Edgerton is a city in Dane and Rock Counties in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. The population was 4,933 at the 2000 census. Known locally as "Tobacco City U.S.A.," because of the importance of tobacco growing in the region, Edgerton continues to be a center for the declining tobacco industry in the area.
There were 1,958 households out of which 33.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.1% were married couples living together, 10.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.2% were non-families. 29.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 3.06.
In the city the population was spread out with 26.8% under the age of 18, 7.8% from 18 to 24, 31.3% from 25 to 44, 19.9% from 45 to 64, and 14.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 96.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.9 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $44,684, and the median income for a family was $52,555. Males had a median income of $34,890 versus $24,231 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,481. About 3.7% of families and 5.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.9% of those under age 18 and 7.9% of those age 65 or over.
In 1886, Catholic parents in Edgerton protested the reading of the King James Bible in the village schools. They considered the Douay version the correct translation and held that only clergy could accurately teach from the Bible. The school board argued that Catholic children could ignore the Bible readings or sit in the cloak room while the rest of the children listened to the reading of a Protestant version of the Bible. Because the school board refused to change their policy, several families brought suit on the grounds that the schools' practice contradicted Sec. 3, Article X of the Wisconsin Constitution, forbidding sectarian instruction in the public schools.
The circuit court rejected their protest, deciding in 1888 that the readings were not sectarian because both translations were of the same work. The parents appealed their case to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which on March 18, 1890, overruled the circuit court, concluding that reading the Bible did, in fact, constitute sectarian instruction, and thus illegally united the functions of church and state.
Seventy years later, when the U.S. Supreme Court banned prayer from the public schools in 1963, the Edgerton Bible case was one of the precedents cited by Justice William Brennan.
At one time, there were as many as forty tobacco warehouses dotting the streets of Edgerton. Queen Anne style mansions along Edgerton's Washington Street testify to the wealth and prominence some merchants once had. The 1890s Carlton Hotel, once located on Henry Street, also once served as an additional reminder of the tobacco industry's influence. Although built by a brewing firm, the hotel (which burned to the ground in the 1990s) was frequented by tobacco buyers and sellers.
Beyond its connection to author Sterling North's boyhood and its onetime place as Wisconsin's premiere tobacco city, Edgerton's other major claim to fame is its association with Pauline Jacobus. Pauline and her husband, Oscar Jacobus, were responsible for the first artistic pottery created in Chicago in the mid-1880s. By 1888, the couple had moved their business to Edgerton. Although Oscar's death and an economic depression disrupted the business in the 1890s, Pauline Jacobus continued making pottery in Edgerton until the early 1900s' fire that destroyed her rural Edgerton home, "The Bogart." Much admired and sought-after as an American art form, "Pauline Pottery" is recognized in antique and art galleries throughout the world. A log cabin from the old Bogart site and the factory warehouse where Pauline Pottery was first made in Edgerton still survive.