Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development
Timeline History: 1883-1899

The Wisconsin Bureau of Labor Statistics was established in 1883 and headquartered at the Capitol. Wisconsin became the 9th state to create a state agency to collect non-agricultural statistics. (The US Bureau of Labor Statistics was established in 1884.) The bureau was given authority to enforce laws regulating the employment of children and women, passed as early as 1867. The total budget for the Bureau was $2,000.

In 1884, the Bureau published its first labor statistics report. Safety related questions asked on the 1884 survey: "What height are your buildings; are they wood, brick or stone? Have you fire escapes? What kind? Have you apparatus for extinguishing fires?

First Biennial Report
of the
Bureau of Labor Statistics


Jeremiah McLain Rusk

Frank Flowers
Labor Commissioner Frank A. Flower (1883 ? 1887)

Picture of Early Loggers
Early loggers

The Wisconsin State Militia was called to guard the Allis Reliance Iron Works in May 1886. The 1800's normally favored business interests over workers' collective actions. Labor Commissioner Flower stated in the 1883-84 Biennial Report "Strikes have been likened to war, but they also may be likened to boils which show the condition of the system. That it is deranged and the blood impure and a constitutional remedy is needed to drive the humors out".


1886 Labor Strike
1886 Labor Strike

Wisconsin's first safety law was an 1887 machine statute, which required fences or guards around gears, shafts, bull-wheels and pulleys.


Accident in a Machine Shop
"Accident in the Machine Shop"

New Factory inspectors began to enforce employment laws.

Legislation raised the minimum age of employment from age 12 to 13 for Wisconsin residents.

Commercial establishments were regulated by new state law.


William Dempster Hoard (1889-1891)
George Wilbur Peck (1891-1895)

Legislation passed to prohibit race discrimination in restaurants, inns and other public accommodations in Wisconsin.


William Henry Upham (1895-1897)
Edward Scofield (1897-1901)

Minimum age for employment was raised from age 13 to 14 for Wisconsin residents.


Beginning in 1867, labor groups secured laws to protect young workers. Such legislation fixed age limits, set educational requirements, restricted work hours and prohibited young children from working in industrial plants. The first work permit program was instituted in 1899.


The first public employment office in the state was established by the city of Superior.

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