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Topics in Chronicling America - Victor Berger: America’s First Socialist Congressman

America’s first Socialist Congressman, Victor Berger 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 and sample article links below provide access to a sampling of articles from historic newspapers that can be found in the Chronicling America: American Historic Newspapers digital collection (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/). Use the Suggested Search Terms and Dates to explore this topic further in Chronicling America.


Picture of Victor Berger

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Important Dates:

  • 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.

Suggested Search Strategies:

  • [Try the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases using Search Pages in Chronicling America.] Victor Berger, Wisconsin, Milwaukee, 5th District, Espionage Act, Socialist, Congress, and William Stafford.
  • It is important to use a specific date range if looking for articles for a particular event in order to narrow your results.

Sample Articles from Chronicling America:

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  August 2, 2014
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