Morgan Bulkeley, Governor, U.S. Senator

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Morgan Gardner Bulkeley

Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Son of Eliphalet Bulkeley and Lydia Smith Bulkeley

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Immediate Family

About Morgan Bulkeley, Governor, U.S. Senator

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. Both of his parents were descended from passengers of the Mayflower more than 200 years prior. 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. He was educated at Bacon Academy in Colchester just like his father and his cousins on both sides. In 1846, the Bulkeley family moved to Hartford, Connecticut. 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. He was also a descendant of the third President of Harvard University, Charles Chauncy. Morgan Bulkeley attended Hartford Public High School and, at age 14, started working at the Aetna sweeping floors for a dollar a day along with his brother, Charles.

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. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Bulkeley enlisted with the Thirteenth New York Volunteers as a private for the Union Army. He served under General George B. McClellan in the Peninsula Campaign and later under General Joseph K. Mansfield. His brother, Charles, was killed during the war.

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. He later served on Aetna's board of directors.


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. After the season, he was replaced as president by William Hulbert. Bulkeley was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame 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.


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 and the Board of Aldermen. When Thomas O. Enders resigned Aetna's presidency due to ill health in 1879, Bulkeley became the company's third president. 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. 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.

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

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. Although he did not run in 1890, the vote was so close 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.

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.

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.

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

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

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Morgan Bulkeley, Governor, U.S. Senator's Timeline

December 26, 1837
November 6, 1922
Age 84