Berger, Victor L. (Victor Luitpold), 1860-1929

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Victor Luitpold Berger (February 28, 1860 – August 7, 1929) was an Austrian American socialist politician and journalist who was a founding member of the Social Democratic Party of America and its successor, the Socialist Party of America. Born in the Austrian Empire, Berger immigrated to the United States as a young man and became an important and influential socialist journalist in Wisconsin. He helped establish the so-called Sewer Socialist movement. Also a politician, in 1910, he was elected as the first Socialist to the U.S. House of Representatives, representing a district in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Born in the Nieder-Rehbach region of the Austrian Empire (now part of Romania), he attended the Gymnasium at Leutschau (today in Slovakia), and the major universities of Budapest and Vienna before immigtating to the United States, first settling near Bridgeport, Connecticut. In 1881, Berger settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, joined the Socialist Labor Party (then headed by Daniel de Leon), and became the editor of two newspapers: Vorwärts [Forward] and Die Wahrheit [The Truth]. Berger also taught German in the public school system.

In 1896, Berger was a delegate to the People's Party Convention in St. Louis. He was a founding member of the Social Democracy of America in 1897 and led the split of the "political action" faction of that organization to form the Social Democratic Party of America (SDP) in 1898. In 1901, Berger joined with Eugene Debs and Morris Hillquit to establish the American Socialist Party. In 1904, Berger unsuccessfully ran for Mayor of Milwaukee and for the U.S. House of Representatives from Wisconsin's 5th congressional district under the Socialist banner. In 1910, Berger successfully ran for the 5th district seat, becoming the first socialist in the United States to be elected to Congress. The following year he proposed a bill to provide old age pensions. Although he did not win re-election in 1912, 1914 or 1916, he remained active in Wisconsin and Socialist Party politics and published and edited the Milwaukee Leader newspaper.

Berger's opposition to World War I led him to be indicted under the Espionage Act of 1917. Though unsuccessful in his April 1918 bid for the U.S. Senate, he was re-elected to the 5th district seat in November 1918; when he arrived in Washington to claim his seat, Congress formed a special committee to determine whether a convicted felon and war opponent should be seated as a member of Congress. On November 10, 1919, they concluded that he should not, and declared the seat vacant. isconsin promptly held a special election to fill the vacant seat, and on December 19, 1919, elected Berger a second time. On January 10, 1920, the House again refused to seat him, and the seat remained vacant until 1921. Berger defeated Republican William Stafford in 1922 and was reelected in 1924 and 1926. In those terms, he dealt with Constitutional changes, a proposed old-age pension, unemployment insurance, and public housing. He also supported the diplomatic recognition of the Soviet Union and the revision of the Treaty of Versailles. After his defeat by Stafford in 1928, he returned to Milwaukee and resumed his career as a newspaper editor.

On July 16, 1929, while crossing the street outside his newspaper office, Berger was struck by a streetcar travelling on North Third Street (now Dr. Martin Luther King Drive) at the intersection with West Clarke Street in Milwaukee. The accident fractured his skull, and he died of his injuries on August 7, 1929. Prior to burial at Forest Home Cemetery his body lay in state at City Hall. 75,000 residents of the city came to pay their respect.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Guide to the Lena Morris Lewis Photograph Collection, 1870-1949 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Tamiment Library Manuscript Files, 1749-1988 (bulk: 1910-1965) Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Social-Democratic Party of America Records, 1900-1905 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Eugene V. Debs Photographs, [ca. 1895]-1923 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Harry Levin papers Houghton Library
referencedIn Victor L. Berger National Foundation. [Miscellaneous pamphlets, etc., 1931]. Chicago History Museum
referencedIn John Goadby Gregory papers, 1846-1946 Wisconsin Historical Society Archives
referencedIn Marx Lewis Papers, 1907-1988. Hoover Institution Archives
referencedIn Guide to the Algernon Lee Papers, 1861-1954 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
creatorOf Berger, Victor L., 1860-1929. The Victor Berger papers, [1882-1929] microform. HCL Technical Services, Harvard College Library
referencedIn Lloyd, Henry Demarest, 1847-1903. Papers, 1840-1937, 1977. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Debs, Eugene V. (Eugene Victor), 1855-1926. Eugene V. Debs photographs [graphic]. New-York Historical Society
creatorOf Socialist Party (Wis.). Records, 1897-1955. Library Council of Metropolitan Milwaukee
referencedIn United States. Dept. of the Army. General Staff. Military Intelligence Division. U.S. military intelligence reports: surveillance of radicals in the United States, 1917-1941 (inclusive), [microform]. Yale University Library
referencedIn John Reed papers, 1903-1967. Houghton Library
referencedIn Edward A Ross papers Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Harry Weinberger papers, 1915-1944 Yale University Library
referencedIn Dietzgen, Iosif, 1828-1888. 880-01 Dietzgen: Iosif (1828-1888) i Eugenie (1862-1930). Fond 214, 1867-1943, 1867-1913. Rosarchiv, Federal Archive SVS of Russia
referencedIn Socialist Party (U.S.) New York (N.Y.) Letter Books, Bulk, 1911-1914, 1907-1914, (Bulk 1911-1914) Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Hillquit, Morris, 1869-1933. Papers, 1886-1944. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Villard, Oswald Garrison, 1872-1949. Papers, 1872-1949 Houghton Library
creatorOf Berger, Victor L., 1860-1929. Frances Nacke Noel/Job Harriman papers, 1889-1986 (bulk 1940-1980). Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
referencedIn Engdahl, J. Louis. J. Louis Engdahl papers, 1885-1981 (1912-1932). University of Michigan
referencedIn Hillquit, Morris, 1869-1933. Morris Hillquit papers, 1886-1948. [microform]. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Guide to the Algernon Lee Papers, 1861-1954 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities. Suspected radical propaganda file, [ca. 1890-1919]. New York State Archives
referencedIn Schilling, Robert, 1843-1922. Papers, 1852-1922. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Olson, Frederick I. Papers, 1894-[ongoing]. Library Council of Metropolitan Milwaukee
creatorOf Berger, Victor L., 1860-1929. Papers, 1862-1980. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Baruch Charney Vladeck Papers, Bulk, 1920-1938, 1906-1958 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Brandborg, Charles W., 1847-1916. Charles W. Brandborg and family papers, 1887-1977. Minnesota Historical Society Library
referencedIn Tamiment Library. Tamiment Library manuscript files collection relating to individuals and organizations associated with radicalism, the labor movement, and progressive social action in the United States, 1950-2001 (bulk 1910-1965). Churchill County Museum
referencedIn American Legion. Jefferson Post No. 15 (Louisville, Ky.). Records of the American Legion Jefferson Post No. 15 (Louisville, Ky.) 1919-1988. The Filson Historical Society
creatorOf Berger, Victor L., 1860-1929. Letter to George Sylvester Viereck. Washington, DC. 1926 Mar. 17. University of Iowa Libraries
referencedIn Thomas, Elizabeth H. Papers, 1931-1938. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Esch, John J. Papers, 1891-1922, 1992-1994. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
creatorOf Berger, Victor L., 1860-1929. Collection, 1919-1926. Swarthmore College, Peace Collection, SCPC
creatorOf Berger, Victor L., 1860-1929. Papers, 1921-1929. Milwaukee Jewish Historical Society
referencedIn Lewis, Marx, b. 1897. Marx Lewis papers, 1907-1988. Stanford University, Hoover Institution Library
referencedIn Vol. XX (ff. 281). 1908-Oct. 1909.includes:f. 1 H. S. Perris, Secretary, National Council of Peace Societies: Letter to J. Burns: 1908.f. 2 Privy Council, The: Summonses to Cabinet meetings: 1906-1911.: Printed, with MS. additions.ff. 3, 53, 134 ... British Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Addams, Jane, 1860-1935. person
associatedWith American Legion. Jefferson Post No. 15 (Louisville, Ky.) corporateBody
associatedWith Ameringer, Oscar, 1870-1943. person
associatedWith Benson, Allan L. (Allan Louis), 1871-1940. person
associatedWith Berger family family
spouseOf Berger, Meta, 1873-1944. person
associatedWith Brandborg, Charles W., 1847-1916. person
associatedWith Brisbane, Arthur, 1864-1936. person
associatedWith Conference for Progressive Political Action. corporateBody
associatedWith Darrow, Clarence, 1857-1938. person
associatedWith Debs, Eugene V. (Eugene Victor), 1855-1926. person
associatedWith Debs, Theodore, 1864-1945. person
associatedWith Dietzgen, Iosif, 1828-1888. person
associatedWith Eastman, Max, 1883-1969. person
associatedWith Edelman, Elsa Berger, 1900-1984. person
associatedWith Engdahl, J. Louis (John Louis), 1884-1932. person
associatedWith Esch, John J. person
associatedWith Evjue, William Theodore, 1882-1970. person
associatedWith Gale, Zona, 1874-1938. person
associatedWith Germer, Adolph. person
associatedWith Goldman, Emma, 1869-1940. person
associatedWith Gompers, Samuel, 1850-1924. person
associatedWith Hapgood, Norman, 1868-1937. person
associatedWith Hillquit, Morris, 1869-1933. person
associatedWith Hoan, Daniel W. (Daniel Webster), 1881-1961. person
associatedWith Hunter, Robert, 1874-1942. person
parentOf Hursley, Doris Berger, 1898-1984. person
associatedWith International Socialist Congress. corporateBody
associatedWith James, Ada Lois, 1876-1952. person
associatedWith Krak family. family
associatedWith La Follette, Robert M. (Robert Marion), 1855-1925. person
associatedWith La Guardia, Fiorello H. (Fiorello Henry), 1882-1947. person
associatedWith Laidler, Harry W. (Harry Wellington), 1884-1970. person
associatedWith Lee, Algernon, 1873-1954. person
associatedWith Levin, Harry, 1912-1994 person
associatedWith Lewis, Lena Morrow. person
associatedWith Lewis, Marx, 1897-1990 person
associatedWith Lloyd, Henry Demarest, 1847-1903. person
associatedWith Lloyd, William Bross, 1908- person
associatedWith Mencken, H. L. (Henry Louis), 1880-1956. person
associatedWith Milwaukee Social-Democratic Publishing Company (Wis.) corporateBody
associatedWith Milwaukee (Wis.). Board of School Directors. corporateBody
associatedWith Nearing, Scott, 1883-1983. person
associatedWith New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities. corporateBody
associatedWith Olson, Frederick I. person
associatedWith Percy of Newcastle, Eustace Percy, Baron, 1887-1958. person
associatedWith Pinchot, Gifford, 1865-1946. person
associatedWith Redfield, William C. (William Cox), 1858-1932. person
associatedWith Reed, John, 1887-1920 person
associatedWith Ross, Edward Alsworth, 1866-1951. person
associatedWith Schilling, Robert, 1843-1922. person
associatedWith Schlichting family. family
associatedWith Simons, A. M. (Algie Martin), 1870-1950. person
associatedWith Sinclair, Upton, 1878-1968. person
associatedWith Social-Democratic Party of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Socialist Party (Milwaukee County, Wis.) corporateBody
associatedWith Socialist Party of New York. corporateBody
associatedWith Socialist Party (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Socialist Party (Wis.) corporateBody
associatedWith Steffens, Lincoln, 1866-1936. person
associatedWith Stevens, Michael E. person
associatedWith Swarthmore College. Peace Collection. corporateBody
associatedWith Taft, William H. (William Howard), 1857-1930. person
associatedWith Tamiment Library. corporateBody
associatedWith Thomas, Elizabeth H. person
associatedWith Thomas, Norman, 1884-1968. person
associatedWith Thompson, Carl D. (Carl Dean), 1870-1949. person
memberOf United States. Congress. House. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Dept. of the Army. General Staff. Military Intelligence Division. corporateBody
associatedWith Victor L. Berger National Foundation. corporateBody
associatedWith Viereck, George Sylvester, 1884-1962, person
correspondedWith Villard, Oswald Garrison, 1872-1949 person
associatedWith Vladeck, B. (Baruch), 1886-1938 person
associatedWith Vorwaerts Publishing Company (Milwaukee, Wis.) corporateBody
associatedWith Weinberger, Harry, 1888- person
associatedWith Williamson, Myrna T. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Milwaukee WI US
Levoča 05 SK
Vienna 09 AT
Bridgeport CT US
Budapest 05 HU
Subject
Socialism
Socialists
Socialists
World War, 1914-1918
World War, 1914-1918
Civil rights
Feminism
German Americans
Jews
Labor movement
Labor unions
Legislators
Newspaper publishing
Pacifism
Political crimes and offenses
Press, Socialist
Occupation
Teachers
Jewish socialists
Journalists
Legislators
Newspaper editors
Politicians
Representatives, U.S. Congress
Activity

Person

Birth 1860-02-28

Death 1929-08-07

Male

Austrians,

Americans

Yiddish,

English,

Polish,

German

Information

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