Category Archives: World History

Martin Luther King in Bridgeport?

A question arises every year in Bridgeport. Did Martin Luther King visit Bridgeport?
On at least four occasions, Reverend Martin Luther King spoke to crowds in Bridgeport. The first time was in 1961 when the Reverend King was invited by the University of Bridgeport to give a lecture at Klein Auditorium.
More than 2,700 people attended the lecture.
In 1962, Reverend King spoke at Central High School in a program co-sponsored by the NAACP and the Interdenominational and Ministerial Alliance of Greater Bridgeport.
In early 1964, just months after President Kennedy’s assassination, King spoke again to a capacity crowd at Klein Auditorium.
King said, “I think that the greatest tribute Americans can pay to the memory of John F. Kennedy is to see the civil rights bill is passed just as Kennedy presented it.”
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King’s last visit was on March 13, 1966. He spoke to a large and racially mixed crowd at Klein Auditorium.
When the civil rights leader was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, a local memorial service was held at Klein Auditorium. The audience overflowed out into the street.

The Day That Lincoln Came to Bridgeport

March 10, 1860 is the date that Republican candidate for President, Abraham Lincoln came to Bridgeport.
It was a Saturday night that Lincoln came to Bridgeport to give a speech. Four days earlier, Lincoln had given a speech in New Haven which was described as “an impassioned political speech against slavery.”

Lincoln was scheduled to give his talk at 7 p.m. in Washington Hall downtown. According to a small notice in the newspaper, Lincoln’s speech would “commence precisely at 7 o’clock, as he is obliged to leave on the Express train at 9:07 pm.”
The speech was planned to be given at Washington Hall, which was a lecture room in the Fairfield County Courthouse (now known as McLevy Hall). A report appeared later in the paper that said, “a great crowd attended at Washington Hall on Saturday evening to hear the Honorable Mr. Lincoln of Illinois. No special means had been used to ensure a large attendance and no posters were got out.”
Lincoln arrived on the train when Wheeler and Wilson’s band played, and around 100 members of the Republican Committee greeted him. More residents went to Washington Hall and it was packed as Abraham Lincoln spoke for two hours, giving much the same speech he had given in New Haven days before.
The Daily Standard described Lincoln as a “tall, bony, angular, big jointed figure with a great towering head and very expressive countenance. His eye satisfies you at once that there is brain…intellectual power in the man, and this is the secret of his success.”
The crowd followed Abraham Lincoln to the train and applauded and cheered as he left.
Somewhere on his route in Bridgeport that day, Kentucky born Abraham Lincoln ate his first plate of New England fried oysters.

1001 Good Things to Eat: A Cookbook from the Days of the Great Depression

In 1934, the Bridgeport Post-Telegram published a cookbook featuring prize recipes contributed by readers through Fairfield County. Many of the recipes in the collection reflected the psyche of the American public and the economics of the times.
The Great Depression, which covered the years of 1929 to the start of World War II, affected all of the households in Bridgeport. The Post-Telegram newspaper covered many of the effects of the Depression. The Post-Telegram also sponsored cooking classes for local women.
The classes were held at the Pyramid Mosque Temple, located at 1035 State Street. The cooking classes helped women learn some of the newest gadgets and cooking techniques. Many of the women were immigrants who did not know how to use the stove or other tools.

A recipe for “Depression Chocolate Cake” was featured on page 50

The result of this cooking school was a cookbook that boasted “A Thousand and One Good Thing to Eat.” Recipes covered many ethnic groups now living in the city; a German baked dinner, Irish stew, and apple fritters.

World War II Ration Books

Times are tough now, but in World War II it was especially difficult to get many goods from stores and elsewhere. Citizens were given a series of ration books during the war years. Each ration book was numbered. All kinds of things were rationed, from food to gasoline and even clothing.

The first ration book was given out in 1942. The first war ration stamps given out were for sugar. A series of four books were given out in the United States, and stamps were used for a variety of goods. On the back of the book which contained the stamps was the slogan, “If you don’t need it, DON’T BUY IT.”

This particular ration book was owned by Julian Sohon, the Head librarian of the Bridgeport Public Library in 1942.

Ration books had descriptions of the owner of the book, including height, weight, color of dyes and age. The address of the person to which the book was issued was also marked, with strict rules not to transfer ration stamps. Dealers had to post prices conspicuously so that buyers would not pay more.