Low Salaries of 19th Century Wisconsin Justices & Legislators

Today’s Odd Wisconsin post tells of the financial struggles of 19th century Wisconsin Supreme Court justices who “were paid so little that some of them had to go into debt merely to keep house in Madison.”

We tend to think of such august figures as pillars of their community – – wealthy, learned, and as a stable as Wisconsin bedrock – – but [in a 1923 Wisconsin State Journal article] Hanks [the city’s chief banker] shows some of them with their suspenders down, on the edge of bankruptcy.

Just the other day, I turned up a similar reference to the low salaries of Wisconsin legislators at that time. According to a Jan. 17, 1914 Sheboygan Press account of a Vice Committee investigation led by Senator Howard Teasdale, he reportedly said that “it cost me $800 to get the $500 job as state senator.”