Undelivered Envelope Postmarked 72 Years Ago Found

It's still a mystery whether the commemorative envelope bought during the Arrigoni Bridge dedication celebration in 1938 ever reached its destination.

It has been floating around for more than 70 years. Last week, a friend discovered an envelope, shown here, that was purchased during the celebration to dedicate the new bridge at Middletown in 1938. Where was it found? In the mail, of course, on its way, finally, to its destination. The postal worker detoured it to me. 

So many questions? Did it ever arrive to Harry Stearns on Pearl Street? Why was the envelope empty? Did Stearns send it to himself? Did he go buy a new one when the one he mailed never showed up?

Harold G. Stearns, known as Harry, was born in Connecticut in 1890. He was married to Caroline M., and they had two sons, Harry E. (born in 1921) and William B. (born in 1928).

Harry and his family, in 1930, lived and owned a home in Hartford, valued at $13,000, on Newington Ridge. His mother and father rented part of the house from him for a nominal fee.

Harry made a good living as a cashier for the Internal Revenue Service. By 1938, the family relocated to Middletown and moved into the rental on Pearl Street, shown here. Harry worked at the Connecticut State Hospital.

In the mid-1940s, Harry and Caroline Stearns bought 11 Mansfield Terrace. The city directories do not indicate that he was employed in 1945, so it is likely that Harry retired by the age of 55.

On Aug. 6, 1938, 72 years ago, the bridge connecting Middletown and Portland was dedicated as the Charles J. Arrigoni Bridge, named in honor of the local Senator who coordinated the funding and presented the legislation to make the bridge possible.  

On opening day, Gov. Wilbur Cross cut the ribbon across the entrance ramp and dedicated the bridge. Then he sat on a dais as a 2.5-hour parade passed by him in the rain. More than 100,000 people were in attendance. 

U.S. Coast Guard ships converged at the river bend and passed under the 1895 bridge and the new bridge in a flotilla parade at 11 a.m. Ceremoniously, the old drawbridge was closed at 1 p.m. and all motor traffic was rerouted to the new bridge after the parade. The evening ended with fireworks over the river.

Many items were offered to commemorate the grand event. The color booklet, shown here, was available for sale. It included dozens of photographs of the construction that took many years. And, obviously, the post office sold commemorative envelopes to be postmarked on the day of opening.

Next week, I will bring the envelope to the Middlesex County Historical Society where it belongs. We will never know the mystery of where it has been all these years or if it was mailed by Harry or intended as a surprise from a friend. But now its journey is over and its remarkable history makes it more special than any other envelope purchased that day.

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