PictureMilwaukee Mayor Hoan
Daniel Hoan served as mayor of Milwaukee from 1916 to 1940. The twenty-four years that Hoan served as mayor made him the longest serving socialist politician in United States History. He was elected Milwaukee city attorney in 1910, and for the six years before he became mayor, he worked to reduce governmental corruption, which had become a major issue. After being elected mayor, Hoan continued this work on a broader scale, cleaning up local government and making it more efficient. He also implemented countless progressive reforms, many of which proved successful. 

Included in these reforms were the Garden Homes Project, restructuring the city’s public transportation, and a push towards municipal ownership of quarries, water treatment and sewage disposal. He also began work on a highway system, but funding was cut and the project was put on hold. Eventually, funding was secured and the project was finished in 1977. The expanded system included the Hoan Bridge, Milwaukee’s only tribute to a man who changed our city in so many ways.

Daniel Hoan Was Milwaukee's Longest Serving Socialist Mayor From 1916 to 1940.
PictureFormer Mayor Emil Seidel and Mayor Daniel Hoan
Socialism is a word often confused with communism. The biggest difference between the two is that socialism is an economic system, while communism is a political one. This means that socialism can work in the context of a democracy, whereas communism cannot. Although socialism does have roots in communism, they are not the same. Communism is often viewed as a more extreme version of socialism. In a communist political system, socialism would likely be the dominant economic system. However, this does not mean that socialism and communism always go hand in hand. There are many programs in the United States that borrow from socialist principles, including Social Security and the highway system. During Hoan’s time as mayor, Milwaukee was the center of the Socialist movement in America. He, along with other politicians, practiced what became known as sewer socialism. This particular branch of socialism focused on cleaning up Milwaukee after the industrial revolution and a return to the basics of socialism to maximize the help given to citizens.

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One of Mayor Hoan’s most famous programs was the Garden Homes project in 1923. The end of World War I brought with it a housing shortage, and politicians were scrambling for a solution. This was when Hoan developed the Garden Homes project, the country’s first public housing project. Hoan commissioned the Garden Homes Company to build six room houses. 

When the homes were finished, each family who wanted to live within the project bought stock in the company. Each month, a family made payments on their stock, as well as made a small payment for upkeep on the house. Over the course of the next twenty years, the value of the stock decreased until each family was only paying the rent for the upkeep of the property, not making payments on the stock. A six room home cost about $4,500. For the first month, a family would pay $49.33, and then $22.25 every month after that until his stock was paid off. The project was extremely successful, and by 1936 every family who had purchased stock had it paid off and were homeowners in their own right.

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Municipal ownership is the idea that a city’s local government owns and controls services that are used by the public at large, such as the water supply, public transportation and access to natural resources. A system like this prevents large corporations from using these markets to make money. It also allows for consistency. Without municipal ownership, a city could have three water treatment plants, each selling different qualities of water at different prices. 

Mayor Hoan believed in municipal ownership of the city’s water, sanitation and quarries. The corruption in local politics at the time ran deep, and many government officials were making money by allowing large corporations to bend the rules. This led to spoiled water and various other problems. In Hoan’s effort to clean up the government and stop corruption, he began the push for municipal ownership, and eventually succeeded in his efforts. Milwaukee’s local government gained ownership of the stone quarries, street lighting, water purification and sewage disposal.



By Lena Tomaszek,
Museum Intern, University of Minnesota Undergrad
This panel is part of our 2016 exhibit on Daniel Webster Hoan, Milwaukee's longest serving socialist mayor. For educational purposes, we have made the document available as a pdf. -->
 
 
Here’s some news from the Chudnow family! Avrum Chudnow, our founder, was Ruth’s brother, so he may very well have been one of the ones introducing her to her new penpals! We have many of her letters and postcards of correspondence in our archives.

Article originally published in the Milwaukee Journal, December 21, 1942. The reporter, Louis Chapman, usually wrote for the sports section but was a relative of the Chudnows.


By Kayla Sutherland,
Associate, Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear