BERGER, Victor Luitpold

BERGER, Victor Luitpold
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
1860–1929

Biography

BERGER, Victor Luitpold, a Representative from Wisconsin; born in Nieder Rebbach, Austria-Hungary, February 28, 1860; attended the Gymnasia at Leutschau and the universities at Budapest and Vienna; immigrated to the United States in 1878 with his parents, who settled near Bridgeport, Conn.; moved to Milwaukee, Wis., in 1880; taught school 1880-1890; editor of the Milwaukee Daily Vorwaerts 1892-1898; editor of the Wahrheit, the Social Democratic Herald, and the Milwaukee Leader, being publisher of the last named at the time of his death; delegate to the People's Party Convention at St. Louis in 1896; one of the organizers of the Social Democracy in 1897 and of the Social Democratic Party in 1898, known since 1900 as the Socialist Party; unsuccessful candidate of the Socialist Party for election in 1904 to the Fifty-ninth Congress; elected a member of the charter convention of Milwaukee in 1907, and alderman at large in 1910; elected as a Socialist to the Sixty-second Congress (March 4, 1911-March 3, 1913); presented credentials as a Member-elect to the Sixty-sixth Congress, but the House by a resolution adopted on November 10, 1919, declared him not entitled to take the oath of office as a Representative or to hold a seat as such; having been opposed to the entrance of the United States in the First World War and having written articles expressing his opinion on that question, he was indicted in various places in the Federal courts, tried at Chicago, found guilty, and sentenced by Judge Kenesaw M. Landis in February 1919 to serve twenty years in the Federal penitentiary; this judgment was reversed by the United States Supreme Court in 1921, whereupon the Government withdrew all cases against him in 1922; his election to the Sixty-sixth Congress was unsuccessfully contested by Joseph P. Carney and the seat was declared vacant; presented credentials as a Member-elect to fill the vacancy caused by the action of the House and on January 10, 1920, the House again decided that he was not entitled to a seat in the Sixty-sixth Congress and declined to permit him to take the oath or qualify as a Representative; Henry H. Bodenstab unsuccessfully contested this election, and on February 25, 1921, the House again declared the seat vacant; elected as a Socialist to the Sixty-eighth, Sixty-ninth, and Seventieth Congresses (March 4, 1923-March 3, 1929); unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1928 to the Seventy-first Congress; resumed his editorial work; died in Milwaukee, Wis., August 7, 1929; interment in Forest Home Cemetery.

View Record in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

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External Research Collections

Wisconsin Historical Society
Archives Division

Madison, WI
Papers: 1862-1980, 14.6 cubic feet. The papers document Victor L. Berger and his wife, Meta, longtime member (and first woman president) of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors, and prominent in the Socialist Party and in women's rights, education, and peace issues. Included is correspondence, congressional files and mailings, scrapbooks, speeches and writings, Social Democratic Party and Social-Democratic Publishing Company records, papers of their daughters, and other papers. Extensive family correspondence documents Victor and Meta Berger's personal and public lives and views. Victor Berger's general correspondence, some in German and Yiddish, contains information on Socialist Party politics, policy, and leadership, particularly in the 1920s; U.S. economic conditions and policies; the International Socialist Congresses of 1910 and 1925; divergent Socialist attitudes towards World War I; and the formation of the Conference for Progressive Political Action which endorsed Robert M. La Follette, Sr., for President in 1924. Also included is an unpublished biography of Victor Berger by daughter Doris; legal documentation of Victor Berger's 1918-1919 trial under the Espionage Act, and of subsequent hearings in the House of Representatives on the question of seating him; and campaign materials, 1894-1928, some in German and Polish. Meta Berger's papers contain correspondence, 1907-1914; the manuscript of an unpublished autobiography; speeches and writings; notebooks written during her husband's trial, and during a 1935 trip to Russia; a diary of her travels to a disarmament conference in Geneva, 1932; and some Krak (Krack) and Schlichting family papers. Also included are miscellaneous personal papers of the Bergers' two daughters, Elsa Berger Edelman and Doris Berger Welles Hursley. This collection is completely available on microfilm. Portions are also available in paper form. Originals of some of the microfilmed materials are in the Social Democratic Party collection at the Milwaukee County Historical Society. A register is available in the repository.

Huntington Library
Manuscripts Department

San Marino, CA
Papers: In the Frances Nacke Noel/Job Harriman Papers, ca. 1889-1986, approximately 1,452 items. Other authors include Victor L. Berger. An unpublished inventory is available in the library.

Library Council of Metropolitan Milwaukee

Milwaukee, WI
Papers: In the Socialist Party (Wis.) Records, 1897-1955, 12 cubic feet. Other authors include Victor L. Berger.

Milwaukee County Historical Society

Milwaukee, WI
Papers: In Socialist Party collection. A large part of the collection is Berger's correspondence (1897-1919), some speeches, and notes. Unpublished guide in repository.

Milwaukee Jewish Historical Society

Milwaukee, WI
Papers: 1921-1929, 0.3 cubic foot. The papers contain a photograph of Victor Berger as Socialist Party presidential candidate, and letters.

Milwaukee Public Library

Milwaukee, WI
Papers: 1911-1929. 2 boxes. Primarily about his struggle against the Espionage Act and his expulsion from Congress. Includes speeches, clippings, campaign literature, and public documents.

Swarthmore College
Peace Collection

Swarthmore, PA
Papers: 1919-1926, 0.5 linear inch. The papers document Victor Berger of Wisconsin and four Socialist co-defendants who were convicted of conspiracy in violation of the Espionage Act and were sentenced to 20 years at Leavenworth Prison. The verdict was unsuccessfully appealed.

University of Iowa Libraries
Special Collections Department

Iowa City, IA
Papers: A letter from Victor L. Berger to George Sylvester Viereck written on March 17, 1926. In the letter, Victor Berger thanks George Viereck for his support on the Versailles pact; sends a copy of the Congressional Record on the subject; requests continued cooperation.

University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Division of Archives and Special Collections, Golda Meir Library

Milwaukee, WI
Papers: In the John Goadby Gregory Papers, 1846-1946, 1.6 cubic feet. Other authors include Victor Berger.
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Bibliography / Further Reading

Bedford, Henry F. "A Case Study in Hysteria: Victor L. Berger, 1917-1921." Master's thesis, University of Wisconsin, 1953.

Berger, Victor L. Broadsides. 3d ed. Milwaukee: Social-democratic Publishing Company, 1913.

------. Certified copy of the testimony of Victor L. Berger at the trail of the case of the United States vs. Berger et al. in the United States district court for the Northern district of Illinois, eastern division. Printed for the use of the special committee appointed under the authority of House resolution no. 6, concerning the right of Victor L. Berger to be sworn in as a member of the Sixty-sixth Congress. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1919.

------. Voice and pen of Victor L. Berger: Congressional speeches and editorials. Milwaukee, [Wis.]: Milwaukee Leader, 1929.

Carney, Joseph P. Contested-election case of Joseph P. Carney v. Victor L. Berger from the fifth congressional district of Wisconsin. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1919.

De Leon, Daniel. Berger's hit and misses at the called session of the Sixty-second Congress. New York City: New York Labor News Company, 1911.

------. Berger's hit and misses at the called session of the Sixty-second Congress, April-October: A symposium of economic, political, sociological, tactical, and historic live topics. New York: New York Labor News Co., 1917.

Miller, Sally M. Victor Berger and the Promise of Constructive Socialism, 1910-1920. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1973.

Muzik, Edward J. "Victor L. Berger: Congress and the Red Scare." Wisconsin Magazine of History 47 (Summer 1964): 309-18.

Nash, Roderick. "Victor L. Berger: Making Marx Respectable." Wisconsin Magazine of History 47 (Summer 1964): 301-8.

Socialist Party (U.S.) 100 years--for what? Being the addresses of Victor L. Berger, Adolph Germer, J. Louis Engdahl, William F. Kruse and Irwin St. John Tucker to the court that sentenced them to serve 100 years in prison. Chicago, Ill.: National office, Socialist party [1919?]

Stevens, Michael E., ed. The family letters of Victor and Meta Berger, 1894-1929. Madison: Center for Documentary History, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1995.

Stevens, Michael E. and Myrna T. Williamson, eds. Guide to the microfilm edition of the Victor L. Berger papers. Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, Inc., 1995.

United States. Congress. House. Committee on Elections No. 1. Contested election case of Carney v. Berger. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1919.

United States. Congress. House. Special Committee on Victor L. Berger Investigation. Case of Victor L. Berger of Wisconsin. New York: DaCapo Press, 1972.

------. Victor L. Berger hearings before the Special Committee appointed under the authority of House resolution no. 6 concerning the right of Victor L. Berger to be sworn in as a Member of the Sixty-sixth Congress. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1919.

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