Barnum Festival
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 2015-
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.
Hod carriers
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.)
International Institute
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.
Italian Laborers
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.
Jasper McLevy
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
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.
Marshall Plan
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.
Women workers after VJ-Day
During the war, women operated lathes, grinders, milling machines and automatic screw machines- - jobs usually performed by men. Although occasionally women are still performing these operations, their number is proportionately less than during the war. Veterans with machine-shop experience have been given preference in filling vacancies in such jobs. During the war, some women did blanking and forming on heavier work than that to which they had been assigned in the prewar period. This has been largely discontinued, but women still predominate as light-press operators. The few women taken on as cutters in the garment trades are quickly being replaced by men; the cutters, highest paid of the clothing workers, are traditionally men. In the bus company, where women were taken on as bus drivers, bus cleaners, bus washers, stock and tool-crib attendants, and garage helpers, management has already replaced all but the drivers and a few cleaners with men, and, while women drivers with union seniority will be retained, no more women will be hired for this job. In February 1946, women constituted about a third of the Bridgeport labor force. Almost all the women who were working in Bridgeport in February 1946 did so to support themselves or to support themselves and others. The range of occupations in which women may expect to find employment in Bridgeport has narrowed since the war. Finding a job is particularly difficult for older women (40 years and over), married women, women without high school education, and Negro women. Many Bridgeport women were earning less in February 1946 than during the war (40% earned less; 10% earned more; the rest unchanged.) (excerpted from: U.S. Department of Labor Women's Bureau, Women Workers after VJ-Day in One Community-Bridgeport, Connecticut. Bulletin #216. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1947.)
Negro Musicians Local No. 549
Negro Musicians Local No. 549 Chauncey L. Cuffey is President of the new Negro Musicians Local No. 549. Samuel Davey, President of Musicians Local 63, of this city, installed officers yesterday in the clubrooms, 20 North Washington Avenue. Other officers are Archie Cruz, Vice President; Edward Rosario, Recording Secretary; C. Raymond Ellis, corresponding secretary; Horace J. Brooks, treasurer; Harold Allen, Abraham Farrar, Ralph Congo, Fred White and Ernest Place, members of the Executive Board. John McClure, Vice President and Business Agent of Local 63, addressed members of the new organization. (From Bridgeport Post, November 24, 1941. "Officers Installed by Musicians."
Neighborhoods Just as in other cities in the United States, Bridgeport, Connecticut is composed of informal boundaries or neighborhoods which are known by their individual characteristics. The neighborhoods have developed by geographic boundaries as well as ethnic and other socio-economic influences. The neighborhoods of Bridgeport consist of the North End, East Side, East End, Black Rock, South End, West Side, West End, the Hollow (or old North End), and Downtown area.
Open shop
Opposite of closed shop, where employees are not union members, either by choice or by employer coercion.
Palmer Raids
For further information on the Palmer Raids, see: Shubert, Bruce B. "The Palmer Raids in Connecticut: 1919-1920." Connecticut Review 5 (October 1971): 53-69.
Piece prices (or piece rates)
Method of payment to workers which stipulates a price or payment for each piece of unit produced.
Population of Bridgeport
1900 70,996 1910 102,054 1920 143,555 1930 146,716 1940 147,121 1950 158,709 1960 156,748 1970 156,542 1980 142,546 1990 141,686 2000 2010
Remington Arms
"In five months, from March 15 to August 16, 1915, a row of one story brick buildings (bayonet factories) and a parallel row of five story brick buildings (rifle factories) a quarter of a mile long, rose on a site north of the Union Metallic Cartridge Company. Meantime the U.M.C. had not been idle, but had added seven four story brick buildings to its original factory, had increased its usual 2,200 employees to 7,000 and was running three eight hour shifts. All day long a line of men stood outside the Remington Arms Company waiting to be hired and it was said of the firm that one new man joined the force every 20 minutes. Suffice to say that 1,400-1,600 men were taken on every month for nearly a year. In November 1915, 3,000 were employed. By April 1, 1916, the number had jumped to 16,000 and 20,000 more were expected." excerpted from Elsie Danenberg, The Story of Bridgeport (1936), p. 112.)
Silk warpers
Skilled workers in a silk mill whose job it is to set the vertical or lengthwise threads (warp) on the loom, before the loom is set in motion to weave a length of cloth.
Sit-down strike
Work stoppage where workers sit down at their stations or machines but do no work, thus occupying the plant and preventing employers from running the plant with strikebreakers. First recorded in the U.S. in 1906, the sit-down strike became popular in 1936-37 during the CIO organizing drives. The tactic was later declared illegal by the courts who ruled it as "trespass on private property."
Skilled workers
Craft workers who have extensive training in most aspects of a production process (see journeyman). Modern industry has created the semi-skilled worker, who is trained for only one or two steps of a production process.
sympathy strike (or secondary strike)
Work stoppage in sympathy with other workers engaged in a dispute with their separate employer, where the sympathy strikers may have no immediate interest or benefit--often practiced as a form of solidarity or for broader political or economic goals.
Taft-Hartley Act
Passed by an anti-labor Congress over President Truman's veto in 1947, the Act attempted to balance the pro-labor 1935 Wagner Act by adding a list of employer rights and union restrictions. Of chief importance were the following provisions: outlawing the closed shop, restrictions on the union shop including allowing states to outlaw the union shop (called "right-to-work" laws), prohibiting the use of union dues for political activity, and, most significantly for the late 1940s, a requirement that all union officers sign affidavits declaring that they were not members of the Communist party or any organization supporting it.
Truman Doctrine
U.S. President Harry S. Truman, in a speech before Congress in March 1947, asked for military and economic aid to royalist Greece and Turkey, both of which had been fighting communist-inspired guerrilla movements since the end of WWII. Truman announced his intention to fight communism on a global scale, leading to the Cold War.
Unskilled workers
Workers who have no particular training for a job.
White collar/blue collar
Terms originating in the United States in the mid-20th century to distinguish between manual labor (blue collar, from the color of traditional workshirts) and the growing sectors of office, technical and professional work (white collar).
Wildcat strike
A strike unauthorized by a labor union.
Women Workers
Women are surging into war industries, it was clearly shown yesterday, when United Aircraft Company officials disclosed that 6,700 are now on the payrolls, including many at the Vought-Sikorsky plant in Stratford. 63.5% of the employees hired at Sikorsky's last week were women. 70% of the total students in the training schools at Sikorsky's are women. Women are now holding important production jobs, such as lathe hands, millers, grinders, drillers, welders, riveters, and similar jobs, instead of being confined to positions as inspectors as heretofore. (Excerpted from "Hiring of Women Soars at Sikorsky Plant," Bridgeport Post, November 6, 1942.)