Saturday, May 16, 2015

Why Does Wisconsin Hate Minnesota?

If you grew up in the great Cheesehead state, you have likely had it ingrained in you that anything and everything from Minnesota (that usually nameless state to our west) is to be despised, denegrated, and taken out with the barn cleaning every morning.  After 63 years of life I still believe that to be a noble cause and one I will likely never put aside.

However what is the origin of this seething hatred?  This article posits that we dislike Minnesota because of an off-color comment made in a conversation between a Wisconsinite and someone from that state to our west but I just don't buy it. There is way too much animosity between us to have originated from a single flippant remark.  I can see that happening between two recently-divorced people but not between a state of great historical and natural resource prowess, and that lesser state to our west. There is something deeper and more sinister at work.

About a year ago I had a discussion with fellow native Badgers of my age group about where the loathing arose but nobody could say for certain.  One theory was that when the purple football team from that state to our west was formed they posed a "threat" to the sacred Green Bay Packers and from that the intense rivalry was born.  Again, I don't buy it.  

This morning I found the website for the Wisconsin Historical Society and as I perused its many treasures of Cheesehead history and wisdom, I looked for an answer to this issue but could not find one.  So as I have done from childhood when I can't figure something out I write letters and I penned the following to the masters of Wisconsin history themselves.  

Following is the letter I sent to the Wisconsin Historical Society. Perhaps someone there knows the answer.  I would certainly like to know the answer before I die but even if I find out I will still loathe that state and especially that bunch of clowns dressed up in purple every fall who try to pass themselves off as a football team :)

Wisconsin Historical Society
816 State Street
Madison, Wisconsin 53706


I am a native-born Badger who grew up in Barron County, received my BS and Master’s degrees from UW River Falls and who reluctantly, as a 27 year old, moved away from Wisconsin in 1979.  This afternoon when I found your Facebook page and eventually the Historical Society Press website (ordered two books) I spent a couple hours browsing the many offerings you have on the history of the great Cheesehead state.

As I looked through some of the topics, I remembered a historical “issue” to which none of my friends from that era have ever been able to find a satisfactory answer. Hence I am writing to you and asking if you could shed some light on it for me and for us.

From the time I could crawl it has been ingrained in me that if you are from Wisconsin you “hate” anything and everything to do with Minnesota.  Many states, like Michigan and Ohio, have a jovial rivalry, but the animosity that exists between Badgers and those people from the state to our west is much more palpable and much more passionate.  Where Ohio and Michigan can trace their rivalry to the Toledo War of 1835 when people from Ohio referred to Michiganders as “being slovenly like a wolverine,” there is no such incident in our history that rings a bell for why we despise Minnesota so thoroughly.  The story goes that during the 1969 legislative session a legislator from near La Crosse introduced a bill that would have imposed a $100.00 toll on any vehicle entering Wisconsin that carried a Minnesota license plate.  The intent was to keep them out of our borders.  Of course the bill didn’t pass out of committee (although it was a great idea) but that is indicative of the depth of our loathing.

A year or so ago some friends from childhood and I discussed the origins of this issue in Facebook and one of the possible answers was that when the Minnesota Vikings were established they were a “threat” to the Packers and consequently something to be vilified.  There is also the possibility that something happened in the long-standing rivalry between the University of Wisconsin and the University of Minnesota football teams that may have set off this disgust we feel for Minnesota.  However I don’t buy either of those arguments because 1) I had a healthy dislike for Minnesota in the 1950s before the Vikings were formed and 2) the loathing extends far beyond professional or college football teams.   

I’ve searched many sources online and done a zillion Google searches on “Why does Wisconsin hate Minnesota” but so far nothing.  Flummoxed, I’m writing to you to ask if anyone in the Wisconsin Historical Society is familiar with the origins of our guttural dislike of anything and everything Minnesota. 

Thanks much for any insights you are able to provide.  I sincerely look forward to hearing from you.