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Social-Democratic Party of America Records

Call Number



1900-1905, inclusive


Social-Democratic Party of America


0.5 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials

English .


The Social Democratic Party was established in 1898 by Victor Berger and others as a split from the short-lived Social Democracy of America, and was one of the principal left groups that merged to form the Socialist Party (U.S.) in 1901. The collection contains minutes, legal documents, circular letters, financial papers, correspondence, and miscellaneous items pertaining to the New York City local of the Social Democratic Party. Note: the collection has been microfilmed, and researchers must use the microfilm copy (R-7124, reel 3).

Historical/Biographical Note

The Social Democratic Party was established in 1898 as a result of the fractious in fighting between two major groups in the short lived Social Democracy of America. Organized by Eugene V. Debs on 15 June 1897, the Social Democracy of America consisted of members from the American Railway Union and the Brotherhood of the Cooperative Commonwealth. Shortly after its inception, the Social Democracy was confronted with a major split in its ranks. The split occurred between the following two factions: (1) the "colonizationalists" who supported Debs' scheme to form a socialist state in "one of the states of the Union"; and (2) the "political wing" which emphasized a concrete program of political action for the Social Democracy. The controversy lasted for one year before reaching a climax at the second national convention of the Social Democracy in June 1898. During this convention, the political group withdrew from the organization after the colonizationists' program was adopted by the delegates.

After bolting the convention, the political group, led by Victor Berger, held their own meeting and established the Social Democratic Party. From the viewpoint of its membership, the Social Democratic Party was "a class conscious, revolutionary, social organization." In its platform, the party demanded the initiative and referendum, a public works program to help reduce unemployment, a system of collective production and distribution, a national insurance plan, and the abolition of war as it pertained to the United States.

The Social Democratic Party achieved some local successes after its formation. During the 1898 elections, the party elected a mayor in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and sent two socialists to the Massachusetts state legislature. In 1899, independent socialist organizations from Texas and Iowa merged with the Social Democrats. When the party met in its first national convention in March 1900 at Indianapolis, it had more than 4500 members with 226 branches in 25 states.

At the Indianapolis convention, the moderate wing of the Socialist Labor Party, which had recently established an independent headquarters in Rochester, New York, attended the sessions and proposed a merger between the two organizations. The former Socialist Labor Party members, known as the "Kangaroos", had already nominated Job Harriman for President and Max Hayes for Vice President, but they offered to withdraw Harriman's name if they could select the Vice Presidential candidate on a joint ticket. Many of the rank and file Social Democrats supported the merger, but the party leadership was highly reluctant to join with socialists who had only recently disassociated themselves from the powerful rule of Daniel De Leon. For the next several months, the leaders of both organizations met on several occasions to negotiate a merger.

During these meetings, accusations and charges were made by both sides on issues ranging from the Presidential ticket to the new name for the party. Because of this bickering, negotiations toward eventual merger were unsuccessful, but both groups did agree to support Debs for President and Harriman for Vice President.

As public interest in the Debs' campaign increased, the rivalry between the two organizations subsided. This cooperation proved to be quite useful for the Social Democrats because it enabled its members to secure additional support for the Debs Harriman ticket. On Election Day, these efforts were rewarded as Debs received nearly 97,000 votes as compared with only 34,000 votes for De Leon's Socialist Labor Party ticket. Due to the outcome of the election, the Kangaroos and the Social Democrats were more willing to work together on the merger issue. Finally, at the second Unity Convention in Indianapolis in 1901, the Kangaroos merged with the Social Democrats and thus established the Socialist Party of America.


Folders are arranged chronologically.

The files are grouped into 1 series:

Missing Title

  1. Inventory

Scope and Content Note

The Social Democratic Party Papers, 1900-1905, are organized into 11 files (some containing more than one folder) consisting of legal documents, minutes, circular letters, financial papers, correspondence, and miscellaneous items. These files are arranged in chronological order, with the exception of the last three files. Each file has been provided with a frame number. For th representative frame number (II:7), the number 7 indicates the 7th file, and the numeral II indicates the SDP Papers are the second collection in the microfilm set, Socialist Collections in the Tamiment Library, 1872-1956. It should be pointed out that the items within each file are cited in the complete reel list that follows this description of the arrangement of the collection. The researcher should also note that an error was made in the targeting for this collection. on each frame the word "Series" appears adjacent to the frame number. This term should actually be interpreted as "Collection".

The papers in this collection pertain to various committees of the New York City local of the Social Democratic Party. (In 1906, this local changed its name to the Socialist Party.) Of special interest in this collection are the minutes of the New York City Executive Committee, Grievance Committee, and General Committee; reports of electoral activities; a membership roll book for 1904; and the constitution of the Social Democratic Party of New York State. The collection also contains a municipal platform from the Social Democratic Party of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Access Restrictions

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Tamiment Library has no information about copyright ownership for this collection and is not authorized to grant permission to publish or reproduce materials from it. Materials in this collection, which were created in 1900-1905, are expected to enter the public domain in 2026.

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date; Collection name; Collection number; box number; folder number;
Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred from the Rand School Archives, 1962. The accession number associated with this collection is 1962.001.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Due to the fragile nature of the original materials, researchers must use the microfilmed version; microfilm call number is Film R-7124, Reel 3.

Related Material at the Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Socialist Collections in the Tamiment Library, 1872-1956 : a guide to the microfilm edition (Sanford, N.C. : Microfilming Corp. of America, c1979), 181 p.

Collection processed by

Tamiment staff

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-20 16:48:30 -0400.
Language: Description is in English.

Edition of this Guide

This version was derived from SDP Guide.doc

Note Statement

Finding Aid


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012