Derby, CT

The National Humane Alliance Fountain on the Derby Greenway

Fountain Gets New Home and Complete Restoration on the Greenway


When this Derby History Quiz was first presented, the National Humane Alliance fountain was found at the bottom of Founders Commons. However, based upon the interest generated by this quiz and the subsequent development of the Derby Greenway, the fountain was moved to the Derby Greenway by the Department of Public Works  on Thursday, June 22, 2006, restored to its original working condition and rededicated on September 1, 2007.

Here's our original story:

Original location at Seymour & Atwater Avenues

The watering trough pictured above was presented to the city in 1906 by a group called the National Humane Alliance. It was once located at the junction of Seymour Avenue and Atwater Avenue, but was moved to Founders Common on the other side of town along Academy Hill in May, 1951 when Rt. 8 was being planned.

From the Bridgeport Post - May 20, 1951

The fountain arrived here from Rockland, Maine in the middle of May, and Seccombe Brothers of Ansonia set it up on a foundation built by James Carroll of Derby with the plumbing work being done by E. W. Peck & Co. The imposing structure is made of granite and weighs five tons. The large bowl is six foot across and the fountain is over six feet tall. At the base, there are are four small water bowls for dogs, cats and other animals. The pillar above the bowl had spigots resembling lions heads on three sides and and a plaque on the fourth.

The water was turned on by Mayor Hubbell on Friday, June 1, 1906. According to a report published in The Evening Sentinel the next day, a horse owned by R. F. Cuddihy of Derby was the first to take a drink from the trough while Frank Ford's dog "Ponto" was the first to drink from the lower level of the fountain. There had been an old and rather unsightly iron trough on the spot for years, and reports indicate that the neighbors were quite pleased with the new design.

The watering trough is not as ornate as it once was as the lions head spigots which were once found on three sides have long since vanished. (Click here to see the new spigots which were recast and placed back on the fountain in 2006.) A simple plaque on the fourth side of the fountain states simply, "1906 Presented by the National Humane Alliance - Hermon Lee Ensign Founder." Mr. Ensign left his fortune to the National Humane Alliance, which he founded to carry out his ideas for welfare of animals. His childhood love of animals grew and became the dominating interest of his life. He acquired his fortune through twenty years in the advertising business. He created a new form of newspaper advertising -- headline reading advertisement. He also invented the stereotype plate with removable base.

The National Humane Alliance of New York was incorporated in 1897 with offices at 114 Nassau Street. Mr. Ensign was the President and Manager. It's statement of purpose was: "While the Alliance is not exactly a charity, it is founded on humanitarian ideas. It desires to educate people, particularly the rising generation, to be kind and gentle among themselves and to treat all dumb animals humanely. The plan is different from that of any other organization. The society leaves the enforcement of law to others. Its work is humane education. The idea is that you make better citizens as you eliminate cruelty and brutality from the mind and instill gentleness and kindness. If a man or boy is educated on this line, so that he feels a pleasure in being considerate of animals as well as of his fellow-beings, he cannot be other than a good citizen. These are the argument and the theory in a nutshell. The National Humane Alliance publishes and circulates pamphlets as well as a newspaper, and has branches in other cities and States". (World Almanac and encyclopedia, 1898, page 294).

Ensign also wrote a collection of stories in 1901 - Lady Lee and Other Animal Stories - which was a collection of 10 illustrated stories all related to animals.

Derby was not the only city to have such a watering trough as the National Humane Alliance placed identical troughs in cities such as Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Paducah, Kentucky, Shawnee, Oklahoma; Carson City, Nevada; Abbeville, South Carolina; Austin, Minnesota; Charlotte, North Carolina; Austin, Vermont; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Clinton, Missouri; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Rapid City, South Dakota; San Diego, California, Carson City Nevada and Ottumwa, Iowa. Most of them have the date of 1906 or 1907 on them, but others show 1911 as their date. In total, we have discovered that there were at least 130 fountains distributed across the U.S. and one in Mexico with estimates of up to 150 having been distributed.

A recent discovery indicates that the National Humane Alliance finished its business and closed up shop around 1921

Correct answers were received from: Kristen Jecusco-Casteel, Robert Hyder, Ann Searles, Jim Bartlett, Joan Driscoll, Gary Lungarini, Virginia Ljungquist, Ken Dupke, Frank Lazowski, Sr, Kathi Ducharme, Mary Lou Boroski, Marsha Pettingill, Markanthony Izzo, Henry Wajdowicz, Millie from Ansonia, Frank ?, John M. Rak, Jane Papale, and Randy Ritter.

To see our other earlier quizzes and learn more about Derby's unique history, click here.


For more on the National Humane Alliance Fountains click here.

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