|Labor unions are woven into the economic and cultural fabric of America, especially in Philadelphia. During the Industrial Revolution, Philadelphia carpenters campaigned for better working conditions, a shorter workday and fair wages.|
Published On: Wednesday, June 19, 2019
AUTHORED BY: MICHAEL HAND, ASSISTANT EST, KEYSTONE+MOUNTAIN+LAKES REGIONAL COUNCIL OF CARPENTERS
Labor unions are woven into the economic and cultural fabric of America, especially in Philadelphia.
During the Industrial Revolution, Philadelphia carpenters campaigned for better working conditions, a shorter workday and fair wages at the exact time the need for both skilled and unskilled labor was in high demand.
Keystone + Mountain + Lakes (KML) Regional Council of Carpenters honors these skilled workers in Philadelphia’s premier Carpenter’s Tool and History Museum, located inside the Spring Garden Street headquarters. Now Retired Executive-Secretary Treasurer, Ed Coryell Sr., wanted to create a museum that educates and raises awareness of the struggles workers faced in the 1800’s and the growth that led to modern-day labor unions.
Retired Local 158 member, John Deal, and KML Administrator and curator of the Carpenter’s Museum, Michael Tapken, were asked to help build the museum. Deal visited auctions in Northeast and Western PA to build the extensive rare tool collection now on display. Michael Tapken took to the internet and websites like eBay, where he uncovered a plethora of union labor artifacts.
“I love seeing today’s apprentices come in and see how some of the tools they use today are not that different from those used by their predecessors,” said Tapken.
Through an NJ historian, Tapken found Peter J. McGuire’s great-granddaughter, Kathleen Rossell. McGuire is the “father” of Labor Day, founder of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, and is best known for establishing the 8-hour workday. Rossell provided the museum with McGuire’s tools, diary, letters and papers, as well as family archives and photographs. Peter J. McGuire’s gravesite, located in Pennsauken, NJ, is a registered national historic landmark.
To learn more union carpenter facts, follow the Carpenter’s Museum on Facebook @Carpentersunionhistory.