The new 2021-2022 Wisconsin Blue Book is here!

First published in 1853 as a manual for legislators, the Blue Book's mission today "is to furnish the legislature and the public with information on state officers and governmental organization, along with statistical information and articles of general interest."

Suppose you want to know how a bill becomes a law or how the legislature conducts its business, or perhaps the duties and organizational structure of the executive branch departments (PDF)?

Maybe, you're interested in significant events in Wisconsin history (PDF) or all manner of historical lists (PDF) or matters of public finance (PDF)? These topics and many more are in the Blue Book.

Every edition of the Blue Book showcases a fascinating feature article, and this edition's article "Dueling Governors" (PDF) is a real zinger! One for the ages, you might say. The day is January 7, 1856, and Wisconsin was holding its third gubernatorial inauguration, and somehow two men were sworn in as governor!

The story comes with all the drama of our most recent 2020 presidential election. Accusations flew and a partisan press fanned the flames. There was a Know-Nothing Party, a semisecret nativist organization, that called for immigration restrictions. This in a state where foreign-born immigrants accounted for about a third of Wisconsin's population in the 1850s. Strangely, the Know-Nothings could be the modern day QAnon.

One of the candidates running for governor in 1855 was a successful businessman, and "the handsomest man in Wisconsin."  The same candidate "even seemed to entertain his attorneys' argument that force was the appropriate means to resolve the conflict" arising from the dueling inaugurations.  Sound like someone we know today?

Then as now, the Wisconsin Supreme Court would have a defining role in sorting out the disputed election.  "The case was not just about who was the lawful governor, but about the authority of the state's courts and the wider balance of power in government."

The article is wonderfully written and reads like a good detective novel full of all the historical facts of the case.  Without giving away the end, though, I will elect to stop here.

Many thanks to the fine folks at the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau for putting together another exciting edition of the Wisconsin Blue Book!

Submitted by Eric Taylor, Evening Reference Librarian on April 20, 2022

This article appears in the categories: Law Library