Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Zimmerman, Fred R. 1880 - 1954

Governor, Secretary of State, Politician

Fred Zimmerman | Wisconsin Historical Society
Dictionary of Wisconsin History. Dictionary of Wisconsin History.Portrait of Secretary of State Fred Zimmerman in formal dress at the inaugaration of state officers. He was beginning his tenth term in that office. View the original here. 

Early Life

Fred Zimmerman was born in Milwaukee in 1880. After finishing grade school, he sold newspapers and delivered dairy products on a milk route until he became a salesman for a leather goods concern, and later a bookkeeper for a Milwaukee lumber company.

Political Career

He served one term, from 1909 until 1910, as a member of the state assembly. His work in behalf of the Progressives won him the reputation as a man "who never forgot a name or a face" as well as the election as secretary of state in 1922 and re- election in 1924.

When the Progressives refused to endorse him in the gubernatorial election in 1926, Zimmerman ran as an Independent and was elected, but was defeated for re-election by Walter J. Kohler, Sr in 1928. Thereafter he went into a political eclipse for several years, briefly holding a position in the Beverage Tax Commission in 1936.

Zimmerman was elected secretary of state on the Republican ticket in 1938 and served until his death, polling a larger vote at each subsequent election and in 1952 received the highest total ever given any candidate for any office in the state. He was a delegate to the Republican national conventions in 1916, 1920, 1924, 1940, and 1944. Zimmerman was attacked as a member of America First, but he denied membership therein. He generally followed the isolationist position. 

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[Source: Blue book]