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Milwaukee’s Socialist History

Milwaukee’s Socialist History 

Milwaukee’s socialist history begins in the early 20th century with a wave of socialist party candidates being elected into Milwaukee area positions. The City of Milwaukee elected three Socialist Mayors from 1910-1960. Emil Seidel was elected from 1910-1912, Daniel Hoan from 1916-1940 and Frank Zeidler from 1948-1960. The term “Sewer Socialist”, while used negatively among socialists, became synonymous for a specific Milwaukee version of pragmatic socialism. The Milwaukee County local Socialist Party (SPMC) during this time represented a large percentage of the Socialist Party of Wisconsin’s (SPWI) membership. From roughly 1973 thru the mid to late 1980s, the Socialist Party USA headquarters shared an office with SPWI and SPMC was located in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


Archival Collections

We have created a list below of our archival collections that are related to this history. They are from our City of Milwaukee Archives, Local History Manuscript Collections, and Milwaukee Historic Photo Collections.  Please also check our Library catalog CountyCat for additional published resources.


Milwaukee’s Socialist Mayors:

Dan W. Hoan Mayoral Records, 1905-1987 (CMAC 008) 

Frank P. Zeidler Mayoral Records, 1944-1962 (CMAC 48) 


Local Milwaukee Socialists:

Frank P. Zeidler Papers, 1844-2017 (LHMC 352) 

John McClelland Work Papers, 1892-1960 (LHMC 334) 

Hugo Lange, Jr. Papers, 1930-1939 (LHMC 13) 

Elmer A. Beck Manuscript, circa 1976 (LHMC 001) 

Grace G. Lincoln Papers, 1897-1929 (LHMC 004) 

James T. Farrell Papers, 1935-1962 (LHMC 016) 

James E. Boulton Papers, 1918-1979 (LHMC 345) 

August Strehlow Papers, 1915-1965 (LHMC 368) 

Edwin W. Knappe Papers, 1824-1998 (LHMC 168) 


Other collections with Socialist materials:

Socialist Party Records, 1893-2021 (LHMC 322) 

Young People's Socialist League Records, 1912-1993 (LHMC 93) 

Socialist Pamphlet Collection, 1884-2008 (LHMC 20) 

Socialist Party Photograph Collection, 1897-1946 (MHPC 22) 

Milwaukee Turners Collection, 1870-2004 (LHMC 385) 

Wisconsin Election Ephemera, 1884-2022 (LHMC 33)


Digital Collections:

Socialist Party Collection 

Milwaukee Socialism: An Exploration of the Milwaukee Public Library’s Archives


2023 Governor's Award for Archival Innovation 

Using the Collections

These collections are viewed by appointment only in the Frank P. Zeidler Room of the Central Library. All materials are requested and appointments are scheduled here. Same day access cannot be guaranteed.