This site utilizes JavaScript to enhance the user interface and productivity for users. Ensure you have Java Script enabled in your browser to take full advantage. Walter J. Kohler Sr.

Governor Walter J. Kohler Sr.

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Office Dates:  Jan 07, 1929 - Jan 05, 1931

Born:  Mar 03, 1875

Passed:  Apr 21, 1940

Birth State:  Wisconsin

Party:  Republican

Family:  Married Charlotte H. Schroeder; four children

WALTER J. KOHLER SR. was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. His father, a Tyrolean immigrant, founded the Kohler Company in 1873, which originally manufactured agricultural implements and became one of Wisconsin's largest industries. At the age of fifteen, the younger Kohler left school to work in his father's plant, becoming superintendent and later president and chairman of the board after his father's death. He served as a presidential elector in 1916 and was appointed to the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin in 1918, holding the position until 1924. Elected governor in 1928, he reorganized the state bureaucracy, creating the Department of the Budget and Accounts, the Bureau of Purchasing, the Bureau of Personnel, the Bureau of Engineering, and a full-time Highway Commission. During his term, the yellow dog contract was abolished and the eight-hour day was instituted for public works projects. Although defeated by Philip La Follette in the 1930 Republican primary, he came back to beat La Follette two years later. However, he lost the general election to Albert G. Schmedeman in the 1932 Democratic landslide of Franklin Roosevelt. Kohler never sought public office again, although he held various offices with the National Industrial Conference Board, the Wisconsin Manufacturers Association, and the National Association of Manufacturers.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 35. New York: James T. White & Company.

Wisconsin Historical Society

Relation to Another Governor