A Slavonian Labor Day in Bridgeport, 1914
The range of events on Labor Day in Connecticut in 1914 included those special to the immigrants who made up a large percentage of the workforce. In Bridgeport, hundreds of Slavonians gathered at Sokol Hall to watch gymnastic demonstrations by men, women, and children. Connecticut gymnasts were joined by teams from New York and performed upon the horizontal bars, horse, and parallel bars “with such skill and precision that they appeared to be parts of a mechanical contrivance.” The local instructor, one Director Matcu, was said to have graduated from the great Sokol Hall in Prague.
Sokol gymnastic societies were first formed in the lands that would become Czechoslovakia as part of a wave of nationalist sentiment in 1862. The sokol, or falcon, was a term traditionally attached to valiant native folk heroes who fought Turkish subjugation and was appropriated by the Sokol movement founder, Dr. Miroslav Tyrs. The sound mind and body that would be produced by Sokol gymnastics was thought to be essential for patriots. Sokol gymnastics came to the United States with immigrants from these lands and was officially established in St. Louis as early as 1865. As this article from the Bridgeport Evening Farmer of September 8, 1914, suggests, Bridgeport was one of the locations where movement participants would gather for competitions and displays of prowess.
The opportunity to research Labor Day historically in Connecticut newspapers will soon be strengthened, as a number of labor titles, including the Workmen’s Advocate (1883-1891), the Labor Standard (1908-192?), and the Connecticut Labor Press (191?-1921) and the Connecticut Labor News (1921-1925) are being digitized. They will be available online at Chronicling America sometime this fall.
For Further Information
“The Sokols,” American Physical Education Review, Vol. 32, 1927, p. 134. Accessed on August 27, 2018 at https://books.google.com/books?id=l-CfAAAAMAAJ&dq=sokols+and+their+endeavor&source=gbs_navlinks_s.
“About Us,” Sokol San Francisco, accessed on August 27, 2018 at http://sokolsf.org/history.html.