The Day Lincoln Came to Bridgeport

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Abraham Lincoln was still a Republican candidate for president when he came to Bridgeport on March 10, 1860.

It was a Saturday night and Lincoln was scheduled to give his talk downtown in Washington Hall, a lecture room in the Fairfield County Courthouse, which is now known as McLevy Hall. According to a small notice in the newspaper, Lincoln’s speech would “commence precisely at 7 o’clock, as he is obliged to leave on the Express train at 9:07 pm.”

Lincoln arrived in Bridgeport to the music of the Wheeler and Wilson Band and a reception of some 100 members of the Republican Committee.

According to a local newspaper report at the time, “a great crowd attended at Washington Hall on Saturday evening to hear the Honorable Mr. Lincoln of Illinois. No special means had been used to ensure a large attendance and no posters were got out.”

Lincoln spoke for two hours, giving much the same speech he had given in New Haven four days earlier, which was described as “an impassioned political speech against slavery.”

The Daily Standard described Lincoln as a “tall, bony, angular, big jointed figure with a great towering head and very expressive countenance. His eye satisfies you at once that there is brain…intellectual power in the man, and this is the secret of his success.”

The crowd followed Abraham Lincoln to the train and applauded and cheered as the train left.

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About Author

Mary K. Witkowski is the former Bridgeport City Historian and the Department Head of the Bridgeport History Center, Emeritus. She is the author of Bridgeport at Work, and the co-author with Bruce Williams of Bridgeport on the Sound. Mary has had a newspaper column in the Bridgeport News, a blog for the Connecticut Post, and a weekly spot on WICC. She continues to be involved in many community based activities and initiatives on local history and historic preservation.

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