Christgau, Victor A., 1894-Alternative names
Victor Laurence August Christgau was born on September 20, 1894, in Dexter Township (Mower County), Minnesota, to Frederick and Adeline Vanselow Christgau. He graduated from the University of Minnesota's School of Agriculture in 1917, and then served eleven months (1917-1918) with the U.S. Army's 33rd Engineer Corps in France during World War I. Following the war Christgau returned to the University of Minnesota and graduated from the College of Agriculture in 1923. He remained at the University two more years studying business and economics in the Graduate School. During his university years Christgau toured in dramatic debates, many temperance or agriculture related, throughout Minnesota and South Dakota.
In 1924 Christgau, as a Farmer-Labor candidate, campaigned for the U.S. House of Representatives from Minnesota's First District, but was defeated in the primaries. He returned to the University and, eventually, to the family farm to help his brother Edgar.
Christgau chose to run for the Minnesota Senate in 1926 and was elected from the Fifth District. Two years later he ran again for the U.S. House of Representatives, this time as a Republican, and was elected. In the words of the Austin Daily Herald, Christgau "took his seat [in Congress] as he had in the state senate, with the progressive bloc that was fighting the farmer's battle." He initially supported President Hoover, believing that he would aid the problems of the Midwest's farmers. However, when the Republican leadership and Hoover supported the passage of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in 1930, Christgau joined the progressive revolt. Eventually the Tariff Act set off economic warfare and intensified the Depression, just as Christgau and others believed it would. But Christgau's opposition to it had caused him to run afoul of the Republican Party leadership. Christgau's efforts to name postmasters in his district were thwarted by the Postmaster General and the Republican Party, and they were indifferent to his campaign for re-election in 1932.
The 1932 Congressional election was an at-large race resulting from the failure to redistrict after the 1930 census. Even though Christgau received the highest vote totals in the old First District, he failed to receive enough votes statewide in the primary election to appear on the ballot in the fall. Friends and family encouraged him to run as a write-in candidate in the general election, and Christgau decided to embark on such a campaign. The ensuing sticker campaign garnered nearly 83,000 votes, but it was far from enough to return Christgau to his congressional seat.
Christgau's efforts on behalf of agriculture had not gone unnoticed, however. "It was natural," wrote the Austin Daily Herald, "that his long and brilliant service for the farm cause should have attracted attention of the New Deal; natural that he should be offered a place in the A[griculture] A[djustment] A[dministration]; natural for him to accept because party labels, as such have never meant anything to him." In June 1933 he took up his position as executive assistant to the Director of Production. By the following January he had been appointed Assistant Administrator for the AAA. A reorganization of the AAA in 1935 left Christgau feeling that he had been demoted, and he resigned his position in June of that year.
Shortly after his resignation, Christgau was offered the post of Administrator of the Works Progress Administration in Minnesota. He reluctantly accepted when assured that he would be free from political pressure or interference in his conduct of the program. Such was not to be the case, however. Regarded by both Governors Olson and Benson as too politically ambitious, Christgau tangled with them frequently. The conflicts came to a head in the spring of 1938 when Governor Benson tried to get Christgau to approve the use of WPA funds for a weed eradication project in southern Minnesota. Christgau refused, believing that the project was nothing more than an attempt to buy farmers' votes in the upcoming election. By June 1938 Benson had convinced Harry Hopkins, the national WPA administrator, that Christgau had to be forced out. Hopkins offered Christgau a position in Washington, D.C., but he refused to take it.
By early 1939, though, Victor Christgau returned to public service as the Director of Minnesota Division of Employment and Security. In 1953, through a bureaucratic reorganization, he became Commissioner of the Department of Employment Security.
Christgau returned to Washington, D.C. in 1954 when he was appointed Commissioner of the U.S. Social Security Administration. He remained in this position until his retirement in 1967.
During Victor Christgau's many years of public service he also held the positions of president of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association and president of the Interstate Conference of Employment Security Agencies.
Christgau married Muriel Doyle on July 30, 1931. He died in Washington, D.C. on October 10, 1991.
From the guide to the Victor Christgau papers., 1894-1991., (Minnesota Historical Society)
|creatorOf||Christgau, Victor, 1894-. Victor Christgau papers, 1913-1957.||Minnesota Historical Society Library|
|referencedIn||Hjalmar Petersen papers., 1907-1968.||Minnesota Historical Society.|
|creatorOf||Christgau, O. G. (Oscar Gottlieb), 1884-1978. Oscar Christgau papers, 1900-1978.||Minnesota Historical Society Library|
|referencedIn||Smith, Hilda Worthington, 1888-. Papers, 1837-1975 (inclusive), 1900-1975 (bulk).||Harvard University, Schlesinger Library|
|referencedIn||Papers, 1837 (1900-1975)||Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute|
|creatorOf||Petersen, Hjalmar, 1890-1968. Hjalmar Petersen papers, 1907-1968.||Minnesota Historical Society Library|
|creatorOf||Victor Christgau papers., 1894-1991.||Minnesota Historical Society.|
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|Minnesota. Legislature. Senate|
|Debates and debating|
|United States. Congress. House|
|United States. Agricultural Adjustment Administration|
|Minnesota Works Progress Administration--Officials and employees|
|Bills, Legislative--United States|
|World War, 1914-1918|
|Minnesota. Dept. of Employment Security--Officials and employees|
|Farmer--Labor Party (Minn.)|
|United States. Social Security Administration--Officials and employees|
|Republican Party (Minn.)|