Carl Sandburg recounts his disenchantment

‘Hordes of job-seeking Socialists descended on our office wanting the crumbs of victory,’ says famed poet, who served as Emil Seidel’s secretary

By MARK LISHERON | October 2019

Poet Carl Sandburg — who served as Milwaukee Mayor Emil Seidel’s personal secretary for a year — offered an interesting explanation for the downfall of the city’s socialists.

Carl Sandburg (right) was the personal secretary to Emil Seidel for a year. MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL PHOTO“Here was the chance, I thought, to put the great ideals to work,” said Sandburg, who left his job as City Hall reporter for The Milwaukee Journal, where he covered the 1910 election, to join Seidel.

“We were to build in Milwaukee the kind of planned city which existed in some places in Germany and in other European cities where socialism had taken hold,” Sandburg told The Journal in 1953.

“Then came the jarred awakening. Hordes of job-seeking Socialists descended on our office wanting the crumbs of victory. They behaved just like the Republicans and the Democrats on that day when they swept into power. This was not idealism; it was the old spoils game.”

He added, “I remember Seidel exclaiming to the delight of some opposition aldermen who heard him: ‘For the love of Karl Marx, I didn’t promise every man who voted the Socialist ticket a job in City Hall.’ ”

Disillusioned before the end of Seidel’s two-year term, Sandburg returned to journalism before moving on to poetic fame in Chicago.

Mark Lisheron is a freelance writer in Austin, Texas. He spent 30 years as a newspaper reporter, including 14 years at The Milwaukee Journal and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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