Herman Steinkraus, President of the Bridgeport Brass Company and a group of local business people started the Barnum Festival in Bridgeport Connecticut in 1949. The festival was dedicated to pay tribute to one of Bridgeport's most renowned citizens, Phineas Taylor Barnum. The first festival was celebrated from June 9 to 14, 1949, with J. William Hope serving as ringmaster. Along with many other festivities, a parade was organized with Bridgeport area businesses sponsoring floats. The first year Bridgeport Brass had a float called: "P.T. Barnum: The Man Who Turned Brass into Gold," while other businesses tried to outdo each other in the float competition. The festival began as a five day celebration but has expanded over the years. Area businesses are still involved with the Barnum Festival, and have continued the tradition each year since 1949.
Blizzard of 1934
A famous story about Jasper McLevy surrounds the Blizzard of 1934. Unable to pay for snow removal after a large snow storm, McLevy has become famous for supposedly uttering the line, "God put the snow there, let Him take it away.
However, it is thought that McLevy's public works director, Pete Brewster, actually made the statement. McLevy had only budgeted $300.00 for snow removal for the winter, so Brewster truly did not have the funds to adequately plow the streets.
Mayors of Bridgeport, Connecticut in the 20th Century
Dennis Mulvihill Democrat 1901-1905
Marcus l. Reynolds Republican 1905-1907
Henry Lee Republican 1907-1909
Edward T. Buckingham Democrat 1909-1911
Clifford B. Wilson Republican 1911-1921
Fred Atwater Democrat 1921-1923
F. William Behrens, Jr. Republican 1923-1929
Edward T. Buckingham Democrat 1929-1933
Jasper McLevy Socialist 1933-1957
Samuel J. Tedesco Democrat 1957-1965
Hugh C. Curran Democrat 196501971
Nicholas A. Panuzio Republican 1971-1975
William Seres Republican 1975
John C. Mandanici Democrat 1975-1981
Leonard S. Paoletta Republican 1981-1984
Thomas Bucci Democrat 1985-1989
Mary A. Moran Republican 1990-1992
Joseph Ganim Democrat 1993-2003
John Fabrizi Democrat 2003-2007
William Finch Democrat 2007-2015
Joseph Ganim Democrat
Negotiating strategy developed by General Electric executive Lemuel R. Boulware in 1948, after the costly strikes of 1946. The bargaining consisted of a period of listening to the union's proposals and then responding with a fully worked-out contract offer, from which the company would not budge. Also, the company attempted to bypass the union officals by announcing and explaining its offer directly to the press, the workers, and their communities. Union officials called it "take-it-or-leave-it" bargaining.
Casco Products Company
For more than an hour after the "sit-down" began, the street in front of the plant was jammed with employees, sympathizers, and curious; shouting and waving to those in the building. Cigarettes and sandwiches were hoisted by rope. This was the city's first factory sit-down strike.
Closed shop (or union shop)
Workplace where union membership is a condition of employment, either where the individual must be a member before being employed (closed shop), or where an individual must join a particular union after being hired (union shop).
Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC)
In order to head off a threatened march on Washington by labor leader A. Philip Randolph and other African American leaders, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established FEPC through Executive Order No. 8802 on June 19, 1941, to forbid racial discrimination on the job at all government-contract companies.
Federal loyalty oath
Executive Order No. 9835 was issued by U.S. President Harry S. Truman nine days after his announcement of the Truman Doctrine. The order set up "loyalty boards" in government agencies to investigate government employees for "disloyalty to the Government of the United States," which included belonging to any group designated by the Attorney General (AG) as subversive. The AG list, which dated back to 1942, included many liberal organizations.
GE and Bryant Hemco Strike
The Sunday Herald reports in February that 75% of the Bridgeport people are behind the strikers of GE and Bryant-Hemco in their drive to get pay increases, and 68% of Bridgeport merchants are solidly behind the strikers. Bridgeport aldermen unanimously support the strikers.
On February 26, Judge James E. Murphy grants GE an injunction forbidding mass picketing-restricting strikers to 12 pickets at any one entrance, and the pickets must be 10 feet apart, and constantly in motion. In response, the CIO demonstrates at the Stratfield Hotel where Rep. Joseph E. Talbot is to speak, charging him with voting against labor measures; and hundreds demonstrate at the county court house; at the homes of Judge Murphy, Carl M. Lynge, works manager, and W. Stewart Clark, manager of manufactures; at various plants in Bridgeport as a "thank you" expression for other unions which have donated funds to the G-E strikers; and in Hartford, for jobless pay for strikers (rejected). Throughout the strike, the union issues a strike Bulletin, a one sheet mimeographed publication, for its membership.
Laborers employed to carry supplies (on a hod, or tray) to bricklayers, stonemasons, cement finishers, or plasterers on a job.
Homework in Bridgeport
In a survey that was done in 1919, 100 families were interviewed: Of the 268 children under 16 years of age, 110 were definitely shown to assist regularly in homework and it is probable that others in the group are also helping. One woman said, "Homework isn't worth bothering with if the children don't help."
Instances were found of very young children working hard at homework. One little girl of 9, whose mother died 6 months before, was operating a foot press at the noon hour when she was from school. She seemed to be the principal home worker, but it was her aunt with whom she lived who took the work from the factory. A younger brother and a little cousin helped slip on the rubber bands while the 9 year old girl worked the press. When she was asked, "When do you have time to play?" her answer was, "Sometimes on Sunday."
(excerpted from U.S. Department of Labor Women's Bureau. Homework in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Bulletin #9. Washington, D.C.; GPO, 1919, p. 12.)
A separate division created by the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) to provide the assistance to new immigrants. Established in Bridgeport in 1919, the Bridgeport International Institute became independent of the YWCA in 1935 and continues to help new immigrants today.
The attention of the State of Connecticut Labor Bureau was called in January to certain alleged impositions on Italian laborers employed by Bridgeport contractors, Messrs. O'Brien, Sheehan, and McHale upon railroad improvements in the western part of that city. It was charged that the laborers were obliged to submit to the "padrone" and "barracks" systems, instituted by one Dominic Marino of Boston, who contracted with the construction firm to supply a portion of the laborers, or lose their employment; that the building that the Italians were housed was inadequate and unhealthy; and that they were compelled to buy provisions from Marino's agents at exorbitant prices…Mr. H.A. Stocking of New Britain was appointed to inform the laborers of their rights and to prevent as far as possible any illegal advantage being taken of them. Mr. Stocking spent three days in Bridgeport, and his investigations established the fact that the charges were substantially true.
The "barracks" was an old carriage shop, fitted with plank bunks and straw bags, for the use of which the Italians were charged $1.25 per month each. Two men were placed in a space too small for one, and two small stoves afforded the only cooking facilities. The sanitary conditions were deplorable. The prices charged for provisions in some cases exceeded market price by 100%. As soon as this condition of affairs was given publicity, the "padrones" reduced the price of provisions; and the day after the appointment of the special agent, the burning of the building gave the Italians their liberty. Mr. Marino's agents promised the Bureau's representative that the barracks system would not be revived, and that the men would be allowed to buy where ever they desired…The settlement was satisfactory to all concerned."
Excerpted from "Italian Difficulty at Bridgeport," State of Connecticut, Sixteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the Year Ended November 30, 1900 (Hartford Press: The Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company, 1900), Public Document No. 23, pp. 221-224.
It took the now-legendary Jasper McLevy a long time to become mayor of Bridgeport. A roofer by trade, McLevy first ran for mayor in 1911 on the Socialist Party platform, when he challenged Clifford Wilson. McLevy didn't win.
In 1933, twenty-two years later and still running as a Socialist, Jasper McLevy was victorious in winning the office of Mayor of Bridgeport, an office he would hold for 24 years, winning re-election 11 times.
As Mayor of Bridgeport, Jasper McLevy was known for his honest governing. His term became known for streamlining some city offices, instituting the civil service system for city employees, starting a city trash collection rather than utilizing private contractors, plus other city improvements.
Term, from the medieval guilds of England for an artisan who has completed an apprenticeship and holds full membership in the guild, thus qualifying for day wages. Journeymen formed the early labor unions in 18th-century England and 19th-century U.S., leading to modern craft unions.
Labor Day will be observed by workers of Bridgeport as an opportunity to contribute a fighting weapon to the U.S. Navy in the form of a Corsair fighter plane, symbolic of the determined fighting spirit of the working people of this city.
The plane, made by the Vought-Sikorsky plant of United Aircraft, will be purchased by contributions from men and women of the city's numerous labor, fraternal, and civic groups.
Coordinating the groups which will raise the money to purchase the fighting ship are three labor union heads, Peter Benard, of the Bridgeport Central Labor Union; Joseph Julianelle, secretary of the Bridgeport Industrial Union Council, and Judson A. LaHaye, representative of the independent groups.
They said yesterday that free American Labor will make labor's holiday this year the most notable in the nation's history, and will climax the event with the dedication of the "Corsair" fighter as an answer to Hitler's slave society.
"This is to be the gift of a fighting Yankee community of industrial workers to the nation, to be presented on Labor day to the Navy with appropriate ceremonies," it was announced today by Gregory J. Bardacke, International organizer of the United Hatters who will assist in the drive for funds as head of the working committee's office forces at headquarters opened at 1024 Main Street."
…All of the work of the fund-raising will be done by volunteer workers with all agencies of publicity cooperating under Labor's banner, as an expression of appreciation of the war effort of the factory fighters of this community, who have been the pacemakers of the nation's industrial activities to preserve democracy in the world…"
(excerpted from Bridgeport Telegram, August 21, 1942, "Workers to Buy Warplane for Presentation to Navy."
An industrial dispute in which the employer locks out his own workers from the workplace, often to force settlement of bargaining on employer's terms.
Named after U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall; in 1947 he proposed that the United States provide economic and military aid to recovering European nations, requiring only that all participating nations exchange economic information and work to reduce trade barriers. The Soviet Union, the U.S.'s former ally, denounced these conditions as attempts to reshape Europe in an American-style free market under American control, and ordered its Eastern European allies not to participate. While the U.S. poured $13 billion into the European recovery effort, the Marshall Plan became one more step into a Cold War, and support for it became one more political litmus test for "loyal" American trade unions in 1948.