Illinois Labor History Society seeks photos of stolen Cigar Makers Union headstone plaque


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By Jean Lotus


It's been 40 years since someone pried off and removed the bronze plaque on the Forest Home Cemetery monument to the Cigar Makers' International Union No. 14, but preservationists are hoping someone out there has a photo of it so it can be replaced.

"A campaign has been launched to have the 9" x 32" bronze plaque recreated and attached to the monument," said Forest Park's Mark Rogovin, who assisted with the refurbishment of the Haymarket Martyrs Monument in spring of 2011.

Rogovin has become the "go-to-guy," he said, for refurbishing and repairing the labor-movement monuments in Forest Home because of his work with the Haymarket Monument and repairing the monument for anarchist Emma Goldman.

"If we want to replace it, we first need a high-quality photograph of the missing plaque," he said. Rogovin is sending out a call to anyone who might have information about what the plaque originally looked like, he said.

The monument is set apart, closer to the Des Plaines River, on the other side of the cemetery from the "Radical Row" monuments in the shadow of the Haymarket Monument.

The Cigar Maker's Union purchased 64 grave sites at Forest Home in 1907 for $7 each. They purchased another 40 in 1914, but the price had risen to $12 each, according to Forest Home records.  

Rogovin has sent an inquiry to the Union's Archive special collections library at the University of Maryland to find out more about the Cigar Makers' union.

A dispute about ideology created the Cigar Makers' No. 14 in 1879, which splintered away from another Chicago cigar makers' union (No. 11), which members believed was "too socialistic," according to Labor Historian Eric L. Hirsch.

Several notable Nineteenth Century union figures rose from the ranks of cigar makers. American Federation of Labor leader Samuel Gompers [1850-1924] started his career making cigars in New York as member of the union. Gompers Park in Chicago is named after him. AFL founder Adolph Strasser [1844-1939] was also a cigar maker.

The union became less popular in the 1970s when cigar making became automated. Today it is rolled into the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers, Local 1, based in Lyons.

Rogovin published a book, "The day will come: honoring our working class heroes," which consists of the "stories of the Haymarket martyrs and the men and women buried alongside the Haymarket Martyrs Monument in the Forest Home Cemetery," along with maps of the labor-related monuments in Forest Home.

The Illinois Labor History Society will honor Rogovin and induct him into its Hall of Fame for his preservation work at Forest Home Dec. 8 at Letter Carrier's Hall in Chicago.

Rogovin promised he'll give a "real Cuban cigar" to anyone who comes up with a picture of the intact plaque.

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