Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development
Timeline History: 1920-1939

A complete safety code was developed for all mines and quarries by the Industrial Commission.

Wisconsin created the Vocational Rehabilitation program with emphasis on people injured in industrial employment accidents.


John James Blaine (1921-1927)
Fred R. Zimmerman (1927-1929)
Walter Jodok Kohler, Sr. (1929-1931)

Additional Commissioners:
R. G. Knutson (1921-1933)
L.A. Tarrell (1921-1927)
Voyta Wrabetz (1927-1955)

1921 Employment Office
1921 Employment Office


Industrial Commission Secretary:
Arthur Altmeyer (1922-33)

The Wisconsin Worker's Compensation law was held constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. The law had been held constitutional by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1911.


First Workmen's Compensation law is held valid
First Workers's Compensation Law is Held Valid

Wisconsin Legislature created a new division to help workers collect wages owed by former employers.

New legislation required employers to pay all laborers, workman and mechanics on state public works projects at the "prevailing" wage rate of the area.

Development of Safety Codes were continuing as technologies evolved.


Philip Fox La Follette

Safety Guard on Machine
Safety Guard on Machine
Photo Source: Wisconsin Historical Society

The Wisconsin Legislature passed the nation's first unemployment compensation law, three years in advance of the U.S. Social Security Act which established a nationwide program.


Albert George Schmedeman
Philip Fox La Follette (1935-1939)

Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development History Signing the 1932 Unemployment Compensation Law

Governor La Follette Signing the Nation's First Unemployment Compensation Act

On January 28, 1932, Governor Philip La Follette signs the nation's first unemployment compensation law. Also pictured in back, left to right, are: Henry Oltl, President, Wisconsin Federation of Labor; Elizabeth Brandeis; Paul Raushenbush; John R. Commons; Henry Huber Lt. Governor; Assemblyman Harold Groves; and Assemblyman Robert Nixon.

Wisconsin was the first state to establish an Unemployment Compensation program. Wisconsin issued the first Unemployment Compensation Check in the United States on August 17, 1936. It was in the amount of $15.00 and issued to Neils N, Ruud. Ruud sold it to Paul Raushenbush for $25.00 for it's historical value. The check is now at the State Historical Society. Mr. Raushenbush was a University of Wisconsin Economics Professor who later became Director of the Unemployment Compensation Division from 1932 to 1967.

The U.S. Randolph Sheppard Act created the blind vending program which was enacted to provide blind persons with remunerative employment, enlarge their economic opportunities, and encourage their self-support through the operation of vending facilities in Federal buildings. In addition to federal buildings, the program was extended to State buildings. The program continues today as the Blind Business Enterprise Program (BEP).

Wisconsin extended vocational rehabilitation services to disabled homebound.


First Unemployment Compensation Check
First Unemployment Check

Photo Source: Wisconsin Historical Society

First Unemployment Compensation check delivered
Photo Source: Wisconsin Historical Society

The Interstate Conference of Unemployment Compensation Administrators was formed, with Wisconsin a member; mandate broadened to include Employment Service activities 2 years later and its name was changed to the Interstate Conference of Employment Security Agencies (ICESA).


In 1937 the Wisconsin legislature created the Wisconsin Labor Relations Board modeled after the national board. In 1967, the board was reorganized as a commission.


New Commissioners:
Mable Griswold (1938-39)
Harry J. Burczyk (1939-53)
C.L. Miller (1939-52)


Julius Peter Heil

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