Davenporters of Note: Jasper Eugene Wood

The Daily Times, Thursday, January 7, 1943.

Jasper E. Wood was born July 27, 1901, in Monmouth, Jackson Co., IA to Everett and Elsie Gertrude (Preston) Wood. His parents divorced soon after and his mom remarried and moved to Tipton, Cedar Co., IA. In 1920 he was living with his mom’s brother Benjamin Preston and his family at 1927 College Avenue in Davenport.

Jasper married Helen Dorothy Kirchner on March 25, 1922, in Davenport. The couple had one infant son die in 1927, a daughter named Beverly was born in 1928, and a son Warren was born in 1932.

In the 1920s he worked as an electrician for the Hummel Electric Shop at 104 E 2nd Street. He became business manager of Local No. 145, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Rock Island in June of 1930, a position he kept for 30 years. His career spanned the “Roaring ’20s”, the “Great Depression”, FDR’s New Deal, WWII, and the post-war boom.

Jasper E. Wood died on February 27, 1961, in his home at 2 Cedar Place in Davenport.

Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

Boards, Commissions, Committees, etc.

J.E. Wood was a well-respected civic leader and volunteered or was elected/appointed to several boards, commissions, committees, and citizens’ advisory groups:

  • Appointed to the Davenport Recreation Commission in May of 1931 as the representative from the Labor unions.
  • Building Trades Council secretary, 1931 and president, 1956
  • FERA Workers Wage Committee, 1934
  • Citizens’ Committee for the Purchase of the Water Works, 1936
  • Appointed secretary of the Scott County Draft Board #2 in 1940 and president in 1945
  • United War and Community Chest Appeal, 1942
  • “Labor for Victory” celebration committee, 1942
  • Quad-City War Transportation Committee, 1942
  • Elected financial secretary of the Tri-City Federation of Labor in 1943
  • Workers Recruitment Committee, 1943
  • Delegate to the Republican State Conclave, 1944
  • V-J Day Community Celebration Committee, 1945
  • Tri-City Labor Review board member, 1945 and president, 1949
  • State of Scott social committee, 1947
  • Labor Building planning committee, 1949
  • Davenport Airport Commission, 1950
  • Davenport Chamber of Commerce housing and traffic control/off-street parking committees, 1951
  • County Courthouse Citizens Advisory Committee, 1951 and dedication committee, 1956
  • Named to the planning committee for new lighting system in Downtown Davenport, 1954
  • Scott County Grand Jury panel, 1958
  • Named to the executive board of the newly merged Quad-City Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, 1959
Davenport Democrat, Monday, October 19, 1942.
Davenport Democrat and Leader, Wednesday, March 1, 1961.

Spokesperson for Labor Unions

J.E. Wood was quoted in the local newspapers several times throughout his career.

On the wage controversy between union electricians of the Tri-Cities and electrical contractors in 1936:

Union electricians of the Tri-Cities have cooperated with the contractors and with the public to the fullest extent. Perhaps, the public does not know that several years ago, the hourly wage rate for union electricians of the Tri-Cities was $1.30. During the various stages of the so-called depression the union has voluntarily accepted wage reductions until their scale had been reduced to 90 cents per hour. At no time were these reductions forced upon the union but they were accepted in a a spirit of cooperation in the hope that the sacrifice on the part of the men might, in some manner, assist in stimulating the industry. That the sacrifice was in vain and no appreciable difference was noted, will be testified to by the men employed in the electrical industry and by every unprejudiced contractor. But the action of the men indicated clearly that they have an intense interest in the development of the industry in which they have spent many years perfecting themselves. But let it be understood that with each wage reduction made, there was a clear understanding on the part of the contractors and the union that they were only temporary in nature and would be restored at first indication that the industry was back on a somehere-near normal basis.

The past 18 months have seen a decided change for the better in the electrical business, yet the men have received up to May 1, but 15 cents of the 40 cents per hour they had voluntarily sacrificed from their pay envelopes.

On May 1, 1936, employment conditions in the electrical industry had been restored to such a basis that the union felt justified in asking that they again receive a return of some portion of the pay cuts given. They, at no time, insisted on an immediate restoration of the full amount that they had voluntarily given up but after negotiations with a duly accredited representative, an agreement was made fixing the wage scale at $1.10 per hour from May 1 until Oct 1, 1936 and after Oct 1, 1936, fixing it at $1.15 which left it still 15 cents less per hour than the former wage scale of the union.

Surely no one can say that the electricians have assumed an unreasonable attitude in this matter. The statement of certain contractors that the change in the wage scale will seriously embarrass those contractors who have WPA contracts, in our opinion is without foundation of fact. Every contractor was aware that on May 1, 1936 the union would ask for a restoration of at least a part of the wage reduction. If they failed to make a provision for this, responsibility rests with them, not with the union. However, permit me to say, that when we accepted wage reductions, our members too had made obligations based upon the old wage scale and that was a problem that we, as workes had to solve. There is not now, and never has been, any intention upon the part of the Electrical Workers union to impose upon their employers or the public an unjust or unreasonable wage rate, but our members are expert workmen. They have spent years in acquiring this skill as craftsmen. Their employment is spasmodic. They have long periods of idleness and as result, they must receive at least a living wage.

At the present time, practically every member is working. The industry is enjoying healthy conditions and there is no reason why the electricians, who have sacrificed so much, should not, in a small measure, at least, participate in this prosperity.

J.E. Wood, business agent for the Electrical Workers’ union. The Daily Times, May 28, 1936

On the Davenport Schools bond issue election in 1938:

We are anxious to get the new school program going because it means so much for the general welfare of the community. It will be a big means toward relieving the unemployment situation, which vitally concerns all of us.

The fact that only local labor will be employed should not be overlooked. The money which will accrue to the workers will eventially find an outlet in all channels of trade, it will mean more business and more prosperity for Davenport. Assuredly, the proposed bond issue should be ratified. Davenport will miss a golden opportunity not to take advantage of the offer of federal funds and other favorable conditions for building at this time.

J.E. Wood, Davenport. Business Agent Tri-City Electrical Workers’ Union. Davenport Democrat, September 23, 1938

On the U.S. War Bond selling campaign in 1943:

Labor needs no prodding to do its full share in lending its earnings and savings to the government in this campaign.

Local unions were among the first of our community organizations to pledge their support when Secretary Morgenthau sounded the call for defense funds. We began buying War Bonds. Soon we acted individually and as unions to build the payroll savings army. Now we are ready for even greater service. Our money is in this fight.

There has never been the slightest friction between organized labor and employers on the question of war financing. We have worked together in closest harmony in setting up labor management committees to sign up workers for payroll savings even when we have had differences on occasion on other matters.

The Second War Loan drive becomes a first among our union duties starting today. Members of all our unions are either on the production front or on the battle lines. Many of our members have already felt the sting of enemy fire. We honor the service of union men as soldiers by lending our money to provide the weapons of war.

Labor is being called upon to turn out a record crop of fighting weapons. Labor’s equally important job is to lend every cent possible to the government to prosecute the war until the Axis is smashed.

We all know unions have disappered under Hitlerism. Only in a free world can men and women have the right to band together for self betterment. Starting today local workers who are on the payroll savings plans will reaffirm their answer to Hitlerism by participating in the Second War Loan campaign to the full extent of their abilities.

Every check I have made on the situation shows that we are not in a silk shirt spending spree mood. Our earnings are being put into necessary medical attention, essential home repairs and war bonds.

It is this sober realization of the facts in this war crisis that will influence our workers to tighten their belts and put every penny they can possible spare above the base cost of living into government securities.

While it is a nice feeling to know that these securities pay handsome interest and provice a nestegg for the future, I believe that the prime motive inpiring American workers to respond to the government’s War Loan appeals is patriotism. American workers know they are helping to bring victory nearer when they sign up in the April drive. They know money is a soldier, too. Workers in this community will do their duty.

J.E. Wood, secretary and treasurer of the Tri-City Federation of Labor. The Daily Times, April 12, 1943

On the proposed Davenport Municipal Airport in 1943:

The Daily Times, Friday, January 22, 1943.
The Daily Times, Thursday, April 6, 1950.

(posted by Cristina)

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