The Republican Club in Camden: Camden’s Republican Club used 312 Cooper Street as its clubhouse from 1889 until at least 1916. The Camden County Historical Society (CCHS) possesses some interesting resources pertaining to the Republican Club in Camden. The club’s 1888-1889 ledger was a great find and revealed the club’s members, the dues they paid, and accounts where those dues were spent. The members included several prominent Camden residents, and each paid annual dues of $10 during that period. These dues were used for accounts documented in the ledger, which included a fund for a new club house. By 1889 the Republican Club had saved $18,761.10 in their new clubhouse fund. This coincides with the year the club moved into the house.
While the ledger, manuscripts and deeds held by the CCHS did not directly mention 312 Cooper Street the Archaeology Report prepared by the URS Corporation for the lots east of 312 does. This report revealed that the estate of Esther Maskell Newkirk sold the house to the Republican Club in 1889 for $16,200, which the club could have more than covered with its new clubhouse fund. Perhaps the club members used the remaining $2,561 to make alterations to the house as it was re-purposed from a family house to a clubhouse. The historic structure survey indicated that alterations were made in 1890.
The deeds and manuscripts pertaining to the Camden Republican Club did reveal two intriguing and very similar stories. First, correspondence took place between John R. McCabe of the Republican club of Camden’s sixth ward and the city’s commissioner of deeds. McCabe called for the cancellation of the mortgage, while the commissioner contended that the details of the mortgage had been made clear to McCabe. It would appear the Republican Club was attempting to get out of its mortgage. Was this mortgage for 312 Cooper Street? Secondly, in 1917 the law offices of Wilson Carr sent letters to the club’s bond holders informing them of impending foreclosure. The Republican Club appears to have produced a stock letter in response for its bond holders, which indicated the number of bonds held and a request that an appearance for them at the foreclosure proceedings be entered. It is curious that the Republican Club’s few surviving documents mostly deal with the club’s legal troubles. What does this say about the club?
One thing the language of these documents revealed, specifically the titles of the clubs themselves, was the national shift away from ward politics. In the McCabe correspondence the Sixth Ward Republican Club is represented, while in the 1917 correspondence the club’s title is simply “Camden Republican Club.” Although there could have simply been two clubs, according to Jason Kaufman, the shift away from ward-oriented politics was a national trend, which represented the city’s elites opposing the voices of less prominent citizens. The legal troubles of the clubs might also have foreshadowed a move of the Republican Club out of the city of the town of Haddon, where it now resides as the Camden County Republican Committee. Kaufman described the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as the golden age of politically affiliated fraternal organizations. I suspect the decline of such organizations coupled with the flight out of Camden of businesses and citizens who could afford to leave by the mid-twentieth century led to the Republican Club’s move to Haddon Township.
Update on 804 Cooper Street: In my research of 312 Cooper and elsewhere I have found some more information about the Baird family. The website historic aerials revealed that the Baird home was gone by 1940, explaining the family’s move. More interestingly, the Biographical Guide of the United States Congress revealed that David Baird Sr. and David Baird Jr. were appointed to serve as Senators in order to fill vacancies. David Sr. served from February 1918 to March 1919 to fill a vacancy cause by death, and David Baird Jr. served as a Senator from November 1929 to December 1930 to fill a vacancy caused by resignation. Additionally, David Jr. was an unsuccessful Gubernatorial Candidate for New Jersey in 1931. Such a prominent family’s enduring legacy can been seen in Camden’s Baird Boulevard, which connects the city to the town of Marlton. Research on the Camden Republican Club also shed some light on the Baird family. The Republican Club’s 1888-1889 Ledger included the names of both David Baird Sr. and E. N. Cohn. E. N. Cohn constructed the house at 804 Cooper right around this time and occupied it until his death around 1890. After that David Baird Sr. moved into the house with Cohn’s widow Adelia T. The Republican Club may well have been how Baird met Cohn and subsequently how he came to occupy 804 Cooper Street.
http://cchsnj.com/ http://camdengop.com/ Camden Republican Club, Ledger for 1888-89, Camden NJ, pgs. 3, 113,120, 130. Manuscripts, Camden County Historical Society, 348 V20. Commissioner of Deeds to John R. McCabe (undated). Manuscripts, Camden County Historical Society.
John R. McCabe to Commissioner of Deeds (undated). Manuscripts, Camden County Historical Society. Kaufman, Jason. For the Common Good? American Civic Life and the Golden Age of Fraternity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Letter, Law Offices of Wilson and Carr to Maurice Browning, Est., c/o Mr. Isaac Doughten; Dec. 12, 1917. Manuscripts, Camden County Historical Society.
New Jersey Office of Historic Preservation Historic Sites Inventory Individual Structure Survey Form, “Edward Smith House.”
Richard Affleck, Project Manager, George Cress, Principal Investigator, Ingrid Wuebber, Rebecca White, Kimberly Morrell, Thomas Kutys “A Bright Pattern of Domestic Virtue and Economy.” Phase II Data-Recovery Archaeological Excavations of the Smith-Maskell Site Cooper Street Development Camden, New Jersey (URS Corporation: Burlington, New Jersey, April 2012).