THOMAS ELLIS FRENCH was born in Atsion NJ in on January 5, 1855 to Charles Edwin and Elizabeth Moore French. He came to Camden at the age of 15, in 1870, and became a clerk to Mr. Benjamin D. Shreve in his office at 106 Market Street. He began practicing law in 1876 on his own, opening his own office at 106 Market Street. Two years later he established a partnership with Charles Garrison.

On May 6, 1879 Thomas French married Cecelia Carr. At the tiem of the Census of 1880 they lived at 47 York Street in North Camden. Thomas French and Charles Garrison became counselor at law in 1881, and remained partners until 1888, when Garrison was appointed to the New Jersey State Supreme Court. Sady, Cecelia French passed away, on August 3, 1889 at Colestown, most likely in what is now Cherry Hill NJ. Thomas French still lived at 47 York Street as late as 1891.

Thomas French partnered briefly with William Casselman, who left to found the West Jersey Title and Guarantee Company, before bringing Samuel Richards in as a partner in 1896. The firm established a reputation in real estate, equity, and corporate law, and counted many of Camden's most significant businesses among its clients. 

On June 28, 1904 Thomas French remarried. His second wife was Dr. Mary Esser M.D. They would eventually reside on a farm that they owned on Salem Road in East Greenwich Township.

 In 1914 Thomas French acquired title to 106 Market Street, where he had been working at since 1870. He had a great affection for the building, and only reluctantly parted with it when the Campbell Soup Company agreed to build a new building of his design. The firm finally moved to 217 North 6th Street in 1935, where it would remain until 1985.

Thomas E. French passed away in 1937, survived by his wife Mary.

From George R. Prowell's History of Camden County, New Jersey -1886

Thomas E. French was born in Burlington County, N. J., January 5, 1855, and educated at the select and common schools of that county. He, in April, 1870, entered the law-office of B. D. Shreve, of Camden ; was admitted as an attorney in February, 1876, and as a counselor February, 1879. He began practice in Camden, formed a co-partnership
with William S. Casselman, which firm was succeeded by Garrison, French & Casselman, and later by Garrison & French.

Excerpts from an Historical Sketch
concerning Thomas E. French and his law firm
by John M. & Joanne R. Seitter

The year is 1876. It is the year of the United States of America’s Centennial celebration and the summer in which General George Custer meets his destiny at the Little Bighorn in Montana. In Camden, New Jersey, 1876 marks the year that Thomas E. French, the founder of the law firm that is now Capehart Scatchard, began to practice law.

The French family moved to Camden prior to the American Civil War from the town of Atsion, NJ, where Thomas was born. “It is said that Mr. French’s mother confined him to the front yard of their home when trains carrying Northern troops to the battlefields were passing through to avoid solicitations from the soldiers to join them as a bugle boy.”

In 1870, 15-year-old Thomas became a clerk to Mr. Benjamin D. Shreve in his office at 106 Market Street. This building, eventually purchased by Mr. French, was built by the Cooper family in 1865, and also served as home to the Circuit and Common Pleas Court, and the courtroom was utilized by Supreme Court justices who rode the South Jersey circuit.

After admission to the bar as an attorney-at-law in 1876, Mr. French soon left the employment of Mr. Shreve to open his own law practice in the very building in which he had clerked. In 1878, he partnered with Charles Garrison, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School who abandoned the medical profession for the practice of law. Mr. Garrison clerked for the office of Samuel Grey until being admitted as an attorney.

By 1881, both Messrs. French and Garrison had become counselors-at-law, allowing them to argue cases before the New Jersey appellate courts. Mr. Garrison became Chancellor of the Episcopal Dioceses of New Jersey in 1882, following in his father’s footsteps, the Reverend Joseph Garrison, who had been the rector of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Camden for over 20 years. He would be named Judge Advocate General on the staff of the Governor in 1884 and left the Firm in 1888 upon his appointment as Associate Justice of the State Supreme Court, where he served until 1920.  

For a short time, Mr. French’s brother-in-law, Mr. William Casselman, was a partner in the firm that was briefly known as Garrison, French and  Casselman. Eventually, Mr. Casselman established the West Jersey Title and Guarantee Company, one of the first title companies in New Jersey. This business became one of the Firm’s earliest corporate clients.

Samuel H. Richards, who had clerked for Thomas French since 1890, became a partner in 1896. Mr. Richards claimed to have been paid four dollars a week while a clerk at the Firm, eventually earning a raise to ten dollars per week upon his admission to the bar as an attorney in 1892. It is here that the formula for becoming a partner in the Firm is first heard. Mr. French’s theory on choosing a partner, one that continues today, is clear. 

His philosophy was that one selected a partner as you did a spouse since they both could have a great impact upon your personal and financial success and happiness.

It was during the early 20th century that the City of Camden began its metamorphosis from a small town, whose primary businesses were agriculture and transportation (at one time there were seven ferries connecting Philadelphia and Camden) to a center of industrialization with dozens of corporations that employed tens of thousands of people and supplied the world with everything from “pens to battleships.” Census records show that between the years 1870 and 1920 the population of Camden City grew from 20,000 to 116,000 people.

The list of these growing companies included French and Richards’ clients, the Esterbrook Pen Company, which employed 15 employees in 1856 and would eventually come to have 450 workers producing 600,000 pens a day; the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Line, which had consolidated control of most of Camden’s and South Jersey’s rail transportation by 1932, and the Victor Talking Machine Company, which would be bought by the Recording Company of America (RCA) in 1929.

The scope of the practice matched the diversity and breadth of their clients. While Mr. Richards became an authority in the fields of equity, jurisprudence, and real estate, Mr. French was considered to be one of the outstanding trial and corporate lawyers of his day. One of the continuing hallmarks of the Firm since its inception is that it practices in many areas of the law and does not specialize in any one area of expertise.

The tale of the Firm’s relationship with the Victor Talking Machine Company and its founder Eldridge Johnson is one of the legendary stories of the Firm, and says as much for French and Richards’ reputation as it does of their legal knowledge and courtroom prowess.

By 1905, the Victor Talking Machine Company was on its way to becoming the single largest industry in the City of Camden. Major musical artists considered being recorded by Victor an extraordinary honor. Shortly after signing a recording contract, Enrico Caruso was asked by a reporter who would write his biography. He replied, “My Victor records will be my biography.” By 1917, sales of Victrolas reached over a half million a year.

Not all, however, were so pleased about or with the continued growth and success of Mr. Johnson’s endeavors. It seems that Isaac Seligman, a shop owner at 117 Market Street in Camden, whose home and business abutted Victor Talking Machine’s (VTM) workshops, was being adversely affected by the company’s operations, and he decided to file suit. In 1905, VTM had constructed a building that housed a record making facility powered by two large boilers. Because of growing sales, the plant had increased its hours of operation from six o’clock in the morning until four o’clock in the morning. Mr. Seligman claimed that:

“The vibrations are shown to be about the same character and intensity as those the passage of trolley cars or of heavily-loaded trucks, the only difference being that those occasioned by the machinery are continuous.”

French and Richards represented Mr. Seligman in this case and won an injunction against the company that curtailed the hours of operation for VTM. Needless to say, this put a crimp in the profits of the company. Legend has it that several VTM officials approached Mr. Johnson to discuss placing the Firm on retainer. He is said to have responded, “The company cannot afford to hire every lawyer who wins a suit against it.” The officials’ response to Mr. Johnson was, “But you can’t afford not to have lawyers like them working for you.”

Soon thereafter, French and Richards was retained to work for the Victor Talking Machine Company. The Firm’s work for VTM ran the gamut from drafting recording contracts for Caruso, Galli Curci, and many others, to copyright and patent infringements as well as the “general representation of the company.” This association continued even after the Radio Corporation of America acquired Victor Talking Machine in 1929. Blaine Capehart recalls,

 “The relationship with RCA lasted for many, many years. Mr. Richards drafted contracts for all the famous singers of the day, like Caruso.”

Joining the Firm during the time of the Seligman case was Floyd H. Bradley. Born in 1884, he was the son of a Camden businessman who would later become a State Senator from Camden County. After graduating from Swarthmore College and Harvard Law School, Mr. Bradley joined the Firm in 1907 and was made a partner in 1918. He was known as a legal technician who was an expert in the law of evidence and procedure. Mr. Bradley’s accomplishments in the field of rail law, defending railroad crossing and negligence cases led to the Firm representing both insurance companies and other clients which sought their services. This early success would play no small part in the Firm’s retention by the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Line when the Pennsylvania Rail Road Company and Atlantic City Rail Road consolidated in 1932. This relationship continued with Conrail which acquired that company in 1976.

The routine of work in the offices of French, Richards and Bradley was set early on by the founder of the Firm. Mr. French, who lived on a farm near Swedesboro, New Jersey, rode the train into Camden and arrived in his office on the second floor by seven o’clock every morning. By that time, the janitor had picked up the Firm’s mail at the local post office. Each day, Mr. French would sort the mail and place it on each addressee’s desk. He would then read his own mail, taking the time to draft his response in long hand which would await his secretary upon her arrival. He took the rest of the morning to conduct interviews or handle other business before he left at noon to take the train home. And so it would continue until his death.

Prior to Mr. French’s passing, other changes were in store for the Firm during the tumultuous times of the Great Depression. The Campbell Soup Company, one of Camden’s few industries not adversely affected by the huge economic upheaval, was in search of space to expand its operations. By 1935, all of the property needed for the planned expansion had been purchased, every lot and building but one. In this path of industrial progress stood 106 Market Street, home of French, Richards and Bradley. This magnificent structure, then seventy years old, had become famous as the headquarters of the Firm and was known in legal circles as the “Temple Bar” because of its connection with so many of Camden City and County’s distinguished legal luminaries.

For a time, Mr. French, who had purchased the structure in 1914, refused all offers to sell his beloved building claiming that moving his office would be akin to “parting with his birthright, like selling his arm. I won’t sell and I won’t go anywhere else. I expect to remain here until I die and nobody can buy this property.”

After some prolonged deliberations, Mr. William Chalmers, who handled negotiations for the soup giant, proposed a solution. If he (French) would agree to sell the building, Campbell’s would erect a building, of Mr. French’s design, and lease it to the Firm at a nominal fee. Included in this deal was the specification that any of the building’s tenants that wished to could move to the new site, 217 North Sixth Street, at the same rent as French, Richards and Bradley. This deal was reluctantly agreed to and on September 1, 1937, the Firm moved into its new home where it remained for over 40 years.

Philadelphia Inquirer
January 14, 1890

Kaighn's Point Ferry Company
Herbert C. Felton
West Jersey Title & Guarantee Company
Samuel H. Grey -
John J. Burleigh 
William Casselman - D. Somers Risley
William J. Sewell - Peter L. Voorhees
William S. Scull - E.N. Cohn
Franklin C. Woolman -
Thomas E. French
Alexander C. Wood
Camden Heating & Lighting Company
E.A. Armstrong - J.E. Roberts
George Barrett -
J. Willard Morgan
William T. Bailey - David Baird Sr.
Howard M. Cooper - Rene Gillon

Philadelphia Inquirer
October 21, 1918

Charles H. Ellis
William H. Ellis
Howard M. Cooper
Thomas French
Wilbur F. Rose
Dr. A. Haines Lippincott
Dr. E.A.Y. Schellenger
Herbert A. Munger
T. Gordon Coulter
George Kappell
Frederick A. Finkeldey
William C. Davis
Theodore T. Kausel
Allen Jarvis
Frank S. Van Hart
Frederick von Nieda
Joseph Forsyth
Dr. Charles P. Tuttle
Dr. H.F. Bushey
Elisha Gravenor
Charles Whaland
William J. Kelly
Clifford K. Deacon

Camden Courier-Post * October 29, 1931

Professional and Business Leaders Back Camden Man for Governor

Forty-seven more prominent professional and business men yesterday joined the Baird-for-Governor Business Men's League and pledged themselves to work actively in interest of David Baird Jr., for governor, and add special impetus to his campaign.

The league was organized this week at an enthusiastic meeting of 18 outstanding Baird supporters in professional and business life at the Camden Club, 315 Cooper Street. The league membership is open only to business, professional and industrial leaders who are not holding public office and who are not politicians.

The latest enrollments among community leaders pledging themselves to devote themselves to the Baird cause are the following:

F. Morse Archer, president of the First Camden National Bank; Clinton. L. Bardo, president of the New York Shipbuilding Company and of the New Jersey Taxpayers' Association; George C. Baker, of the Baker­Flick Company; Watson Shallcross, president of the Camden County Chamber of Commerce; Howard J. Dudley, Broadway merchant; Thomas E. French, prominent attorney; J. David Stern, publisher of the Courier-Post newspapers and of the Philadelphia Record; Wellington K. Barto, of the West Jersey Trust Company; Dr. Joseph Roberts, Cooper Hospital; William Clement, of the Clement Coverall Paint Company; Robert Wright, of the Haddonfield National Bank; Arthur J. Podmore, of the Camden Pottery Company; Nathan Leopold, Haddonfield druggist; Dr. J. Edgar Howard, of Haddonfield.

Dr. Alfred N. Elwell, of this city; Edward Preisendanz, Clarence Peters, N. Franks, of. Franks & Sweeney; U. G. Peters, Ralph D. Baker, prominent real estate man; Archibald Dingo, George Bachman, Sr., and George Bachman, Jr., Dr. O. W. Saunders, Henry Cooperson, Leon Cooperson, Herman Z. Cutler. Charles Bauman, Harry Rose, George Austermuhl, Walter Gulick, Albert Voeglin, Howard Fearn, John A. Schlorer, Ernest L. Bartelt.

William S. Casselman, George M. Carr, J. Price Myers, Carl R. Evered, former president of the Camden County Real Estate Board; Francis B. Wallen, former president of the Camden County Chamber of Commerce; William H. Alff, Edmund J. Alff, Harry Pelouze, Walter Campbell, Dr. Thomas R. Bunting, Joseph F. Kobus and Henry E. Kobus.

Enrollments, it was announced, may be made through the following committee of the league:

Ludwig A. Kind, Thomas Gordon Coulter, Charles H. Laird, Walter J. Staats, Frank C. Middleton, Jr., Frank J. Hineline, William T. Read, Charles S. Boyer, W. W. Robinson, George R. Pelouze, Paul A. Kind, Dr. Paul A. Mecray, Jerome Hurley, Harry A. Moran, James V. Moran, William J. Strandwitz, former Judge Lewis Starr and Frank C. Norcross.

Camden Courier-Post - June 22, 1933

Intruders Open Three Safes in Building But Take No Loot

Although they ransacked the entire building from basement to third floor, forced open three safes and attempted to open two others, thieves who entered a law office building at 106 Market Street obtained nothing for their work early yesterday. 

The attempted robberies were discovered by Miss Mary Booth, stenographer in the office of former State Treasurer William T. Read and Joseph L. Thomas. Read is president of the Camden Fire Insurance Association. Miss Booth reported the ransacking of the offices to William Heron, a watchman employed at the build ing during the day. He in turn notified Detective Joseph Carpani

Two safes were rifled in the real estate office of Wilbur J. MacAllister on the first floor, after the combinations were knocked off with an iron bar used to shake the grate of the heater and a wrench the thieves found in Heron's locker in the basement. 

Papers and office paraphernalia were strewn about the floor in the office and the intruders left the top of a stocking which Carpani believes they used to muffle the sound of their blows on the safes.

A combination was knocked from a safe in similar manner in the offices on the second floor of French, Richards and Bradley, well known Camden attorneys, but the intruders again failed to take anything. 

In the offices of Read and Thomas on the first floor two combinations were hammered from the safes, but the thieves were unable to get the strong boxes open. Papers were thrown over the floor in this office also. 

A filing room on the third floor of the building was ransacked after the burglars forced their war in by breaking a lock from the door. 

Heron told Carpani that the entrance to the building was gained by forcing a side window. All the attorneys said they do not keep any cash in their safes.