52 Documents in 52 Weeks #45 – Ora Strait’s Union Booklet

Picture002Person of Interest: Ora Simpson Strait of Sussex County, New Jersey
Relationship: Great grandfather

Source CitationOra S. Strait‘s United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America membership booklet, 20 October 1917; privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ, 2017.

Document Description: This slim book is a black cloth-covered booklet issued by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBCJA). It is 3-1/2″ by 5″ in dimension and only about 1/8 of an inch thick. It has no lettering on the cover. The inside cover has a membership statement with a seal. It has 24 pages in total and the binding is stitched with white thread. There are sporadic entries in the book and the membership statement is filled out. Some of the pages in the back are perforated to accommodate clearance cards (defined in the booklet) but all of Ora’s pages are intact.


The completely unexciting front cover

oracarpenter005Document Scan and Transcription:
[on inside of front cover] Membership Statement
Date of Birth Jan 26 1879
The bearer, Mr. Ora S. Strait was duly initiated as a (semi) beneficial member of the U. B. of C. & J. of A. in L. U. No. 1124, located in the City of Newton State of N.J., on the 20 day of Oct 1917. Initiation Fee, $7.50 (Financial Secretary to fill in the above statement.)
This is to certify that the bearer hereof, Mr. Ora S. Strait, was duly initiated (or admitted on clearance card) as a member of L. U. No. 1124 on the 20 day of October 1917.
John B. Kishbaugh, President
C. T. Browne pro tem Fin. Sec.
Members should relinquish possession of this book only as provided for but the Constitution and Laws of the U. B.
[There is a seal on the bottom left side of the Membership Statement.]

[Page 1] United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
Sec. 43. Each member is required to keep the Recording Secretary and Financial Secretary properly notified of his correct place of residence and any change of same under penalty of one dollar ($1.00) fine.
A member three months in arrears shall not be entitled to the password, or a seat, or office in any meetings of the Local Union. (See Sec. 45)

Sec. 45. When a member owes a sum equal to three months’ dues, he is not in good standing, and is thereby suspended from all donations and will not again be entitled to donations until three months after his arrearages are paid in full, including the current month.
A member owning a Local Union any sum equal to six months’ dues shall be dropped from membership without a vote of the Union, and his name be stricken from the books. After that he can be readmitted only as a new member, subject to such readmission fee as provided for in the By-Laws of their Local Union or District Council, together with the sum of three dollars ($3.00), which shall be forwarded to the Local where he was dropped.

oracarpenter006[Page 2 & 3] Dues page [no date at top or Ledger Page No. entered]

The Financial Secretary must sign this book and enter in the proper spaces the exact date and amount of payment. He should use an ink stamp with interchangeable dates and his signature all on one line.

Oct. – 75 – Oct 20 – C. T. Browne pro tem [Oct is written in pencil, the rest is ink]
Nov. – 75 – Nov 17 – ”   ” [in pencil]
Dec. – 75 – Jan 18 – C. T. Browne [in pencil]

[There are no other entries on this page. The facing page has a place for fines and assessments but there is nothing entered here either.]

oracarpenter007[Page 4 & 5] Dues page [no date at top or Ledger Page No. entered]

The Financial Secretary must sign this book and enter in the proper spaces the exact date and amount of payment. He should use an ink stamp with interchangeable dates and his signature all on one line.

Jan. – 75 – Jan 19 – C. T. Browne
Feb. – 75 – Feb 20 – O. S. Strait
March – 75 – April 20 – O. S. Strait
April – 75 –    ”      ”          ”        ”

[There are no other entries on this page. The facing page has a place for fines and assessments but there is nothing entered here either.]

Pages 6 & 7 are the same format of pages 4 & 5 but have nothing entered on them.

oracarpenter008[Pages 8 & 9] Dues page [no date at top or Ledger Page No. entered]

[Nothing official is entered on these pages. The Fines and Assessments page was used to do some figuring.]

oracarpenter009[Pages 10 & 11]
Sec. 46. A member who transfers his membership or who leaves the jurisdiction of his Local Union to work in another locality must apply to the Financial Secretary and present his due book and have clearance card properly filled out. It is compulsory for the Local Union to issue said card, providing against him and pays all arrearages, together with current month’s dues. Said clearance card shall expire one month from date of issue.
It is compulsory for the member to report and deposit his clearance card at the office of the District Council of Local Union where no District Council exists before securing work, pending a meeting of the Local Union, and comply with all local laws. And in no case shall the Financial Secretary accept dues other than to secure clearance cards from a member working in the jurisdiction of any other Local Union or District Council, without the consent of such Local Union or District Council. It shall be the duty of the Financial Secretary accepting dues from a member for clearance cards who is working in another jurisdiction to immediately report same to the District Council or Local Union where no District Council exists under penalty of a fine of five dollars ($5.00) for the first offense, ten dollars ($10.00) for the second offense, and for the third offense suspension from all local offices for a period of two (2) years.
Any member working in a district from which he returns home daily, or who is sent for more than one month into an outside jurisdiction by an employer from his own district, shall be required to take out a clearance card, unless he first secures a permit in writing from the Local Union or District Council in whose jurisdiction he Amy to to work without a transfer, and he shall be governed by the trade rules of the district in which he works.
No Local Union shall have the right to collect dues again for the month paid on a clearance card. The Local Union issuing the card shall pay to the General Secretary the tax for said member for the month only in which the card is issued, and he shall be considered a member of that Local Union until he deposits his card, when he becomes a member of the Local Union wherein said card has been deposited.
Any General Officer, while employed by the United Brotherhood, shall not be required to take a clearance card from the Local Union

oracarpenter010[Page 12 & 13]
of which he is a member at the time of his election or appointment.
A member of a Local Union taking out a clearance card before he is one year a member shall pay, where the initiation fee is higher, into the Local Union accepting the clearance card a sum equal to the difference in initiation fee before the clearance card can be accepted.
On entering a Local Union a member with a clearance card shall present his due book to the President, who shall appoint a committee of three to examine the applicant and his due book and report at once. If clearance card and due book are found correct, then a vote shall be taken, and if the majority of the votes are favorable he shall be admitted, except in case of strike or lockout, provided he qualifies in accordance with the District By-Laws.
On deposit of said card the Financial Secretary receiving it must sign and affix the seal to the coupon and forward it to the General Secretary as evidence of its deposit, along with his monthly report. The Financial Secretary receiving the clearance card shall immediately report the same to the Financial Secretary issuing the clearance card, under penalty of five dollars ($5.00) fine.

This is to certify that ……………………………….. having paid all dues and assessments in the Local up to and including the month of ……………….. 19…., has been this day granted a Clearance Card.
Dated ……………….. Signed ………………..Fin. Sec’y
Local Union No. ……………
[Page perforation here]
This is to certify that …………………………………………………………………. whose name is written is his own handwriting on the front inside cover of this book, was granted a Clearance Card on the …….. day of ………. 19…., all fines, dues and assessments having been paid in full. If not deposited within thirty days from the date of issue same becomes void.
Signed ………………………….. President
Signed ………………………….. Fin. Sec’y

[Page 14]
This is to certify that …………………………………………………………………. has this day been admitted to membership in L. U. No. ……….. from L. U. No. ………, located at ………………….. City, State …………………………………………………
Signed ………………………….. President
Signed ………………………….. Fin. Sec’y
[Page perforation here]
This is to certify that …………………………………. presented his Clearance Card from L. U. No. …………, located at City ……………………., State ………….., to L. U. No. ……. located at City ……………………., State ………….., on the …….. day of ………….., 19…., and after investigation was duly admitted to membership in the L U.
Signed ………………………….. Fin. Sec’y
This C.C. to be detached and forwarded to G.S. with Monthly Report. L. U. No. ……

Pages 15, 17, 19, 21, and 23 are repeats of page 13 and are blank/intact.


Pages 16, 18, 20, 22, and 24 are repeats of page 14 and are blank/intact.


There is nothing on the inside of the back cover.

Analysis: Birth dates can be elusive things to ferret out. Ora Simpson Strait’s birth date falls firmly into that category. I found his only birth year of 1879 on his tombstone.[1] I got closer with month and year of January 1879 when I found him in the 1900 census.[2] His death certificate states that his birth date was 26 January 1880 and that he was 38 years, 8 months and 6 days old when he died.[3] Neither one of these helped me feel confident that I’d found his birth date. The year seems to be wrong based on other sources and working backwards from his death gives us a date of 01 January 1880 which itself doesn’t even match the 26 January 1880 date from the death certificate! I got lucky when the artifact featured in this post popped up and revealed his whole birth date.

Shortly after my Aunt Sadie (Strait) Scabet passed away, her husband Jimmy decided to give up their house and move into an assisted living apartment. He had a particular style of clearing out houses. It’s called “dumpster.” He used this technique when clearing out his mother-in-law’s house and employed the same strategy with his own home. Luckily, his son David Scabet was paying attention to the lettering on some boxes instead of just wholesale pitching them into the dumpster abyss. He called my sister Jill to say, “Hey, thought I’d let you know. There’s a box over here that has ‘Give to the Strait girls’ written on it. You should come over now to come pick it up.” Jill boogied from her house in Randolph up to Newton to retrieve the box. Inside it were carefully saved personal possessions of members of the Strait family.

Some of Ora’s things were in that box: his wallet and a small book showing his membership in the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. The wallet is a light brown leather in a trifold style with a snap to hold it closed. Opened up, it measures 4-5/8″ by 8-1/4″ and has another snap for the coin pocket. The leather on the coin pocket flap has survived better than the rest of the wallet; it’s soft and supple. The rest of the wallet is very dry and becoming brittle. Expected since the mini-calendar showing in the window at the bottom right was for January of 1918. It’s almost 100 years old! There were no coins in the coin pocket, bills in the billfold, or pictures of the family tucked into a corner. Dang….


Ora’s wallet

There was an identification card in the wallet that was filled out. It said the owner’s name was Ora S. Strait and that he lived on Condit Street in Newton, N.J. In case of emergency, Mrs. O. S. Strait, also of Condit Street, should be contacted.


The second item in the box is the focus of this post, Ora’s union membership book. He joined the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America on 20 October 1917, shortly before his untimely death in 1918.

carpenter_1_smThe UBCJA organization (see the historical notes on this page) came into existence in 1881 and was founded by Peter J. McGuire and Gustav Luebkert. They originally fought for fair wages and hours, along with sickness and death benefits, for their members. When Ora joined in 1917, there were probably close to 350,00 members. Like all organizations that become large and influential, they went through many changes both internal and political. The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America is still in existence today. According to their website they represent “more than a half-million men and women who provide safe, productive work every day. We equip our professional craftsmen with skills that are demanded in today’s construction industry.”

The jackpot within this nondescript little union membership book is on the inside of the front cover. Ora’s full birth date of 26 January 1879 is found! Direct (explicit) evidence that answers my research question of “When was Ora Simpson Strait of Sussex County, New Jersey, born?” Also, there is a small bit of verbiage further along in the book that strengthens my confidence in this date, even if it is secondary information. (Ora doesn’t remember his birth, he’s relying on what other people have told him.)signature

On the clearance card pages, the wording “This is to certify that …………. whose name is written is his own handwriting on the front inside cover of this book” is found. That tells me that Ora was required to write his own name on the front cover and, when I compare the handwriting, it matches the script on the date of birth line. It’s also the same handwriting found on the identification card in his wallet.


Of all the sources I’ve found on Ora’s birth date, this union booklet holds the greatest weight for me. It’s an original record and, while it’s secondary information, it is direct evidence of his full birth date. It corresponds to the birth year calculated from all the census records I found and corroborates the birth year on his tombstone. Until I find a birth certificate for Ora Simpson Strait, this source is my favorite for his birth date!

These two items (wallet and union booklet) are also a bit nostalgic. His last entry in the union book was April of 1918. The calendar in his wallet is stuck at January 1918. He passed away on 07 September 1918 at the very young age of 39.[4] These two objects, which are both almost 100 years old, are some of the last physical objects that Ora handled while he was alive.

I’m grateful to David Scabet and Jill (Strait) Ray for rescuing these items from the garbage dump and obscurity. Thank you both!

[1] North Hardyston Cemetery (Rt. 94, Hamburg, New Jersey), Ora S. Strait and Audrey R. Hunt marker; photo taken by Jodi Lynn Strait, July 2006.
[2] 1900 U. S. census, Sussex County, New Jersey, population schedule, Lafayette Township, ED 169, p. 1B (penned), dwelling 23, family 25, Ira W. Strait; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 01 October 2011); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 995.
[3] New Jersey, Department of Health, Death Certificate, death certificate no. 593 (penned), Ora S. Strait (1918); Copy with Jodi Strait, Tucson, AZ.
[4] Ibid.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s