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“Bear Down Chicago Bears” And A Brief History Of Wisconsin Cheese Currency

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by clutter424, Jan 21, 2011.

  1. clutter424

    clutter424 Cheesehead

    Jan 21, 2011
    I encourage any Packer fan/Green Bay musician to post a music video in response to the "Bear Down Chicago Bears Bathroom Sessons" guitar arrangement on YouTube.

    I can’t help but expect some Packer fan to submit a cover of the Wisconsin standard “Cheese, Wonderful Cheese (Glorious Cheese)”, which was written anonymously by an unknown dairy farmer during the Great Wisconsin Cheddar Famine of 1886.

    The story is a good one, and I believe it’s history and relevance should be taught in every Wisconsin classroom.

    Back in 1886, the once-thriving cheese production that Wisconsin had enjoyed came to a grinding halt. The state had requested federal government assistance, as many of the Wisconsin residents were starving due to cheese shortages.

    The federal government, concerned with other national issues, denied aid to the farmers. This is know as the Great Wisconsin Cheddar Famine of 1886.

    Hardships were wide-spread throughout the state, and farmers no longer took cheese for granted. This is when an inspired anonymous dairy farmer penned the classic Wisconsin musical standard “Cheese, Wonderful Cheese (Glorious Cheese).” Cheese was now something every Wisconsin resident could get behind.

    In only two years, Wisconsin cheese production made a complete comeback and was productive as ever despite no assistance from the federal government. This was largely due to inspired and more rigorous milking efforts by the farmers themselves as well as advancements in cheese-aging technology.

    However, the farmers still held a large amount of animosity towards the federal government for not coming to their aid when they needed them the most. Acting on behalf of the distressed farmers, the state of Wisconsin declared their independence from the rest of the country.

    State legislature met in Madison to discuss a new monetary system. Wishing to abandon the federal “silver backed” dollar, they opted instead to use what they had plenty of - cheese.

    The act was swiftly passed by the state - dollar bill sized slices of cheese were now used as currency in the state of Wisconsin. The value of a cheese bill was actually determined by the actual value of the cheese itself.

    Bills of muenster or colby was generally valued at 1 cent each. Swiss or parmesan were valued around 2 cents, while a bill of nicely aged cheddar or gouda was worth 3 cents and so on.

    Unfortunately this system was repealed in only a matter of a few days. There were a couple big problems:

    1) Because the values of the cheese bills were based on the actual value of the cheese itself, a cheese bill of even the most desirable cheese was hardly ever worth more than 5 cents.

    Therefore, any large purchases of land or property paid for by “cash”, would constitute several wagons full of cheese to be delivered to the payee from the payer. This was obviously inconvenient.

    2) Cheese had a tendency to easily become devalued. If kept in a your pocket, purse or billfold, it would become warm, very soft, and not as appetizing. Unlike paper currency, the more the cheese bills were handled, the more “undesirable” they became.

    Wisconsin residents also found that cheese bills were not as easy to fold as paper bills and as a result, had a hard time transferring them to and from their wallet.

    Since a cheese bill became devalued the longer it remained in circulation, higher prices for virtually everything (except cheese) were set into place state-wide. With rampant inflation on the rise, Wisconsin had no choice but to rescind the act.

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