Wisconsin vs. Minnesota: Famous citizens

Story by Samantha Muehleis and Nick Gourdoux


The two first “famous” (or I suppose infamous) people from Wisconsin that come to mind: Jeffrey Dahmer and Ed Gein. Hmm. Yes, Wisconsin does have Chris Farley and that toilet guy, Kohler.

A far cry from the serial killers and the man responsible for the porcelain seat, the first to mind for famous individuals from Minnesota are Charles Horace and William J. Mayo. The Mayo brothers were the founders of the internationally renowned medical practice that is headquartered in Rochester, Minn. I’m curious as to where medicine would be without the Minnesota born and raised Mayo brothers?

Second to mind is Lindsey Vonn. Prior to the Olympics you may not have heard much of her, but since the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Winter Olympics, Lindsey Vonn is a name that we have heard often. Although she crashed in a number of races, Vonn became the first American woman to win gold in the downhill at this year’s games.

Aside from the substantial contributions that the Mayo brothers made to the field of medicine and the race and medal Vonn added to the USA victory counts, Minnesota is also the birthplace of other recognizable names.

Hubert Humphrey, the 38th Vice President, and Sinclair Lewis, the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, were born in and resided in Minnesota.

Jessica Biel, Josh Hartnett and Judy Garland have called Minnesota home.

Bob Dylan and Prince were also born and raised in Minnesota. And the state is home to bands I am sure we have all heard of, like Motion City Soundtrack and Owl City.

Imagine what we would be missing if not for these Minnesotan icons? – SM


Wisconsin seems to have gotten a bad reputation when it comes to famous people. When you think famous Wisconsinites, you probably think of Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer or Joseph McCarthy, but we have much, much more to offer.

Do you like Music? Rock and Roll may never have taken off had Les Paul – born and raised in Waukesha – not put his creative mind into the music world.

Do you like movies? Orson Welles, the famous movie and radio personality, as well as Mark Ruffalo, who is currently featured opposite Leonardo Dicaprio in Shutter Island, both were born in Kenosha. Chris Farley, the late Saturday Night Live star, was born in Madison and Willem Dafoe hails from Appleton.

Do you like sports? 1954 Heisman Trophy winner Alan Ameche hails from Kenosha Wisconsin, while NBA All-Star Caron Butler was born and raised in Racine.

Other famous Wisconsinites who don’t necessarily fall under the previous categories, other than me, include architect Frank Lloyd Wright, former Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, magician Harry Houdini, Laura Ingalls Wilder and many, many more.

Wisconsin has had a big impact on practically every form of life. We’ve produced countless numbers of famous people who have changed the world. Had our serial killers not been so good, who know how many more famous Wisconsinites there could be. – NG