Carl Frederick Zeidler (1908 - 1942) was the mayor of the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from 1940 to 1942, winning election by unseating six-term Socialist mayor Dan Hoan. After just two years in office Zeidler resigned his position as mayor to enlist in the United States Navy Reserve to fight in World War II. His merchant marine ship and all hands were lost off the coast of South Africa in December 1942.
Carl Zeider was born January 4, 1908 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to parents of German ancestry. He graduated from Marquette University in 1929 and received a J.D. in 1931.
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.
Bloch 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.".
Death and legacy
Zeidler's election was attracting attention on the national political scene as World War II broke out. After a year in office, Zeidler came to believe 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, sunk by a German U-boat torpedo attack. Zeidler 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 and served in that position from 1948 to 1960. Carl's personal and mayoral papers are archived at Milwaukee Public Library alongside those of his brother Frank.
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.