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Wisconsin State Flag Wisconsin

The Wisconsin State Song

On, Wisconsin

music by W. T. Purdy

    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!

Adoption of the State Song

Though at first glance, one wouldn't expect it, the words to the Wisconsin state song have a long history. One thing that might look more obvious is that the song originated as the University of Wisconsin football song. But, it was originally intended for the University of Minnesota!

On, Wisconsin March Song
"On, Wisconsin" March Song

In 1909, the University of Minnesota was having a contest for a new football song and William T. Purdy decided that he would enter the contest. He composed the music for the song, but then ran into Carl Beck, a former University of Wisconsin student. Beck persuaded Purdy to dedicate the new song to the University of Wisconsin instead of the University of Minnesota and Beck contributed lyrics.

The earliest performance of the song was on November 10, 1909 when it was sung by the University of Wisconsin Glee Club. The next day, Purdy performed the song at a giant pep rally before a the "Minnesota game." The song was an instant hit with the students and the next day the University of Wisconsin Band performed the song at the game. The legend of "On, Wisconsin" was just beginning. Below is a set of lyrics from the University of Wisconsin:

    On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
    Plunge right through that line!
    Run the ball clear down the field,
    (originally "Run the ball clear 'round Chicago")
    A touchdown sure this time. 
    On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
    Fight on for her fame
    Fight! Fellows! - fight, fight, fight!
    We'll win this game.


    On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
    Stand up, Badgers, sing!
    "Forward" is our driving spirit,
    Loyal voices ring.
    On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
    Raise her glowing flame
    Stand, Fellows, let us now
    Salute her name!

Among the delegates at the centennial celebration of the Battle of Lake Erie, in 1913, were Judge Charles D. Rosa and Beloit Free Press editor J. S. Hubbard. Thinking of the University of Wisconsin football song's future as an official state song and inspired by the celebration, Judge Rosa and Mr. Hubbard wrote new words more fitting for an official state song.

In 1918, William Purdy sold the copyright to the song and yet another version of "On, Wisconsin" was released with words by Dr. Philip A. Forsbeck and published by Flanner-Hofsoo's Music House, Inc., Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

For years "On, Wisconsin" was thought of as the song of Wisconsin, but it had never been officially proclaimed as such. In 1959, when State Representative Harold W. Clemons found out that Wisconsin was one of only ten states that had no official state song, he decided to fix the problem. Representative Clemens introduced a bill in the Legislature to make "On, Wisconsin" the official state song of Wisconsin. When it was found that different sets of lyrics were circulating for the song, the Wisconsin Legislature made sure that the adopted lyrics were included in the official text of the law. (See below.)

The song, "On, Wisconsin", words not attributed and music by William T. Purdy, was adopted as the official state song of Wisconsin on July 11, 1959. Governor Gaylord Nelson signed the legislation. The song that John Philip Sousa called "the finest of college marching songs" was finally made official.

Wisconsin Statutes

The following information is excerpted from the Wisconsin Statutes, Chapter 1, Section 10. The words are included within the statute.

    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!.


Source: Wisconsin State Web Site, (http://www.wisconsin.gov), December 8, 2004
Source: Wisconsin State Legislature, (http://www.legis.state.wi.us/), December 8, 2004
Source: State Names, Seals, Flags, and Symbols by Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer, Copyright 2002
Source: State Songs America, Edited by M.J. Bristow, Copyright 2000
Source: State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers, and Other Symbols by George Earlie Shankle, Ph.D., Copyright 1938




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