Matthew Maguire – a machinist from Paterson, New Jersey – was usually secretary of the organizations he joined and rarely appeared on the front line of the agitation he supported. If he stood on the platform, he was likely to be reading the minutes, a resolution or a proclamation, probably having written them. He was involved in the early days of the Knights of Labor, and was one of the founders of Brooklyn,s Local Assembly 1562. He was an organizer and activist at a local level in the Greenback Labor Party in 1880, and in 1882 and 1883 was one of a group seeking to convert the now fading party into a United Labor Party. Based in Brooklyn he was the Secretary to the Brooklyn Spread the Light Club in 1880-82. He was also the Secretary to the Central Labor Union of New York and its Vicinity when it was founded in early 1882 by Robert Blissert.
Known to his colleagues as ‘good old Matt’ his contribution to the radical movement has been, until relatively recently, underestimated. It is now evident that his multiple memberships of New York’s radical groups in the early 1880s, and his role as secretary to most of them, made him extremely influential. This has been recognized in recent times, by the argument that it was he and not Peter McGuire who could claim to be the supposed ‘father’ of Labor Day. He later became a socialist Alderman in Paterson and stood as Vice President for the Socialist Labor Party in 1896.