, , , , , , , ,

Date, last name, first name, address, occupation; these are the components of the Camden city directory. But what does this seemingly minimal information disclose across time and space? First and most obvious, the city directory reveals the occupants at a certain address. When compiled into a list, the directory listings for 224 Cooper Street narrate a portion of a greater narrative about Camden New Jersey.

224 Cooper Street

After paging through decades of city directories at the Camden Country Historical Society, Between 1850 and 1890 the Scull family lived at 224 Cooper Street. Joab and Ann had at least six children, four daughters and two sons, who survived into adulthood. 224 Cooper Street identified the head of household as retired grocer Joab Scull. His son William seems to have taken up the family business and in 1860 he too was listed as grocer. Joab lived until eighty and, presumably upon his death in1875, left the family home to his wife Ann. The widow Ann continued to live at 224 Cooper with daughters Anna, Caroline, Emma, and Mary. These women dwelt in 224 Cooper for nearly twenty more years until 1891 when Ann, presumably now passed away at age 91, disappeared from the directory altogether. Year 1892 reveals that the Emma, Anna, and Mary had removed to Philadelphia with Andrew Scull, a business owner who recently moved his company A. Scull and Son Machinists to Philadelphia. Though it is not said why the family moved, one can surmise it was not for want of money. Several businesses are listed under the Scull name, William S. Scull Company and A Scull and Son. Joab’s widow Ann, never held a job outside of the home and never had to take in boarders to supplement her income. No males were listed between 1881 and 1891 at the property, yet the women remained for nearly a decade.

Though I was unable to uncover much about A Scull & Son, William S. Scull and Company, later known as Boscul’s Coffee, was a major dealer in coffee, tea, and spices in the Mid-Atlantic region. Founded in 1831 by Joab Scull, the business was located at Front and Federal Streets in Camden until the 1940s, when the company moved to Philadelphia under the name Boscul’s. Two of three company owners lived at 224 Cooper, so indeed the widow Ann and her daughters would have been well taken care of financially. Beyond the walls of the family home however, wages earned at the Scull family businesses provided other Camden residents with some sense of financial security. The William S. Scull Company iwa one of Camden’s earliest businesses to employ immigrant labor and throughout the years employed hundreds of local workers. 224 Cooper Street emerges as more than just a home for the Sculls, it is the story of a local family, a small business turned national brand, and the movement of people and business to and from Camden New Jersey.

Kim Coulter
Rutgers University- Camden