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Wisconsin State Song

On, Wisconsin   Adopted: July 11, 1959

On, Wisconsin

music by William T. Purdy, words not attributed

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!

Play a version of "On, Wisconsin" performed by the University of Wisconsin Band under the direction of Professor Michael Leckrone. This mp3 file is provided by the State of Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau.

Adoption of the state song

Wisconsin state song
Wisconsin State Song: On, Wisconsin

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!

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 "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.

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.

While the legislation failed to attribute the words to a specific author, the words adopted by the State of Wisconsin are the words penned by Charles D. Rosa and Joseph S. Hubbard in 1913.

Wisconsin also adopted a state ballad and a state waltz in 2001.


"100 Years of 'On, Wisconsin!'" University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries Archives & Oral History. University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries, 2009. Web. 30 May 2015.

"On Wisconsin." University of Wisconsin. Web. 8 Dec. 2004.

Shearer, Benjamin F. and Barbara S. State Names, Seals, Flags and Symbols: A Historical Guide Third Edition, Revised and Expanded. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 3 Sub edition, 2001.

Wisconsin State Legislature, (http://www.legis.state.wi.us/), December 8, 2004./p>

Wisconsin State Web Site, (http://www.wisconsin.gov), December 8, 2004.

Additional Information

Wisconsin state song
Wisconsin State Song: On, Wisconsin

100 Years of "On, Wisconsin!": University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries, Archives & Oral History..

State songs: Complete list of official state songs from NETSTATE.COM

More symbols & emblems: Complete list of official Wisconsin state symbols from NETSTATE.COM.

State Songs of America

State Songs of America Edited by M. J. Bristow. 184 pages. Greenwood Press (February 28, 2000)

This book provides the music and lyrics for the official songs adopted by the state governments.

Arranged alphabetically by state, each song has a single vocal line over a piano accompaniment, with one verse only under the vocal line and remaining verses appearing separately.

State Songs: Anthems & Their Origins

State Songs: Anthems & Their Origins by John Hladczuk and Sharon Schneider Hladczuk. 240 pages. Scarecrow Press (September 26, 2000)

Histories of these songs, biographical information about the composers and lyricists, and background on each song's entrance into status as official make this source the most comprehensive in existence.

The entries include sheet music, allowing readers to reproduce for themselves the tunes that have proved so important in the history of the Union.

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