Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Hartford

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HARTFORD, a city in the United States of North America, in 41° 45′ 59″ N. lat., 72° 40′ 45″ W. long., is the eastern portion of the town of the same name, the county seat of Hartford county, and the capital of the State of Connecticut. It is situated on the west bank of the Connecticut river, 60 miles from Long Island Sound, at the head of steamboat and sloop navigation, and 100 miles N.E. of New York and 95 W.S.W. of Boston by rail. An important centre of railway communication, it has also regular lines of steamboats and packets, besides some 200 sailing craft engaged in the coasting trade. The river is usually closed from the middle of December to the middle of March, and at the breaking up of the ice in spring sometimes rises 29 feet. The city is intersected by the sluggish and dirty Park river, which is spanned by 10 bridges. A covered toll bridge, 1000 feet long, across the Connecticut river connects the city with East Hartford. There are about 80 miles of streets, mostly lighted with gas, well drained, and macadamized or paved, and running north-and-south or east-and-west with considerable regularity. The city is for the most part compactly built of brick, granite, and freestone,—the public buildings and those of many private corporations being elegant and substantial. The old State-house, a Doric edifice, completed in 1795, has become the city-hall, while the State, since 1879, occupies a capacious new building of white marble in the modern Gothic style, costing over $3,100,000, and standing conspicuously in the midst of the city on a slight elevation at the south side of Bushnell Park (a beautiful area of 46 acres). There are also in the city three other public squares. Of the seven cemeteries the most noteworthy is Cedar Hill, in the south-west part of the town, comprising 268 acres. Wadsworth’s tower on Talcott mountain, to the north-west, affords one of the finest views in New England. Hartford is a healthy city, and its mean annual temperature is 50° Fahr. The area of the city is 10 square miles; and the population in 1870 was 37,180, of whom 10,817 were foreigners. A careful estimate of the population in 1879 gives nearly 50,000.

The city is divided into 8 wards, and is governed by a mayor and 16 aldermen elected biennially, and 32 councilman elected annually. The water supply is from four reservoirs in West Hartford, with a capacity of 1,208,450,367 gallons. In 1873 a free public bathing-house was established. Since 1864 the city has had a paid fire-department, and now has seven steam fire-engines and a fire-alarm telegraph with 26 miles of wire. The total real estate and personal property in the city assessed for taxation, October 1, 1878, was $44,001,245. The debt of the town in 1879 was $1,298,158, and of the city $2,152,303.

The principal business of the city is insurance. In 1879 there were 9 fire insurance companies, with assets of $19,104,603; 8 life insurance companies, with assets of $101,101,368; and 1 accident insurance company, with assets, $1,170,163. There were 16 banks and trust companies, with an aggregate capital of over $8,000,000, and 4 savings banks, with deposits, October 1, 1878, amounting to $9,528,893. There are also, exclusive of railroads, 73 mechanical and manufacturing corporations, though several of the larger ones have their works in adjacent towns. These have a capital of $17,347,000, and some of them a world-wide reputation, as the Colt Firearms Company, with works occupying grounds of 123 acres reclaimed by an extensive dike along the Connecticut river. They also include carpet, linen, and silk works, and a manufactory of edgetools. The publication of books too is a considerable interest. A very important branch of trade is the sale of leaf tobacco, which is the chief crop of the Connecticut river valley.

In 1879 there were 36 churches and 15 chapels of all denominations, including a fine Jewish synagogue. Here, too, is the seat of the Roman Catholic bishop, and the headquarters, in the United States, of the Chinese educational commission. Beside the 17 public schools and school-houses, which have cost $1,032,000, and with their 163 teachers and 7680 pupils cost about $200,000 a year, there were in 1879 43 educational and charitable corporations, several of them of notable importance, especially Trinity College (Episcopal), founded in 1823 as Washington College, which now has beautiful and commodious buildings in the south part of the city; the Theological Institute of Connecticut (Congregational), founded in 1834; the Hartford high and grammar school, founded 1655, the oldest educational institution in the State, and occupying one of the finest school edifices in the country; the Watkinson library of reference, with 34,000 volumes; the rooms and library of the Connecticut historical society, with its valuable collections of relics, books, and MSS.; the young men’s institute, a circulating library of 27,000 volumes (the last three, with a picture gallery, occupy a roomy and accessible building known as the Wadsworth Athenæum); the very complete State law library at the State-house; the American asylum for the deaf and dumb, retreat for the insane, Hartford hospital and orphan asylum (see Connecticut, vol. vi. p. 287). Thomas Green in 1764 opened the first printing-office in the city, and established the Connecticut Courant, which has ever since been regularly published. There were in 1879 three daily newspapers, seven weekly, and four monthly. In 1797 A. Kinsley exhibited the first steam locomotive in Hartford streets; and a portion of the Hartford and New Haven railroad was in operation in 1838. The railroads, however, have not been pecuniarily successful, that to New York being the only one of those meeting at Hartford which is in a prosperous condition.

Hartford was known to the aborigines as Suckiang; it was first permanently settled in 1635 by emigrants from eastern Massachusetts, and called Newtown. In 1637 it was named Hartford after Hertford in England. The Dutch had built a fort there in 1633, but it passed wholly into English hands in 1654. The first town meeting was held in 1635, and the first place of worship built, and school put in operation, in 1638. In 1639 was written at Hartford the constitution for the colony, the first framed in America, and embodying the characteristic features of all which follow. The first code of laws was drawn up in 1650, reducing the capital offences from 160 under English law to 15. In 1687 Sir E. Andros came to Hartford while the assembly was in session, and demanded the charter, but it was concealed in the notorious Charter Oak by Captain Joseph Wadsworth, and remained hidden till 1689. The historic tree survived till 1856. The city was incorporated in 1784, and in 1785 it became the sole capital of Connecticut.