Milwaukee teacher and newspaper editor Victor L. Berger was arguably the most successful Socialist politician in the United States. This large poster documents Berger’s campaign for United States Senate in a special election in April 1918. Berger, a co-founder of the Socialist Party of America, was not only the first Socialist ever elected to the U.S. Congress, but was also chief architect and strategist for the longest-running Socialist municipal government in America.
This two-color lithographed poster was printed on eight separate sheets of paper, which were glued together into a dramatic finished size of over 8 feet high and 6 feet across. It was produced by the Riverside Printing Company of Milwaukee, a general job printer founded in the 1860s. By the early 20th century, the company advertised printing, engraving, electrotyping, zinc etching and bookbinding services as well as lithography. Riverside also made large outdoor advertisements for circuses, theatrical productions and on occasion, political campaigns. The artwork shows the characteristic soft, pencil-like marks of a hand-drawn lithograph and was probably printed on zinc plates. The poster was printed primarily in blue, with only four sheets accented in red. Because each color required a different plate, this approach added a splash of extra color, while keeping production costs down.
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Victor Berger Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society Archives.
Gurda, John. “The Making of Milwaukee” (Milwaukee: Milwaukee County Historical Society, 1999).
Stevens, Michael E., ed. “The Family Letters of Victor and Meta Berger, 1894-1929” (Madison, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1995).
Berger, Meta Schlichting. “A Milwaukee Woman’s Life on the Left: The Autobiography of Meta Berger” (Madison, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 2001).