Ed Sullivan, Elvis and Griffin Hospital


On the rainy night of August 7, 1956, TV top rated host Ed Sullivan had flown into Bridgeport with his son-law-Robert Precht, age 27. They were headed to Sullivan’s weekend retreat at 367 North Hill Road in Southbury, an otherwise modest home on 130 acre dairy farm. Ralph Cacace, Sullivan’s watchman on the Southbury property had driven down to pick them up as he did most Sunday night’s.

It was 2:00 Am when the party entered Seymour on route 8. Thick patches of fog had dogged on the ride up the twisting road.  Sullivan, who was then 55, was driving the 1956 black Lincoln convertible. His son-in-law was in the front seat and Cacace was in the backseat. Suddenly, a car driven by 22-year old Joseph Palmucci, an X ray technician, of Ansonia, swerved into Sullivan’s lane causing a violent head on collision that wrecked both cars.

Palmucci broke his jaw. Precht had a fractured left ankle, a series of gashes across his scalp and a 15 inch laceration under his chin. Cacace was tossed from the back seat into the front seat and suffered various cuts and bruises on his chest and lips. Ed Sullivan’s body was thrown up against his steering wheel with such force that he broke a rib in half and crushed his sternum.

“There was a taste of blood in my mouth and the smell of smoke in my nostrils and I couldn’t breathe because my chest was caved in” Sullivan later wrote.

When police arrived they found Sullivan sitting on the side of the road. Precht and Cacace were trapped in their seats and had to be pried out by the fire department. Palmucci was also thrown from his car and was lying on the road.

All parties were rushed to the Griffin Hospital and the accident was flashed across the wires and made international news. It would take Ralph Cacace four days to regain consciousness.   




In July of that year, Sullivan had agrees to sign Elvis Presley on his program after first refusing the singer any air time at all. The problem was that after Elvis made his second appearance on The Milton Berle Show on June 5, 1956, Elvis had bumped and grinded his way through “Hound Dog”. The teens loved it but the press and most adults were outraged to say the least. When Ed Sullivan was asked if he would book Elvis on his show, he said he would not, feigning outrage over the sexuality of Elvis’s act. The truth was, Sullivan was hyper-protective of his career and his program and wanted to avoid the wrath of the press by allowing Elvis on his show.  

On July 1st, 1956, Elvis appeared on the Steve Allen Show, which aired opposite The Ed Sullivan Show. To avoid controversy Allen demanded that Elvis appear on stage dressed in a tux and had him sing “Hound Dog” to a basset hound….without moving his hips. The ploy work, the adult world forgave Elvis and his hips and the Steve Allen Show crushed Sullivan in that week’s ratings.


On the following day, Monday morning, Sullivan signed Elvis for his program. He was to appear three times for the then incredible sum of $50,000, the highest amount ever paid to a performer to appear on TV.

His first appearance would be Sunday night, September 9th, 1956. Then on August 7, Joseph Palmucci, the x ray technician from Ansonia rammed his 54 Chevy into Ed Sullivan’s car on route 8 causing Ed Sullivan to miss hosting one of the most iconic performances in the history of entertainment.
British actor Charles Laughton hosted the show instead. Sixty million viewers tuned in to watch the King of Rock sing “Don’t Be Cruel” “Love Me Tender” and Little Richard’s hit, “Ready Teddy.”


At the end of the last song, Elvis solemnly thanked “Mr. Sullivan for having me on his television program” and wished him a speedy recovery and then said “As a great philosopher once said…’you ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog!’” and the gyrating began. However Sullivan had ordered that the cameramen only shoot Elvis from the waist up.

VINCENT IMPELLITTERI, ANSONIA’S MAYOR OF NEW YORK



Vincent R. Impellitteri, New York’s 101 Mayor was an Ansonian. He was born on February 4, 1900, in the village of Isnello, Sicily. In 1902, his father, Salvatore Impellitteri, was a shoemaker, moved the family first to New York’s Lower East Side and then to Ansonia where Impellitteri attended local elementary schools and graduated from Ansonia High in 1917.
On his election day as Mayor of New York, Impellitteri gave credit to his success in life to Annie E. Larkin his teacher at the Elm Street School who taught him to speak English. Larkin, the one of 12 children of Irish immigrant parents, also taught catechism at Holy Rosary Church for 25 years, where again, Impellitteri was one of her charges. Larkin went on to become principle of the Elm Street School which was later renamed the Larkin School in her honor. The school serves today as the police headquarters.
The parishioners of Holy Rosary later commissioned a headstone, at Larkin’s grave in St. Mary’s cemetery which reads (In Italian on one side and English on the other) “Annie E. Larkin. For 50 years as a school teacher, for 25 years instructor in catechism to Italian American children. To All, kind and self-sacrificing.
After a stint as a Navy radioman on a destroyer in World War I, he attended Fordham and later Fordham Law while working full time as a night bellboy and manager at a Broadway hotel, the Ansonia. He became a US citizen in 1922 and earned his law degree in 1924.
Always active in Democratic politics he joined a law firm in which Martin Conboy, an influential Democratic figure, was a member and so his political career began. For nine years, from 1929 to 1938, Impellitteri served as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan before returning to private practice, mostly criminal law.
He entered public life again in 1941 as law secretary to Justice Peter Schmuck of State Supreme Court. And later became secretary to Justice Joseph Gavagan, a liberal progressive.
In 1945, the soft spoken and unassuming Impellitteri, with Tammany behind him, (They needed an Italian-born Roman Catholic to balance out O’Dwyer’s overwhelmingly Irish-American ticket) was elected president of the City Council, the No. 2 position at City Hall, in 1945 yet he was virtually unknown to most New Yorkers.
The slightly built, shy, Impellitteri was known for his old world courtly manner, his calm demeanor, scholastic approach to the city’s issues. Aside from chain smoking cigars, he was somewhat drab and predictable a drastically different figure from the non-stop, almost maniacal energy of former Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia and the backslapping good humor of his boss the very colorful William O’Dwyer.
But Impellitteri’s lack of flamboyance was what the people of New York wanted in their Mayor in 1950. Besides it was widely accepted across the city that it was Impellitteri, an O'Dwyer protégé, who was running the city behind the scenes in large part due to O’Dwyer’s all too frequent vacations.

In September of 1950, with a major political scandal about to break, William O'Dwyer resigned as Mayor and took an appointment as President Truman's Ambassador to Mexico and Impellitteri - who had been City Council president since 1946 - became Acting Mayor.
A special election was called to fill the three remaining years of Mr. O'Dwyer's term but Impellitteri, due to his bickering with the Manhattan Democratic machine, Tammany Hall, was denied the democrats nomination. It has been said that one of the causes for the slap was due to Impellitteri refusal to knuckle under to Mafia Boss Frank Costello, who, in the early 1950s, virtually ran the Manhattan Democratic Party. So Impellitteri ran as an independent under the banner of the Experience Party.
During the election the Republican candidate for Mayor charged that Mafia boss Tommy Luchese was behind Impellitteri campaign and had proof that Impellitteri (and eight other powerful Democrats) has shared a table sponsored Luchese at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation, Inc., dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on October 16, 1946. It was all rumors and there has never been any substantial evidence that Impellitteri was involved with the mob.
Political experts wrote him off. But the little man from Ansonia and his stand against the machine inspired New Yorkers and seemingly overnight, as massive grass roots volunteer organization came to life across the city. Impellitteri won the race with a 225,000-vote plurality in a three-way race.
The shoemaker’s son was the first person to not only become mayor of New York without the support of a major political party and in direct defiance of the all-powerful Tammany Machine.
His first trip outside the city as Mayor was to a banquet held in his honor at the Armory in Ansonia as a guest of Mayor Frank Fitzgerald.
After his election Impellitteri quickly reached out to the Democratic bosses across the city but spurned Tammany powerful and revengeful Boss Carmine Gerard DeSapio by denying him patronage.
DeSapio, Tammy’s last boss, was about Impellitteri’s age, and like him was born the son of an Italian immigrant, worked his way through Fordham and climbed the Tammany ladder although DeSapio started at the lowest ranks as a messenger and street organizer. DeSapio became district leader for lower Greenwich and was a key player in the struggle between the Irish and Italians to control the machine.
In 1949, DeSapio became Tammany’s youngest boss and although nationally recognized as the nation’s most prominent Italian American politician he was also considered a tool of organized crime. Impellitteri probably took on DeSapio because like almost everyone else on the political scene he recognized that Tammany’s days were nearing an end.
Impellitteri inherited one deadly scandal after another, from mob control of the waterfront, to corrupt cops. That, combined with post war inflation, an inability to stand up to the state government and the flight of the middle class from the city, painted Impellitteri as an incompetent, which he certainly wasn’t but he may well have been in over his head.
When Impellitteri sought re-election in 1953, Tammany Hall and DeSapio threw their entire machine against him, instead backing Manhattan Borough President, Robert F. Wagner, a reliable go-along-get along Tammany loyalist who went on to serve three terms as mayor. The election was an easy win for Wagner. Two days after leaving office, Wagner named Impellitteri to a judgeship.
Impellitteri, called “Impy” in political circles, retired as a Criminal Court judge in 1965 due to the increasing severity of Parkinson’s disease. He had married Elizabeth Agnes McLaughlin in 1926. They had no children and Elizabeth died at the end of 1967.
The couple kept an apartment at the New York Athletic Club but was fond of pointing out that his fame was fleeting since he was rarely recognized on the streets as the former Mayor.
Impellitteri eventually moved into Carolton Convalescent Hospital in Fairfield. He died of heart failure at age 86 in Bridgeport hospital on January 29, 1987. He was waked at the Spinelli-Malerba Funeral Home in Ansonia and was given a burial mass at Holy Rosary Church, his home parish. Mayor Impellitteri is buried at Mount Saint Peter's Cemetery in Derby.

MY WRITERS SITE: My brother Danny died in his sleep last night

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Martin Luther King in Simsbury, Connecticut



In the summer of 1944, when he was 15 years old, Martin Luther King came north to New England with a group of Morehouse students to work for the Cullman Brothers tobacco fields in Simsbury and returned there again in 1947 between his junior and senior years at Morehouse.
They came because World War II service had most of the adult male workforce and the state had been using Southern seasonal agricultural work for decades even before the war. In King’s case, the work in the fields paid for his tuition at Morehouse as well as his  board and train fair. (If they stayed until the harvest was complete.)

King and the other students, about 100 in total, lived in the Morehouse boarding house or in a larger camp down the road. They were woken at 6AM and worked in the fields Monday to Friday from 7AM to 5 PM. Dinner was served in a communal dining room. Lights were out at 10 PM.
On weekends there were trips into Hartford of which Dr. King wrote to his parents;
“Yesterday we didn’s work so we went to Hardford we really had a nice time there. I never thought that a person of my race could eat anywhere but we ...ate in one of the finest resturant in Hardford. And we went to the largest shows there. It is really a large city”

On his return to work in the summer of 47, King had a minor run-in with the police over a prank. It was also the summer when he decided to follow in the footsteps of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather and take up preaching. In 1948, after graduating from Morehouse King enrolled in the Crozier Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. He eventually received a doctorate from Boston University in 1955.  

Mount Saint John School: Photos from about 1865

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The IRA


 

The name Irish Republican Army (IRA ) was used by the military wing of the Fenian Brotherhood of America, a revolutionary movement founded in 1858 in the industrial cities of the north-eastern United States.

That Irish Republican Army came to global prominence in the 19th century with several attempted invasions of British-controlled Canada between the years 1866 and 1871. Staged by rival factions of the Fenian organisation the main objective was the establishment of an “Irish Republic in Exile” on the North America continent by the exploiting the simmering post-Civil War tensions between Washington and London (senior members of the White House and US Congress initially encouraged the Fenian plans).

Though the strategy failed the abbreviation “IRA” was added to the lexicon of Irish and international politics.

Some fifty years later when the Fenian sister-movement in Ireland, the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), orchestrated an insurrection against British colonial rule in the country it did so by coalescing several existing paramilitary organisations under one banner. These were the Irish Volunteers, Irish Citizen Army and Hibernian Rifles which in the Easter Rising of 1916 assumed the collective title of the “Army of the Irish Republic” or, as you may have guessed, the “Irish Republican Army”. The IRA was thus reborn for a new generation and a new century.

John O’Neill died Jan 8th, 1878



 

John O’Neill was born in Drumgallon, Co. Monaghan, Ireland on the 9th of March 1834. He was born into a farming family the third child born to John and Mary O'Neill. His father, who contacted a virulent strain of scarlet fever from a neighboring family in need, died six weeks before young John was born.

His mother, unable to eke out a living in Ireland and fearful for her children’s survival, emigrated to the United States in the latter part of 1835 with two of her children and settled in Elizabeth, New Jersey. John stayed behind with his grandfather, a staunch supporter of Irish Nationalism who harbored a deep distrust and hatred of England and its unholy presence in Ireland. The grandfather saw to it that his grandson received a good basic education and also made sure that he was well versed in Irish history. In December of 1848, at age 14, imbued with his grandfather’s political views and mindset towards England, John left Ireland to join his mother and siblings in the United States.

After arriving in New Jersey he completed his formal education. His first job was with a Catholic publishing company as a sales representative. He traveled extensively throughout New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. After a number of years on the road he settled in Richmond Virginia, where in 1855 he opened a bookstore.

In order to meet other Irish exiles living in Richmond who shared his his antipathy towards England he joined the local branch of the Emmet Monument Association. The aim of the organization was to provide military training to young men who at a future date would use that training to rid Ireland of the English scourge. O'Neill took full advantage of the training he received.

In 1857 he sold the bookstore and enlisted in the Second United States Dragoons who were preparing to go west to quell a Mormon rebellion in the Utah Territory. Disillusioned with the lack of action, O'Neill went AWOL and headed west to San Francisco where he spent the next few years. At that time San Francisco was the new home for Irish political exiles, patriots and poets including Terence Bellew MacManus, Batholomew Dowling and John Mitchel. While living there O'Neill met his future wife Mary Ann Crowe, an Australian of Irish parents.

In 1859, having second thoughts about his desertion from the Dragons he turned himself in and, fortunately for him, was returned to duty without trial.

At the onset of the Civil War in 1861, O'Neill was stationed in San Francisco with the 1st United States Cavalry, formerly the Second United States Dragoons. He returned to the east coast with his regiment who had volunteered for action in the Union Army. In March through July of 1862 the regiment was engaged in the battles of the Peninsular Campaign launched by the Union army in an attempt to circumvent the Confederate Army in northern Virginia and capture Richmond the Confederate Capital. On June 27, at the battle of Caines Mill, O'Neill was promoted from sergeant to the rank of second lieutenant for gallantry

In 1863 he was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant in the Fifth Indiana Cavalry at Munfordville, Kentucky. Notwithstanding his less than stellar attitude towards his superiors, O'Neill was hailed for his courageous leadership in a successful Union assault on troops under Confederate commander John Hunt Morgan during Morgan’s campaign in Kentucky, Southern Indiana and Ohio in the Summer of 1863. In December of the same year he was given another citation for bravery at Walker’s Ford where he was wounded in the leg.

In the summer of 1864 he was appointed Captain in the 17th United States Colored Infantry . He was forced to resign in November of the same year because of his impaired physical condition, resulting from the wound he received in Nashville the previous year.

Late that same year (1864) he married Mary Ann Crowe and settled in Nashville, Tennessee. They had three children over a span of ten years. In keeping with O'Neill’s penchant for moving from place to place, each of the children were born in different states including Nashville, Tennessee, Washington D.C. and O'Neill in Nebraska.

In 1866 O'Neill joined the Fenian organization in a leadership role. When the organization finalized it plans to invade Canada and hold it hostage for Ireland’s freedom, O'Neill was a willing participant, anxious to strike a blow at England when or where ever the opportunity presented itself. In addressing the Fenian Convention in Philadelphia in 1876 he said:

I have always believed in striking at England wherever we could reach her, and wherever the English flag floats and the English government is recognized and there are English soldiers in arms to defend the flag and maintain the government. I hold that the Irish people, particularly the Irish Exiles whom her oppressive laws have driven from their native land, have a right to go there and make war on England.

General Tom Sweeny a native of County Cork was in charge of implementing the plan to invade Canada, which included a series of co-coordinated raids from mustering points in Chicago, Buffalo and Maine. Command of the Buffalo expedition was entrusted to O'Neill who crossed the Niagara River at the head of at least 800 men during the night of May 31, 1866. On the morning of June 1st. a regiment of Fenians captured Fort Erie for use as a defense perimeter. On June 2nd O'Neill came face to face with British forces at Ridgeway where he out-fought and out-witted and decisively defeated the British and their Canadian cohorts. Had it not been for the half-hearted approach of other Fenian leaders, the outcome would have been far different and would have put the continued British occupation of Ireland to the test.

In the end the invasion was halted by US authorities’ who prevented supplies and reinforcements from crossing into Canada.

During the following week other attempted crossing were stymied by the US army. O'Neill, who still believed that the plan as originally devised would succeed if properly executed, launched two other raids into Canada, the first in May of 1870 from Malone and the second in October 1871 from Georgestown, Minnesota to no avail.

After that he turned his attention to his other great passion; the resettlement of Irish families from the slums of eastern cities to the western plains. After travelling throughout the west in search of the best place to resettle he decided on Nebraska as it possessed an abundance of pure water, fertile land and millions of acres of free government land.

In 1874 O'Neill embanked on a lecture tour along the east coast, encouraging the poor Irish that they would have a better standard of living if they would resettle with him in Nebraska. He was totally convinced they had a lot more on common with rural America than the dire poverty and miserable centres which they then resided in.

The first Irish colony in Nebraska was set up in Holt County in the town that bears his name today - O'Neill, Nebraska. He had very ambitious plans and his Nebraska colonies in Holt and Greenley counties were seen by him as just the start of many that would cover the plains.

His legacy is in the communities that exist in Nebraska today. These settlements are thriving and successful farming communities. John O'Neill can claim credit for the spirit of generosity that is still part of these communities today.

n 1877 while on a speaking tour in Little Rock, John O'Neill the consummate Irish and American patriot, became ill and returned to his home in Nebraska. His condition continued to deteriorate and after been admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital Omaha in November 1877 suffered a stroke and died on the 8th of January 1878.

Beethoven sheet music found in Connecticut home sells for $100K


By Associated Press

GREENWICH, Conn. — Sheet music written by Ludwig van Beethoven and found in a Connecticut home has fetched $100,000 at auction.
The Greenwich Time reports that appraiser Brendan Ryan spotted the sheet music when he visited the home of a Greenwich woman looking to sell some belongings. He recognized Beethoven’s handwriting in the German words, directions and symbols on the page because he’d seen it before.
Research authenticated the music and determined it was from a sketchbook dating to 1810 and used by the composer for brainstorming.
It’s unclear what happened to the sketchbook after Beethoven’s death in 1827. It was sold in portions, with fragments turning up.
Ryan says finding a complete sheet is rare. It was purchased by a German antiques dealer.
It’s unclear how the page found its way to the Greenwich home.





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The Nutmeg State: We need to do this, Connecticut

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State archaeologist tends to the artifacts of Connecticut’s past


By Judy Benson

Crouched beside one of the many stone walls that crisscross Pachaug State Forest in Voluntown, Brian Jones held one end of a rope threaded into a single-wheeled contraption that resembled a high-tech scooter attached to a computer screen.
While Debbie Surabian, soil scientist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, tracked grainy images of what lies underground on a computer screen hanging around her neck, her assistant, Megan McClellan, drove the machine slowly over the lumpy ground.
“The goal here is to locate some unmarked burial sites, and move forward with preservation and possibly removal,” Jones said last week. “There are a lot of these little farm cemeteries throughout our state forests, and the public is very interested in cemeteries. They need to be protected and cared for. People have a lot of attachment to these places.”
Since becoming state archaeologist in 2014, Jones has become familiar with many sites like this around the state, often after local officials contact him with concerns about a particular site in need of protection, as was the case in Voluntown.
Probing remote landscapes with ground-penetrating radar equipment to confirm the existence of graves has been one of the unexpected and more frequent activities of the field work responsibilities of this one-person state office.
“I grew up as an archaeologist as a stone tool specialist,” said Jones, 52, who succeeded Nick Bellantoni in the position after Bellantoni retired. “And it never occurred to me that someone would ask an archaeologist about a cemetery. But in the public's mind, if it's in the ground, it's archaeology."
A reciprocal agreement between his office and the NRCS makes the radar equipment, along with Surabian and McClellan's technical skills, available for cemetery projects. In turn, he investigates NRCS-funded agricultural projects to check for potential damage to archaeological resources before the digging starts.
Jones, of Glastonbury, came to the position after working as a private contract archaeologist in Massachusetts and also working with archaeologist Kevin McBride, director of research at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum. The $84,000-per-year post calls for Jones to apply his expertise, hands and feet to a variety of situations.
Included among his duties are doing field research and advising towns on sites threatened by road, gas line and building projects; preserving and organizing artifact collections in his office at the University of Connecticut; teaching volunteer and school groups about archaeology; and answering the daily phone calls and emails from the public about finds in their backyards and local forests. Public outreach, he said, is one of his favorite parts of the job.
“Every day I get pictures of rocks and boulders and sometimes nice projectile points people find gardening, and I let them know how old it is,” he said. “Sometimes when people find something they think is neat, like an old mill site that’s not threatened, they expect me to get excited and come out and start digging. But I tell them there’s no need to run out there with a shovel. The best thing is to leave it in place. And I don’t have room for more artifacts.”
On Monday morning, Jones supervised four volunteers including his mother, Julie Jones, all from the Friends of the State Archaeologist group and armed with toothbrushes and an appreciation for the significance of tiny shards of pottery, pipe and bone. They were spending their morning at his office, cleaning and cataloguing artifacts found last summer in Windsor. The cellar at the 1600s homestead of John Mason, the English Army major who led the massacre of the Pequots in Mystic, had been excavated as part of a field school for volunteers that Jones ran, and yielded a trove of glass, ceramic and metal fragments.
“Obviously, I need their help,” he said of the volunteers. Each was concentrating on the meticulous task of poring through the contents of small brown paper bags filled with shards from the excavation, identifying and labeling them, often consulting Jones for confirmation.
“One of my priorities for the next five years will be getting our collections appropriately organized and housed in one place, where they’ll have more research value. There are master's theses and Ph.D. theses that could be written about some of this stuff.”
Some of the collection is displayed on the Storrs campus at the Connecticut Museum of Natural History (both the state archaeology office and the museum are part of the UConn College of Liberal Arts and Sciences). But a lot of artifacts are tucked away in cabinets and drawers or — in the case of a dugout canoe from Alaska that came from the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport — sitting on the top shelf of the archaeology library in his office.
Instead of being eager to excavate new sites, he said, he advocates documenting a site location and leaving things in place as much as possible, a surer method of preservation than the often destructive processes of traditional archaeology.
“We have too much stuff already,” he said. “There are 5,000 to 8,000 listed archaeological sites in the state, mostly where farmers found artifacts while plowing.”
As a boy growing up in Glastonbury, Jones spent a lot of time in the woods “looking for salamanders and snakes and worms.” Visits to his great uncle Warren Holland in Iowa, a “huge artifact collector,” gave a different focus to his explorations that led him into archaeology.
“He collected a lot of arrowheads and spear points, and I was intrigued about all he could tell from those artifacts about how people lived,” he said.
After earning his bachelor’s degree at Oberlin College, he spent a few years traveling in Southeast Asia before advancing his academic credentials in Germany, where he specialized in Stone Age Europe.
He laughs and shakes his head when asked whether the “Indiana Jones” movies of the 1980s influenced his career choice. He doesn’t consider the Harrison Ford character a model — his scientific methods were sloppy, to say the least — though he does credit the movies with helping to reignite the public’s interest in the field.

In Connecticut, he said, the most significant recent archaeological finds his office has been involved in include an 8,000-year-old projectile point found at the Mansfield Dam, and a 1600s home site in Andover unearthed during a road project.
“This was a cross-passage house, an old-fashioned English-style house type never seen before in Connecticut,” Jones said.
In South Glastonbury, Jones identified the location of a 17th-century plantation and worked with the town historical society to recover clay pipe stems, glass bottle fragments, window glass and earthenware.
“To me,” he said, “this is one of the most important recent discoveries in the state, because we know very little about … early colonial life in Connecticut.”
Jones has recently visited the Gungywamp site in Groton, soon to become a state park, and, he hopes, an archaeological preserve. Because of competing ideas about the origins of some of the stone structures there, ranging from those describing it as a Native American ceremonial site to those speculating that they’re the work of 6th-century Irish monks, it will be important to protect the site and mark it with signs that describe the various interpretations, Jones said.
“Gungywamp is an important case,” he said. “I tend to be fair and open to people with different possible explanations. I’m not going to pretend that scientists have all the answers or that I have all the answers. I just want to make sure the site is preserved. The debate about it is now part of its history.”

j.benson@theday.com

Indian trails of Connecticut


Governor’s Residence to open for holiday tours


HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut residents will have an opportunity to tour the Governor’s Residence in Hartford.
This year’s holiday open house will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 4 and Dec. 5, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Dec. 6.
Admission is free and tickets are not needed. Donations will be accepted for Operation ELF, an annual effort by the Connecticut Military Department to help families of soldiers and airmen deployed during the holiday season.
About 30 volunteers will be on hand to provide tours of the residence, which will be decorated with six Christmas trees and other holiday adornments. The trees, wreaths and seasonal plants have been donated by Connecticut growers.

The residence is located at 990 Prospect Ave.

Splendid Connecticut Inns at Christmas


Brimming with seasonal spirit, New England offers a warm welcome to sojourners who venture to the Northeast during Christmastime. Daylight promises excursions to storied attractions, while evenings bring opportunities for fine dining and world-class entertainment. Whether elegant boutique hotels or quaint bed-and-breakfasts, gracious accommodations await that make visiting this beloved region even more enjoyable. In Connecticut, both the Griswold Inn and the Boardman House Inn have been extending hospitality for generations.
 Griswold Inn, in the riverside town of Essex, shares its beginnings with the country’s bid for independence. Complementing tranquil vistas of water or village life, individually appointed quarters are decorated with a mix of antique and period-reproduction furnishings. Many of the thirty-three bedrooms boast a fireplace—an ideal spot for reminiscing about the array of holiday events located within walking distance of the hotel. During November and December, Stay & Save rates include incentives for exploring the shops that line Main Street.
An award-winning B&B in the historic district of East Haddam, the circa-1860Boardman House Inn is a sterling example of the French-inspired Second Empire style of architecture. Guests settle into luxurious rooms, where cozy linens and heated marble bathroom floors chase away even a hint of winter’s chill. This haven proves a convenient launching point for discovering the rural charms of the Connecticut River Valley. Nearby outings include exploring Gillette Castle State Park, or scheduling a tour with Essex Steam Train and Riverboat.

 To read about some of our favorite New England destinations during Yuletide, see “Christmas in Connecticut,” on page 25 of the November/December 2015 issue of Victoria magazine.





Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. Mark Twain

Famous Last Words

Mark Twain once wrote that a man of eminence should not delay preparing his final utterance. He should write his last words down on a slip of paper and get the advice of his friends on them. He should never leave such an important matter to the last minute and trust to inspiration “to enable him to say something smart with his latest gasp and launch him into eternity with grandeur. No–a man is apt to be too much fagged and exhausted, both in body and mind, at such a time, to be reliable.”
“There is hardly a case on record,” Twain continued, “where a man came to his last moment unprepared and said a good thing–hardly a case where a man trusted to that last moment and did not make a solemn botch of it and go out of the world feeling absurd.”


The Essex, named after the ship building village in Connecticut: The True-Life Horror That Inspired Moby-Dick




The True-Life Horror That Inspired Moby-Dick
The whaler Essex was indeed sunk by a whale—and that's only the beginning
By Gilbert King
SMITHSONIAN.COM
In July of 1852, a 32-year-old novelist named Herman Melville had high hopes for his new novel, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, despite the book’s mixed reviews and tepid sales. That month he took a steamer to Nantucket for his first visit to the Massachusetts island, home port of his novel’s mythic protagonist, Captain Ahab, and his ship, the Pequod. Like a tourist, Melville met local dignitaries, dined out and took in the sights of the village he had previously only imagined.
And on his last day on Nantucket he met the broken-down 60-year-old man who had captained the Essex, the ship that had been attacked and sunk by a sperm whale in an 1820 incident that had inspired Melville’s novel. Captain George Pollard Jr. was just 29 years old when the Essex went down, and he survived and returned to Nantucket to captain a second whaling ship, Two Brothers. But when that ship wrecked on a coral reef two years later, the captain was marked as unlucky at sea—a “Jonah”—and no owner would trust a ship to him again. Pollard lived out his remaining years on land, as the village night watchman.
Melville had written about Pollard briefly in Moby-Dick, and only with regard to the whale sinking his ship. During his visit, Melville later wrote, the two merely “exchanged some words.” But Melville knew Pollard’s ordeal at sea did not end with the sinking of the Essex, and he was not about to evoke the horrific memories that the captain surely carried with him. “To the islanders he was a nobody,” Melville wrote, “to me, the most impressive man, tho’ wholly unassuming, even humble—that I ever encountered.”
Pollard had told the full story to fellow captains over a dinner shortly after his rescue from the Essex ordeal, and to a missionary named George Bennet. To Bennet, the tale was like a confession. Certainly, it was grim: 92 days and sleepless nights at sea in a leaking boat with no food, his surviving crew going mad beneath the unforgiving sun, eventual cannibalism and the harrowing fate of two teenage boys, including Pollard’s first cousin, Owen Coffin. “But I can tell you no more—my head is on fire at the recollection,” Pollard told the missionary. “I hardly know what I say.”
The trouble for Essex began, as Melville knew, on August 14, 1819, just two days after it left Nantucket on a whaling voyage that was supposed to last two and a half years. The 87-foot-long ship was hit by a squall that destroyed its topgallant sail and nearly sank it. Still, Pollard continued, making it to Cape Horn five weeks later. But the 20-man crew found the waters off South America nearly fished out, so they decided to sail for distant whaling grounds in the South Pacific, far from any shores.
To restock, the Essex anchored at Charles Island in the Galapagos, where the crew collected sixty 100-pound tortoises. As a prank, one of the crew set a fire, which, in the dry season, quickly spread. Pollard’s men barely escaped, having to run through flames, and a day after they set sail, they could still see smoke from the burning island. Pollard was furious, and swore vengeance on whoever set the fire. Many years later Charles Island was still a blackened wasteland, and the fire was believed to have caused the extinction of both the Floreana Tortoise and the Floreana Mockingbird.
By November of 1820, after months of a prosperous voyage and a thousand miles from the nearest land, whaleboats from the Essex had harpooned whales that dragged them out toward the horizon in what the crew called “Nantucket sleigh rides.” Owen Chase, the 23-year-old first mate, had stayed aboard the Essex to make repairs while Pollard went whaling. It was Chase who spotted a very big whale—85 feet in length, he estimated—lying quietly in the distance, its head facing the ship. Then, after two or three spouts, the giant made straight for the Essex, “coming down for us at great celerity,” Chase would recall—at about three knots. The whale smashed head-on into the ship with “such an appalling and tremendous jar, as nearly threw us all on our faces.”
The whale passed underneath the ship and began thrashing in the water. “I could distinctly see him smite his jaws together, as if distracted with rage and fury,” Chase recalled. Then the whale disappeared. The crew was addressing the hole in the ship and getting the pumps working when one man cried out, “Here he is—he is making for us again.” Chase spotted the whale, his head half out of water, bearing down at great speed—this time at six knots, Chase thought. This time it hit the bow directly under the cathead and disappeared for good.
The water rushed into the ship so fast, the only thing the crew could do was lower the boats and try fill them with navigational instruments, bread, water and supplies before the Essex turned over on its side.
Pollard saw his ship in distress from a distance, then returned to see the Essex in ruin. Dumbfounded, he asked, “My God, Mr. Chase, what is the matter?”
“We have been stove by a whale,” his first mate answered.
Another boat returned, and the men sat in silence, their captain still pale and speechless. Some, Chase observed, “had no idea of the extent of their deplorable situation.”
The men were unwilling to leave the doomed Essex as it slowly foundered, and Pollard tried to come up with a plan. In all, there were three boats and 20 men. They calculated that the closest land was the Marquesas Islands and the Society Islands, and Pollard wanted to set off for them—but in one of the most ironic decisions in nautical history, Chase and the crew convinced him that those islands were peopled with cannibals and that the crew’s best chance for survival would be to sail south. The distance to land would be far greater, but they might catch the trade winds or be spotted by another whaling ship. Only Pollard seemed to understand the implications of steering clear of the islands. (According to Nathaniel Philbrick, in his book In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, although rumors of cannibalism persisted, traders had been visiting the islands without incident.)
Thus they left the Essex aboard their 20-foot boats. They were challenged almost from the start. Saltwater saturated the bread, and the men began to dehydrate as they ate their daily rations. The sun was ravaging. Pollard’s boat was attacked by a killer whale. They spotted land—Henderson Island—two weeks later, but it was barren. After another week the men began to run out of supplies. Still, three of them decided they’d rather take their chances on land than climb back into a boat. No one could blame them. And besides, it would stretch the provisions for the men in the boats.
By mid-December, after weeks at sea, the boats began to take on water, more whales menaced the men at night, and by January, the paltry rations began to take their toll. On Chase’s boat, one man went mad, stood up and demanded a dinner napkin and water, then fell into “most horrid and frightful convulsions” before perishing the next morning. “Humanity must shudder at the dreadful recital” of what came next, Chase wrote. The crew “separated limbs from his body, and cut all the flesh from the bones; after which, we opened the body, took out the heart, and then closed it again—sewed it up as decently as we could, and committed it to the sea.” They then roasted the man’s organs on a flat stone and ate them.
Over the coming week, three more sailors died, and their bodies were cooked and eaten. One boat disappeared, and then Chase’s and Pollard’s boats lost sight of each other. The rations of human flesh did not last long, and the more the survivors ate, the hungrier they felt. On both boats the men became too weak to talk. The four men on Pollard’s boat reasoned that without more food, they would die. On February 6, 1821—nine weeks after they’d bidden farewell to the Essex—Charles Ramsdell, a teenager, proposed they draw lots to determine who would be eaten next. It was the custom of the sea, dating back, at least in recorded instance, to the first half of the 17th century. The men in Pollard’s boat accepted Ramsdell’s suggestion, and the lot fell to young Owen Coffin, the captain’s first cousin.
Pollard had promised the boy’s mother he’d look out for him. “My lad, my lad!” the captain now shouted, “if you don’t like your lot, I’ll shoot the first man that touches you.” Pollard even offered to step in for the boy, but Coffin would have none of it. “I like it as well as any other,” he said.
Ramsdell drew the lot that required him to shoot his friend. He paused a long time. But then Coffin rested his head on the boat’s gunwale and Ramsdell pulled the trigger.
“He was soon dispatched,” Pollard would say, “and nothing of him left.”
By February 18, after 89 days at sea, the last three men on Chase’s boat spotted a sail in the distance. After a frantic chase, they managed to catch the English ship Indian and were rescued.
Three hundred miles away, Pollard’s boat carried only its captain and Charles Ramsdell. They had only the bones of the last crewmen to perish, which they smashed on the bottom of the boat so that they could eat the marrow. As the days passed the two men obsessed over the bones scattered on the boat’s floor. Almost a week after Chase and his men had been rescued, a crewman aboard the American ship Dauphin spotted Pollard’s boat. Wretched and confused, Pollard and Ramsdell did not rejoice at their rescue, but simply turned to the bottom of their boat and stuffed bones into their pockets. Safely aboard the Dauphin, the two delirious men were seen “sucking the bones of their dead mess mates, which they were loath to part with.”
The five Essex survivors were reunited in Valparaiso, where they recuperated before sailing back for Nantucket. As Philbrick writes, Pollard had recovered enough to join several captains for dinner, and he told them the entire story of the Essex wreck and his three harrowing months at sea. One of the captains present returned to his room and wrote everything down, calling Pollard’s account “the most distressing narrative that ever came to my knowledge.”
Years later, the third boat was discovered on Ducie Island; three skeletons were aboard. Miraculously, the three men who chose to stay on Henderson Island survived for nearly four months, mostly on shellfish and bird eggs, until an Australian ship rescued them.
Once they arrived in Nantucket, the surviving crewmen of the Essex were welcomed, largely without judgment. Cannibalism in the most dire of circumstances, it was reasoned, was a custom of the sea. (In similar incidents, survivors declined to eat the flesh of the dead but used it as bait for fish. But Philbrick notes that the men of the Essex were in waters largely devoid of marine life at the surface.)
Captain Pollard, however, was not as easily forgiven, because he had eaten his cousin. (One scholar later referred to the act as “gastronomic incest.”) Owen Coffin’s mother could not abide being in the captain’s presence. Once his days at sea were over, Pollard spent the rest of his life in Nantucket. Once a year, on the anniversary of the wreck of the Essex, he was said to have locked himself in his room and fasted in honor of his lost crewmen.
By 1852, Melville and Moby-Dick had begun their own slide into obscurity. Despite the author’s hopes, his book sold but a few thousand copies in his lifetime, and Melville, after a few more failed attempts at novels, settled into a reclusive life and spent 19 years as a customs inspector in New York City. He drank and suffered the death of his two sons. Depressed, he abandoned novels for poetry. But George Pollard’s fate was never far from his mind. In his poem Clarel he writes of
A night patrolman on the quay
Watching the bales till morning hour
Through fair and foul. Never he smiled;
Call him, and he would come; not sour
In spirit, but meek and reconciled:
Patient he was, he none withstood;
Oft on some secret thing would brood.
Sources
Books: Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; Or, The Whale, 1851, Harper & Brothers Publishers. Nathaniel Philbrick, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, 2000, Penguin Books. Thomas Nickerson, The Loss of the Ship Essex, Sunk by a Whale, 2000, Penguin Classics. Owen Chase, Narrative of the Whale-Ship Essex of Nantucket, 2006, A RIA Press Edition. Alex MacCormick, The Mammoth Book of Maneaters, 2003, Carroll & Graf Publishers. Joseph S. Cummins, Cannibals: Shocking True Tales of the Last Taboo on Land and at Sea, 2001, The Lyons Press. Evan L. Balkan, Shipwrecked: Deadly Adventures and Disasters at Sea, 2008, Menasha Ridge Press.
Articles: “The Whale and the Horror,” by Nathaniel Philbrick, Vanity Fair, May, 2000. “Herman Melville: Nantucket’s First Tourist?” by Susan Beegel, The Nantucket Historical Association, http://www.nha.org/history/hn/HN-fall1991-beegel.html. ”Herman Melville and Nantucket,” The Nantucket Historical Association, http://www.nha.org/history/faq/melville.html. Into the Deep: America, Whaling & the World, “Biography: Herman Melville,” American Experience, PBS.org, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/biography/whaling-melville/. “No Moby-Dick: A Real Captain, Twice Doomed,” by Jesse McKinley, New York Times, February 11, 2011. “The Essex Disaster,” by Walter Karp, American Heritage, April/May, 1983, Volume 34, Issue 3. “Essex (whaleship),” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essex_(whaleship). ”Account of the Ship Essex Sinking, 1819-1821., Thomas Nickerson, http://www.galapagos.to/TEXTS/NICKERSON.HTM
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-true-life-horror-that-inspired-moby-dick-17576/#04v9fFQKje9IVBwK.99


Stephen Birmingham, of Andover, Conn, dies



Stephen Birmingham, Chronicler of the Rich and Other Elites, Dies at 86
By SAM ROBERTSNOV. 18, 2015

Stephen Birmingham, the prolific novelist, purveyor of popular sociology and raconteur of the rich and famous in best-selling books like “ ‘Our Crowd’: The Great Jewish Families of New York” and “The Right People: A Portrait of the American Social Establishment,” died on Sunday at his home in Manhattan. He was 86.
His son Carey confirmed the death on Wednesday, saying that the cause was cancer.
Mr. Birmingham was not to the manner born himself, but to manners bred. He was often mistaken for being Jewish because of his trilogy of social histories of American Jews. The others were “The Grandees: America’s Sephardic Elite” and “The Rest of Us: The Rise of America’s Eastern European Jews.”
Mr. Birmingham made more than a dozen literary excursions into pop sociology, including a group portrait of the Dakota, the exclusive Manhattan apartment building, and explorations of the Irish-American and African-American elites.
To be sure, some of his books were embraced neither by the academy nor by some of the individuals, families or ethnic groups whose social climbing he chronicled.
Roger Wilkins, the civil rights leader and journalist, dismissed Mr. Birmingham’s “Certain People: America’s Black Elite” in scathing fashion in 1977 in The New York Times Book Review, writing of its “snippets of elementary psychology, flawed sociology, half-baked history and, to spice it all up, bits and pieces of plain mean gossip.”
Reviewing “Our Crowd” for The Guardian, Mordecai Richler wrote that Mr. Birmingham was “glossy and entertaining, but that’s all.”
For many readers, that was enough. His books were often best sellers — “Our Crowd” was on the Times list for 47 weeks, — and most of his nine full-length novels were acclaimed by critics, too.
His first, “Young Mr. Keefe,” about young people transplanted from Connecticut to California, was published in 1958, before he was 30. Other novels he wrote appeared to have been inspired at least in part by his research for his nonfiction books.
One, for example, was about the offspring of a Canadian liquor baron fending off scandal and anti-Semitism; another was about the moral decay of a marriage in a small town dynasty.
“ ‘Our Crowd’ ” was Mr. Birmingham’s first nonfiction book. He embarked on it, he explained in the preface, not simply to write about the rich.
“As a novelist,” he wrote, “my interest has always been in the romance of people, and I suppose I am always a bit more concerned with what people are than what they do.”
Stephen Gardner Birmingham was born in Andover, Conn., east of Hartford, on May 28, 1929, to Thomas Birmingham, a lawyer, and the former Editha Gardner. His parents sent him to the elite Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, where, he recalled, “there were no blacks, maybe one Chinese person, who was the son of a missionary, and a quota on Jews.”
One story he liked to tell was about the time, when he was 15, that he confided to a dowager his embarrassment at having a committed a faux pas at his first formal dance the night before. While balancing his and a female friend’s dinner plates and glasses of Sauternes, it seems, he slipped and poured the food up his sleeve. The dowager was aghast.
“Do you mean they served Sauternes and not Dubonnet?” she sniffed. “How dreadful!”
After graduating from Williams College in 1950 with a degree in English, Mr. Birmingham worked as an advertising copywriter in New York for Needham Harper Steers (now DDB Worldwide). His accounts included the department store Gimbels and Ladies’ Home Journal, for which he was credited with writing the slogan “Never underestimate the power of a woman.”
His Army service was sandwiched between ad agency work, which he left after finding success with magazine writing and his first novel. The book was recommended to a publisher by the novelist John P. Marquand, with whom he shared a literary agent.
In 1973 Mr. Birmingham moved to Ohio, where he taught creative writing at the University of Cincinnati and continued to write.
Until their divorce in 1974, Mr. Birmingham and his wife, the former Jane Tillson, lived in Rye, N.Y., where they raised their three children.
In addition to his son Carey, survivors include Mr. Birmingham’s partner, Edward Lahniers; another son, Mark; a daughter, Harriet; his sister, Susan Losee; and a granddaughter.
The idea for “Our Crowd” was suggested by Roger H. Klein, an editor at Harper & Row, and Mr. Birmingham was persuaded to pursue the project after the mother of a former schoolmate showed him an unpublished memoir by Adolph Lewisohn, the investment banker and philanthropist.
As he did with all his books, Mr. Birmingham pecked it out with two fingers on a Royal typewriter. His photo on the jacket was taken with a Polaroid camera by 12-year-old Carey.
The book began: “By the late 1930s the world of Mrs. Philip J. Goodhart had become one of clearly defined, fixed and immutable values. There were two kinds of people. There were ‘people we visit’ and ‘people we wouldn’t visit.’ ”
The ones that the German-Jewish aristocracy would visit were “our crowd.”
Mr. Birmingham went on to recount the time one of Mrs. Goodhart’s assimilated sisters-in-law was turned away by a hotel in the Adirondacks “because, of all things, the hotel politely said it had a policy and did not accept gentiles!”
The book also delivered historical footnotes, like the fact that until 1924, nearly 75 years after it was founded, all the partners at Lehman Brothers were named Lehman.
The success of “ ‘Our Crowd’ ” led to other ethnic studies, including “Real Lace: America’s Irish Rich” and “Life at the Dakota: New York’s Most Unusual Address,” as well as biographies of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Wallis Warfield Simpson.
Reviewing “The Right People,” William F. Buckley Jr., himself a charter member of the social establishment portrayed in the book, lumped Mr. Birmingham with “the panting taxonomists” who “sweat up pseudo theses around which to drape loose talk about rich and squirish Americans.”
The book critic Phoebe-Lou Adams once described Mr. Birmingham in The Atlantic as “a persistent explorer of ethnic byways provided they are paved with gold.”
He did not disagree. “Yes,” he told an interviewer from Publishers Weekly in 1984, “I think rich people are more interesting than poor people, don’t you?”