John Foster

Chief Foster has risen from the position of patrolman to the head of this police department by sheer merit.

John Foster was a well-respected and influential figure in Camden’s police force during the 1890s. He was born in Bloomfield, New Jersey, in the year 1859. In 1861, his family relocated to Camden, where he spent the majority of his formative years. Foster received his education in Camden and began his career as a hatter at the age of 17.

By the time of the 1880 Census, John Foster had married Mary Hanle. The couple resided at 702 South 3rd Street and had a young daughter named Louisa, who was not yet a year old. The Fosters went on to have at least three more children before a tragic event struck the family in the spring of 1894 when Mrs. Foster passed away.

Before joining the police force, John Foster worked diligently in local Republican politics, and his efforts paid off when the Republicans achieved a sweeping victory in 1888. This change in political power led to his appointment as a member of the Camden police force. At this time, the Foster family had established their home at 345 Pine Street.

Foster’s dedication and abilities within the police force led to his promotion to the rank of Lieutenant on March 12, 1892. He was tasked with overseeing the southern part of Camden, where he distinguished himself by solving numerous notable cases and making numerous arrests. However, the year 1893 proved challenging for many Republicans, including John Foster, as they were dismissed by the partisan Police Commission. Fortunately, he was reinstated to the police department at his previous rank the following year when the Commission was disbanded during its second year of existence.

In 1899, John Foster was appointed as the Chief of Police, taking over from the long-serving Chief Samuel Dodd. According to the City Directory for that year, he was residing at 247 Pine Street.

Foster’s influence extended beyond his role in law enforcement. In 1895, he assumed the position of the first Exalted Ruler of Camden Lodge 293 of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks. Among the charter members of the lodge were prominent individuals like Frank A. Ward, Charles L. Bowman, Dr. A. Haines Lippincott, Dr. J. F. Leavitt, Fred W. George, T. L. Bear, William M. Fithian, Everett Ackley, Fithian S. Simmons, Philip Wilson, Paul E. Quinn, John N. Kadel, William G. Maguire, Frank B. Sweeten, and Maurice Hertz.

As Chief of Police, Foster played a pivotal role in overseeing the expansion of Camden’s police department. This expansion coincided with the annexation of Stockton Township, which brought what is now known as East Camden and Cramer Hill within the city limits. Throughout his career, Chief Foster served under both Republican and Democrat mayors, emphasizing his bipartisan commitment to the city’s safety and security.

John Foster lived at 292 Mount Vernon Street during his last years and continued to serve as Chief of Police until his passing on March 1, 1906, at Jefferson Hospital.

Following John Foster’s tenure, Elisha A. Gravenor succeeded him as Chief of Police, carrying on the legacy of dedication and service that Foster had established during his time in office.


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