This Is The Single Craziest Thing You Never Knew Happened In Wisconsin
We’ve already told you about a wacky Wisconsin law that requires restaurants to serve you real butter unless they tell you otherwise, but did you know that the history of butter and margarine in Wisconsin is far more complex than that?
When margarine was first introduced in the late 1800s, farmers across the country were concerned. They decried margarine as unhealthy, cancer-causing and insanity-inducing. Pro-butter folks implied that you couldn’t possibly have any idea what went into your margarine and sold butter as being all-natural.
A number of anti-margarine laws were passed in Wisconsin, where we taxed and regulated margarine to protect dairy farmers. Many Wisconsin residents, though, weren’t too invested in whether or not they should support farmers and the dairy industry. Margarine was cheaper and they wanted it.
So one of the weirdest legacies of the introduction of margarine were the clandestine “margarine runs” that friends and neighbors would set up. Every couple of weeks they’d send one person over the border to purchase margarine for all of them and illegally transport it back across the state line.
One great side-note to this story: In the 1950s, one of the most vociferous decriers of margarine was Gordon Roselip. He was challenged to a taste-test of butter and margarine and he was the only one on the panel that chose margarine. After his death, his family revealed that they’d been serving him margarine – procured in Iowa – for years. So he really did believe that the product he chose was the “butter” he ate every day.
My own mom remembers cruising Hwy 41 into Illinois with her dad to go procure margarine and then getting sore arms from having to incorporate the color capsule. Did any of you ever go on margarine runs? Tell us about it in the comments.