Wisconsin. Circuit Court (Bayfield County): Naturalization Records, 1859-1945

Container Title
Audio 903A
Series: Gordon Sinykin
Physical Description: 98 minutes 
Scope and Content Note: Interview with lawyer Sinykin conducted June 3, 1981, concerning his close association with Phil La Follette, party origins, political campaigns and tactics, William Evjue, Thomas Duncan, Ralph Immell, and other Progressive leaders, the National Progressives of America, and the demise of the party.
Tape/Side   1/1
Time   00:00
Introduction
Tape/Side   1/1
Time   00:30
Family and educational background
Scope and Content Note: Born in Madison, Wisconsin in 1910, youngest of four children. Father was a peddler. Sinykin educated in Madison schools and University of Wisconsin through law school. Always interested in politics and the La Follettes. Parents strongly supported the elder La Follettes' opposition to World War I.
Tape/Side   1/1
Time   03:10
First contact with Phil La Follette
Scope and Content Note: Attended meetings of the Progressive Club on the University campus and Phil spoke there. Phil also taught a course in criminal law at the Law School, and then when he became governer, Glenn Roberts took over the course. Sinykin attended campaign meetings in Watertown in 1932, where Phil spoke, and decided he wanted to help on the La Follette campaign. Sinykin had been working for Ralph Immell in Adjutant General's office but volunteered to help La Follette. He became Phil La Follette's driver for the 1932 campaign. After that defeat, Sinykin finished up law school and worked at Phil's law firm: La Follette, Rogers, and Roberts.
Tape/Side   1/1
Time   09:30
Origins of Progressive Party
Scope and Content Note: By 1933, Sinykin was practicing law and became involved in political meetings. Discussions centered around whether to remain in Republican Party, found new party, or go into Democratic Party. Conference held in Madison in March 1934, and sentiment was strong for new party Phil and Sinykin began legal action on how to do this by asking Supreme Court for original jurisdiction. Court handed down decision outlining procedures to start a new party. Conference held in Fond du Lac and decision made to go ahead with new party, although there was debate over whether the name should be Progressive or Farmer Labor. Progressives then went out and filed petitions on June 18, the anniversary of the death of the elder La Follette (also Sinykin's birthday).
Tape/Side   1/1
Time   14:45
Amlie and Farmer Laborites as Stalking Horse
Scope and Content Note: Who would be gubernatorial candidate? La Follette family, including Bob, felt Phil should not run in 1934 because Bob was up that year. Amlie and Evjue both mentioned, but Amlie wanted to run for Congress. Evjue liked being asked, but did not want to give up role as crusading editor of the Capital Times. Amlie, while active nationally, and in his district for third party, did not go around the state as Phil did.
Tape/Side   1/1
Time   18:45
1934 campaign
Scope and Content Note: Uphill fight in 1934. In 1932, Sinykin was on the go with Phil every day (they took a few Sundays off to come back to Madison and rest) from July to mid-September. They made every county in the state. Phil would make five speeches a day and often had a leadership meeting too. Bob also out making about three speeches a day. In 1934, Sinykin stayed in Madison. Sinykin wrote releases for the locals and AP. Sinykin ran personal campaigns of Phil and Bob, doing scheduling, press and fund raising. A lot of volunteer enthusiasm.
A.W. Zaretsky
Scope and Content Note: Developed expertise in direct mail. State organized in precincts with precinct captains. Immell and Zaretsky organized letters to different groups. Also brought in Wheeler, Norris, and La Guardia. Farley's machine against Progressives. Democrats in Wisconsin just as conservative as the Republicans. FDR praised Bob and Schmedeman. He said he didn't want to win if Phil didn't, and that it was more important for Phil to win than himself. But all the Progressives worked hard.
Tape/Side   1/1
Time   27:50
End of Side 1
Tape/Side   1/2
Time   00:00
Introduction
Tape/Side   1/2
Time   00:30
1934 campaign
Scope and Content Note: Enthusiam of Progressives around the state very inspiring. Wondered about impact of Schmedeman's last-minute accident. Bob's victory was clear immediately but Phil's was not known until next day and the margin was very close. Sinykin remembers telegrams arriving in bushel baskets from all over the country and around the world. Did not raise much money and it did not take much money to run the type of campaigns the La Follettes ran. No television and did not use much radio or fancy literature.
Tape/Side   1/2
Time   04:10
1936 campaign
Scope and Content Note: Phil ran for re-election and Sinykin ran his campaign from the Governor's office. Mich easier to run when in office. Progressives riding a crest and Phil won easily.
Tape/Side   1/2
Time   05:20
Progressive campaign tactics
Scope and Content Note: Each county had a Progressive committee or club and Sinykin would write ahead to the officers to say that Phil or Bob would be available at a time on a day and local officers would pick the place to meet. Easier to draw a crowd in those days, since there weren't distractions such as television, bingo and that sort of thing. The meeting would become a social event for the community. Local officers responsible for getting publicity, a band, etc. Madison would send out brochures. Phil would arrive at 10:00AM; his driver would find local Progressive officer, local editor, leave release, hand out literature. Phil would speak, then shake hands but often on such a tight schedule he would have to leave right away. Also would send out other speakers: Sol Levitan, Spike Loomis, Ted Dammenn. Often the others would want to appear with a La Follette and Sinykin would argue that that was a waste. If they all went out separately they would multiply their effort. Sol Levitan especially would contrive to get on with Phil or Bob. At night they'd hold leadership meetings with 50-100 leaders to discuss strategy. In larger cities speeches were longer. This type of campaign enabled you to reach a lot of voters without having to rely on media.
Tape/Side   1/2
Time   13:40
Phil as campaigner
Scope and Content Note: Phil very quiet between speeches and had a thing about drinking orange juice. In 1932 Sinykin would have to make sure that the thermos was always full which proved difficult in some of the smaller towns. Phil would try to nap between stops and Sinykin would spend days without talking to him. Phil was a light eater and would eat very fast and Sinykin had a hard time finishing his food.
Tape/Side   1/2
Time   16:25
Bob's campaign style
Scope and Content Note: More relaxed than Phil and more talkative and outgoing. Get to bed as soon as possible. Driver's responsibility to end night meetings early since they had to get up at 6:00 the next morning. Bob started his campaigning a couple of weeks after Phil and did not like it as much. But after he got into it he was okay. Phil was a fiery eloquent orator who got wound up while Bob was much more quiet. Bob was like a ballet dancer with his gestures.
Tape/Side   1/2
Time   19:40
Old Bob
Scope and Content Note: Only time Sinykin saw old man was when he was lying in state. Mother took him up to the Capitol to see him and the crowd stretched all the way around the square.
Tape/Side   1/2
Time   20:45
William Evjue
Scope and Content Note: Sinykin did not have much to do with Evjue. Before Phil had become governor, Phil and Evjue were close personal friends. Evjue best as a critical editor and their roles hurt their friendship. Very effective as editor of the Capital Times and as a spokesman of progressive or liberal causes. Became quite a supporter of Roosevelt in large part due to Phil, who in 1936 suggested FDR call Evjue and the call overwhelmed Evjue. Final break came over special session, National Progressives.
Tape/Side   1/2
Time   26:05
Effect of special session
Scope and Content Note: Bad effect even though it accomplished several things. Together with the recession, the NPA and simple things had a bad effect on 1938 election.
Tape/Side   1/2
Time   26:50
End of Tape 1, Side 2
Tape/Side   2/1
Time   00:00
Introduction
Tape/Side   2/1
Time   00:30
Thomas M. Duncan
Scope and Content Note: An only child from Milwaukee. Duncan worked at the First Wisconsin National Bank in Milwaukee, resigning to become secretary to socialist mayor Dan Hoan. He was later elected to the senate when Phil La Follette was elected governor, and became executive secretary in La Follette's first term. He knew a lot about legislative parliamentary procedure and state finances. He was a socialist who thought that the Progressive movement could accomplish much good. He was responsible for enlisting the support of the Milwaukee socialists for the Progressives.
Tape/Side   2/1
Time   03:40
Duncan ran Milwaukee Leader
Scope and Content Note: Leader was a financially ailing socialist newspaper published by Victor Berger, a socialist congressman. Later, Sinykin assisted Duncan. The paper's business manager was Elmer Krahm. Krahm was very important in Progressive movement for his political leadership, managerial skills and adeptness at politicking. Things did not go well for Duncan after he killed someone in an auto accident. He worked for American Federation of Labor in Washington. He helped Andrew J. Biemiller get a job there.
Tape/Side   2/1
Time   06:05
Duncan “ran the show” in the legislature
Scope and Content Note: He was Phil La Follette's liason with the Progressives in the legislature as well as with sympathetic Democrats during the special session. He got idea of literally stopping the clock in one house so that Progressive legislation could be enacted despite the fact that the session's fixed adjournment date had passed. Drew a lot of criticism.
Tape/Side   2/1
Time   08:45
Paul R. Alfonsi
Scope and Content Note: Speaker of the Assembly. Very sharp, aggressive, energetic, highly respected.
Tape/Side   2/1
Time   09:20
Ralph M. Immell
Scope and Content Note: Came from Trempeleau County. Went to law school in Madison. He was a large man, 6'4" tall. Sinykin worked for him. Immell entered executive office when John J. Blaine was governor and was appointed adjutant general. He had extraordinary administrative ability, a strong personality, and was outgoing. He was undisciplined in personal habits and worked at all hours. He was a demanding administrator. Immell became chairperson of the Conservation Commission, predecessor of the Department of Natural Resources; greatly reformed its inefficient and corrupt management. He later made director of Works Project Administration. He was politically liberal and an excellent administrator. Served in World War II. In 1946, he resigned as adjutant general and ran for governor. He, among many others, advised Phil La Follette on the National Progressives of America movement. He was a good friend of A.W. Zeratsky and Gordon Sinykin.
Tape/Side   2/1
Time   15:25
The National Progressives of America
Scope and Content Note: The initiative for the National Progressives movement came largely from Phil La Follette. The Progressives and even Bob La Follette Sr. had long thought that what was needed was a new political alignment in America. Phil La Follette called in Progressive leaders to discuss this possibility, first from Wisconsin and then from outside the state.
Tape/Side   2/1
Time   17:55
Problems with the NPA movement
Scope and Content Note: In 1938, Sinykin left executive office and returned to his law practice. He was asked to go to New York to raise money for the movement. He did, but it difficult to raise even small amount. La Follette believed that productivity was key to economic well-being. He chose an "X" in a circle as symbol of the movement. He thought he could use this as symbol for good as the Nazis had used swastika for evil purposes. Sinykin and others against the idea, but La Follette adamant and encouraged by Isabel, his Wife. Sinykin believed that use of symbol, labeled a circumscribed swastika by some critics, torpedoed the National Progressive movement.
Tape/Side   2/1
Time   20:45
1938 NPA rally in Madison, Wisconsin
Scope and Content Note: Sinykin denies that the [April 1938] NPA rally “smacked of fascism,” aside from the use of the symbol. He says only one big banner used and extra police were there because crowd so large. NPA groups formed in California, but were ephemeral. Phil La Follette traveled to several places, including Iowa, to promote NPA.
Tape/Side   2/1
Time   24:20
Effect of Thomas Duncan accident on NPA
Scope and Content Note: Sinykin disagrees with Paul Alfonsi that the Thomas Duncan manslaughter conviction played a large role in the demise of the NPA. After Duncan had served two years of his sentence, the D.A. reopened the case in order to extend Duncan's sentence because Duncan had been tried under wrong statute. Sinykin defended Duncan. Phil La Follette pardoned Duncan before leaving office.
Tape/Side   2/1
Time   26:30
Factors in the 1938 election
Scope and Content Note: Important factors in the 1938 election loss were the NPA movement, the special session, and the economic recession. Frank Murphy, the governor of Michigan sympathetic to Progressive goals, also lost his bid for reelection in 1938.
End of Tape 2, Side 1
Tape/Side   2/2
Time   00:00
Introduction
Tape/Side   2/2
Time   00:35
Political climate in the pre-war years
Scope and Content Note: In the late 1930s economy got worse and unemployment rose, causing dissatisfaction. Then war changed everything. Bob was more against war than Phil. Orland Loomis won gubernatorial primary in 1940. Phil played some role in the campaign. Loomis was defeated in the general election, but then was elected in 1942. Died before he could take office.
Tape/Side   2/2
Time   02:35
Demise of the Progressives
Scope and Content Note: It difficult to develop opposition to Democrats while country at war. Progressives failed in that they did not develop a new echelon of leadership to replace the La Follettes. Harold Stafford of Chippewa Falls was a possible leader as were “labor people” of Milwaukee. Milwaukee labor leaders, particularly in CIO, supported the Democrats. The CIO strongly supported the war and alliance with Soviet Union. Thomas R. Amlie ran as Democrat in 1941. Paul Alfonsi ran as a Republican in 1942. State Senator Allen J. Busby ran as a Republican and a Progressive.
Tape/Side   2/2
Time   04:14
1946 election
Scope and Content Note: Bob La Follette was up for re-election in 1946. He was very discouraged after World War II; he thought that the Soviet Union had come out of the war in better shape than the United States. He made speeches which disturbed the CIO leadership, which had Communist leanings. Bob was working on a government reorganization bill with Nagorsne in Washington. The outlook for his re-election in Wisconsin not good. Progressive Party weak, so seemed advantageous to run as either Republican or Democrat. Bob not enthusiastic about either Party, and vacillated in his decision to run. He did not return to Wisconsin much, because, he said, he had to stay in Washington to get the Government Reorganization Bill passed. He finally returned about two weeks before election. Despite his minimal campaigning he lost by less than 6,000 votes.
Tape/Side   2/2
Time   07:25
Choosing a new party (the Portage convention)
Scope and Content Note: Phil opposed running as a Republican; he wanted to try to continue the Progressive Party. Many Progressive leaders met in the armory in Portage to discuss which Party best suited their needs. After much debate Bob decided to run as a Republican. He vehemently opposed the Democrats' war and peace policies, among them, bowing to Soviet demands. If Bob had entered the Democratic Party he would have gotten much support. Former Progressives Jim Doyle and Carl Thompson rebuilt the Democratic Party in Wisconsin. Phil La Follette did not attend the Portage convention. Bob had Sinykin called Phil in Madison and told him not to come to the convention. Phil did not like this. Much debate at convention over philosophical and political ramifications of joining the Democrats or Republicans or remaining Progressives. One argument for joining the Republicans was that it was very important to have a full slate of officers running at the county level. This was impossible on the Progressive ticket. Some at convention thought former Progressives could be most easily elected as Republicans. Others thought that Progressives should take over Democratic Party and build through that organization. Some supported continuing as Progressives. At the time, the Republicans were experiencing a growth of power. This was a factor in the final decision, but it was Bob's influence which decided the issue. Phil did not plan to run again as Progressive. His only active political involvement subsequent to the decision to go Republican was his support of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and then of Earl Warren in the 1952 primary.
Tape/Side   2/2
Time   14:10
Overall assessment of the Progressives
Scope and Content Note: People in Progressive movement had a crusading spirit and were eager to bring about social and economic reforms through new political channels. Many Progressives made sacrifices for the cause. As World War II began, many Progressives felt discouraged and disappointed. The lack of post-La Follette leadership was also a problem. The Progressives would have done better to enter the Democratic Party in 1946.
End of Tape 2. Side 2. End of Interview