So exactly who put this town on the map? A new online visualization project tries to answer that question with the help of data from Wikipedia. The People Map of the US, created by some data whizzes at The Pudding, replaces the names of cities across the U.S. of A. with the names of their most famous residents – or, to be more specific, the person connected to the town who is viewed most often on Wikipedia. The names are of people who were “born in, lived in, or connected to a place” – which explains why, for example, Barack Obama’s name pops up in both Chicago and Honolulu.
The trifecta of top names from the Chippewa Valley’s three largest cities shouldn’t be a surprise, if you’re steeped in local trivia. Consider that Eau Claire’s most Wikipedia’ed resident is indie musician Justin Vernon, known worldwide for his Grammy wins, Kanye collaborations, and hometown music festival.
Just upriver in Chippewa Falls the most-clicked name is that of supercomputing pioneer and hometown native Seymour Cray, namesake of Cray Inc., which recently made headlines for contracting with the U.S. Department of Energy to build the world’s fastest computer (and for being bought out by Hewlett Packard).
Menomonie’s most high-profile inhabitant is prolific English-born author Neil Gaiman, whose works include Stardust, Coraline, The Graveyard Book, American Gods, and Good Omens (the latter two of which have recently been turned into TV shows). Gaiman bought an old house outside Menomonie in 1992 to be close to his then-wife’s family. While he still owns the Menomonie home, these days he reportedly also resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
So what other famous folks have their names enshrined in Wikipedia next to western Wisconsin burgs? Author Michael Perry will forever be tied to his hometown of New Auburn – a.k.a. “Nobbern” – though he now lives near Fall Creek. Augusta’s favorite son is late football coach Dan Devine, who led the Packers in the mid-1970s, while Mondovi’s is Tim Krumrie, who played 12 years with the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals. Another athlete, pro golfer and two-time U.S. Open champ Andy North, is the most-searched name from Thorp.
A number of political figures pop up on the map, including former Congressman Steve Gunderson (Osseo), former Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (Chetek), and Greenwood native Mae Schunk, who served as Minnesota lieutenant governor under Gov. Jesse “The Body” Ventura.
Other notable locals include Fairchild-born Carole Landis, a 1940s film star; Stanley native Vincent Mroz, who saved President Harry Truman from a would-be assassin; and anti-war activist Ron Kovic, who was Born on the Fourth of July in Ladysmith.
Across the map of the Badger States, other names that pop out include some famous (Chris Farley in Madison, Mark Ruffalo in Kenosha) and a few infamous (Jeffrey Dahmer in Milwaukee and Ed Gein in Plainfield).
If you’re interested in geography, pop culture, history, or just enjoy zooming in and out of a big map (wheee!), cruise over to The Pudding. And if you want to know about the project’s data and methods, here’s an explanatory blurb from the Pudding website:
Data for this story were collected and processed using the Wikipedia API. The period of collection was from July, 2015–May, 2019, from English Wikipedia. It was inspired in part by this map.
Person/city associations were based on the thousands of “People from X city” pages on Wikipedia. The top person from each city was determined by using median pageviews (with a minimum of 1 year of traffic). We chose to include multiple occurrences for a single person because there is both no way to determine which is more accurate and people can “be from” multiple places.