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Digitized Bridgeport Newspaper

Connecticut Digital Newspaper Project Digitizes 
Bridgeport Evening Farmer, 1910-1916

The Connecticut State Library is pleased to announce that it has digitized the Bridgeport Evening Farmer from January 1, 1910 – October 31, 1916 as part of a grant received from the National Endowment for the Humanities to digitize historically significant Connecticut newspapers. The digital images of the Bridgeport Evening Farmer are now included in the Library of Congress’newspaper site: Chronicling America http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/

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New Acquisitions

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Homegrown Terror: Benedict Arnold and the Burning of New London

By Professor Eric D. Lehman, a publication from Weslyan University Press

On September 6, 1781, Connecticut native Benedict Arnold and a force of 1,600 British soldiers and loyalists took Fort Griswold and burnt New London to the ground. The brutality of the invasion galvanized the new nation, and “Remember New London!” would become a rallying cry for troops under General Lafayette. …Continue reading

Heroes and Villains

Kennedy at train station

President Kennedy in Bridgeport November 5, 1960

The crowd of 6,000 came to see then Senator John F. Kennedy.  The crowd,as estimated by Superintendent of Police Francis J. Shanley, cheered when Kennedy said that Connecticut was a key state in the election.

“The nation will have its eyes on Connecticut,” Kennedy told the crowd. …Continue reading

Films

Barnum Festival Parade, 1956

Film enthusiast Nicholas Soltis was born and raised in Bridgeport and spent his entire career as a policeman on the Bridgeport force. Nick enjoyed taking home movies of family gatherings and special events in Bridgeport. In this film, Mr. Soltis captured the 1956 Barnum Festival Parade in front of a Bridgeport furniture store (the Franklin Furniture Company). His wife, Gertrude (Trudy), as well as his son, Conrad, appear at the start of the film. Conrad also makes a special appearance at the end of the film.  Orginal film: 8mm, color

Bridgeport at War

Auto-Ordnance Corporation

by William G. Menosky

Tommy gun.  The name evokes different memories or thoughts in a cross section of people both in the United States and internationally.  Some may think of names that wrote the violent history of the twenties and thirties in this country: Capone, Floyd or Dillinger.  Others may think of the Irish crowd with Michael Collins and their early struggle for independence, or the English “Tommies” of the second World War, or even of Colonel Henry A. Mucci, Bridgeport war hero.  Still others may think of Hollywood types like Cagney, Wayne, or more recently, Johnny Depp in the movie “Public Enemies.”  But whatever the first thought, the name carries instant recognition.  The “Thompson Submachine Gun,” ”the Chicago Typewriter,” “the Chopper,” “the Tommy gun”: its story is long, infamous, heroic, and, surprisingly, it runs right through Bridgeport.

With bankrolling supplied by New York financier Thomas Fortune Ryan, the Tommy gun was the creative idea of General John Taliaferro Thompson, West Point grad and small arms expert.  In 1916, he started the Auto-Ordnance Corporation (AOC).  World War I ended abruptly in 1918.  Consequently, it was too late to actually get some prototype guns into battle for testing.  As a result, the Thompson gun went through more refinement and, finally,15,000 guns were manufactured during 1921-22 at the prestigious Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company in Hartford, CT.

Over the next eighteen years the gun was sold, literally, in dribs and drabs to various police departments, sheriffs and small constabularies around the US, to the Post Office, the Navy, the Marines and to a few foreign countries.  Everyone praised its performance at the many trials that it was put through but no one was buying in quantity.  The War was over and purchasing budgets were low or non-existent.  Who needed a machine gun anyway?  The criminal element found uses for the gun but that story moves in a different direction.  So, in any sort of business sense, the Thompson gun was a huge financial failure.

Until…1939.  Enter J. Russell Maguire a Connecticut born industrialist and opportunist.  The Auto-Ordnance Corporation was in deep debt to the heirs of Thomas F. Ryan and the Ryans wanted out.  In July, a deal was finally struck giving Maguire controlling interest in AOC.  Maguire believed that war was imminent in Europe and to say he was correct is a major understatement.  Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.  On November 1, France ordered 3,000 guns.  Maguire immediately contracted with the Savage Arms Corp. of Utica, NY to start producing guns.  The incoming orders, slow at first, soon became massive.  In August 1940, Maguire leased and then later purchased in April of 1941, the Raybestos-Manhattan brake-lining plant along Railroad Avenue and Cherry Street in Bridgeport, CT.

Why Bridgeport?  It had a large skilled labor pool of machinists and toolmakers.  It had material suppliers, rail transport, a deep water port and a supportive group of small machine shops.  It was a perfect venue in which to succeed.  By the end of 1941, there were orders for 319,000 guns.  By 1944, between Savage Arms and AOC in Bridgeport a total of 1,750,000 Thompson submachine guns were produced with Bridgeport accounting for 500,000 of that total!  The guns were sold or provided through the “Lend-Lease” programs, to almost every Allied country.  The AOC plant had over 2,500 hundred workers.

Almost 70 years have slipped by since AOC finished its work and left the city.  No one recognizes its name or knows its history and contributions.  Most of its buildings have been demolished.  Today, let us clearly understand that the firearm produced by its proud workers in the hands of our bravest young men probably had something to do with the name, “Arsenal of Democracy,” being ascribed to Bridgeport, CT.  Finally, the half million Thompson guns manufactured on Railroad Avenue were, undeniably, a part of the heroism in the victory by American and Allied forces in both theaters of World War II.

Bridgeport at Work

Art Selleck center, Putnam Street Firehouse 1953

Art Selleck: A Tribute to a Fireman Historian 1920-2004

Arthur “Art” H. Selleck was born in Bridgeport in 1920, living there for five years before moving to Nichols. He attended Harding High School in the Park City,  since Trumbull had no High School at the time.  He would later recall witnessing a house fire as a youth in Nichols, …Continue reading

Women

Warner Brothers factory, Bridgeport Connecticut

The Warner Brothers and their Amazing Corsets

As doctors in the late 1800s, brothers Dr. Lucien and Ira De Ver Warner became concerned with the use of the corset in women’s fashion.  The corset was a piece of underclothing meant to give women an “hourglass” figure desirable at the time.  …Continue reading

African American Heritage

Michelle-Black-Smith

Black Bridgeporters

by Michelle Black Smith

In 1977, a dedicated group of African American teachers decided to record the history of Black Bridgeporters in the residents’ own words. The Afro-American Education Association (hereafter AAEA) petitioned the CT Humanities Council for funds and technical support. The introduction to the AAEA recorded history states “This project is a study of the changes in Bridgeport neighborhoods from the viewpoint of selected Black residents during the historical periods of World War I, the Depression, World War II, and the 1960’s.” …Continue reading

Architecture

Jose DeRivera

Jose DeRivera

Most residents of Connecticut, when considering who were the earliest immigrants to this State naturally think mostly of the European countries.  If you asked anyone when the first Puerto Rican immigrant came to Connecticut, they would say, ” probably the 1950’s.” …Continue reading

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