Saturday, August 23, 2014

Luzerne Ithiel Munson (1838-1895)

                                                   Portrait from the Evening Post Annual, published in  1886. 

    The following write-up takes us to Connecticut to highlight the life of prominent state official Luzerne Ithiel Munson, who occupied the office of State Comptroller in the mid-1880s. Munson is not to be confused with Luzon Burritt Morris (Governor of Connecticut from 1892-1894), who was profiled here back in May 2012. These men died two months apart in 1895 and due to the similarity between their first names (and state of residency) even I sometimes get them confused! Like his political counterpart Mr. Morris, Luzerne I. Munson was a lifelong resident of the Nutmeg State, being born in Wallingford, Connecticut on March 1, 1838, the son of Titus (1799-1842) and Anna Harrison Munson.
    A student in the common schools of Wallingford, Luzerne Munson would go on to attend the Durham Academy for two years. He remained in Wallingford until 1854, removing to Waterbury, Connecticut that year and would find employment with the Apothecaries' Hall Company. He was affiliated with this business until 1861, whereafter he took work as a bookkeeper and clerk with the City Manufacturing Company of Waterbury. On October 26, 1861, Munson married to Mary Bronson Rice (1840-1910), with whom he would have two daughters, Mary Edna (1862-1931) and Susie Rice (died aged seven months in 1864).
   In the year following their marriage, Munson and his wife relocated to Meriden, Connecticut, where he took on the position of Secretary and Treasurer of the Julius Pratt and Co., an ivory comb manufacturing business. He occupied these posts both before and after the company's consolidation, and in 1863 removed back to Waterbury to accept the office of Secretary and Treasurer at his old place of work, the Apothecaries' Hall Company. He would eventually become manager of the company in 1864, succeeding Dr. Henry Fish. Munson's time as company manager extended until his death three decades later, and in addition to his business dealings was also a founding member of the Connecticut Pharmaceutical Association, first joining it in 1876. He served as its president in 1881 and was for several years the chairman of the group's executive committee.
   Luzerne Munson first became active in Waterbury politics in the late 1870s, serving as a member of the Board of Fire Commissioners. He would be elected as a city alderman sometime later and also served as a deputy collector of internal revenue and as chairman of the Waterbury Republican committee. In 1881 Munson launched an unsuccessful candidacy for Mayor of Waterbury, losing to Democratic nominee Greene Kendrick by only 90 votes. Munson would attempt another mayoral candidacy two years later and was dealt another loss, on this occasion being defeated by a 42 vote margin.
   In 1884 Luzerne Munson served as part of the Connecticut delegation to the Republican National Convention being held in Chicago. That November he reached his highest degree of political prominence when he was elected as State Comptroller of Connecticut, officially taking office in 1885. His term as comptroller concluded in 1887 and during the final years of his life maintained an active schedule in both religious and fraternal circles. He was a longstanding member of the Odd Fellows lodge and was honored by being named as the Grand Master of the Pequabock Lodge #48 of that organization. He and his wife were for nearly forty years parishioner's at the First Church of Waterbury, where Munson served as an usher and church committee member.
   After suffering a "comparatively short illness" Luzerne Ithiel Munson died at age 57 in Waterbury on October 28, 1895. He was survived by his wife Mary and daughter Mary Edna, all of whom were buried at the Riverside Cemetery in Waterbury following their deaths.

Portrait from the Illustrated Popular Biography of Connecticut, 1891.

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