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Wisconsin State Song
Song: "On, Wisconsin!" The music for "On, Wisconsin!" was composed in 1909 by William
T. Purdy with the idea of entering it in a contest for the creation of a new University of Minnesota
football song. ("Minnesota" would have replaced "On, Wisconsin" in the opening lines.) Carl
Beck persuaded Purdy to dedicate the song to the University of Wisconsin football team instead,
and Beck collaborated with the composer by writing the lyrics. The song was introduced at the
Madison campus in November 1909. It was later acclaimed by world-famous composer and
bandmaster John Philip Sousa as the best college song he had ever heard.
Lyrics more in keeping with the purposes of a state song were subsequently written in 1913 by
Judge Charles D. Rosa and J. S. Hubbard, editor of the Beloit Free Press. Rosa and Hubbard were
among the delegates from many states convened in 1913 to commemorate the centennial of the
Battle of Lake Erie. Inspired by the occasion, they provided new, more solemn words to the already
well-known football song.
Although "On, Wisconsin!" was widely recognized as Wisconsin's song, the state did not officially
adopt it until 1959. Representative Harold W. Clemens discovered that Wisconsin was one
of only ten states without an official song. He introduced a bill to give the song the status he
thought it deserved. On discovering that many different lyrics existed, an official text for the first
verse was incorporated in Chapter 170, Laws of 1959, and it is contained in Section 1.10 of the
On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! Grand old badger state!
We, thy loyal sons and daughters, Hail thee, good and great.
On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! Champion of the right,
'Forward', our motto - God will give thee might!
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