Emil Seidel

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Emil Seidel, first Socialist Mayor of Milwaukee.

Emil Seidel (1864–1947) was a patternmaker who served as the mayor of Milwaukee from 1910 to 1912. He was the first Socialist mayor of a major city in the United States, and ran as the Vice Presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America in the 1912 presidential election.


Early years[edit]

Seidel was born December 13, 1864 in the town of Ashland in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania of ethnic German immigrants to America. His family moved to Wisconsin when he was a small child.

At the age of 22, Seidel went abroad to refine his skills as a woodcarver.[1] He lived for six years in Berlin working at his trade during the day and attending school at night.[1] It was in this period that Seidel became an active socialist. Upon his return to Milwaukee, Seidel joined the Pattern Makers Union.[1]

In 1895, Seidel married the former Lucy Greissel.[1]

Political career[edit]

When Seidel returned to the United States he joined the Socialist Labor Party of America.[2] Seidel was a charter member of the first SLP branch in Milwaukee.[1]

Seidel later joined the Social Democracy of America (established 1897), the Social Democratic Party of America (established 1898), and the Socialist Party of America (established 1901) in turn. Seidel resided briefly in Washington state, serving as the first secretary of Local Redmond SPA in the fall of 1901.[3]

In 1904 Seidel was one of nine Socialists to win electoral victory as Milwaukee city aldermen, elected in the city's 20th ward.[1] He served two terms in that position before being elected as an Alderman-at-Large in 1909.[1]

Campaign poster from the 1912 Presidential campaign, where Seidel ran as a running mate with Eugene Debs

In 1910, Seidel was elected mayor of Milwaukee, becoming the first Socialist mayor of a major city in the United States. During his administration the first public works department was established, the first fire and police commission was organized, and a city park system came into being. Seidel cleaned the town up with strict regulation of bars and the closing of brothels and sporting parlors (modern-day casinos). It was also during his administration that he employed the noted American poet and author Carl Sandburg for a brief time. It was Seidel's socialist inclinations that attracted Sandburg to Milwaukee.

In the 1912 mayoral election, the Democratic and Republican parties joined forces to defeat Seidel, resulting in his loss to Gerhard Bading. Seidel then chose to run for Vice President of the United States on the Socialist ticket with Eugene V. Debs, and the pair won a respectable 901,551 votes in the 1912 presidential election (6% of the total). Most of his remaining political involvement was in local Milwaukee politics, but in 1932 he ran for a seat in the United States Senate in Wisconsin, winning 6% of the vote. Seidel served two more terms as alderman in Milwaukee, in 1916–20 and 1932–36, before his death.[4]


Emil Seidel died on June 24, 1947.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Our Candidates: Emil Seidel," Cleveland Socialist, whole no. 48 (September 21, 1912), pg. 2.
  2. ^ "Our Candidates: Emil Seidel" notes that Seidel's was one of only two "Socialist" votes in his precinct in 1892 — a year in which the Socialist Labor Party was the sole socialist party in America.
  3. ^ "A Remarkable Growth," Appeal to Reason [Girard, KS], whole no. 311 (Nov. 16, 1901), pg. 3.
  4. ^ Wisconsin Historical Society. Dictionary of Wisconsin History "Seidel, Emil 1864 - 1947"


Further reading[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
David S. Rose
Mayor of Milwaukee
Succeeded by
Gerhard A. Bading
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ben Hanford
Socialist Party of America Vice Presidential candidate
1912 (lost)
Succeeded by
George Kirkpatrick