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Victor Berger: Topics in Chronicling America

In 1910, Representative Victor Berger (WI) became the first Socialist member of congress. This guide provides access to materials related to the “Victor Berger” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.

Introduction

"Victor L. Berger." July 23, 1914. The Day Book (Chicago, IL), Image 11. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

America’s first Socialist Congressman, Victor Berger (1860-1929) was convicted under the Espionage Act. While indicted, Berger was twice elected to Congress and twice denied his seat. Eventually, the Supreme Court overturned his conviction and he returned for three more terms, proposing radical reforms such as the elimination of the Senate and the creation of unemployment insurance. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.

Timeline

November 8, 1910 Victor Berger wins Wisconsin’s 5th Congressional District, becoming America’s first Socialist congressman.
April 27, 1911 Berger introduces a constitutional amendment in the House of Representatives to abolish the Senate.
July 31, 1911 Berger introduces a bill to provide a pension of $4 a week to all men and women over 60 years old.
November 5, 1912 Berger is defeated in his reelection bid by William Stafford.
March 10, 1918 Berger is indicted under the Espionage Act and charged with twenty-six “disloyal acts.”
November 10, 1919 The House of Representatives denies Berger his seat by a vote of 309-1.
November 11, 1919 The first annual convention of the American Legion unanimously passes a resolution calling for the deportation of Berger and the revocation of his citizenship.
January 10, 1920 Berger is again denied a seat by Congress after winning the special election that followed Congress’ repudiation of his right to sit in Congress after he won in the 1918 election cycle.
January 31, 1921 Berger’s conviction under the Espionage Act is overturned by the Supreme Court.
November 8, 1922 Berger is elected to the 68th Congress and would later serve on both the 69th and 70th Congresses as well.