The year was 1927 and the future had hardly ever looked brighter for the City of Camden. Times were prosperous, business and industry were booming, and the city was full of recently constructed public buildings, civic improvements, schools, the new Delaware River bridge and its new highway to the suburbs. The stock market crash of 1929 and the Depression that followed were in the unimagined future.
It was in these times that Camden prepare for its 100th anniversary, and in this spirit of optimism that the city fathers under the direction of Mayor Winfield S. Price commissioned the booklet whose text you will find below.
City’s Workshops turn out everything from pen points to the Superdreadnaught Battleships
A seer once stated that Camden allegedly was a city of possibilities.
And then industries started to crop up within the boundaries of the City.
The first industry to enter our boundaries came into being when the Browning Brothers established a plant for the manufacture of dye-stuffs and at about the same time the American Nickel Works was started.
The next important venture in the industrial line was the founding of the Camden Iron Works by Jesse W. Starr, in 1845. Following closely upon that was the starting of the Esterbrook Pen plant, the first of its kind in America, devoted to the manufacture of steel writing pen points.
In 1883 the R. D. Wood Co. entered Camden and bought the site of the Camden Iron Works, operating it until 1922. The site and building some years later became what is now known as the Camden Civic Center. From 1883 on, this firm occupied a nationally important part in this particular line of business. Its industries gave employment to many residents of Camden and proved to be more or less a forerunner of the entrance of numerous business concerns in the Camden territory.
It was not so long after this that Camden became a center for yacht and shipbuilding enterprises and also for leather producing. Recently Camden became a center for the manufacture of airplanes. It already had been a producer of, as the Chamber of Commerce so aptly stated in its slogan, “Everything from Pens to Battleships”.
Thus, do we more or less boast of our ability to manufacture almost anything.
The first manufacturer in America to turn out pen points was the Esterbrook Pen Co., which maintains its plant in Camden. The pen point is a very small product but we also turn out super-dreadnaught battleships, at the American Brown Boveri Electric Corporation [Now the New York Shipbuilding shipyard– ed].
In Camden will be found the largest manufacturer of talking machines, soups, the greatest wool-scouring plant, the plant which produces the dies making colors on the $1.00 or $20.00 bill you have in your pocket, the flag staffs in virtually any government reservation, the private yachts owned by our wealthiest personages, the leather in the shoes worn by Mr. Smith and Mr. Wonder-Bilt, the laces worn by Milady and numerous other more or less staple commodities.
The reason why Camden is a center for these diversified industries rests largely with the fact already stated – climate, our labor market; our own industrial activities.