Site Map | Sources | Contact | RochesterLabor.org

Who’s Who » Biographical Sketches (1930) »

Frank J. Hartnett (Plumbers & Steamfitters Lo.13)

A soldier and a fighter have much in common. These two qualities amply describe Frank J. Hartnett, business agent for the Plumbers and Steam Fitters’ Union, Local 13. During the World War, Frank  — everybody calls him Frank —  was a soldier and saw active service along the front lines. He learned all about fighting on those hectic days and since his discharge from the Army continued his fighting on the side of Organized Labor in an effort to obtain for the working man his share of the good things of life.

Frank was a plumber before he joined the Army to help make the world safe for democracy and he remained a plumber after his return from France and Germany. He is a native Rochesterian, being born on April 3, 1887, in a small house on Caroline Street. Before he was a year old the family moved to 723 Yale Street, now Linden Street. His family has resided there ever since.

Frank attended St. Mary’s school and graduated from that institution when 16 years of age. Plumbing was his hobby in those days and he took up his work immediately following his graduation. In 1907 he joined the Plumbers’ Union and has been an active member of that organization ever since.

It was not until he returned from France that Frank became an officer of the union. He arrived in Rochester with his discharge during the lockout of 1919 of all the building trades crafts. He threw himself whole-heartedly in this fight on the side of Organized Labor. In 1920 the Plumbers had their biggest strike and won an increase in wages. The following year Hartnett was elected business agent for the first time and has continued in that office right through the present time.

Frank was thirty when the United States entered the war on the side of the Allies. On March 15, 1918 he enlisted in the 37th Engineers, an organization made up of members from all parts of the country. After training at Fort Myers, just outside of Washington, Hartnett’s company set sail for France on May 16, 1918. Only a few months were spent in training in France before the American Army was called upon for its first great offensive — that against the St. Mihiel salient on the Western front.

For four long years the Germans had occupied this French territory in the face of numerous French attacks to drive the enemy out of the stronghold. The Germans, however, were strongly entrenched and repulsed each attack successfully with big losses to the French forces. During the Summer of 1918 General Pershing was anxious to organize a purely American Army. Allied generals and statesmen were against this because of their hopes that the American soldiers would be used as replacements in the various Allied armies. When General Pershing held out against this it was finally decided to allow Pershing to have his way and he was given the difficult St. Mihiel salient as the first test of American strategy.

The First American Army under direct command of General Pershing took up this task. It is history now what that Army accomplished. In September of that year the drive was launched following a terrific barrage from American and French guns. Within a very short time the salient was completely wiped out, thousands of German soldiers and guns were captured and the American Army established itself for the first time in the eyes of the German High Command that it was a powerful fighting force which was due to swing the tide in favor of the Allies and bring a speedy end to the war.

Hartnett’s company was an active part of this drive. Into that St. Mihiel salient the 37th Engineers advanced, erecting bridges where necessary, cutting down wire entrenchments and in numerous other ways making possible the advance of the Americans.

The Argonne was next for Hartnett. His company was just as important a part of the American machine as it was in the St. Mihiel drive. That forest was being made clear of all Germans when on November 11, 1918, the Armistice was signed and hostilities ended. But not for Hartnett and the 37th Engineers. This company was sent to Coblentz as part of the American Army of Occupation and it wasn’t until the latter part of March, 1919, that Hartnett set sail for the United States. He was discharged from Camp Upton on April 3, 1919, his birthday. He returned to Rochester immediately to find this city in a fight of its own between the employers and the building trades crafts. So there was no rest for this returned soldier. He jumped right into action again and his work was done so well that a little later he was elected business agent of his union.

Hartnett is unmarried and resides with his mother and father and two sisters in Linden Street. His sister, Gertrude, is acting park commissioner of the city of Rochester, a position she has held since the forced retirement of Charles Raitt last summer.

Top