JOSEPH ROBINSON GRAW was partners with James H. Reeve in the firm of Graw & Reeve, which transformed residential Broadway into a business section in the early years of the twentieth century. There had been few stores on Broadway between Kaighn Avenue and Federal Street and this firm played a large part in converting dwellings into business houses.  

According to the 1880 Census, Joseph R. Graw was born in New Jersey around 1865 to Jacob B. and Isabel Graw, one of at least five children. His father had served in the Civil War as the chaplain with the 10th New Jersey Infantry Regiment. Rev. Graw was pastor of the Third Street Methodist Episcopal Church from 1878 to 1880. When the 1880 census was enumerated, the family then lived at 327 Stevens Street. In 1884 Rev. Jacob B. Graw was instrumental in organizing Bethany Methodist Episcopal Church, which for many years was located at 943 Cooper Street.

Jacob Graw went into business as a publisher and bookseller at 131 Federal Street in the 1880s. He moved his family to Beverly NJ, however by about 1885 Joseph Graw had married and returned to Camden.

When the Census was taken in 1910, Joseph Graw lived with his wife of 24 years, Rebecca, at 618 Berkley Street with their 8 children, Newton, Louis, Albert, Ethel, Emma, Verna, Mildred, and Isabel. Three other children had not survived at that point.   

By 1920 Joseph Graw was gone from Camden. His son, Albert lived at 730 Washington Street and was assistant chief clerk for the West Jersey and Seashore Railroad. Joseph R. Graw was living in a house he had built at 1529Arnott Street in Philadelphia by April of 1930. He passed away in 1942. 

Joseph Graw, James Reeve
and members of the
Wyoming Lodge 155
Improved Order of Red Men

Click on Image to Enlarge

Front: Unknown, Unknown, Unknown
James H. Reeve, unknown, unknown, Joseph R. Graw, unknown
Inset Left: unknown
Inset right, Unknown

Camden Courier-Post * May 19, 1964

McGuire, Hartmann Among The Early Organizers of Labor in City

 Camden enjoys a special place in the nation's labor movement. Yet, surprisingly, much of the history of the movement is un­written and rests in the minds and memories of its former leaders. 

Peter J. McGuire is the man most remembered for his work in bringing the labor movement to its current state of organization and as the founder of Labor Day. 

But there were others, such as Robert Hartmann, Timothy Desmond, Walter McDougall, William Harvey, Thomas Gilligan, Joseph Graw, Rubin Price, Jim Reeves, Dick Mustard, Andrew McGuire, Charles Hollopeter, William Dobbins, John Doran and Spencer Huntley.

Began in 1890

The move to bring the labor movement together began in about 1890 and centered around the strong father and son relationship of Frank and Robert Hartmann and the cigarmakers. Strangely enough, this union, which is given credit by veteran labor leaders for cementing the workingman's crusade into a unified force, no longer exists in Camden.  

The first organized local was number 203, a splinter group from the old Knights of Labor in Philadelphia. The cigarmakers were followed by the carpenters, bricklayers, painters, hodcarriers, pottery workers, linemen and typographers. 

The Typographical Union, Local 132, is believed to be the oldest local inexistence In Camden. The local's records show it was chartered in 1887 and incorporated nine years later in 1896. 

One of the very early organizers was Robert Hartmann, who is now 89 years old and lives at 1016 Collings Avenue, West Collingswood.  

The movement had its birth in the Hartmann Cigar factory, 3rd and Arch Streets. The plant was the first built in the city with all union labor and the first to be completely organized, a fact which industry and management bitterly resented. 

Hostility High

 Hostility toward those involved 65 years ago ran at a high pitch and owners of halls and meeting places refused to rent their facilities for union meetings.  

 Consequently meetings w ere held at the Hartmann factory and the owner- the late Frank Hartmann, whose son was elected the first president of the cigarmakers local- is looked on today as one of the benefactors of organized labor in Camden.  

The senior Hartmann, who lived in the 700 block of State Street and the 2800 block of Cleveland Avenue, was considered a dangerous liberal because he believed in the idea of collective bargaining, an unheard-of idea in his day.  

Place to Meet  

The Hartmann factory not only became the headquarters for the labor movement, but it also pro­vided a place where the controversial men, of the day came to speak their piece on the working­man's problems.  

And the problems were many. Wages were low-40 cents an hour for carpenters-30 cents for common laborers - child labor and long hours.  

Labor took its first real step in 1908 when the Camden County Central Labor Union was created and Hartmann was elected its first president. The creation of the Central Labor Union brought together all the various small locals which were being organized by the trades in the early years.  

According to the charter, the Central Labor Union was formed "to better conditions for the working man and to fight for human betterment."

 Worked at 11 

It was during the formative days of the Central Labor Union that Peter J. McGuire's talents, came to the attention of unionists.  

McGuire became a wage earner at 11 when he hawked newspapers on the streets of New York, ran errands, shined shoes, and attended the Cooper Union School for the underprivileged. It was here in about 1860 that he met Samuel Gompers, co-founder of the American Federation of Labor.  

The two were to go different ways, but reaching the same goals. Unfortunately for the nation, McGuire saved nothing from the thousands of letters, platforms and manifestos that he wrote during his career.

 Labor Day Born  

At age 20, McGuire was dedicated to revolution by labor as the first step to its betterment, and was beating the drum for political action, immediate and organized.  

Labor Day was born, unofficially, on May 8, 1882, in New York City, when McGuire proposed the idea at a meeting of the Central Labor Union in Clarendon Hall on 13th Street.

 The workingman "took" the first Labor Day on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 1882, and organized labor marched with bands and banners, up Broadway to Union Square. 

The first Labor Day celebration was to set the pattern for Labor Days to follow.  

To Camden in 1885

 After McGuire founded the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, he moved from Chicago to Philadelphia where he eventually moved to Camden. The year was 1885.  

At the turn of the century, McGuire was earning $2,000 annually as secretary of the Brotherhood. His hair had turned snow white. 

It was during these first years that Camden got to know McGuire. The association was short-lived for he died February 18, 1906, at the age of 54, a broken man and in want.       

One of his final acts was to pen a note to a friend. It said: "I'm very tired of it all and of late, in looking my past in the face, I wonder if the game was worth the poor candle, the more so when I see the ingratitude of those who benefited by our labors."  

Today organized labor tries to forgive itself for the "ingratitude" by holding memorial services in Pennsauken's Arlington Cemetery in honor of McGuire, the father of Labor Day.

 Faced Same Problems  

Early unionists in Camden faced the same problems that labor faced throughout the country at the turn of the century. Among them were an eight hour day arid a workmen's pension based on contributions from both employer and employee.  

These problems were discussed at meetings held in the old Temple Theater, 4th and Market Streets, now the site of the Camden Post Office and in the Towers Theater, at Broadway  and Pine Street.  It is recalled that Spencer Huntley organized the hodcarriers to fight for a 10-cent an hour in crease after the price of pork chops went up three cents a pound. 

Camden celebrated its first Labor Day in 1908 with a parade that had its start on Cooper Street. About 200 unionists, dressed in their working clothes, marched down Cooper, Market, Broadway, and 5th Streets and then on to Stockton Park {home of the Stockton Rifles- PMC}  at 20th and Federal Streets, where they gathered for rousing speeches and a picnic.

 Wore Top Hat

 Leading the paraders was Robert Hartmann, dressed in a high top hat, and riding a white horse borrowed from Schroeder's Funeral Home, located at that time at 4th and Arch Streets. 

In the early 1900s, organized labor was looked on as a militant group, led by men with radical ideas, who were spreading revolution and who if successful, would lead the nation to destruction. Labor met on Sunday nights in the old Towers Theater, because it was the only day of the week the workingman had to himself. It was the only way union leaders could be sure of a full house. 

It was on one of these occasions that Frank Morrison, then secretary of the budding AFL, addressed Camden unionists and voiced labor's disapproval of America's intervention in World War I.

There were other subjects discussed in the Towers Theater, subjects closer to home for the workingman .... education, public housing, slum clearance, equal wages and fair employment opportunities ... subjects still being talked about today.

 Promise Kept

 It was not until 1935, when Congress passed the Wagner Act, that organized labor began to take on significance. Two years later another "big jump" was taken.

 During World War II, Camden enjoyed a period of labor peace. Labor had promised the nation it would not strike during the war and in Camden that promise was kept.

 And organized labor got its feet wet in the political arena when it began to lobby for compulsory education by packing the legislative gallery in Trenton.

Up to now, labor had followed McGuire's theory ... "support politically your friends, defeat your enemies, regardless of political affiliations."

Giants Merge

 On April 28, 1961, the Central Labor Union and the Industrial Union Council, a CIO organization, merged. New Jersey was to be the last state in the union to complete the merger of the two giants, the AFL and the CIO. Locally. 85 unions with more than 75,000 members, overnight became members of one organization.

 Today, according to Central Labor Union president Joseph J. McComb, labor faces as many problems as it did 50 years ago. The only difference is the type of problem.

 Today labor is faced with industrial automation, changing work assignments, reduced work weeks and wages.

 But today labor has also become big business. It operates rich health and welfare funds; sponsors entire towns for its retired members; educates its children and takes care of its social problems.

 Its officials are successful candidates for public office, sit on boards of community organizations, and run fund drives. It has become a potent force for the good of the entire community.