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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Kraegen, Edward Charles (1864–1943)

by J. S. Baker

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Edward Charles Kraegen (1864-1943), union organizer and public servant, was born on 3 August 1864 at Albury, New South Wales, son of Carl Wilhelm Immanuel Kraegen, telegraph officer, and his wife Emma Wilhelmina Dorothea, née Lassen, both German born. In 1872 Edward and his two younger sisters were orphaned and dependent on the care of their maternal grandparents. In 1878 the largely self-taught Edward became a telegraph messenger at Parramatta post office, and next year was promoted to cadet telegraph operator at the General Post Office, Sydney. Kraegen became a member of the committee elected to form the New South Wales Electric Telegraph Society in 1855. In 1887 he was elected secretary and when it was reformed in 1889 as the Post and Telegraph Officers Association became president. He helped to found the association's journal the Transmitter in 1891 and was its editor in 1895-1900.

The association was almost certainly the first industrial organization to be formed among government employees in Australia and reputedly the first among post and telegraph employees anywhere. When delegates from the seven colonial associations met to form the Australian Commonwealth Posts and Telegraphs Officers' Association in October 1900 it was largely because of Kraegen's efforts. As the president of the first federal industrial conference he took its programme to mass meetings in four States. He resigned his union positions when appointed clerk to the Commonwealth public service inspector in New South Wales in December 1902. He was promoted to inspector in March 1910, an appointment he held until 1923. On 22 December 1903 at Oakleigh, Victoria, he married Louisa Margaret Dunkley, a leader of the Victorian Women's Post and Telegraph Association.

Kraegen was one of the first to organize public service and white collar unions and to support the movement for new and uniform industrial rights within Commonwealth employment. He proved a talented pioneer and architect, avoiding royal commissions and conciliation and arbitration proceedings in a pattern of personal negotiation that earned him respect and recognition and the affectionate title of 'Trusty' Kraegen. In the reorganization initiated by the newly constituted Public Service Board, in 1923 Kraegen was appointed public service inspector for South Australia. By mid-1924 he completed the reclassification of the Commonwealth Department of Trade and Customs and later reported creatively on the service in New Guinea, Papua and the Northern Territory. He travelled widely and when one of his last official journeys took him across central Australia to Darwin he attempted to locate the grave of his father in the desert. On his retirement in 1926 the Federal Public Service Journal recorded his impartiality and regretted the loss of 'one of the ablest, most clear-headed and most diligent' members of its association.

Kraegen was well known in rowing and bowling circles: he was a member of the Glebe Rowing Club and the Old Oarsmen's Union and president of the Lane Cove Bowling Club. He died on 25 July 1943 at his home at Longueville and was cremated with Anglican rites. A son and daughter survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • G. E. Caiden, Career Service (Melb, 1965)
  • Australian Commonwealth Post and Telegraph Association, Transmitter, 17 Jan 1903
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 27 July 1943.

Citation details

J. S. Baker, 'Kraegen, Edward Charles (1864–1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 27 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

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