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Serving as an assistant city attorney for Milwaukee (1936–1940), Zeidler stunned the city when he upset six-term Socialist mayor Daniel Hoan to become mayor of Milwaukee in 1940. Hoan had served as mayor for the past 24 years.
His rise to power was orchestrated by young writers Robert Bloch (later the author of Psycho) and Harold Gauer, who created elaborate campaign shows. In Bloch's autobiography, Once Around the Bloch, he gives an inside account of the campaign, and the innovations he and Gauer came up with... for instance, the original "releasing-balloons-from-the-ceiling" shtick. He comments bitterly on how, after Zeidler's election, they were ignored and not even paid their promised salaries, while credit was taken by local establishment figures like Milton Rice Polland instead.
He ends the account with a philosophical point:
- "If Carl Zeidler had not asked Jim Doolittle to manage his campaign, Doolittle would never have contacted me about it. And the only reason Doolittle knew me to begin with was because he read my yarn ("The Cloak") in Unknown.
- Rattling this chain of circumstances, one may stretch it a bit further. If I had not written a little vampire story called "The Cloak", Carl Zeidler might never have become mayor of Milwaukee.".
Zeidler was attracting some attention on the national political scene when World War II broke out. He believed that he could best help the war effort by enlisting; he resigned his position as mayor and accepted a Naval Reserve commission on April 8, 1942. He asked for the most dangerous job on ship and became officer in charge of a gun battery on board the merchant ship SS La Salle. The ship and all hands were reported missing off the coast of South Africa on December 11, 1942. He was officially presumed dead November 7, 1944. A gravestone cenotaph marks his plot at Forest Home Cemetery in Milwaukee.
Carl's brother, Socialist Frank P. Zeidler later became mayor of Milwaukee from 1948 to 1960.
Carl Zeidler was known as the "Singing Mayor of Milwaukee" because wherever he went he always had a song for every meeting or occasion, especially "God Bless America"; he was also called the "Boy Mayor" because of his boyish good looks.
- Bloch, Robert. Once Around the Bloch: An Unauthorized Autobiography New York: Tor Books, 1993
Daniel Webster Hoan
|Mayor of Milwaukee