Carolyn Ivanoff

Daniel Nash Morgan, 1844-1931: Bridgeport Entrepreneur, Politician and Self-Made Man

December 04, 2019

By Carolyn Ivanoff

Daniel Nash Morgan was a prominent Bridgeport personality for many years during his long life.  A self-made and extremely successful entrepreneur and politician, Daniel Nash Morgan served his city, state, and nation.  Interesting to note in these politically polarized times, he was a staunch Democrat who also had a large Republican following.  During his life-time his biography would appear in such publications as The Successful American, Men of Mark in Connecticut, Representative Men of Connecticut 1861-1994. Morgan was held up as a shining example of success, of hard work, upstanding moral character, and the American dream.  He himself believed this wholeheartedly and would advise, “To be born and to live in such an incomparable country as the United States, the unparalleled advantages of this wonderful age, to the blessings and opportunities of youth and health, commendable ambition and a high purpose in life will win you success.” Quaint words, sometimes still used in various contexts to motivate youth, but Daniel Nash Morgan believed them and lived them. (more…)

Banks and Banking, Bibliography, Business and Commerce, Politics

East Side Bridgeport – A Cityscape Made by the Great War

May 03, 2019

By Carolyn Ivanoff

During the 1960s my grandmother lived on the top floor of the four- story Consumer Building at 1064 East Main Street on the corner of East Main Street and Arctic. The building was the tallest building in the area and from any window of the top floor you could look over almost the entire East Side. Skydel’s Department Store, where every Easter my mother purchased our shoes and hats, was directly across the street and I could look down on the roof. Looking down Arctic Street the tall familiar landmark of the Remington Shot Tower was visible over the tops of the houses. Looking over to the left across Boston Avenue, I could clearly see the GE meatball shining above one of the largest industrial facilities in the world. General Electric, purchased the complex in 1920 from Remington. My favorite time to view the city was on a summer evening as the lights started to come on all over the East Side. (more…)

Business and Commerce, Industry, Neighborhood: East End, Neighborhood: East Side, World War I

Maude Morris Hincks – Bridgeport’s Woman of Substance – the Fight for the Right to Vote

July 22, 2021

By Carolyn Ivanoff

Mrs. W. T. Hincks, Woman’s Chairman of the Liberty Committee, delivering a large subscription to someone up on a reviewing stand

 

Maude Morris Hincks, 1873-1956, was a Bridgeport suffragist and activist.  She was reputedly the first woman in Connecticut to receive a drivers license.  A talented public speaker and organizer she devoted herself to the fight for women’s suffrage and led the Connecticut Woman’s Suffrage Association as its president.  After 1920 she was heavily involved in the League of Women Voters, a non-partisan public education organization devoted to educating new women voters and the public on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.  Throughout her long life she worked for many civic causes, the YWCA, Pure Milk for Babies, Bridgeport Hospital, Visiting Nurses Association, the Central Committee on War Work, Bridgeport’s Liberty Committee helping to raise money for Liberty Bonds and the Bridgeport Minute Women raising funds for the relief of war torn Europe after the First World War. She participated and led Red Cross Relief efforts and was on the Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce.   In 1936 she worked on Bridgeport’s Centennial Committee to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the city. (more…)

Social Justice, Women, World War I

Monuments Everlasting – Bridgeport’s Monumental Bronze Company

December 17, 2019

By Carolyn Ivanoff

The industrial powerhouse that was Bridgeport during the 19th and 20th centuries made its mark world-wide with many, many products.  Bridgeport manufactured everything: sewing machines, cars, phonographs, typewriters, corsets, submarines, machine tools, munitions, every product imaginable.  Many of these products were common to the national and world needs of the times, but several products were absolutely unique.  The Monumental Bronze Company, on the corner of Howard and Cherry Streets, fulfilled an exclusive and distinctive place in American manufacturing. It was the only company in the nation that cast metal tomb stones from “white bronze.” Every white bronze marker was made to order and, therefore, one of a kind. The company also cast numerous Civil War monuments that can be seen in cemeteries, on town greens, and court house squares all around the nation in thirty states, north and south. White bronze contained no bronze at all.  It was almost pure zinc alloyed with tin, but white bronze sounded so much more elegant and sophisticated than zinc and the name made monuments more marketable. (more…)

Business and Commerce, Cemeteries, Industry

Remembering the Doctor that Buried John Wilkes Booth

July 22, 2021

By Carolyn Ivanoff

Dr. George Loring Porter in old age. (Library of Congress)

In 1936 the City of Bridgeport celebrated its Centennial.  As a lasting memento of that celebration, Elsie Nicholas Dannenberg authored The Story of Bridgeport.  According to the Centennial Committee the volume was to “perpetuate in a fitting manner the history of the founding, growth, and prosperity of our city…(and) to entertain and inform its readers.”   In the volume on the page devoted to Lincoln and Civil War, Dannenberg made a brief, intriguing reference to a then well-known Bridgeport physician, “Incidentally, Dr. George Loring Porter of Bridgeport was the only commissioned officer present at the disposal of the body of Booth.”

George Loring Porter was born in Concord N. H. in 1838.  With Civil War raging, he graduated from Jefferson Medical College in March 1862, he passed the Army Medical Examination and entered the Medical Service of the U.S. Army.  In May 1862 the young surgeon was treating the wounded when the Union Army retreated down the Shenandoah Valley.  Dr. Porter volunteered to stay behind with the wounded.  He was captured by Col. Turner Ashby.   General Stonewall Jackson placed him in charge of wounded Union prisoners and requested he care for Confederate wounded as well.  Dr. Porter’s hospital was the white columned Presbyterian church in Strasburg, Virginia where the sick and wounded were put into the pews.  Fifty-three years later the Bridgeport, Connecticut physician was invited by the parishioners to return to the hospital church.  From the pulpit he slept in as a young assistant-surgeon, he thanked the parishioners for the use of their beloved church, “for healing and saving men’s bodies.”  Porter and the Union prisoners were freed when the Confederates withdrew from Strasburg when the Union army returned.  After his release, Dr. Porter was sent to the General Hospital in Winchester, Virginia.  He served with Best’s Battery in the Battles of Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, South Mountain and Antietam, and tended wounded men from these battles at hospitals in Frederick, Maryland. (more…)

Bibliography, Civil War, Heroes and Villains

Seeing What My Father Saw: the Hindenburg Over Bridgeport in 1936 – Celebrating the Bridgeport History Collections that Let Us Witness the Past

July 23, 2021

By Carolyn Ivanoff

One of my father’s favorite stories about growing up on Bridgeport’s East Side was the day the Hindenburg flew over St. Mary’s School.  He remembered that the nuns let all the students out of school to view the massive aircraft.  Seeing the Hindenburg was always a vivid and unforgettable memory for him.  Perhaps it was that experience that fueled his life-long enthusiasm for airplanes and jets, although he refused his entire life to ever fly.  He was born in 1927 and a few years after seeing the Hindenburg,  when he turned 17 years old in 1944, he like many other young men during World War II, boys really, did not wait to be drafted but he joined the Navy and was sent to the Pacific Theater.

I hadn’t thought about this story for a long while until I was browsing through the Bridgeport History Center’s digital collections online.  I happened upon a photograph of a Zeppelin flying over Bridgeport.  The description on the photograph read: A Zeppelin is seen flying over downtown Bridgeport as pedestrians look up and people gathered on a rooftop take in the sight. “Times-Star” newspaper building at 928 Lafayette and trolley tracks on State Street are visible as are a parking lot and the Richfield gas station. A sign from the Cameo Theater is also visible. Photographer Griffin, Walter.

I immediately thought of my father.  He would have been nine years old when he saw the Hindenburg.  Until I saw this picture it was just another one of his childhood stories to me.  Now it was real, and I could see what he so enthusiastically described.  Curiosity ignited, I began surfing through the BHC Collections.   I found two “Bridgeport News’ articles by Mary Witkowski.  Mary is the History Center Head Emeritus.  She wrote over 400 articles for the “Bridgeport News” during her tenure at the BHC. All of her articles are available on-line from the Bridgeport History Center Collections.  These fascinating articles explore many facets of Bridgeport history, the people, the places, and things–“from the renowned to the quirky.” The Bridgeport History Center collections allow the viewer a fascinating window into Bridgeport’s past.

Mary’s first article,  It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s 1936, it was the Hindenburg flying over the Park City, on February 8, 1996, explained that the Hindenburg was flying over Bridgeport in honor of the City’s Centennial, from 1836 to 1936, something I’m sure my father was unaware of.  On that October day 150,000 people, almost the entire city population, turned out to watch the Hindenburg circle over the city twice. Factory whistles blew, people shouted and clapped, the noisy atmosphere was festive as the massive silver airship floated over Bridgeport. The Hindenburg was over three football fields in length, longer than the Queen Mary, and the largest aircraft ever constructed.  It was buoyed by 7.2 million cubic feet of highly flammable hydrogen gas and traveled 84 miles per hour.  The Hindenburg could carry a cargo of 20 tons and 70 passengers in its elegant cabin which included a sophisticated dining room, a promenade deck, sleeping cabins, a bar and a piano lounge.  The piano was made of aluminum to save weight. Americans were fascinated by the ship and the Nazi’s were proud of this spectacular symbol of their prowess.  The ship was commissioned only a month after Hitler occupied the Rhineland in 1936 and the ship made ten round trips to the United States that year.    Bridgeport’s Mayor McLevy sent a radiogram to the captain of the ship that said, “Greetings from Bridgeport and many thanks and best wishes on our centennial anniversary.”  Commander of the Hindenburg, Dr. Hugo Eckener, was the most experienced zeppelin captain in the world. Eckener, a staunch anti-Nazi who had thwarted Nazi attempts to name the ship Hitler, radioed back, “…Felicitations to Bridgeport on the 100th anniversary of city.  Your industrial progress over the century brings international note to your community.  Best wishes for continued success as one of the foremost American municipalities.”  Ironically, Bridgeport was also one of the foremost American manufacturers of armaments in the world and in a few years many of the factories that blew their whistles, and the workers that turned out to cheer the huge German craft, would become crucial in manufacturing the weapons, arms, and ammunition that ultimately and heroically defeated the Nazi menace.

The flight of the Hindenburg over the City of Bridgeport was a thrilling sight that remained in the memories of witnesses for many years. Seven months later the ship exploded spectacularly while being moored in Lakehurst, New Jersey at 7:21 on the evening of May 6, 1937.  The disaster would end commercial air travel by zeppelin forever.  As the ship was docking on that clear spring evening in New Jersey two explosions rocked it. The highly flammable hydrogen that filled the craft mixed with oxygen combusted in seconds and engulfed the Hindenburg in a ball of fire.  Thirty-five passengers and a ground crew member were killed.  Miraculously, 62 passengers survived.

Still today there is speculation about the cause of the explosion.  Officials reported that the explosion was ignited by static electricity or other natural causes.  But was it sabotage? Some historians believe it may have been an anti-Nazi crew member who planted a bomb on the ship and triggered the combustion that immolated the largest aircraft ever built.

The fireball that incinerated the Hindenburg at Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1937, was a symbolic omen of the coming inferno of World War that would engulf the world.  Bridgeport would do its part for the war effort on the battlefields and the home front.

Many of Bridgeport’s citizens would remember forever the huge airship circling the city twice as factories throughout the city blew their whistles and children and adults looked to the sky in awe at this unforgettable sight.  The digital archives of the Bridgeport History Center preserve for all of us the memories of Bridgeport.  Through the archives we can witness the past.  Celebrate these collections.  Celebrate Bridgeport’s history and the history of our nation.  I’m more grateful than I can say for the History Center and its preservation mission.  Through these collections I am able to see in 2021 what my father saw in 1936 and to remember fondly the stories he told of growing up in Bridgeport.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bridgeport History Center Digital Collections: Record Type: Photo

Zeppelin seen from downtown Bridgeport, 1936 – 1936-10-13, Hindenburg Aeronautics–Zeppelin Streets–State Street Streets–Lafayette Street Newspapers, Record Type: Photo

Bridgeport History Center Digital Collections: Record Type: Bridgeport News Articles

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s 1936, it was the Hindenburg flying over the Park City – 2/8/1996 It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s 1936, it was the Hindenburg flying over the Park City Hindenburg Aeronautics– Hindenburg (Airship)

Bridgeport History Center Digital Collections: Record Type: Bridgeport News Articles

What rooftop was the photographer on? – 4/3/1997 Aeronautics–Hindenburg Libraries–Bridgeport Public Library Hindenburg (Airship) Airship Broad Street (Bridgeport, Conn.) State Street (Bridgeport, Conn.)

1936 History and Explosion of Hindenburg, Hartford Courant, Hartford, Connecticut, Fri, May 07, 1937 · Page 10

Hindenburg History-Explosion, Hartford Courant, Hartford, Connecticut, Wed, May 06, 1987 · Page 61

Aeronautics, Historical Accounts

The Bridgeport Teachers’ Protest of 1915

July 24, 2019

By Carolyn Ivanoff

Reading a newspaper you can witness the first draft of history from world to local news. In the spring of 1915 the sinking of the Lusitania factored largely in headlines along with the war in Europe. Local and national labor news would also fill the papers. 1915 Bridgeport was full of restless laborers, many of whom were immigrants, who flooded the city and were working in a multitude of industries especially the crucial munitions industry. (more…)

Education, Featured, Labor, Women

When the Army Recruiter Came to Call 1862

December 03, 2019

By Carolyn Ivanoff

Loyal war governor of Connecticut, William A. Buckingham. Image author’s collection.

 In 1862 our nation was embroiled in a desperate Civil War.  The war was not going well for the Union. In June General McClellan was beaten back from Richmond by General Lee in the debacle of the Seven Days Battles.  The federal government needed money desperately to pay for the war and on July 1 the U.S. Congress passed “An Act to provide Internal Revenue to Support the Government and pay Interest on the Public Debt.”  This was the first federal income tax in U.S. history.  Also in July President Lincoln issued a call directly to the loyal governors of the northern states for 300,000 men needed immediately to stave off disaster as casualties mounted in both the eastern and western theaters. In addition to recruiting new regiments, the old regiments were decimated for manpower and desperately needed men to replace losses in their ranks.  Connecticut’s Governor William Buckingham loyally responded to President Lincoln’s call that “I will spare no effort to raise men.”  He issued a ringing proclamation to the men of Connecticut, “Close your manufactories and workshops—turn aside from your farms and your businesses—leave for a while your families and your homes—meet face to face the enemies of your liberties.”  (more…)

Veterans and Wars

William H. Warren – A Connecticut Civil War Soldier

March 29, 2019

by Carolyn Ivanoff

William H. Warren
Birth: March 28, 1842 – Death:  June 5, 1918
Buried in Wooster Cemetery, Danbury, CT

William H. Warren was born on March 28, 1842.  Warren was listed in the 1860 census as a railroad hand living in Danbury, Connecticut.  In August 1862, as the Civil War raged, Warren patriotically enlisted in the 17th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry as an 18 year old private.  He enrolled in Company C along with other young men from Danbury Connecticut.  The 17th Connecticut Regiment was known as the Fairfield County Regiment, almost all of the volunteers for the regiment enlisted from different towns in Fairfield County.  This typical Union Civil War regiment was approximately one thousand men and led by a Colonel William H. Noble, a Bridgeport lawyer and business man, who was appointed Colonel of the 17th Connecticut.  A regiment was divided into ten companies of 100 men led by a captain.  When Warren enlisted in Company C, most of that company was recruited from Danbury.  The 17th Connecticut was enlisted as a three year regiment. (more…)

Veterans and Wars