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The North American university city of Madison with its 215 000 inhabitants is situated between five lakes whose names all have their origin in the history of ancient Indian tribes: Lake Mendota, Lake Monona, Lake Waubesa, Lake Wingra and Lake Kegonsa. Because of this extraordinary location, the international atmosphere provided by the university as well as its rich cultural life, Madison is frequently referred to as the US' "Capital of Good Living".
Over 12 000 years ago, during the Ice Age, there were first settlements of the Paleo Indians on the territory of today's Dane County. These Indians are regarded as the native inhabitants of North America, and they came from Asia via land routes no longer existent. In the 16th century the first white immigrants settled in the area around Madison. At that time, Indians from the Winnebago tribe were already living in villages on the shores of the lakes around Madison. The Winnebagos called this area Taychopera - the region of the four lakes. In 1832, their land became US territory. Shortly after it was founded in 1836, Madison became the capital of Wisconsin. It was named after the fourth president of the United States, James Madison. In 1856, Madison was granted city status.
Culture is given pride of place in Madison: festivities of all kinds, trade fairs, congresses, concerts, theatrical and sports performances are part of the city's everyday life. In January, there's a Winter Festival which takes place over three successive days. From the end of June till the beginning of August, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra performs on the steps of the Capitol every Wednesday. There is an art fair that takes place on the market square on the second weekend in July with over 500 artists from all over the US and Canada. In September, there is a five-day spectacle of dance, music, magic and theatre called the Festival of the Lakes. The fine arts are housed in the Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts and Letters, the Elvehjem Museum of Art, the Madison Civic Center, the Madison Art Center and the Wisconsin Union Art Collection. Numerous museums, such as the State Historical Society of Wisconsin Museum, the Children's Museum, the Geology Museum and the Veteran's Museum recount the history of the city and region.
Economy and Tourism
Public administration and the university are the two biggest employers in Madison. Other important economic factors are medical companies and several research centres and laboratories. Some of the US' leading insurance companies have established themselves in the city. Agriculture also plays an significant role in the economic life of Madison and the Dane Country. It produces grain, tobacco, vegetables and meat. The Capitol is without doubt not only one of Madison's main attractions but also the heart of the city. It is dominated by its dome of granite, which is only a few centimetres smaller than the one of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. On its top there is a bronze statue of a woman which as an allegory for the city bears the name of Wisconsin. Other monumental historical buildings are the Grace Episcopal Church, Kenean House, Stoner House and the Hooley Opera House.
In 1997, the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center was opened - a venue for conferences, exhibitions and other events beautifully situated on the shores of Lake Monona. This architecturally unique building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1930s.
The University of Wisconsin was founded in 1848 and with its 42 000 students is counted among the most renowned universities in the US. It teaches all possible subject areas, and its faculties brought forth twelve Nobel Prize Winners. Madison is leading in the sector of medical research. There are other research institutions for biology, biochemistry and forestry.