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Abraham Ribicoff records

Identifier: RG005_033

Scope and Content

Gov. Ribicoff's correspondence, subject files, flood of 1955 files, highway safety files, 1958 campaign files, appointment files, speeches, media articles, and press files.


  • 1955-1961

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.

See the Rules and Procedures for Researchers Using Archival Records and Secured Collections policy.

Biographical Note

Born: April 9, 1910, New Britain, Connecticut.

College: University of Chicago, 1933.

Political Party: Democrat.

Offices: U.S. Congress, 1949-1953; Governor of Connecticut, 1955-1961; US Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1961-1962; U.S. Senate, 1963-1981.

Died: February 22, 1998, New York City.

Connecticut's Democratic Party of Connecticut, under the guidance of its chairman John Bailey, did what seemed impossible in the "Land of Steady Habits". It got a Jewish candidate elected governor. Abraham Ribicoff of New Britain became a lawyer in 1933 and opened his practice in Hartford where he became friends with Bailey. In 1938 Ribicoff was elected to the General Assembly. He also was a judge in Hartford's Municipal Court for 1945-47. He married Ruth Siegel in 1931 and they had two children. After her death in 1972 he married Lois Mathes.

One of the aspects that Bailey liked about Ribicoff was his ability to project a good image as a candidate. Elected to the U.S. congress for 1949-53, Ribicoff ran for the U.S. Senate in 1952 and lost. However, in the Republican landslide that year he ran an extremely close race. Convinced that he was the party's best candidate for governor, Bailey promoted him for the position in the 1954 elections. Future president, John F. Kennedy, gave the party's keynote address at its state convention. Ribicoff's clean-cut and dignified appearance helped offset some hidden anti-Semitic campaigning against him. His "American Dream" speech also helped convince voters that everyone in the state had the right to seek elective office. His personal appeal with the voters is evident in that he became the only Democrat to gain state office that year. Ribicoff won reelection in 1958.

As governor, Ribicoff promoted a moderate program for the state that sought compromise rather than confrontation with the General Assembly. Among his accomplishments were more aid to patients in state institutions, more highway construction, the creation of an adult probation system, and a bonus for Korean War veterans. He also called the legislature into special session to consider a law that would provide for primary elections in the state. One of the challenges to his administration came in 1955 when two hurricanes caused enormous damage in the state. Ribicoff called a special session of the legislature to develop programs of relief for Connecticut's citizens. During his second term he worked with a Republican legislature and used his veto powers to maintain the state's budget without raising taxes. The process to eliminate the county government system was begun at this time and both state government and the courts underwent reorganization. State bussing for Parochial and private schools was passed under his leadership. One innovation Ribicoff used while governor was in holding daily press conferences. If he could not answer a reporter's question he would call a state agency during the conference to find the answer.

Ribicoff and Bailey were among the earliest supporters of John F. Kennedy for U.S. President. When Kennedy was elected in 1960 he appointed Ribicoff to his cabinet as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. Although Ribicoff resigned as governor in 1961 to work in Washington, he was back in Connecticut in 1962. He had become frustrated with the way Congress hindered the operation of his agency's programs and decided to return to Connecticut and run for the U.S. Senate. He won this election and served in the Senate from 1963 until he retired to Connecticut in 1981. The house that he lived in when he became governor in 1955 still stands in Hartford and it is privately owned. The U.S. Government building on Main Street, Hartford is named in his honor.


111 cubic feet


Gov. Ribicoff's correspondence, subject files, flood of 1955 files, highway safety files, 1958 campaign files, appointment files, speeches, media articles, and press files.


Series 1. Correspondence.

Series 2. Subject Files.

Series 3. Flood of 1955 Files.

Series 4. Highway Safety Files.

Series 5. Campaign Files, 1958.

Series 6. Appointment Files.

Series 7. Speeches.

Series 8. Articles by or about Gov. Ribicoff.

Series 9. Press Files.

Related Material



Citizens Look at Congress, 1972.
Congressional Quarterly's Guide to United States Elections. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 1994 [CSL call number GIRS Ref JK1967 .C662 1994].
Glashan, Roy R. American Governors and Gubernatorial Elections, 1775-1975. Stillwater, Minn.: Croixside Press, 1975 [CSL call number JK2447 .G53 1975].
Janick, Herbert F. A Diverse People: Connecticut, 1914 to the Present. Chester, Conn.: Pequot Press, c1975 [CSL call number Hist Ref Conn Doc St22eacs se v. 5].
Lieberman, Joseph. The Legacy, Connecticut Politics, 1930-1980. Hartford, Conn.: Spoonwood Press, 1981 [CSL call number JK3395 .L53 1981].
Payne, Carol Abraham A. Ribicoff: Democratic Senator from Connecticut, written for Ralph Nader Congress project, Washington, D.C.: Grossman, 1972 [CSL call number E840.8.R5 R3].
Snyder, Gordon B. "Abraham Ribicoff, Statesman or Politician?" Amherst College, 1971.
Sobel, Robert and John Raimo. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978. Westport, Conn.: Meckler Books, 1978 [CSL call number GIRS Ref E176 .B573].
Van Dusen, Albert E. Connecticut. New York: Random House, 1961 [CSL call number Hist Ref F94 .V3].
RG 005:033, Office of the Governor: Abraham Ribicoff (1955-1961)
Inventory of Records
Finding aid prepared by Connecticut State Library Staff.
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Connecticut State Library Repository