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Bridgeport In The Know


Presidents in Bridgeport

WICC AM 600 Coffee Break Chat Nov. 14, 2014

Last month Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch remarked on Obama’s visit and the mayor said “We’ve hosted 100 or so Presidential visits in Bridgeport’s history, and we’ll host 100 more, God willing.”   Well, it hasn’t been that many, but surprisingly Bridgeport is a popular stop for American presidents especially around election time. 

16 American Presidents have visited Bridgeport for a total of 31 separate visits – from George Washington to Barack Obama.  8 were Republicans, 7 were Democrats and one was an independent – George Washington.  Here is a quick run-down.  For some of these visits there are available details, for others we just have the date.  

1. George Washington:     If you were wondering why there are so many “George Washington Slept Here” signs on old New England buildings, it’s because he made a tour along the Post Road from New York to Boston in 1789 during his first year as president, and it is documented that he went through Bridgeport as well.  

1 A. Although there is no documentation that I could find that Presidents John Adams nor John Quincy Adams came to Bridgeport, the fact that they had homes in Boston might indicate that they might have also traveled the Post Road through Bridgeport from Washington to Boston sometime in the late 1700’s to early 1800’s.

2. Abraham Lincoln:   In March 1860 before he became president in 1861, Abraham Lincoln spoke in the auditorium at McLevy Hall.  The largest room in the city was packed, and a crowd formed outside. He gave a 2 hour impassioned speech against slavery. Lincoln received a standing ovation before taking the evening train back to Manhattan. A plaque on the building marks the event. While in Bridgeport he ate at a home of a Republican constituent on Washington Avenue and it is said that there he had his first taste of New England fried oysters.

 


3. Theodore Roosevelt:  In 1902, Roosevelt traveled through New England on a long tour. He stopped in Bridgeport and spoke to a crowd of 30,000 and he spoke out against the powerful trusts, trade with Cuba, taxes, and the Philippine rebellion.   He also came to Bridgeport in June 1905. He visited after he was president in Nov. 1916 campaigning for presidential candidate Charles Hughes and spoke before a crowd of 5,000. He also blasted Woodrow Wilson and the Democrats in his speech. There is also  documentation that he was here in 1919 and 1921 as well.

3 A. Mrs. Warren G. Harding    Although there is no evidence that President Warren G. Harding visited Bridgeport, his widow did come here for the dedication of Harding High School in 1925.

4. Franklin D. Roosevelt   Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave a speech in Bridgeport in Sept. 1932 when he was Governor of New York and running for president. He was also here in Oct. 1936 as president and gave a speech talking about the Bridgeport Centennial and the prosperity of Bridgeport as the arsenal of democracy. He was here again in 1940 and 1944. His wife Eleanor came to Bridgeport several times and spoke at Klein Auditorium

1936 Bridgeport speech        1944 Bridgeport speech 

5.  Harry S. Truman:    President Truman came to Bridgeport during his presidency in 1948; and came here again in Oct 1952 to rally the Democratic vote in CT.  His speech included references to the Bridgeport Locomobile and Bridgeport’s Father Panik Village.

1948 Bridgeport speech 

6. Dwight D. Eisenhower: Dwight Eisenhower was in Bridgeport during a campaign tour in Oct. 1952 right before he before president.

7. John F. Kennedy John F. Kennedy was here in  Nov. 1960 before a crowd of 6,000 at the train station campaigning for president.  He said in his speech that said CT was key state in the election and spoke on what he would do if elected president and on the war in Vietnam. He also came in 1962 as president.

   

8. Lyndon B. Johnson: Lyndon Johnson came to Bridgeport in Oct. 1963 when he was Vice President, 1 month before the assassination of President Kennedy.

9. Richard M. Nixon:  Richard Nixon makes a stop in Bridgeport when he was Vice-President in 1956. He returned to Bridgeport in Oct. 1960 during his campaign tour against Kennedy.  He also visited while president in 1970 with wife Pat. 

1960 Bridgeport speech

9 A. There is some documentation that both Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter visited Bridgeport but I could not find the dates in my research.   Carter was here a few times apparently.

10. Gerald R. Ford:    date unknown  11. James Carter:    multiple visits

12. Ronald Reagan:   Ronald Reagan visited the General Electric plant in Bridgeport in 1954 before he was President when he was a spokesperson for GE.  He returned to Bridgeport as president in  Oct. 1984.

13. George H.W. Bush:   Not in Bridgeport exactly - but George H.W. Bush visited Sacred Heat University in 1981 to receive an honorary degree.

14.  William J. Clinton:   Bill Clinton visited Bridgeport as president in Oct. 1994, and in March 1998 he returned to tour the Early Childhood School at Housatonic Community College and made a speech about early childhood education.

15. George W. Bush:    President George Bush was here in April  2002 to talk about discussed voluntarism and his plans to expand citizen service programs in the U.S. He returned in April  2006 and spoke at the Playhouse on the Green  before a group of Connecticut business people about health care reform and to promote health savings accounts. He  praised U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays and CT Gov. Jodi Rell  

 

16. President Obama   President Obama came to the Harbor Yard arena in Oct 2010 and spoke before 9,000 people to gain support for the campaigns of Democratic Governor Dan Malloy. Richard Blumenthal for US Senate and Congressman Jim Himes.   He returned of course on Nov. 2 of this here and spoke to 1,900 people at  Central High School to once again gain support for Governor Dan Malloy.

Text 2010 Bridgeport speech    Full video 2010 Bridgeport speech
Full video 2014 Bridgeport speech
Video of 2014 Presidential Motorcade through Bridgeport