The credit for the founding of the modern Farmer-Labor party goes to John Fitzpatrick, leader of the Chicago Federation of Labor in America's second largest city. After several preliminary meetings, Fitzpatrick and his associates invited farmers and laborers from across the country to meet in Chicago in July of 1920. Among the existing political groups that participated were the Non-Partisan League from the northern plains, Utah's Labor party, and some of the remnants of the Bull Moose movement of 1912. The 1920 convention called for an eight-hour day, disarmament, and a nationalization of all basic industries. Parley Parker Christiansen, temporary chair of the convention, was chosen as the presidential nominee of the new party on the second ballot over Dudley Field Malone NY and Eugene V. Debs. Maximillan S. Hayes was nominated for Vice President on the first ballot with 365 of the 377 delegate votes. The party ran slates of Electors in 18 states and won 264,540 votes. The party's nominees for the U.S. Senate garnered 218,091 votes.
The Farmer Labor Party worked in association with several other parties in the northern Plains States and Midwest to further issues relevent to agricultural areas. Other similar parties included the National Party, the Nonpartisan League, and (after 1924) the Progressive Party in WI.
The party's second national convention was held in Convention Hall, St. Paul MN, on 6/17-19/1924. The convention was attended by 542 delegates. However, supporters of the independent candidacy of Robert LaFollette bolted the convention when they recognized that the supporters of William Z. Foster, the Workers Party (later Communist Party) had control of the convention. The remaining delegates nominated Duncan McDonald IL for President and William Bouck WA for Vice President. After the convention, McDonald and Bouck withdrew and endorsed Foster, who was officially nominated by the Workers Party the next month. Most of the national leaders of the FLP supported LaFollette instead of Foster.
The third Farmer Labor Party national convention assembled in Chicago IL on 7/10-11/1928. The party accidentally scheduled its convention at the same time as the Prohibition Party. The two conventions appointed a committee to see if a joint ticket might work for both parties. The FLP decided to go ahead with its own nominations and selected George W. Norris NE for President and James A. Reed MO for Vice President. The Prohibition Party nominated a FLP delegate on the committee (James A. Edgerton VA) as its VP nominee. Norris and Reed both rejected the nomination, and later the party selected Frank E. Webb CA for President and Will Verreen GA for VP. The party received only 6,390 votes in the general election. While the party received only a paltry sum for the national ticket, U.S. Senator Henrik Shipstead (FL-MN) was re-elected as one of two FLP candidates for the Senate n 1928. FLP candidates won a nationwide total of 1,138,079 for the 96 Senators of the Congress of 1929-1931.
Although the plight of farmers worsened during the late 1920s, the FLP declined rather than growing. In the U.S. Senate races of 1930, the party only ran three candidates, who won 181,827 votes.
The fourth FLP national convention was held in Omaha NE on 4/26-27/1932. The party advocated the abolition of the gold standard, the creation of an employment insurance program, a temporary moritorium on farm foreclosures, and the public ownership of utilities. Although Frank E. Webb was nominated for President again, he withdrew from the race. On 7/10/1932, the national executive committee selected Jacob S. Coxey, the mayor of Massillon OH, to run for President with Julius J. Reiter MN for Vice President. Coxey did not do well in the election, only winning 7,431 votes. The party only ran one candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1932, who won 1,228 votes in Iowa.
The fifth and last FLP national convention was held in the Castle Hotel in Omaha NE on 7/8-12/1936. Thirty delegates attended the convention. James M. Coxey was nominated again for President; when he declined to run, the convention did not choose a different candidate but ceased to exist as a national party.
The MN state affiliate, however, was a major player in that state. Floyd B. Olsen was elected Governor in 1930, and the party held the governorship until Harold E. Stassen became governor in 1939. Henrik Shipstead served as U.S. Senator 1923-41. Ernest Lundeen was elected to the other Senate seat in 1936, giving the party two Senators during the years 1937-1941. The FLP was the major opposition party to the Republicans in MN until in 1944 it merged with the Democratic Party to form the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. Hubert Humphrey was one of the leading proponents of the merger.