Listed Below is just a sampling of companies that operated in Twentieth Century Bridgeport.
Acme Shear
Shear, scissor, ruler, and medical goods manufacturer - Acme Shear started in 1876 as a small workshop on Barnum Avenue that made butter dishes, cutlery, and cast shears. By 1946, it had grown into the largest shears, scissors, and surgical items manufacturer in the world and had produced over one half billion shears. Acme filled large orders for bandage shears from the U.S. military during WWII. During the war, Acme instituted a company nursery to serve as day care for the children of female workers. Innovative personnel director, Michael Kane, recognized that well trained, skilled women workers encountered problems finding suitable child-care for their babies that could prevent them from remaining Acme. Acme Shear continued to grow after the War as a manufacturer of scissors, shears, rulers, and knives for home use, and bought several factories in the U.S. and Europe. As recently as 1989, it bought the German firm Emil Schlemperer GmbH & Co. for $3,000,000 and a New Jersey medical products business for $6,000,000 in 1991. But in 1996, after a series of corporate losses and consolidations, Acme finally closed its Hick Street plant in Bridgeport and moved its U.S. operations to a Freemont, North Carolina facility. During the company's tenure in Bridgeport, Acme was noted for its skilled work force and hand inspection of its products.
American Fabrics Company
Lace Manufacturer- Originally founded by two German immigrants as "Albert and Ernest Henckels, Inc." in 1909, the company became the first Cluny Lace mill in the United States. The demand for the quality and style of the lace produced was such that by 1916 the company's output exceeded all other embroidery and feather edge productions in the country. Specialty lace production required expertly crafted, highly specialized machinery. One jaquard loom could measure twenty feet long and seven feet deep and consist of ca. 2,000 parts. During WWI, the company was sold under the Alien Property Custodian Act and was renamed the American Fabrics Company. During that period, plant production focused on the "essential production" of weaving binding tape for soldiers' blankets and uniforms. In the post war era, manufacturing focused once again on domestic markets and the plant expanded its product line to numerous varieties of laces and fabrics for both the home-use market and the textile industry.
American Graphophone Company
Phonograph / Record Manufacturer. Forerunner of Columbia Records - Columbia Records originally began as the American Graphophone Company as a producer of early wax cylinder recordings and an inexpensive, accessible version of the graphophone used to play them. By 1900, Columbia manufactured flat disc recordings made from hard rubber and in 1904 the company produced the first double-faced disc recordings, thereby providing customers with "twice the music." During the next several decades, Columbia continued to be a pioneer in the sound recording industry. In 1924, it manufactured the first recording of a complete symphony (Beethoven's Seventh). In 1925, it made the world's first commercial electrical recording, and in 1948, it revolutionized the industry by manufacturing the 33 1/3 rpm long playing microgroove record on vinylite. This format provided longer play-time and was not easily broken or scratched like the 78 rpm platters. Columbia employed thousands of Bridgeport residents during the years it operated in the city. In fact, the company often employed circus performers during the off-season, such as Lulu Farini, a Barnum performer whose act included being shot from a cannon. Columbia moved its manufacturing operation to New Jersey in 1964 and its research and development department to Milford, Connecticut, in 1965.
American Tube and Stamping
Steel Mill - Forerunner of Stanley Works; Northeastern Steel; Carpenter Steel. American Tube and Stamping Company was established in 1899 in Bridgeport and purchased by the New Britain-based Stanley Works in June of 1926 in order to remodel, enlarge, and consolidate its steel mill operations. The company's location off Seaview Avenue in Bridgeport's East End afforded valuable access to a deep harbor and tidal water. In keeping with industry trends, Stanley Works began marketing a line of portable, electrical hand tools such as drills and saws in 1929. One year later, the company patented the "Magic Eye." This device was an automatic door opener that was fashioned from combining photo-electric control with a pneumatic operator. By 1940, Stanley Works operated two mills in Bridgeport and employed about 1,000 workers on a three-shift program. It produced 10,000 tons of steel a month which it supplied to other Bridgeport manufacturers as well as companies throughout Connecticut, New England, and along the East Coast. During the Second World War, Stanley greatly increased its sale of razors blades, due to shipping difficulties incurred by Scandinavian competitors. The Northeastern Steel Corporation bought Stanley Works in late 1954 and the Carpenter Steel Corporation took over and eventually expanded the steel mill when Northeastern went bankrupt in late 1957. After a series of lay-offs, the Reading, Pennsylvania-based Carpenter Steel Company announced plans to close its Bridgeport plant in 1987. "Steel Point," the former Car-Tech plant location, has been designated for a multi-million dollar re-development project which will include shopping and waterfront facilities.
Turbine engines for aircraft and tanks - Avco president and Korean War era entrepreneur, Victor Emmanuel, re-activated the Chance-Vaught plant (United Aircraft Corporation) when it became available after post-WWII restructuring. This division of the Avco Corporation became known as Bridgeport-Lycoming. It first received a contract from the US Air Force in 1951 to manufacture the Wright R-1820 Aircraft with the 1425 horsepower reciprocating engine in the Stratford, Connecticut facility. Avco produced a variety of turbine engines used in tanks, helicopters, and airplanes. Through US military contracts, the Bridgeport-Lycoming division grew steadily during the 1950's and 1960's, at times employing well over 12,000 workers. But the size of the company's workforce was also vulnerable to the current US Military demands and government defense budgets and there were some major lay-offs during those decades. With US Army permission, Avco started to make some commercial version engines in the 1970's such as engines for helicopters used in logging. The Textron Corporation based in Providence, Rhode Island, bought Avco in 1984 and then sold the company to Allied Signal Engines in 1994. After implementing a series of lay-offs and engaging in disputes over funding for its relocation, Allied Signal has now moved all its plant operations out of state.
Bassick Company
Hardware Manufacturer - This hardware and components manufacturer grew from a Nineteenth Century Meriden, Connecticut screw maker. After many changes and incarnations, Bassick formed in 1916 from M.B. Schenck of Meriden, Connecticut, the Burns & Bassick Company, and the Universal Caster and Foundry Works of Newark, New Jersey, and continued to expand throughout the 1910's and 1920's. By the late 1920's, Bassick had moved all company operations to Bridgeport and became the world's largest producer of furniture and automobile hardware. During WWI Bassick plants became government equipment production centers and by Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, the company was delivering 50,000 hand grenades a day to the US government. Bassick became a well established name in industrial and home-use markets and in 1929 alone paid out almost $2,000,000 in salaries and wages to its employees --nearly all of them Bridgeport residents.
Bridgeport Brass
Large Brass Mill and Manufacturing Concern - Bridgeport Brass first went into production when hoop skirts became popular in the 1860s. By the first half of the Twentieth Century, Bridgeport Brass made a full range of products with applications from transportation and textiles to refrigeration and photography.
Bridgeport Coach Lace
Lace and Elastic Weaver - Founded in 1845 by Benjamin K. Mills and William Leigh, this early Bridgeport manufacturer was an innovator in the production of lace for horse drawn coaches and eventually for automobiles. During World War I, the company produced elastic and non-elastic materials for the U.S. Military. The company name was changed to the Bridgeport Fabrics Company in 1937 when the firm opened a factory in Hyacinthe, Quebec. Throughout the 1930's, the company diversified by purchasing factories in Chelsea, Massachusetts, and Owens, Illinois. Products eventually included elastic used in suspenders, weather stripping, and outdoor furniture. The company was sold in 1963 after the death of its owner, C.C. Narramore.
Bridgeport Metal Goods
Specialized metal goods maker - Bridgeport Metal Goods was founded in 1906 by a former Bridgeport Brass employee as a small, independent firm that produced a variety of specialized metal goods in low volume, instead of manufacturing a large volume of just one or two products. The company motto was to remain focused on maintaining its adaptability to market demands by being able to produce a variety of items. By 1959, Bridgeport Metal Goods employed 420 workers and sold ca. $5,000,000 of goods annually. The mainstay products were flashlights and cosmetic items such as lipstick cases and compacts. During WWI, WWII, and the Korean War, the company manufactured carbine magazines, signal lights, life preserver belts, and bullets. Company founder Anker S. Lyhne was a Danish immigrant who believed strongly in establishing good company-employee relations. The administrative office was constructed in an open style without walls and doors to promote a sense of unity and ease of communication between workers. Bridgeport Metal Goods instituted paid vacations and insurance benefits as early as the 1920's.
Bryant Electric Company
Wiring Devices, Electrical Components, and Switches - When Bryant Electric was first founded in 1889, it produced only 12 devices. By 1928, Bryant sold over 4,000 different products and eventually became the world's largest plant devoted to the manufacture of wiring devices. During WWII alone, Bryant's State Street plant produced 20,000,000 bullet cores. The company's 20 building, 6-acre site in Bridgeport's West End was torn down in 1996 to make way for a new Industrial Park.
Bullard Company
Machine Tools Manufacturer - Edward Bullard originally contracted with the Bridgeport-based A.D. Laws company to manufacture a high-grade lathe with industrial applications. Bullard eventually took over A.D. Laws and continued to expand his Bullard Machine Tool Company for many decades, establishing plants in the city's South and West Ends, and Black Rock section. The company received government contracts during both World Wars. In 1941 it leaped from maintaining a 1,200 person work force to employing 6,500 workers on three shifts, in part to meet Navy defense contract demands for the precision assembly of torpedoes. The Bullard Company serviced a wide range of industries from auto, vacuum, and tractor manufacturers to the makers of washing machines, refrigerators, marine motors, and elevator equipment.
Canfield Rubber Company
Rubber Products for Industrial and Home Use - Canfield Rubber first formed in 1881 in Middletown, Connecticut, but moved to Bridgeport four years later where it quickly established itself as a leading producer of mechanical rubber goods and rubber specialties. In 1904 the company was organized into two separate concerns for product specialization and promotion purposes: the H.O. Canfield Company and Canfield Rubber. These two firms eventually became rival manufacturers. As a result, Bridgeport was producing an enormous number of rubber products for a variety of markets by the 1940's, including the aeronautics, plumbing , and automotive industries. Other product applications included coverings for hair curlers, syringe bulbs, collapsible rubber life-boats, and mouth guards for prize fighters. Canfield Rubber closed down its manufacturing facility in August of 1957.
CASCO Products
Automotive parts - J.H. Cone founded the “Connecticut Automotive Specialties Company, Inc.” in 1921 to produce Vacuum Tank Floats, and then incorporated his company as the CASCO Products Corporation in 1924. In 1926 Casco introduced the pocket lighter and in 1928 the company introduced the automotive cigar lighter with a removable heating unit to the Ford Motor Company. Casco became well known for its automotive parts such as gear shift balls, splash guards, fender guides and grilles, windshield heaters, and rear-view mirrors. It also produced electrical appliances such as irons, razors, floor lamps, and fans. During WWII, Casco received over $2,850,000 in US government contracts to produce armor piercing bullets and fuses for mortars and oil bombs.
General Electric Company
Wiring devices, electrical supplies and appliances - G.E. leased the enormous Remington Arms munitions works on Bridgeport’s Boston Avenue in May, 1920, and began manufacturing wiring devices and fractional horsepower motors. The company was expanding rapidly. It soon established headquarters in Bridgeport where it served as the distribution and/or production center for both home-use and industrial electrical supplies of all kinds, including services for the electrical and utilities industry. By the mid-1930’s, the average number of employees had reached 6,000 per year. The company won government contracts during WWII and was one of the major Bridgeport manufacturers where women were employed in large numbers. As early as the 1930’s, employees were offered life insurance, a pension system, profit sharing, home building, and even a number of athletic and social groups. G.E.’s products have ranged from vacuum cleaners and washing machines to wiring systems, asbestos, and heat resisting wiring.
Cornwall & Patterson
Piano hardware and screwdrivers - This maker of piano parts and hardware was originally founded by James T. Patterson before the civil war. In 1881 Jesse B. Cornwall joined the firm located at Fairfield and State. The company expanded and diversified in Bridgeport for over a half century. Area residents knew the firm for the elaborate hedges which lined the outside of its plant. Master Gardner and topiary artist, Frank Zeto, cared for the C&P gardens for years. His most famous creation was a huge piano with bench and lamp all shaped from a mixture of California privet and flower blossoms. In 1939, Harwin Cook acquired the C&P name and its machinery and moved plant operations to Crescent Avenue. Cook began using C&P machinery for the production of screw drivers. The company produced screw driver blades and sold them to other firms which would attach the handles.
Crane Company
Valves and fittings - The R.T. Crane Brass & Bell Company began before the Civil War in Chicago and was the manufacturer of large sized valves used in the construction of the Panama Canal. In 1903 the company bought Eaton, Cole, & Burnham in Bridgeport and expanded its plant to 15 acres of floor space. Production departments included cast iron fittings, cutting tools, a malleable iron fittings department, and brass works. Crane produced bathroom, kitchen, and heating equipment such as radiators and boilers. The company expanded rapidly and relocated its facilities to various South End locations several times throughout the 1910’s and 1920’s. After the death of the founder’s son, Richard Teller Crane III, Bridgeport’s Crane Company operations were slowly disbanded and the company left the city by 1941. In its prime, Crane employed between 2,200 and 2,500.
Crown Corset Company
Corset manufacturer - Originally founded in New York by Edward W. Russell and William Batcheller, this maker of corsets moved to Bridgeport and established a factory in December of 1899. At the time, Bridgeport was home to several corset and undergarment manufacturers as well as companies that produced related lace and elastic products used in the undergarment industry. In addition to the famous Warner Brother's concern, Crown Corset joined the ranks of the Birdsey, Somers and Company, and Hawes Custom Corset. Like Warner's, Crown Corset was located on Bridgeport's South End, at Railroad and Myrtle Avenues. It has remained in Bridgeport and is still in operation today.
Frisbie Pies
Pie Bakery - William Frisbie started a small pie baking operation at 147 Kossuth Street in 1871. He and his partner, Charles Eckler, established a large delivery route in the Bridgeport area on which they eventually sold over 300 pies a day. Frisbie's son, Joseph, took over the operation after his father's death in 1903, and greatly expanded the company. By 1915, the company's Kossuth Street facility had grown to a three-story factory. Frisbie pies were well known throughout the Northeast, with Frisbie plants located in Hartford, New Haven, and Poughkeepsie. Both residents and workers from other factories remember stopping by Frisbie's East Side factory to buy "broken pies" for a nickle. People passing by the Kossuth Street facility also remember seeing company employees engaged in a favorite break time activity: the workers tossed pies tins to each other in the factory parking lot. Local school children picked up on this game and made it into a sport. The game eventually spread to the Yale University campus where it became know as "Frisbie." Students tossing pie tins to each other would call out "Frisbie" as a warning that people passing by should duck. In the 1950's, Wham-O of California designed the now well known plastic disc version of the game and change its name to "Frisbee."
Jenkins Brothers
Rubber components and iron valves - Jenkins Brothers had plants in several U.S. states and Canada. Its Bridgeport operation began in 1920 and was responsible for Jenkins' iron valve production, producing some of the smallest and largest valves ever manufactured. Jenkins products were used heavily by the US military during WWI, WWII, and the Korean War due to their applications in ships, airplanes, submarines, and other manufacturing plants.
Lake Torpedo Company
Submarine manufacturer - Submarine design pioneer, Simon Lake, built this company in 1897 on Seaview Avenue in Bridgeport. The East End, waterfront location provided Lake Torpedo with access to a protected waterfront area which was well suited for launching newly built submarines and allowed vessels to cruise into Long Island Sound for test-runs. Before World War I, Lake had contracts with Russia, Germany, Austria, and Great Britain, and in 1912 and 1918, the U.S. Navy granted Lake Torpedo contracts as well. Throughout his life, Simon Lake remained dedicated to his view that the exploration of oceans could benefit mankind. Although he realized their potential for military use early on, he expressed hopes that submarines would not be used for war. Lake devoted his energies for many years to inventing new devices for under water exploration and travel, but he was not a talented businessman. The Lake Torpedo Company suffered several large losses in connection with failed projects and it closed in 1925.
Automobile Manufacturer - This world renowned car manufacturer became well known for its hand-built, luxury automobiles which cost $4,750 as early as 1917 and included details like silver fixtures from Tiffany’s, velvet upholstery, and electric intercoms. There was no “assembly line” and 1918 company policy actually required that no more than four of these custom built cars be produced per day. Locomobile was founded in May of 1899 and pioneered the development of steam, gasoline, and electric engine vehicles. Chief Engineer, Andrew L. Riker, developed a powerful gas-powered truck that was used heavily during WWI and his “Old 16 Locomobile” was the first American car to win the coveted Vanderbilt Cup in 1908. The company over-expanded during the late 1920’s and had closed its doors by 1930. The Locomobile plants were located at the foot of Bridgeport’s Main Street, on the edge of Seaside Park where the United Illuminating Company has its oil tanks.
Metropolitan Body Company
Truck Assembly Plant - Founded in 1909 by the Carlson Brothers, Philip and William, this division of International Harvester Corporation first operated as a small carriage repair shop on Main Street. The company later relocated to Kossuth Street where plant facilities eventually occupied 21 acres and five buildings equaling 500,000 square feet. Metropolitan Body manufactured all steel, double capacity truck bodies and received orders from as far way as Venezuela, Norway, Australia, and the Philippines.
Monumental Bronze Company
White Bronze Manufacturer - The Monumental Bronze Company was founded in 1874 and located at the corner of Barnum and Hallett Streets on Bridgeport's East Side. M.A. Richardson and partner, C.J. Willard, had tried unsuccessfully to produce a satisfactory monument that was both pleasing to the eye in color and strong enough to withstand the ravages of time and environment. But in Bridgeport, where there were skilled craftsmen and iron foundries, the two entrepreneurs finally met with success. The bronze used in the monuments was covered with a pure zinc that developed a protective coating and then gave the monuments a light gray color, hence the name "white bronze." Demand for this style of monument was great during the post-Civil War era and this small enterprise expanded rapidly. During WWI, the US government took over plant operations to manufacture gun mounts and ammunition. After the war, the public tastes in cemetery monuments changed, product demand declined, and the company experienced some management difficulties as well. Monumental Bronze finally closed during the Depression in the 1930's.
Brake linings - Raybestos was founded in 1905 when Connecticut was home to several fledging automobile manufacturers, including Locomobile. At that time, auto makers needed a brake lining which would prevent a car from rolling backward as well as forward, and the wire-woven asbestos could withstand sudden stops and heavy frictional heat. Over the next several decades, the company continued to invest resources in research and development; it pioneered the development of the molded brake lining and mobile clutch facings. Other Raybestos products included brakes and brake service equipment, rivets, packings, fan belts, car mats and hoses, wicks for range burners, and oil stoves. The Raybestos Company was one of the first employers in Connecticut to offer its workers an employee savings plan with matching funds (10%) contributed by the company. Raybestos-Manhattan, Inc., a division of Raybestos, contributed heavily to WWII production. In addition to auto parts for military vehicles, product applications included materials used on planes, battleships, landing barges, and anti-aircraft guns. During WWII Raybestos brake blocks were used to stop the world's heaviest plane, the Constellation, and the new materials developed by the company's researchers served as useful alternatives to rubber and other "essential" raw materials.
Remington Arms
Munitions Manufacturer - This immense munitions producer grew from a upstate New York rifle manufacturer which acquired the Union Metallic Cartridge Company in Bridgeport and eventually became Remington Arms in 1912. At that time, the company plant was located in Bridgeport's East Side and already consisted of 101 buildings with a total floor area of 16 acres in a twenty acre tract. Remington manufactured munitions for the United States and its allies during the First World War and was responsible for bringing thousands of workers to Bridgeport during that period. Indeed, Bridgeport experienced its single greatest period of population growth during the WWI era. In fact, convenient housing was in such short supply that the company issued many plant workers bicycles so they could peddle to work from far corners of the city and neighboring towns.
Salt's Textile Mill
Textile Mill - This large textiles manufacturer of seal and upholstery plushes, silk velvets, and fur imitations, had its roots in a Yorkshire, England mill which established a Bridgeport branch in 1891 and then a separate company in 1893. Interestingly, this factory was staffed almost completely by English textile workers who emigrated from the Bradford, Yorkshire area where the English Saltaire factory was located. Throughout the 1910’s and 1920’s hundreds of Yorkshiremen arrived to work at Saltext and other looms. The Saltext plants were located on Bridgeport’s Kossuth Street and the Kossuth, Howe, Sherman St. area of the city became the heart of settlement for Bridgeport’s English population during the early Twentieth Century. At that time, “Bridgeport’s English” might be found discussing soccer (football) or the Saltext Company’s champion cricket team over roast beef and Yorkshire pudding at Henry Taylor’s “chop house” on Wall Street.
Helicopters. Amphibian Aircraft. Gas Turbine-engines - The Sikorsky name has been synonymous with Helicopters for decades. Russian Aviation pioneer, Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky was well known in Europe for inventing the world's first four engine, fixed-wing plane, "the Grand," and a later version called the "Ilya Mourometz" which was used to bomb Germany and Austria during World War One. Sikorsky left Russia after the revolution and eventually came to the United States where he struggled for several years while he designed and built twin engine aircraft. After Charles Lindbergh popularized aviation with his 1927 transatlantic flight, Sikorsky was able to sell 114 of his "S-38" twin-engine plane to airlines, the military, and even to individuals. The Sikorsky Aviation Corporation established itself in Stratford, Connecticut on October 3, 1928. In July of 1929, Sikorsky became a division of the United Aircraft Corporation. During the 1930's, Sikorsky developed a series of amphibians and flying boats. The famous 44 passenger capacity, "S-40" model was one of the many "Pan Am Clippers" used to make flights into South and Latin America. During the 1930's, Sikorsky returned to designing a craft which he had worked on in Russia: the helicopter. He received a patent in 1935 and successfully flew the "VS-300" in September of 1939. Helicopter design improvements and contracts with the U.S. Army followed in the 1940's. Since that time, the Sikorsky Division has received numerous patents for a variety of helicopter designs, manufactured turbine engines for high speed trains, and produced over 10,000 helicopters, including the famous "Black Hawk" and "Jolly Green Giant." Sikorsky remains a substantial economic force in the Greater Bridgeport Region and has employed hundreds of Bridgeporters over the years.
Singer Manufacturing
Sewing Machine Manufacturer - This large manufacturer of both industrial and home-based sewing machines took over the Bridgeport-based Wheeler and Wilson Sewing Machine Company in the fall of 1905 and focused its Bridgeport plant production on industrial use machinery. By the 1950's, Singer produced more than 4,000 varieties of family and industrial sewing machines for a world-wide market. Over the decades, the company's East Side plant employed hundreds of Bridgeporters, including the city's "Stoker-Mayor," Dennis Mulvilhill, who gave up shoveling coal at Singer's to run for office and won. The plant's whistle was an East Side institution for years; both workers and residents alike set their watches by the familiar 6:45am and 12:45pm blows and town officials often used the whistle to herald important city events.
Sprague Meter
Cast Iron Gas Meter Manufacturer - Sprague Meter Company was founded by Yale graduate, Henry H. Sprague, in 1890. Sprague realized that in the Twentieth Century, the need for a device which could measure gas used in domestic and industrial environments accurately would be great. He pioneered the development of a gas meter suitable for measuring both manufactured and natural gas and continued to improve and develop his product for decades thereafter. By 1940, the Sprague Meter Company was able to manufacture over 1,000 gas meters a day. The company also produced industrial-use meters and regulators for distribution systems and household appliances. The Sprague Meter Company instituted an annuity program in which it matched each employee-contributed dollar with a $1.50. Mr. and Mrs. Sprague also left various trust funds and stock interests to Sprague employees in their wills.
Underwood Elliott Fisher Company
Typewriters, accounting, adding, and billing machines for industrial and home-based markets
Warner Brothers
Corset Manufacturer - Two brothers, Dr. I. DeVer and Lucien C. Warner, formed small business partnership for corset manufacturing in 1874. By 1876, they had built a corset production facility in Bridgeport which eventually covered two entire blocks in the city's South End. The Warner Brothers Company became the leading producer of boneless, flexible corsets in the United States and continued to develop a long line of products such as the first two-way stretch girdle and the first line of bras utilizing the A-B-C-D sizing system. It remained an innovator in the world of women's lingerie by introducing new designs, fabrics, and technology for women's undergarments, adapting to the dictates of changing times and fashions. The Warner Company also established the Seaside Institute, which served as an educational housing facility for the many young women who came to the city to work for Warner Brothers. As early as 1912, Warner’s was the largest corset manufacturer in the world and employed 3,300 workers.