April 5: P.T. Barnum Elected Mayor of Bridgeport – Not His Greatest Show

  Today in 1875, Phineas T. Barnum was elected Mayor of Bridgeport, at the age of 64. Though internationally acclaimed as an entertainment impresario and well respected as a politician at the state level, Barnum’s short mayoral tenure was not the greatest showing for a man still remembered as one of America’s most successful entertainers,…

April 3: The Sewing Machine Patent Wars

  Inventor and longtime Connecticut resident Elias Howe Jr. may not have invented the first sewing machine, but he was the first person to obtain a U.S. patent for one in 1846. Howe’s success in patenting his novel “lockstitch” sewing machine, which was the first to feature the automatic thread feed that remains a crucial…

March 19: A Fallen Star Gets A Second Chance

  When 32-year-old Joseph Ganim became mayor of Bridgeport in 1991, he had the distinction of being the youngest mayor in the city’s history. At the time, there were few politicians who even wanted the job.  Connecticut’s largest city had just filed for bankruptcy and was the only municipality in the state to have its…

January 23: A Pie in the Sky Idea Flies Off the Shelves

In 1871, a Civil War veteran and baker by the name of William Russell Frisbie opened the Frisbie Pie Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He later built a large factory on the city’s east side to accommodate the growing demand for his pastries. Little did this simple but successful pieman know that one day, several decades…

December 23: Bridgeport Benefactor Beardsley Brutally Beaten in Break-in

    In 1812, James Walker Beardsley was born to a prominent cattle-farming family in Monroe, Connecticut, and remained a farmer for his entire life, splitting his time between his family’s Monroe farm and a second residence in the then-bustling city of Bridgeport. In addition to farming, Beardsley also dabbled in speculation and trading cattle…

December 19: A Stitch in Time Pays Off for Connecticut Inventor

  While the Industrial Revolution forever changed the way Americans manufactured, bought, and sold everyday goods, fewer inventions had a larger impact on home life for American families than the sewing machine. While there had been several experimental and industrial models of sewing machines in existence since the earliest years of the 19th century, smaller…

November 20: A Fire, A Fiery Lady & A Hungry Lion

    On November 20, 1887, fire raged through the winter quarters of Barnum & Bailey’s Greatest Show on Earth. The five-acre compound in what is now Bridgeport’s Went Field Park housed circus animals, staff and equipment during the chilly off-season. Unfortunately, if there was anything to be said about the nineteenth-century circus, it’s that…

November 2: Rolling Out the “Best Built Car in America”

  Today in 1902, the Locomobile Company of America delivered its first four-cylinder, gasoline-powered car, designed by engineer and former racecar driver Andrew Riker, who personally drove the $4,000 car from Bridgeport, Connecticut to New York City to present it to its new owner. Since its founding in 1899, the Locomobile Company, whose headquarters and…

August 14: Gustave Whitehead Flies, Making Two Wrights Wrong

    One of the most controversial events in aviation history took place in Fairfield, Connecticut on this day in 1901, as inventor Gustave Whitehead executed a half-mile-long flight in his Flying Machine No. 21 at a height of 50 feet off the ground — over two years before the Wright Brothers made their much…

August 12: Gidget Born in Bridgeport

  Today in Connecticut history, actress Deborah Walley was born in Bridgeport in 1941. With nationally famous ice skaters and choreographers Edith and Nathan Walley as her parents, young Deborah caught the show business bug at an early age, performing on the ice with her parents for the first time at the age of three….

August 7: Connecticut Grinds to an Angry Halt

  Today in 1919, Connecticut companies throughout the state were effectively shuttered as thousands of workers across a multitude of different industries joined in a massive regional strike that, within the course of a week, spread from Maine to New York and brought New England commerce to a screeching halt. Connecticut, like many other states…