Invented in Wisconsin

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Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, and the Wright brothers are among America’s most famous inventors, but Wisconsin can brag about its own innovators, like Stephen Babcock and A.O. Schwartz.

Click the Listen button to hear about Wisconsin’s important, if sometimes overlooked, inventions and innovations. Some of these items are on display at the Wisconsin Historical Museum in Madison.

Wisconsin Innovations: From the Iconic to the Unexpected opens to the public Saturday, Sept. 17, at the Wisconsin Historical Museum on Madison’s Capitol Square. The exhibit highlights Wisconsin’s many contributions.

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The exhibit is organized into five sections:Sports and Leisure, Pop Culture, Business and Industry, Big Ideas and Local Flavor. Visitors will see video animations and large-scale murals that promote context and meaning for each section’s artifacts.

Well-known badger-state innovations, like vitamin D in milk, are often taken for granted while others, like stem-cell technology, are so new that people are now only beginning to understand their power. Some, like the snowmobile, are fitting to Wisconsin; others, like the surfboard, defy expectation.

Supercomputers, jockey shorts, organ transplants, architecture, electric guitars, the National Weather Service and more all originated – in one way or another – in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Innovations explores a side of Wisconsin history many have never heard in the classroom and reveals intriguing stories behind the inventions that make Wisconsin proud.

The exhibit highlights the work of Wisconsin icons such as architect Frank Lloyd Wright and musical innovator Les Paul. Wright’s distinctive prairie style was the first uniquely American architecture. Les Paul’s inventions such as the solid body guitar and multi-track recording earned him the nickname “The Wizard of Waukesha.” Paul’s concept of multi-track recording is the foundation of studio recording, and the electric guitar is heard in almost every type of music.

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