William Mahoney

Before there was the “DFL” there was the “FL.” The Minnesota Farmer-Labor party existed as an independent party of workers and farmers from 1918 to 1944, essentially from World War I to World War II. The core of its support was the trade union movement and organizations of working farmers. It elected three governors, Floyd B Olson, Elmer Benson and Hjalmar Peterson, and innumerable state and local officials, including William Mahoney as Mayor of St Paul in 1932.

William Mahoney was a printing pressman by trade and a socialist and labor politician by avocation. He was born in Chicago in 1869 and died in St Paul in 1952 at the age of 83. In his long and active life, Mahoney was President of the St Paul Trades and Labor Assembly and editor of the St Paul Union Advocate, newspaper and the prime mover of the organization of the Minnesota Farmer-Labor party. At his death he was still a delegate to the Trades and Labor Assembly, representing Pressmens Local 29.

Mahoney had many friends across the political spectrum, including legendary newspaper columnist and former Mayor Larry (“Larry Ho”) Hodgson, who wrote to Mahoney in 1934 that “I think of you as a friend that would stand by me in any personal calamity.” Reflecting on Mahoney's defeat in the 1934 election, Hodgson said, “in the last week I have been wondering if the great moneyed concerns can ever be dethroned except by Revolution.”

Mahoney had called for municipalizing Northern States Power Company, the predecessor of Xcel Energy as a city-owned utility, provoking ferocious opposition from the city's business and banking establishment. St Paul residents, he said, were “paying the highest electric rates in the nation and 10,000 unemployed and destitute families were accorded an inadequate subsistence by public and private charities.” Mahoney wrote and circulated a proposal for legislation “to Establish a State-Wide System of Public Industries for the Employment of Out-of-Work and Needy Citizens.”

Mahoney's former home is at 1852 Dayton Avenue. Main Street, on which the St Paul Labor Center is located, is co-named “William Mahoney Street.