Daniel Hoan

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Daniel Hoan
32nd Mayor of Milwaukee
In office
Preceded by Gerhard Adolph Bading (D/R)
Succeeded by Carl Zeidler (D)
Milwaukee City Attorney
In office
Personal details
Born Daniel Webster Hoan
(1881-03-12)March 12, 1881
Waukesha, Wisconsin
Died June 11, 1961(1961-06-11) (aged 80)
Political party Socialist (until 1940)
Democratic (to 1961)
Profession Labor attorney

Daniel Webster Hoan (March 12, 1881 – June 11, 1961) was a United States lawyer and politician. He served as Milwaukee City Attorney from 1910 until 1916 and as the 32nd Mayor of Milwaukee from 1916 until 1940. A prominent figure in Socialist politics, Hoan was the second Socialist mayor of Milwaukee and a prominent practitioner of Sewer Socialism. His 24-year administration remains the longest period of Socialist governance in United States history.


Early years[edit]

Hoan was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on March 12, 1881 to Daniel Webster Hoan and Margaret A. (Hood) Hoan. He left school early, but studied at evening classes and in 1908 qualified as a lawyer.

A member of the Socialist Party, Hoan moved to Milwaukee where he worked closely with Victor Berger, the editor of the Socialist daily, the Milwaukee Leader, in trying to persuade the city to adopt radical reforms. This included municipal ownership of utilities, urban renewal programs, and free legal, medical and educational services.


Hoan married Agnes B. Magner (born 1885 in Illinois and died in 1941). They had two children: a son, Daniel Webster (born 1910) and a daughter, Agnes (born about 1916). After his first wife's death, Hoan married Gladys L. Arthur Townsand on April 7, 1944 in Delaware, Indiana. He was 63 and she was 43 years old at the time.

Political career[edit]

Hoan began his political career with his election to city attorney for Milwaukee in 1910. He won the election by a plurality of more than 7300 votes out of about 59,000 votes cast over Democratic and Republican opponents.[1] This was the same year Emil Seidel was elected mayor of Milwaukee as the first socialist leader of a major city in the United States. Over the next six years, Hoan clamped down on the corruption of public officials.

In 1916 Hoan was elected as mayor of Milwaukee. He would remain mayor for 24 years, the longest continuous Socialist administration in United States history. Part of the reason for Hoan's electoral success was his break with the rest of the Socialist Party on the issue of United States entry into the First World War. The Socialist Party opposed entry; Hoan did not. Instead, as mayor, he organized the Milwaukee County Council of Defense on April 30, 1917.[2] As mayor, Hoan developed a reputation for honest and efficient government.

Hoan implemented progressive reforms, including the country's first public housing project, Garden Homes, started in 1923. He also led the successful drive towards municipal ownership of the stone quarry, street lighting, sewage disposal, and water purification.

During Hoan's administration, Milwaukee implemented the first public bus system in the United States[citation needed]. This was prompted by dangerous accidents: pedestrians were run over by street trolleys that ran down the middle of the road. Among the victims of such streetcar accidents was Hoan's fellow Socialist, Victor L. Berger, who was killed in 1929.

At the May 1932 convention of the Socialist Party, Hoan ran for national chairman of the party against incumbent Morris Hillquit. In addition to the "constructive Socialists" from Wisconsin, Hoan garnered the support of the young Marxist "militant" faction and the radicals around Norman Thomas, but this bloc was insufficient to unseat Hillquit, who won reelection by a vote of 105-86.[3]

Hoan was defeated in the Milwaukee mayoral campaign of 1940 and the next year left the Socialist Party and joined the Democratic Party. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1944 and 1946. In 1948 he was unsuccessful in his attempt to once again become mayor of Milwaukee when he was defeated by the Socialist Party's candidate, Frank P. Zeidler. Hoan remains the last sitting mayor of Milwaukee to be defeated in a reelection bid.

A highway system was started under his administration, but federal funding was scarce. The system was later expanded to include the Hoan Bridge, which was completed in 1972 but not opened to the public until 1977.

Today, Hoan is remembered as one of the best mayors in American history. In 1999, author Melvin Holli and a group of experts on local government, voted Hoan as the eighth best mayor in United States history. Holli wrote:

"Although this self-identified socialist had difficulty pushing progressive legislation through a nonpartisan city council, he experimented with the municipal marketing of food, backed city-built housing, and in providing public markets, city harbor improvements, and purging graft from Milwaukee politics. Perhaps Hoan's most important legacy was cleaning up the free-and-easy corruption that prevailed before he took office."[4]

Death and legacy[edit]

Hoan died on June 11, 1961 and was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Milwaukee. The Hoan papers reside with the Milwaukee County Historical Society, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Hoan Bridge on Milwaukee's lakefront is the most visible monument that bears his name.

See also[edit]


  • The Failure of Regulation. Chicago: Socialist Party of the United States, 1914.
  • Lincoln, the Commoner: Helped in Fight for Education for Workers. Saginaw, MI: Saginaw County Socialist Party, n.d. [192-].
  • Socialism and the City: How to Remove Chaos and Put Order and Beauty into American Cities. Girard, KS: Haldeman-Julius Publications, 1931.
  • Taxes and Tax Dodgers. Chicago: Committee on Education and Research, Socialist Party of America, 1933.
  • Abraham Lincoln: A Real American. Chicago: Socialist Party of the USA, n.d. [c. 1936].
  • City Government: The record of the Milwaukee Experiment. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1936.
  • Why a Farmer-Labor Progressive Federation? : Address Selivered to the Convention on Saturday, May 21, 1938, at Madison. Milwaukee: The Federation, 1938.
  • Dollars vs. The People. Milwaukee: Milwaukee County Central Campaign Committee, n.d. [1940].
  • The St. Lawrence Seaway: Navigation Aspects. n.c.: Great Lakes Harbors Association n.d, [1948?].


  1. ^ "The Official Figures," Social-Democratic Herald [Milwaukee], vol. 12, no. 51, whole no. 611 (April 16, 1910), p. 6.
  2. ^ Leslie Midkiff DeBauche. Reel Patriotism: The Movies and World War I. p. 91.
  3. ^ Anna Bercowitz, "The Milwaukee Convention". The American Socialist Quarterly, v. 1, no. 3 (Summer 1932), p. 53.
  4. ^ Melvin G. Holli: The American Mayor

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Gerhard A. Bading
Mayor of Milwaukee
Succeeded by
Carl Zeidler