Morgan Bulkeley

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The Honorable
Morgan Gardner Bulkeley
Morgan G Bulkeley.jpg
54th Governor of Connecticut
In office
January 10, 1889 – January 4, 1893
Lieutenant Samuel E. Merwin
Preceded by Phineas C. Lounsbury
Succeeded by Luzon B. Morris
United States Senator
from Connecticut
In office
March 4, 1905 – March 4, 1911
Preceded by Joseph R. Hawley
Succeeded by George P. McLean
Personal details
Born (1837-12-26)December 26, 1837
East Haddam, Connecticut
Died November 6, 1922(1922-11-06) (aged 84)
Hartford, Connecticut
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Fannie Bulkeley
Military service
Service/branch Union Army
Rank Private
Unit 13th New York Volunteers
Battles/wars American Civil War

Morgan Gardner Bulkeley (December 26, 1837 – November 6, 1922) was an American politician as well as business and sports executive. Bulkeley, a Republican, served in the American Civil War, was a Hartford city councilman and bank president, was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame as the first president of the National League, and became a four-term mayor of Hartford, the 54th Governor of Connecticut for two terms and a United States Senator while serving as the third president of the Aetna Life Insurance Company for 43 years.

Early life, career and war

Bulkeley was born in East Haddam, Connecticut to an old local family. His father, State Senator Eliphalet Adams Bulkeley, was a descendant of the Reverend Peter Bulkeley, 8 generations removed. Peter Bulkeley was the founder of Concord Massachusetts and sailed to this country from England on the ship Susan & Ellen in May of 1635. Morgan Bulkeley's mother Lydia-Smith Morgan descended from passengers of the Mayflower more than 200 years prior.[1]

The Bulkeleys had called nearby Colchester, Connecticut their home and until Morgan's death always believed it as such.[citation needed] He was also related to the well known Morgan family through his mother.[citation needed] He was educated at Bacon Academy in Colchester just like his father and his cousins on both sides.[citation needed] In 1846, the Bulkeley family moved to Hartford, Connecticut.[2] Morgan's father, Eliphalet Adams Bulkeley, was prominent in the Connecticut Republican Party and helped found the Aetna Life Insurance Company, becoming its first president in 1853.[3][4] He was also a descendant of the third President of Harvard University, Charles Chauncy.[2] Morgan Bulkeley attended Hartford Public High School and, at age 14, started working at the Aetna sweeping floors for a dollar a day[1][3] along with his brother, Charles.[5]

Bulkeley left Hartford to work for his uncle's company, H. P. Morgan & Company, in Brooklyn, New York. He was an errand boy in Brooklyn in 1852 and later worked as a salesman.[2][3]

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Bulkeley enlisted with the Thirteenth New York Volunteer Heavy Artillery[3] as a private[citation needed] for the Union Army. He served from May 28, 1862 until September 28, 1862. He served under General George B. McClellan in the Peninsula Campaign and later under General Joseph K. Mansfield.[2] His brother, Captain Charles E. Bulkeley, was killed during the war.[5]

After the Civil War, Bulkeley returned to Morgan & Company. When his father died in 1872, Bulkeley returned to Hartford and helped form the United States Bank of Hartford, becoming its first president.[2] He later served on Aetna's board of directors.[1]


After returning to Hartford in the early days of professional baseball, Bulkeley formed the Hartford Dark Blues of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players in 1874. In 1875, the team featured Hall of Fame pitcher Candy Cummings and player-manager Bob "Death to Flying Things" Ferguson. In 1876, the NAPBBP was replaced by the National League. Hartford was one of the charter members and Bulkeley was named the league's first president. In his only season as president, he targeted illegal gambling, drinking and fan rowdiness.[6] After the season, he was replaced as president by William Hulbert. Bulkeley was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 1937, 15 years after his death. He was also one of the seven members of the Mills Commission formed by Albert Spalding, the group that gave credence to the myth that Abner Doubleday invented baseball.[7]

Bulkeley's former residence in Washington, D.C.


Bulkeley's short career as a baseball executive coincided with the beginning of his political career. From 1874 to 1876, he served on the Hartford Common Council[8] and the Board of Aldermen.[3][9] When Thomas O. Enders resigned Aetna's presidency due to ill health in 1879, Bulkeley became the company's third president.[4] In 1880, Bulkeley ran for both mayor of Hartford and governor of Connecticut. He lost the gubernatorial race but won the mayoral race and was Hartford's mayor from 1880 to 1888.[3] As mayor he became known for his flamboyant generosity; for instance, arranging steamboat trips on the Connecticut River for underprivileged children, using his own money.[10]

While mayor of Hartford, on February 11, 1885, Bulkeley married Fannie Briggs Houghton in San Francisco, California. They had two sons and a daughter.[3]

In 1888, Bulkeley again ran for governor. In the election, Luzon B. Morris accumulated more votes than Bulkeley but neither had the required 50%. In accordance with the rules of the time, the General Assembly decided the winner and the largely Republican body chose Bulkeley.[3] Although he did not run in 1890, the vote was so close[2] and fell into such disarray due to ballot irregularities in Bridgeport that officials did not certify the results, and the Connecticut House of Representatives and Senate, each led by opposing parties, could not agree on a legal successor. When Bulkeley refused to recognize the Democratic candidate as the victor, the Democratic state comptroller changed the lock on an anteroom that led from the governor's office to the Statehouse. When Bulkeley found the door locked the next morning, he broke in with a crowbar, earning the nickname the "Crow-Bar Governor". Bulkeley remained in office two more years, and the state Supreme Court unanimously held that he had been the lawful governor for the disputed period of time.[10]

Bulkeley later served one term in the U.S. Senate from 1905 to 1911, as part of the "Millionaires' Senate" of 1906, so named for the wealth of its members.[4]

Death and legacy

Morgan Bulkeley died in Hartford at age 84. At the time of his death, Bulkeley had been the president of Aetna for 43 years and had increased its assets from $25.7 million to $207 million and from 29 to 1,500 employees. Under his guidance, Aetna had been transformed from a life insurance company into a company that offered accident, health, automobile,workers compensation, and group insurance. He was succeeded by his nephew, Morgan Brainard, who led Aetna for the following 35 years.[4][10]

He was a member of the Freemasons, Society of the Cincinnati, Grand Army of the Republic, Sons of the Revolution, Sons of the American Revolution and the Military Order of Foreign Wars. In 1894 he was elected as a Hereditary Companion of the Massachusetts Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States by right of inheritance from his brother, Captain Charles E. Bulkeley, was killed during the Civil War.

The Hartford Bridge over the Connecticut River was renamed the Bulkeley Bridge in his honor after his death.[11]

Bulkeley's widow, Fannie, died on June 22, 1938.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Fleitz, David L. (January 2004). "Morgan G. Bulkeley". Ghosts in the Gallery at Cooperstown: Sixteen Forgotten Members of the Hall of Fame. Morgan & Company. pp. 5–17. ISBN 0-7864-1749-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Norton, Frederick Calvin (1905). The Governors of Connecticut. Connecticut Magazine Co. LCC F93.N88. Retrieved 2006-12-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 White, David O. (March 1999). "Morgan Gardner Bulkeley". Connecticut State Library. Retrieved 2006-12-29. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "Aetna At-A-Glance: Aetna History". Aetna Inc. Retrieved 2006-12-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Aetna Legends: Eliphalet Adams Bulkeley", Aetna, April 4, 2003
  6. Morgan Bulkeley biography - Baseball Hall of Fame web site. Retrieved on 2006-12-31.
  7. "The Origins of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum". National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Archived from the original on 2006-12-06. Retrieved 2007-01-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Court of Common Council at
  9. Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved on 2006-12-31.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 "Aetna Legends: Morgan G. Bulkeley", Aetna, May 2, 2003
  11. Bulkeley Bridge, Bridge No. 980A - Connecticut's Historic Masonry Arches. Retrieved on 2006-12-31.

Further reading

  • Murphy, Kevin (2011). Crowbar Governor: The Life and Times of Morgan Gardner Bulkeley. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 9780819570758.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Phineas C. Lounsbury
Governor of Connecticut
Succeeded by
Luzon B. Morris
United States Senate
Preceded by
Joseph R. Hawley
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Connecticut
Served alongside: Orville H. Platt, Frank B. Brandegee
Succeeded by
George P. McLean