1875 – Walter J. Kohler Born

On this date was born in Sheboygan. An industrialist, Republican politician, and Wisconsin governor, Kohler was noted for conceiving and building , a planned community for employees of the Kohler Company outside Sheboygan. At an early age, he went to work for his father’s farm implement company. Upon his father’s death in 1900, he and his brothers assumed management of the firm, known after 1912 as ., which grew to be one of the largest of its kind in the nation. It pioneered production methods for plumbing equipment and enamelware, and today supports a museum showing its traditions to visitors. Kohler was also chairman of the board of the Vollrath Co., an officer of the Security National Bank in Sheboygan, and a regent of the University of Wisconsin from 1918 to 1924. Kohler served one term as Wisconsin governor, from 1929 to 1931, but his chances for a second term were defeated when he lost the Republican gubernatorial nomination to Philip La Follette in 1930. Although successful for the bid in 1932, he was then defeated in the general election by Democrat Albert Schmedeman. Walter Kohler was often criticized by labor for his opposition to trade unions. In 1934, when his employees attempted to organize and join the A. F. L., Kohler refused to bargain with them. A violent strike ensued and on July 27, 1934, two people were killed. Kohler is remembered today for his civic services and firm control of one of the state’s most successful corporations during the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression. He is also looked back upon by many conservatives as a predecessor who shared their values before the modern Republican Party had taken shape in Wisconsin.