Segments in this Video

Milwaukee's Socialist Past (03:24)


Milwaukee was once a socialist city that prospered. Its socialist mayors ended corruption, fought for better conditions for working people, and cleaned up the environment.

Sewage Solution in Milwaukee (03:45)

The socialists in Milwaukee were focused on empowering working people and improving the quality of life for all citizens. One of their main achievements was the construction of a clean and efficient sewer system. The socialists had a solution to the sewage problem, which was to filter, ferment, and bag the sewage into fertilizer.

Milwaukee's First Socialist Mayor (03:15)

In 1910, Milwaukee elected Emil Seidel, the first socialist mayor of a major American city. Seidel delivered on his promise to clean up corruption, and under his administration, Milwaukee earned the nickname: the Crime Free City.

Milwaukee Socialists (02:18)

In the early 1910s, Milwaukee was a hotbed of American socialism. After Emil Seidel was elected mayor, he worked to improve the lives of working people through things like health care and workers' pay. However, he was eventually ousted in a backroom deal between the Democrats and Republicans.

First Workman's Compensation Law (01:59)

Daniel Hoan was a socialist who became the mayor of Milwaukee in 1916. He advocated for workers' rights, including an eight-hour workday and a higher minimum wage.

Socialists Work with Capitalists (04:23)

Socialists in Milwaukee were able to work with capitalists to create a strong community while advancing their worldview. This included developing a large park system and creating a municipal director of recreation.

Milwaukee Socialist Movement (01:52)

The socialist movement in Milwaukee was not so much about ideology. It was about playgrounds and music and art and fun and a good life and a chance for happiness for all of us. The Boston Braves were lured to Milwaukee.

Problem of Low-Cost Housing (01:57)

Public housing projects were created in order to provide low-cost housing for workers, but the high cost of these projects led to many people opting out of the co-ops and instead wanting to own the homes privately.

Socialist Quest for Better Health (04:09)

Milwaukee's socialist mayor and health department successfully improved the quality of life for the city's residents through a variety of innovative programs, earning the city national recognition. However, the unique set of factors that led to Milwaukee's success could not be replicated elsewhere.

Milwaukee's Socialist Movement (01:58)

The Milwaukee socialists were influential in the early 20th century and were responsible for some key reforms in the city. The real power behind the movement was Victor Berger. He was a founding member of the Socialist Party in America and the very first socialist elected to Congress.

Victor Berger's Downfall (03:19)

Victor Berger was a German American socialist who was convicted of violating the Espionage Act for his antiwar views. Despite this, he was elected to the US House of Representatives three times.

Hoan's Impact on Milwaukee (03:25)

Daniel Hoan was a socialist mayor of Milwaukee who was known for being fiscally responsible and for providing a wide range of services cheaper than any private company.

Ku Klux Klan Driven Out of Milwaukee (02:13)

Daniel Hoan was a socialist who was elected mayor of Milwaukee in 1916. He was against the Ku Kluz Klan and harassed them relentlessly, eventually driving them out of town. He was re-elected several times but was defeated by Carl Zeidler in 1940.

Milwaukee Mayor Frank Zeidler (05:41)

Frank Zeidler was a socialist who was elected mayor of Milwaukee in 1948. He was popular because he was seen as a gentle, unassuming family man. Zeidler championed the cause of the working class and was opposed to the building of freeways in the city.

Frank Zeidler, Last Socialist Mayor (04:20)

Frank Zeidler was a strong advocate of civil rights who triumphed in the face of racism. He was the last socialist mayor of a major US city and was reelected in 1952 during the height of McCarthyism. Zeidler's socialist policies helped double Milwaukee's size and led to balanced budgets.

The Need for Socialism Was Gone (02:53)

The socialists were successful in cleaning up corruption, but became boring to voters over time. They struggled to connect with new populations, particularly African Americans. They were unsuccessful in translating their deeply held philosophy of equality to the larger population.

Milwaukee's Socialists (04:12)

Milwaukee socialists improved the quality of life for city residents by creating a clean and efficient government, investing in mass transit and education, and creating a large public park system. They also brought honesty and integrity to city government.

Credits (00:00)


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America's Socialist Experiment

DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



America's Socialist Experiment recounts both the victories and failures of a unique brand of socialism in the historically conservative city of Milwaukee, Wisc. Between 1910 and 1960, elected socialists in Milwaukee reduced corruption, improved conditions for working people, and cleaned up the environment, leaving a mixed legacy to which both Democrats and Republicans lay claim today.

Length: 56 minutes

Item#: BVL237856

ISBN: 978-1-63722-315-4

Copyright date: ©2020

Closed Captioned

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Not available to Home Video and Publisher customers.