The Port of Hartford is the capital of the State of Connecticut and an important commercial and industrial center. Located about 60 kilometers (38 miles) upriver from Long Island Sound on the Connecticut River, the Port of Hartford is 56 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of New Haven and 66 kilometers (41 miles) southwest of Boston. Springfield, Massachusetts, is only 38 kilometers (24 miles) to the north of the Port of Hartford. The 2000 US Census reported that 121.6 thousand people lived in the city, but there are more than 1.1 million people in the Port of Hartford's metropolitan area.
The Port of Hartford is home to the United States' oldest operating newspaper, the Hartford Courant, which began publishing in 1764. The Port of Hartford is the birthplace of J.P. Morgan, Samuel Colt, and John Fiske, among others. The Port of Hartford was also home to writers Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain as well as poet Wallace Stevens. The Hartford-Springfield metropolitan region is called the "Knowledge Corridor" due to the 32 universities and colleges located there.
Adriaen Block, a Dutch explorer, was the first European to visit the area of the Port of Hartford in 1614. The local Algonquin people lived in the area.
After his visit, New Netherland colony fur traders established a trading post in about 1623 at Fort Goede Hoop where the Connecticut and Park Rivers meet. The trading post had been abandoned by 1654. The site is still called Dutch Point.
The first settlers from England came to the future Port of Hartford in 1635, naming their new village Newtown. To honor Hertford in England, the village was renamed Hartford in 1637. The English settlers made peace with the indigenous Algonquins.
Thomas Hooker, a pastor from Cambridge, Massachusetts, led the Port of Hartford's original settlers. Hooker gave a sermon that eventually inspired the 1639 "Fundamental Orders of Connecticut" giving authority to govern to the people. This self-rule philosophy later inspired the Connecticut Constitution and, later, the United States' Constitution.
Growing from an economy based on agriculture, the Port of Hartford became an important Connecticut River trade center. Warehouses distributed spices, molasses, rum, and coffee to busy merchants. Ships carried goods between the Port of Hartford and ports in the Far East, West Indies, and England. The merchants faced risks to their prosperity from pirates, fires, accidents, and storms.
In an effort to share these risks, Port of Hartford merchants created the modern insurance industry. The Hartford Fire Insurance Group was established in 1810, and it still operates today as the Hartford Insurance Company. With the success of the risk-sharing arrangements, the Port of Hartford became the home of many national insurance companies (like Travelers and Aetna). Today, the Port of Hartford is called by some the Insurance Capital of the World.
In 1814, the Hartford Convention brought together delegates from across New England who were considering seceding from the United States in opposition to trade policies set by the new US government. Later in the 1800s, the Port of Hartford was an important center for the abolitionists who opposed slavery, including Harriet Beecher Stowe whose Uncle Tom's Cabin did much to bring about the American Civil War.
One of the Port of Hartford's most prominent citizens was Samuel Colt, a leader in the United States' Industrial Revolution. Patenting the revolving gun in 1836, Colt's innovation of using interchangeable parts revolutionized the manufacturing process with his goal of making all gun parts interchangeable and made by machine. His vision was the assembly line.
In the 1850s, Colt began to purchase land on the banks of the Connecticut River in the Port of Hartford, and his new plant began operating in 1855. Colt established 10-hour working days and required a one-hour lunch break. He also built Charter Oak Hall where employees could relax. Samuel Colt eventually became one of the United States' ten wealthiest businessmen, and his Colt Revolver became a symbol of the American West. The company continued to operate from the Port of Hartford Armory until 1995 when the "Last Gun," a single-action Army revolver, was produced. Colt's Manufacturing Company LLC remains one of the Port of Hartford's major industries and an important contributor to the local economy.
The Port of Hartford continued to grow throughout the 19th Century as new waves of immigrants arrived to work and live in the community, creating a city heritage of cultural diversity that continues to this day. Throughout the 19th and early 20th Century, the Port of Hartford was an important publishing and manufacturing center. One of the manufacturers that built the Port of Hartford was Augustus Pope's manufacturing company that produced Columbia bicycles and, later, automobiles. Pope Manufacturing Company produced an all-electric vehicle in 1897, although the company eventually declared bankruptcy. By 1915, it was out of the automobile industry.
In the mid-20th Century, the Port of Hartford began a long economic decline, although its suburbs continued to grow, in part due to two new highways that intersect in downtown. Many city dwellers escaped to the Port of Hartford's suburbs. Despite a brief economic boom in the 1980s, most of the people who worked in downtown Port of Hartford lived at least 20 minutes away from the city by 2000. While the Port of Hartford was an important player in the American Industrial Revolution, many of the manufacturers that operated there in the late 19th and 20th Centuries moved away from the city center to suburbs or even outside the area.
The past years have seen an increase in commercial and residential development in the downtown Port of Hartford. Today, the Port of Hartford is an important center for medical research, education, and care, with at least three major teaching hospitals.
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