The Shoeleather History Project

Stories from Hartford's Grassroots

Strange Fruit

What was the murder of Trayvon Martin if not a lynching? The definition of the word is clear: “an extrajudicial execution… in order to punish an alleged transgressor, or to … Continue reading

July 25, 2013 · Leave a comment

Connecticut’s Jim Crow Law

A dozen farmworkers entered Windsor Town Hall, quietly following Erwyn Glanz, the local constable who had given them a ride. Most likely, this was the first time the men had … Continue reading

July 9, 2013 · Leave a comment

This Land is Your Land

In October 1944, weekend entertainment options for Hartford residents were limited. A family might take in the fall foliage, or just as likely, gather around the radio and tune in … Continue reading

July 3, 2013 · 1 Comment

Union Brew

In 1901, all Hartford saloons sold a glass of beer for a nickel. But if a thirsty man bought the same beer from a shop without a union card hanging … Continue reading

June 17, 2013 · Leave a comment

Hartford Sex Trade: Prostitutes and Politics

Ann Dunn and Caroline McElroy were unceremoniously escorted to the police station where they were charged with prostitution. The arrest of the two Hartford women came in the summer of … Continue reading

June 16, 2013 · Leave a comment

Playing ’til Sundown

Mahlon “Duck” Duckett and John “Mule” Miles returned to Hartford in 2007. Duck and Mule are surviving members of a proud but shrinking club: baseball players who were members of … Continue reading

May 22, 2013 · Leave a comment

John Brown & the Negro in the Dark

Samson Easton entered the State House in Hartford through a door someone had left open. He and another man carried a lantern and yards of black cloth. Easton climbed to … Continue reading

May 14, 2013 · 1 Comment

Peace Work with a Union Label

“While this war was on, you appropriated billions for the war. How much are you willing to appropriate for peace and for jobs?” When Michael Rosenberg challenged U.S. government priorities … Continue reading

May 14, 2013 · Leave a comment

Red Emma

One of the most dangerous women in America spoke in Hartford on February 12, 1913. “Red Emma” Goldman talked about love and marriage, a subject that was as revolutionary as … Continue reading

May 10, 2013 · Leave a comment

Mechanic Street Obituary

Hartford’s Mechanic Street passed away in the early months of 2003; the exact date is not known. It was located near the city’s riverfront for well over 120 years. While … Continue reading

May 10, 2013 · 1 Comment

A Feeling of Solidarity

It was March, 1912. Emily Pierson and her sister suffragists were on a statewide tour of Connecticut, putting up posters, distributing handbills, speaking wherever they could find a space. Pierson’s … Continue reading

May 10, 2013 · 2 Comments

Lincoln: “There is a Strike!”

March, 1860. Abraham Lincoln considers an invitation to Hartford, determined to widen his appeal as a possible presidential candidate. “Do not fail, for the sake of Connecticut,” his anxious host … Continue reading

May 7, 2013 · Leave a comment

Solidarity and 75 cents

It started out as a dispute over seventy-five cents and ended up as a test of wills between hundreds of Hartford construction workers and their employer. Decades before working people … Continue reading

May 6, 2013 · Leave a comment

Indian Summer in the City

Hartford’s Wild West fans and kids of all ages had to make a hard choice one hot summer day in 1899. They could travel to the park on Albany Avenue … Continue reading

May 5, 2013 · Leave a comment

Hobo Life

On the Big Rock Candy Mountain  /All the cops have wooden legs/ The bulldogs all have rubber teeth/ And the hens lay soft boiled eggs… The original hobo’s version of this … Continue reading

May 4, 2013 · Leave a comment

The Shameful Legacy of Sam Colt

Some Hartford people are pretty desperate for heroes. What other explanation could there be for the recent attempts to glorify gunmaker Samuel Colt?  His 19th century factory is now a … Continue reading

May 3, 2013 · 3 Comments

Two, Three, Many Rosa Parks

Sixty-one years ago, Rosa Parks was removed from a city bus by a Montgomery, Alabama police officer. Her arrest sparked a successful 381-day bus boycott by African Americans in that … Continue reading

May 3, 2013 · 1 Comment

Factory Girls Strike for Their Health

The factory owner demanded sixty hours a week from the young women employed at the Government Envelope Works on South Ann Street. But apparently this was not enough for the … Continue reading

May 2, 2013 · Leave a comment

Standing Your Ground

On the cold morning of November 29, 1976, snow and ice rained down on a small group crowded in the doorway of 18 Congress Street, the one-way street between Wethersfield … Continue reading

May 2, 2013 · Leave a comment

Sand Hogs

We might drive over the Bulkeley Bridge every day, but we seldom think about the sweat and toil it took to produce the link between Hartford and East Hartford. Even … Continue reading

May 2, 2013 · Leave a comment

One Big Union in Hartford

In a few rooms above Giolito’s Restaurant on Market Street, not too far from the Hartford Police Station, Sam Bernowsky hung the charter for the local branch of the Industrial … Continue reading

May 2, 2013 · Leave a comment

The Peddler & the Shoemaker

What would have happened if Bartolomeo Vanzetti had found work in Hartford? He traveled to our city, probably in 1909, looking for employment. According to his biography, Vanzetti found some … Continue reading

May 2, 2013 · 1 Comment

Malcolm X in Hartford

On the fall afternoon in 1963 when Malcolm X spoke at the University of Hartford, Trinity College student Ralph Allen was spending his 84th day in a Southern jail. Malcolm … Continue reading

May 1, 2013 · 1 Comment

The Tao of Danny

Some of the sayings of Danny Perez, union organizer.  Principles that signify the fundamental true nature of the organizing world.  ““The Tao of heaven is to take from those who … Continue reading

May 1, 2013 · 1 Comment

Art is a Hammer

“Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it” –Bertolt Brecht      A crowd gathered when Alton Tobey set up his … Continue reading

May 1, 2013 · Leave a comment

May Day !

Forget Loyalty Day, Health Day, Moving Day.  May 1st is a celebration for working people all around the world, and it should be reclaimed as a genuine American holiday. Depending … Continue reading

April 30, 2013 · 1 Comment

Women of the Prison Brigade

On a cold winter morning in February 1919, the “Prison Special” pulled into the Union Place train station. Departing from a passenger car were twenty-five women from all walks of … Continue reading

April 21, 2013 · Leave a comment

Paul Robeson

It was called the “greatest mobilization of police in the city’s history.” But the event that brought out hundreds of Hartford-area police to Keney Park was not a riot, not … Continue reading

April 21, 2013 · 3 Comments

Hartford’s City Mother

 The small plaque in the south corner of the State Capitol identifies the names of early 20th century Connecticut women who campaigned for the right to vote. One of those … Continue reading

April 18, 2013 · Leave a comment

Sam Clemens, Union Man

He is best known for his American classics Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but Hartford resident Samuel Clemens– alias Mark Twain– was also a staunch advocate and … Continue reading

April 18, 2013 · Leave a comment

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The Shoeleather History Project