Emil Seidel was born in Ashland, Pennsylvania on 13th December, 1864. His family moved to Wisconsin when he was a child. As a young man he lived in Germany where he trained as a woodcarver.
While in Germany he became a socialist and when he returned to the United States he joined the Socialist Party of America. He settled in Milwaukee and in 1904 Seidel and eight other socialists were elected as city aldermen.
In 1910, the Socialist Party in Milwaukee decided to put up Seidel as their candidate for mayor. With the support of Victor Berger and his newspaper, the Milwaukee Leader, and the city's large German-born population, Seidel became the first socialist mayor of a major city in the United States. One of Seidel's achievements was to introduce the country's first worker's compensation program in 1911. Other initiatives included adult and worker education classes and free medical and dental examinations for schoolchildren.
The supporters of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party joined forces to defeat Seidel in 1912. Later that year the Socialist Party nominated Eugene Debs and Seidel as their presidential and vice presidential candidates. Woodrow Wilson won the election but they received the respectable total of 897,011 votes.
Emil Seidel, who was also alderman in 1916-20 and 1932-36, died on 24th June, 1947.