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History of Bridgeport, Connecticut

Bridgeport, the seat of Fairfield County, is one of the leading manufacturing cities in New England. The city is situated at the mouth of the Pequonnock River, which empties into Long Island Sound. Before white settlement, the location was occupied by an Indian village known as Poquonock. After the arrival of the first white settlers in 1639, the name was retained, although spelled as Pequonnock, until 1694. The community became Fairfield Village in 1694, Stratfield in 1701, and upon incorporation as a borough in 1800, Bridgeport. The name honors the first drawbridge erected over the Pequonnock River. Incorporation as a township followed in 1821 and the city in 1836. Elias Howe, an inventor of an early sewing machine, established the Howe Machine Company in Bridgeport in 1865. From 1846 until his death, P.T. Barnum called Bridgeport home. He was mayor in 1875 and worked hard for improvements to the city. His influence is credited with getting Bridgeport Hospital established in 1878. The Barnum Museum preserves his memory. Gustave Whitehead was a German immigrant who settled in Bridgeport in 1900. According to a number of witnesses, Whitehead achieved sustained and controlled flight in 1901, 28 months ahead of The Wright Brothers. Unfortunately for Whitehead, he kept no photographic records to prove his claim. One of his flights may have taken place near the site of Captain's Cove Seaport. The only zoo in Connecticut is the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport. Bridgeport's institutions of higher education are of fairly recent origin. The oldest is the University of Bridgeport, founded in 1927. Fairfield University in adjoining Fairfield was established in 1947. St. Vincent's College, a private Roman Catholic college, dates from 1991. Housatonic Community College is the home of the Housatonic Museum of Art, an unusually extensive art collection for a two-year college.