Wilbur L. Cross records
Scope and Content
Gov. Wilbur L. Cross's records are correspondence and subject files related to state agencies, commissions, legislative bills, and appointments among other topics.
- Creation: 1931-1939
Language of Materials
The records are in English.
Restrictions on Access
These records are stored at an off-site facility and therefore may not be available on a same-day basis.
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Restrictions on Use
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Born: April 10, 1862, Mansfield, Connecticut.
College: Yale, 1885; Yale Ph.D., 1889.
Political Party: Democrat.
Offices: Governor of Connecticut, 1931-1939.
Died: October 5, 1948, New Haven, Connecticut.
The Republicans' hold on the office of governor in Connecticut came to an end in 1931 when Wilbur Cross was inaugurated. Cross seemed to be the opposite of one who could unseat anyone, much less an entrenched political force. He was 68 years old, just retired from Yale, and had never held an elected public position before. Cross had grown up in Mansfield where his family did farming and some manufacturing. He worked at times at a local store. In 1885 he graduated from Yale and four years later earned his doctorate degree there. Cross spent several years as a high school principal and schoolteacher, but in 1894 he was made a professor of English at Yale. Over the next 36 years he taught at Yale, became editor of the Yale Review, and made Dean of the Yale Graduate School. In 1889 he married Helen Avery and they had two children.
When Cross retired from Yale in 1930 he had never held a public office. He did, however, belong to an informal group of Yale men and New Haven personalities that met weekly. Here, Cross often presented his political views in dramatic fashion and when the distraught Democratic party in the state was seeking a gubernatorial candidate to run against the strong Republican machine, Cross was pushed for the honor by New Haven's Democrats. Nominated at the state convention, Cross used his country humor and personality to help defeat the Republican candidate. He especially pushed for repeal of Prohibition. He was the only Democrat to win a state office that year, but as the Great Depression continued into the decade the Democrats eventually gained control of the government. Cross was reelected three times and served a total of eight years, the first to do so since the 1860's.
Even though the Republicans controlled the General Assembly during his early terms, Cross was able to work with it to achieve some programs to help the unemployed. He eventually adopted the New Deal programs of President Franklin Roosevelt. During one violent strike in Connecticut he personally used his position as governor to bring management and labor together. By 1937 Cross enjoyed a Democratic General Assembly and was able to have his reorganization plan for state government implemented. One of its goals was to create a merit system for state employment rather than through political patronage. Cross presided over the state's observance of its 300th anniversary - the Tercentenary Celebration. He also had to deal with two major disasters during his terms. One was the 1936 flood and the second was the 1938 Hurricane. While previous twentieth century governors had used the office as an honorary position as much as an administrative one, Cross made it a full time job and worked at being governor even when the Legislature was not in session.
Cross ran for reelection in 1938, but a rejuvenated Republican party was able to defeat him. A heavy vote for the third party candidacy of Jasper McLevy took away some of his former support at the polls. Cross continued his work of research and writing, but did not abandon his thoughts of political office. He tried to get his party's nomination for governor in 1940, but lost to Robert Hurley, who did go on to win the position. In 1946, at the age of 84, Cross ran for the unexpired term of U.S. Senator and was defeated by Governor Raymond Baldwin. Two years later Cross-died. The Mansfield Historical Society owns the home where he was born, but a house nearby where he later lived is privately owned. His house in New Haven where he lived while working at Yale and when governor still stands and it is privately owned. Schools in New Haven and Bridgeport are named in his honor, as is the Wilbur Cross parkway. The former library building on the campus of the University of Connecticut in Storrs still bears his name.
53.25 cubic feet
Gov. Wilbur L. Cross's correspondence and subject files.
Series 1. Correspondence
Series 2. Subject Files.
Subseries 1. 1931-1933.
Subseries 2. 1933-1935.
Subseries 3. 1935-1937.
Subseries 4. 1937-1939.
Series 3. Place cards.
Guide to the History and the Historic Sites of Connecticut. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1937 [CSL call number Hist Ref F94 .C88 1937].
Connecticut Yankee: Autobiography. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1943 [CSL call number F100.C7 A3 1943].
"A Cross for Connecticut." Outlook and Independent, CLVII, January 14, 1931.
American Governors and Gubernatorial Elections, 1775-1975. Stillwater, Minn.: Croixside Press, 1975 [CSL call number JK2447 .G53 1975].
The Man With a Million Friends, Wilbur L. Cross. New Milford, Conn.: Marsh Bros., 1934 [CSL call number LD6331.C7 M3 1934].
"Connecticut's Depression Governor: Wilbur L. Cross." Connecticut History 16 (August 1975), pp. 44-64.
Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978. Westport, Conn.: Meckler Books, 1978 [CSL call number GIRS Ref E176 .B573]. and
Connecticut. New York: Random House, 1961 [CSL call number Hist Ref F94 .V3].
"Wilbur Cross: New Deal Ambassador to a Yankee Culture." New England Quarterly 41 (September, 1968) 3:323-40.
Genre / Form
- RG 005:026, Office of the Governor: Wilbur L. Cross (1931-1939)
- Inventory of Records
- Finding aid prepared by Connecticut State Library staff.
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
Part of the Connecticut State Library Repository