Of all the corrupt U. S. cities Milwaukee in the early 19005 was one of the most corrupt. In 1916, its disgusted German-immigrant voters quit old-line parties and elected as mayor a tall, lanky, unkempt Irishmana Socialist. So thorough a job of housecleaning did Daniel Webster Hoan do in Milwaukee that his townsmen re-elected him six times without a break. Under May or Hoan's 24-year administration, Milwaukee became one of the best-run cities in the U. S. Chief carping came from bankers, utility men, real-estate owners protesting that "Uncle Dan," bearing the Socialist label, was a Red.
Socialism as an economic doctrine played little part in the reforms of efficient, practical Dan Hoan. In 1935 Socialists merged with Progressives, and Mayor Hoan ran for re-election as a member of the Farmer-Labor Progressive Federation. But "Red" was the whoop still raised by Milwaukee Republicans and conservative Democrats, and this year, with Dan Hoan up for re-election the seventh time, "Red" was the whoop they raised again. Republicans and conservative Democrats lined up behind his rival, a former assistant city attorney, Carl Frederick Zeidler.
What young (32) Carl Zeidler, son of a barber, lacked in experience he made up in personal charm. Tall, handsome, with wavy blond hair, he had attended Marquette University, where he ran the half-mile, debated, orated, sang and studied law, was voted "most likely to succeed." He made a point of joining dozens of fraternal and civic organizations, including the Y. M. C. A., where he kept in trim swimming up & down the pool. At meetings, which he diligently attended, he could always be counted upon to make a speech, or sing a song in his rich baritone. Said he: "I gravitate toward people . . . I love my fellow man." He claimed he knew 50,000 Milwaukeeans by their first names.
His campaign was lyric. Baring a blinding smile, tossing his wavy locks, Mr. Zeidler popped up everywhere. Six hundred women, gathered at the Elks Club one afternoon, were surprised and thrilled to see Candidate Zeidler step out beside a lovely brunette mannequin in a bridal gown, and taking her arm, walk down the aisle singing I Love You Truly. Six hundred lumps filled 600 throats. While Dan Hoan, in his twangy voice, reminded Milwaukeeans that he had given them a city free of political scandal, free of crime, with a model police force and fire department, a city debt that was among the smallest in the country on a per capita basis, Carl Zeidler sang: When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.
Last week Milwaukeeans went to the polls, cast a record vote. Few observers who knew the record of the Hoan administration believed it would be beaten. But when the tally was in, Dan Hoan was out. Exclaimed exultant, shining-faced Mr. Zeidler: "I used nothing else than modern merchandising methods. See 'em, tell 'em, sell 'em." Said Dan Hoan: "I leave my public tasks "with no rancor." Commented the Washington Post: "Time takes its toll even of gratitude. The people of Athens got tired of hearing Aristides called the just and the people of Milwaukee apparently got tired of Daniel Webster Hoan for no better reason. Hoan, the Socialist, had nothing to offer them but a continuation of a satisfactory status quo"