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SEVENTY YEARS AGO, TODAY... Sept. 21,1938

Posted by BrittDLD1 on Sunday, September 21, 2008

SEVENTY YEARS AGO, TODAY... Sept. 21,1938 --
"The Great New England Hurricane, of 1938" ripped across Long Island, and slammed
into the southern coast of New England. In its wake, over 600 people were killed, and
nearly another 100 were never found.

The storm traveled northward, at over 50 miles an hour, and was at Category 3
when the 50-mile-wide eye came ashore at Bayport, Long Island, at 2:30 pm.
It then swept directly across Long Island Sound, and up the Connecticut River Valley.

Winds averaged 115 mph -- and one wind gust measured a record 187 miles an hour.

(Not exactly Katrina... but by comparison: Hurricane Ike, as a Category 4, had winds
of 130 mph just before it hit Cuba. But last week, Ike was a Category 2 -- traveling at
8 to 12 mph through the Gulf of Mexico -- when it finally hit Galveston, with actual
sustained winds of 73 mph.)


The worst problem from the Hurricane of '38 was flooding -- with Providence,
RI recording over 13-1/2 feet of water in the downtown business district.

"In New London, Connecticut, the tidal surge drove the five-masted school ship
Marsala into a warehouse complex along the docks, setting off a short circuit
and fire which consumed a quarter-mile area of the business district..."

"...The material damage of the storm has been calculated to be $4.7 billion in
2001 dollars [$5.8 billion -2008] . Six hundred and eighty lives were lost in the
destruction and rising waters." (Quotes: The American Experience*)


The Bacon Banjo Company:

Directly across the Thames River from New London -- The Bacon Banjo Company
Inc., of Groton, CT, was located on the eastern bank. Part of its small
factory building was erected on pilings -- and sat directly OVER the water. The
building itself was not lost in the hurricane, but was inundated with water --
and Bacon could no longer continue production operations.

Bacon's President -- veteran banjo designer and builder, David L. Day -- soon
contracted with The Fred Gretsch Company, to produce banjos under the "Bacon"
and "B&D" trade names. (Fred Bacon had retired from the company, in 1932.)

During a career of banjo-making, spanning over 55 years -- Mr. Day had organized
and managed several of the world's finest banjo-production facilities: Fairbanks & Cole,
A. C. Fairbanks & Co., The Vega Company, and The Bacon Banjo Co. Inc.

Day started working in the banjo business in 1883. He was one week out of school --
when he went to work as an errand boy, with Fairbanks and Cole. (Possibly as their
first employee.) He eventually became General Manager of A. C. Fairbanks & Co. Inc.,
and Vice President of its successor -- the VEGA Company. Both of Boston, MA.

Some of the finest banjos ever made, were developed and produced under Day's
direction -- such as the superb Presentation-grade Fairbanks Electric banjos, of
the late 1890s. Day also developed and holds the patent on the Fairbanks
"Whyte Laydie" banjo.

In 1922, David Day left the VEGA Co. and joined his old friend -- banjo virtuoso,
Fred Bacon -- at the newly established Bacon Banjo Co. Within 9 months, Day
designed (and later patented) one of the world's finest jazz banjos -- the "B&D
Silver Bell".

In 1928, when a new Ford Model A cost $450 -- Bacon's opulent solid-ebony
"Ne Plus Ultra No.9" model cost $900. It was sought by many of the premier vaudeville
and jazz banjoists.

Today, the Fairbanks Whyte Laydie and B&D Silver Bell, are still highly coveted
-- by many of the world's best players, and collectors.

The September hurricane hit just three days after Day's 16th anniversary at Bacon.
He was in his early seventies at the time -- too old to begin rebuilding yet
another banjo factory. In combination with the Great Depression, and a lessening
demand for banjos -- The Hurricane of 1938, was the final blow. In late-1939, the Bacon
Company filed for bankruptcy.

In early 1940, the brandname, patent rights, and remnants of The Bacon Banjo Co. Inc.
were sold to Gretsch. But the quality never again compared to the artistic instruments
made under David Day's experienced eye.

A year-or-so after the sale to Gretsch, Day left Groton -- and retired to his earlier
home of Revere, MA just north of Boston.

On October 27, 1956, David L. Day (age 92) died in a small retirement home --
in Melrose, MA.  (Just 4 miles, from were I am currently sitting.)



Best-
Ed Britt

*Note: PBS's "The American Experience' did an excellent program on the Hurricane of 1938.
For more on "The Perfect Storm", see their website:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/hurricane38/



3 comments on “SEVENTY YEARS AGO, TODAY... Sept. 21,1938”

DandyRandy Says:
Sunday, September 21, 2008 @8:02:28 AM

Wow! Interesting history. Thanks.

mainejohn Says:
Sunday, September 21, 2008 @10:28:42 AM

Thanks for history. I remember as a kid growing up in CT in the early 50's they were still talking about it. I also remember the ones that hit in the 50's (Connie, Carol, Diane). Methinks we are long overdue for a big one here in New England.

Dale Farmer Says:
Tuesday, September 30, 2008 @9:53:35 AM

Since you commented on my post reply about Brittish ballads, I checked out your site and am glad I did.  What an interesting and well written blog! 

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