The land now occupied by Wisconsin's capital was originally home to the Ho-Chunk Native American Tribe for nearly 12,000 years. Today, the Ho-Chunk tribe remains in the area but is now best known for its enormous casino located in closer proximity to Wisconsin Dells. The Ho-Chunk people called the Madison area "Taychopera" for, land of four lakes. The lakes are what later attracted James Doty to choose the site for the state's capital city shortly after Wisconsin's borders were claimed for the country. In 1836 he named the city in honor of the fourth president, James Madison.

With the newly claimed city capital, Northern Europeans began arriving to the city and claiming it home. The first settlers to follow the Yankees from the Eastern states, were in large majority of German descent but there was also a considerable amount of Scandinavian, Irish, and English immigrants. By 1856 the city had grown to around 9,000 in population. It was that same year that the residents of the village of Madison used tax money to open the first public school building. Education was an importance from that moment on, just a couple of years later in 1858 the University of Wisconsin was founded.

Along with the University, business began to thrive. The first major corporations were Oscar Meyer, Ray-o-Vac, L.L. Old Seeds Co. all of which still exist today. Curing the thirst of the city at that time was the Fauerbach Brewery which has since ceased to exist replaced by today's present favorites, Capital Brewery and Great Dane Brewery.