manufacturing techniques for bottling the beer in mass production grew out of the insatiable desire for beer from around the Mid-West.
Automobiles: Since 1900, Wisconsin has housed more than 80 makes of cars and truck. Most of those manufacturers called southeastern Wisconsin their home. Janesville was home to one of the oldest GM plants in the country. Did you know a Racine native was one of the first to rev up the auto industry in this country? Rev. Dr. J.W. Carhart developed a self-propelled steam vehicle in 1873.
Shipbuilding: Since 1850, Wisconsin shipbuilders have grown and are concentrated in Superior, Manitowoc and Sturgeon Bay. Many US Navy ships are still built here in Wisconsin. Little known fact: The Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company got the contract in WW2 to build submarines. They never had, but built 28 of them quickly when the Navy only asked for 10!
Cool Stuff: Ask any army veteran from WW2 and after what their most valued possession was and they might say the P38 GI Can Opener. J.W. Speaker in Germantown manufactured these nifty gadgets that many veterans say was the “best tool every created.” You could open cans, use it as a knife, as a screwdriver, etc.
Carmex Lip Balm calls Franklin it’s home and was created in Wisconsin in the 1950s.
Remember Shrinky Dinks? Those were created as part of a Cub Scout project in 1973 in North Lake.
Of course, there are so many manufacturers in Wisconsin that continue to develop fantastic products shipped all over the country and the world: from Kohler Co. which started with plows and farm implements to Menasha Corp, Briggs and Stratton, Harley-Davidson and S.C. Johnson. All of us are part of a vast network of manufacturers that work to better our state and country and beyond.
Manufacturing in Wisconsin By the Numbers
Some key numbers to remember as we celebrate Manufacturing Month:
- Wisconsin manufacturers were responsible for more than $56 billion worth of economic output in 2016.
- Wisconsin manufacturers employ 461,000 people and they produce 18% of our gross domestic product.
- As of 2014, there are 7, 865 manufacturers in Wisconsin
- Fabricated metal products, such as those we produce here at Maysteel, account for more than $6 Billion in economic output. Metal fabricators are the third highest producers among state manufacturers.