A timeline of Wisconsin’s most famous products

Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. Judge magazine, June 10, 1911

The iconic beer tied with a blue ribbon. | Photo via Wiki Commons

Table of Contents

Since Wisconsin became a state in 1848, it’s cranked out some pretty noteworthy items. Some, like the Kwik Trip Glazer Donuts + Spotted Cow, are regionally known and loved but others — like Trek Bikes and the snowmobile — are so iconic they enjoy national acclaim.

Pabst Blue Ribbon

  • Established in Milwaukee in 1844 (pre-statehood), the American lager was originally called Best and Company, but gained notoriety for tying a blue ribbon around its Best Select bottles, resulting in the 1899 name change. It is rumored that the company was also the first brewer to package beers in packs of six.

Malted Milk

  • Aka Whoppers. The Horlick brothers started their journey to produce malt-based baby food in 1873 in Racine. Production and the recipe pivoted into what is commonly used in the movie theater candy + to make malts at soda shops.

Ice Cream Sundae

  • A controversial topic, but we’re going to give the Badger state credit for the invention of the sweet treat. First served in 1881 at The Washington House in Two Rivers, the dish was a nickel and was only served on, naturally, Sundays.


The official marker of the first sundae. | Photo via Wiki Commons

Butter Burger

  • While a bit of a fable, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the story of the 1885 Seymour fair was the origin of the butter burger. The Dairyland state was officially serving them up in Green Bay in 1963 + at Culver’s in 1984.

OskKosh B’gosh

  • The iconic clothing store first opened its doors in — you guessed it — Oshkosh in 1895. Known for its hickory striped overalls, the brand gained national fame in a mail-order catalog in the 1960s.

Harley Davidson

  • The “motor-bicycle” is the product of two friends — William Harley and Arthur Davidson — who developed the idea in Milwaukee in 1903. The motorcycles are still manufactured at a factory in Brew City, along with others worldwide.


  • The medicated lip balm was first created by Alfred Woelbing in 1937 in an attempt to heal cold sores. The Wauwatosa-founded product was hand-poured until the 1970s when production shifted to a Milwaukee factory.

Johnsonville Brats

  • Founded as a butcher shop in 1945 in Johnsonville, the company is still headquartered in Sheboygan. By 1970, the company had spread throughout the state + was in homes across the country by the mid-1980s.

American Girl Dolls

  • Created by Pleasant Rowland, the historical doll company was founded in Middleton in 1986. The National Toy Hall of Fame brand is now owned by Mattel and encompasses contemporary characters and 13+ stores.

  • A favorite road trip snack? Beef Jerky. The company was founded in Minong, WI in 1987 + now claims the spot of No. 1 snack meat manufacturer in North America.

The Onion

  • Started by two UW-Madison students in 1988, the news satire organization is now a national publication. The publication went online in 1996 and features sarcastic news writing in AP style.
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