Distribution of Electricity in Marathon County in 1930
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The 1930 Atlas and Farmers’ Directory of Marathon County listed all rural property owners and, among other information, if they had electric service. Owners of properties highlighted in orange on these maps reported they had electricity. Service could have been provided by a public utility, a local electric co-op, an in-home battery plant or from another source.
Many rural towns were electrified early in the 20th century. As electric service extended outwards from those towns, nearby homes and farms, especially those on main roads, had the opportunity to connect to the service. The significant cost of adding electricity to a house and/or barn kept many families in the dark for decades, for some into the 1960s. In addition to the cost of installing wiring, light fixtures, switches and outlets, the expense of buying electric appliances and equipment was beyond the reach of many. For some, cost was not an obstacle for having electricity - they saw no reason to spend money on something they didn’t need.
When looking at the maps, note that some townships were heavily electrified by 1930 (Hamburg, Cleveland and McMillan) while in others it was almost non-existent (Hewitt, Guenther, Harrison). By 1930 only 25% of rural homes in Wisconsin had electricity.