Friday, March 13, 2015

The Strange Case of Louis Delibero - Episode #32

By: David L. Morrill
@ Mototique

Updated: November 23, 2017

Luigi "Louis" Delibero  
Delibero Family Collection
Family stories are an interesting thing. They come down to us from older relatives, and are sometimes dismissed by others, because they assume their recollections of events long passed are suspect. This story comes from a reader, who asked me to help find more information on the mysterious death of a family member in 1918. The family story she shared with me, was so intriguing, I thought it was worth of looking into.

Luigi "Louis" Delibero was born in San Lorenzo, Italy in 1892.  By the early teens, he was part of a wave of Italian immigration to the United States. Delibero, along with other family members settled in the seaport town of Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Delibero Americanized his first name to Louis, and eventually found work as a mechanic at the Automatic Machine Company. The Automatic Machine Company was part of  Bridgeport's ship building industry. With World War 1 raging in Europe, and assumptions that America would eventually be drawn into the war, ship building was an important industry.

Bridgeport, CT.  Telegram - 1918
Louis Delibero - Automatic Machine Company ca. 1918
Delibero Family Collection
Motorcycling for both transportation, and recreation, was well established in the Bridgeport area. They had an active motorcycle club going back to the early teens. It was also the home of Stanley T. Kellogg, who was one of the most accomplished motorcycle racers of this period, and also the local agent for Excelsior motorcycles.

The Bridgeport Motorcycle Club, which boasted fifty members in 1911, began sponsoring motorcycle competitions at the Bridgeport Aerodrome, the Nutmeg Driving Park, and later at the Seaside Park Racetrack.

Bridgeport Motorcycle Club Race Ad
Motorcycle Illustrated - September 1911

Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - 1911
Bridgeport was also close to two centers of early professional motorcycle racing.  They were the Vailsburg Park Motordrome in Newark, New Jersey, and the Stadium Motordrome in Brighton Beach, New York.  Top racers from around the world competed on these steeply banked circular board tracks, drawing large crowds of spectators. A tragic crash at the Newark track in September 1912, killed two well known racers, along with several spectators, and led to the banning of motorcycle racing in Newark.

Atlanta Constitution - September 1912

After the Newark tragedy, and another travis accident at the Lagoon Motordrome in Ludlow, Kentucky, which also killed several racers, and numerous spectators, motorcycle racing began to shift back to the dirt oval horse racing tracks common in the area.

Motorcycles provided cheap transportation in the days when automobiles were out of reach of all but the affluent. Like many young men of this age, Louis Delibero was also drawn to the freedom, and excitement, of motorcycles. He purchased an Indian Motorcycle, most likely from the Bridgeport Cycle Company, which was the local Indian dealer.

Bridgeport, CT. Telegram -1918
Louis Delibero with Family Members
Delibero Family Collection

Louis Delibero of Bridgeport, Connecticut was listed as motorcycle owner #743 on the State of Connecticut List of Registered Motor Vehicle dated August 15, 1914. A few months later, Delibero caught the attention of the State Police, for riding with his exhaust cutoff open. The loud pipe very nearly cost him his driver's license, but a local Officer interceded on his behalf.

Bridgeport, CT. Evening Farmer
September 10, 1914

As he became more involved in motorcycling, he joined the Bridgeport Motorcycle Club, and began to compete in their motorcycle events around Bridgeport.

Louis Delibero - 1918
Delibero Family Collection

Seaside Park Racetrack - Bridgeport, CT.
Bridgeport Baseball History - Mike Roer

On July 10, 1915, Louis Delibero set the 1 Mile Track Record at the Bridgeport Areodrome, now known as the Bridgeport Motordrome Park, and was awarded a silver cup to commemorate his new track record.

Fred A. Delibero Collection
In late December 1915, Louis Delibero, and his wife witnessed a fatal accident between and automobile and a trolley car. The details of the accident were reported in the Bridgeport Evening Farmer on December 31, 1915.

Bridgeport, CN. Evening Farmer
December 31, 1915

With the approach of America's involvement in World War 1, Louis Dlibero registered for the draft in Connecticut. Although he was a Naturalized American Citizen, he was not drafted, as he had a dependent wife, two children, and his employment at the Automatic Machine Company was considered an essential war industry.

In October 1918, Louis Delibero was killed when his motorcycle was struck by a truck.  The collision with the automobile literally broke Delibero's Indian Motocycle in half.  There appears to be no mention of Delibero's fatal accident in the local paper, even though they regularly covered motorcycle and automobile accidents.

Remnants of Delibero's Indian Motocycle -1915
Delibero Family Collection

After Delibero's death, it was rumored that his fatal accident was staged by local Black Hand Society members, because he refused to fix the outcome of upcoming motorcycle races.

Black Hand Society Symbol

The Black Hand Society which had origins in Sicily, was well established within Bridgeport's Italian American Community. Their principal crime was extortion from Italian owned businesses, and they where suspected in several local murders.

Bridgeport, CT. Telegram - 1918
Motorcycle racing was popular in Italy, and betting on the results of races, which was controlled by local crime figures, was common. It was also common practice at American race tracks of the time to gamble on the outcome of motorcycle races. A local Italian racer, would have been a crowd favorite with Bridgeport's Italian race fans. If the story passed down through the Delibero family was true, the local Black Hand Society also wanted to fix the outcome of the races.

Luigi "Louis" Delibero, was buried in the St. Michaels' Cemetery in nearby Stratford, Connecticut. He was twenty six at the time of his death, and left behind his wife Rose Masisco Delibero, and young sons Louis, and Frederick Delibero.

Whether, Delibero's death was just a tragic accident, or a ninety seven year old unsolved murder mystery, will never be known. Crime within immigrant communities of the time, did not garner the attention of law enforcement, it would in other communities.

With the demonstrated violent nature of the local Black Hand Society, anyone with information, would have surely feared to came forward. The local press liked the sensational headlines generated by this type of crime, but they seldom followed up beyond the initial headlines. There is certainly enough circumstantial evidence to question if the death of Louis Delibero was in fact an unsolved murder.


Atlanta Constitution

Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - 1911

Bridgeport, CN. Evening Farmer

Bridgeport, CT. Telegram

Delibero Family Collection

Fred A. Delibero Collection

Motorcycle Illustrated - 1908, 1915, 1916


  1. Hello from Milano, Italy
    Very interesting vintage stories, biographies, adventures..

    Max The Marquis

  2. Very cool! Thanks for all your work

  3. Great story!!! Sad ending, but does make you think about just how tough it must have been back in that era to be a motorcycle racer!

  4. Very interesting articles & pictures. It makes one wonder, for sure. Thank you for your work on this. Would be interested in any further info found in the future. Barbara Jean DeLibero

  5. Thank you Barbara Jean. I hope someday to find more information on his story. still lots of unanswered questions???