Above: When President Roosevelt came to Hartford all factories were shut and hundreds lined the streets. Democratic Mayor Ignatius A. Sullivan welcomed Roosevelt with a speech at Union Station but did not accompany him on his tour of Hartford and speech at Pope Park. Instead Col. Jacob L. Green, president of the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company, ferried the president in his electric car, thus making Roosevelt the first U.S. chief executive to ride in an automobile. Notice the escort of Hartford police on bicycles.
By Nancy O. Albert & Mark Jones with Charles Vendetti
(c) Connecticut Explored Inc. Aug/Sep/Oct 2004
Connecticut may be a small state in terms of electoral votes, but it has not been an unimportant one as this photo essay of 20th-century politicking in Connecticut reveals. The photos show the similarities and changes which the years have wrought on election-year politics. Whether running for state or national office, politicians still give speeches to cheering crowds. Journalists and photographers still jostle for the best coverage.
Yet one of the most striking changes concerns security: the police officers on foot or on bicycles seem quant to modern viewers used to protective barriers surrounding podiums and cordoned-off areas. And it is impossible to imagine spectators now being allowed to stand behind the candidate as they appear in the photograph of Dwight D. Eisenhower speaking at the Hartford Times portico. Certainly the wave of political assassinations and assassination attempts in the 1960s and ‘70s put an end to presidents and presidential candidates riding in open cars mobbed by crowds. But the need to connect with voters, to press the flesh, to give a rousing speech is important to the functioning of a democracy and therefore timeless.
Above left: Woodrow Wilson arriving at Union Station, Hartford, as a police officer blocks the route. September 26, 1912. Wilson was campaigning for the presidency and was elected to his first term in November of that year. Graphics Collection, The Connecticut Historical Society Museum, Hartford, Connecticut
Above right: Raymond E. Baldwin shakes hands with factory workers c. 1940s. The date and location of this image are unknown, but nonetheless, it shows a staple of past campaigns, shaking the hands of factory workers at the gate. Baldwin was the only Connecticut politician to serve as governor, U.S. senator, and chief justice of the state supreme court. State Archives, Connecticut State Library
Bottom: Whistle stop tour through Connecticut by Republican presidential candidate Wendell L. Willkie, October 9, 1940. Governor Raymond E. Baldwin supported the candidacy of “dark horse” Willkie against President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Baldwin threw the Connecticut delegation behind Willkie at the Republican Party’s convention in 1940 and served as a floor leader. The governor escorted Willkie aboard the “Willkie Special” as it traveled from Stamford to Hartford and then down to New Haven in a grueling day of campaigning. This is an image of the first stop, a rally in front of the old town hall in Stamford. This image appeared in the October 9 Stamford Advocate. State Archives, Connecticut State Library
Above left: Dwight David Eisenhower, Republican candidate for president, speaks in front of the Hartford Times portico at a lunchtime rally in the summer of 1952. He was elected to his first term as president later that year. Above right: This photograph, taken moments after the previous photograph, shows a rear view of the same scene. City Hall and the State Capital are visible in the background. Note the photographer on the stair platform being closely monitored by an FBI agent. Both photos: Charles Vendetti for the Hartford Times, Courtesy of Charles Vendetti.
Bottom: Republican vice presidential candidate Richard Nixon speaks to a large crowd in Bushnell Park in 1952. Note the press corps with their typewriters and Speed Graphic cameras directly in front of the podium. photo: Charles Vendetti for the Hartford Times, Courtesy of Charles Vendetti
Top: Republican vice-presidential candidate Richard Nixon and his wife Pat preparing to ride through Hartford in an open car with Senator Prescott Bush, 1952. photo: Charles Vendetti for the Hartford Times, Courtesy of Charles Vendetti
Bottom: Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson and Putnam mayor John Dempsey. Stevenson unsuccessfully ran against Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956. The date and place of this image are unknown, though there is evidence that it may be in Putnam. Dempsey later served as Connecticut governor from 1961-1971. Note the Democratic tie that Stevenson is wearing. State Archives, Connecticut State Library
Top: Presidential candidate Hubert H. Humphrey speaks in Hartford to 700 North End residents at a Main Street rally, October 18, 1968. Next to Humphrey with their backs turned left to right are Governor John Dempsey and Senator Abraham Ribicoff. Humphrey lost the election to Richard M. Nixon. Urban disturbances occurred in the North End prior to this rally and again in 1969. State Archives, Connecticut State Library.
Bottom: Abraham Ribicoff’s campaign for the U.S. Senate, Ansonia, October 17, 1962. President John F. Kennedy, Connecticut Governor John Dempsey, and U.S. senatorial candidate Abraham Ribicoff. The president’s cavalcade from Bridgeport to Stratford, Waterbury, Hartford and then to New Haven retraced almost exactly the route followed in 1960, when 48 hours before the presidential election, 30,000 people waited until 3 a.m. in Waterbury to cheer Kennedy. The 1962 visit was said to be in repayment for that massive turnout. Anyone who lived through the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963 understands that riding in unprotected, open cars is a custom of the past. Note that the president is hatless, a fashion he followed. Dempsey and Ribicoff also are not wearing hats, but they are clutching them just in case. State Archives, Connecticut State Library