August 31, 2018 In The News, Media

South Jersey memorial to Labor Day founder added to state register of historic places

Cherry Hill Courier Post
August 31, 2018

The memorial to Labor Day founder Peter J. McGuire has been listed as a state historic site, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Friday on the eve of the holiday weekend.

The state historic preservation office has listed the Arlington Cemetery grave site and memorial to the carpenter and union leader on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places.

The state also has recommended its inclusion on the national register overseen by the National Park Service.

Murphy made the announcement Friday at the 124th annual Southern New Jersey AFL-CIO Central Labor Council’s breakfast honoring McGuire at the Scottish Rite Auditorium in Collingswood. The governor, who made two more stops Friday in South Jersey, then visited the gravesite.

“Peter McGuire is a giant by any measure. He was a pioneer. I don’t know where we would be without him … and his legacy will continue to live on,” the governor said.

Murphy said he was proud his administration’s preservation office approved the memorial designation for McGuire, whom he said fought for fairness, respect, safe working conditions, decent wages and the eight-hour workday.

At the cemetery at 1620 Cove Road, the governor helped lay a labor council wreath at McGuire’s statue.

McGuire, who died in 1906 and lived the last 15 years of his life in Camden, became  the founder of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Rep. Donald Norcross, D-Camden, and state Sen. President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, were among several hundred at the breakfast.

“While many people know Peter J. McGuire is the ‘Father of Labor Day,’ they don’t often know he lived in Camden and was buried in Pennsauken,” said Norcross, a union electrician by trade.

Norcross said McGuire fought for working families and understood the American workforce is “our greatest asset,” adding that designating his memorial as a historic landmark is the least that can be done to honor and remember him.

“I am humbled that as just a kid from Pennsauken, I’m in a position to properly memorialize my hometown hero,” said Norcross.

Norcross’ staff prepared the historic listing application based on extensive research by Camden County Historical Society treasurer Robert Shinn.

He also located McGuire’s great-granddaughter, Kathleen Rossell of West Collingswood. This year she donated McGuire’s papers, woodworking tools and other memorabilia to the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters for display at its Philadelphia museum.

“Researching the struggles and triumphs of Peter J. McGuire was a humbling experience, an honor, and a privilege,” Shinn said.

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