Hartford, located at the end of the navigable portion of the Connecticut River, was settled in 1623 as a Dutch trading post called House of Hope. In 1636, a group of English settlers led by the Reverend Thomas Hooker left Massachusetts and formed a colony here. The settlers made peace with the local Algonquin Native Americans, who called the town Saukiog, and renamed it after Hertford, England.
Early in its existence Hartford made a significant contribution to the burgeoning society. The Fundamental Orders adopted by the colony in 1639, was the first document in history to establish a government by the consent of the people. The pattern was followed by the framers of the United States Constitution, giving Connecticut its nickname, "The Constitution State."
Evolving from an early agricultural economy, Hartford grew into an important trading center on the Connecticut River. Molasses, spices, coffee and rum were distributed from warehouses in the city's thriving merchant district. Ships set sail from Hartford to England, the West Indies and the Far East. Merchants were concerned about risks to this thriving trade, with fires, pirates, storms and accidents always a threat.
The insurance industry was created when groups of merchants began to share these risks. The practice was formalized with the creation of the Hartford Fire Insurance Group in 1810. Our nation's oldest insurance company still operates in the city as The Hartford Insurance Company. Hartford became the home of many of the nation's largest insurance companies, such as Aetna and Travelers, and is known today as the Insurance Capital of the World.
Pioneering manufacturers like Samuel Colt also called Hartford home. Colt's experiments with interchangeable parts created the basis for today's assembly line manufacturing methods. New techniques employed in his firearms factory made mass production possible and laid the groundwork for Hartford's pre-eminence in the area of precision manufacturing.
Shaped by the social and economic forces which gave rise to industrial growth in America, Hartford grew and prospered as successive waves of immigrants came to work, build and settle in the community. This ethnic and cultural diversity continues to be a prominent part of Hartford's heritage and one of our cities greatest assets.
Hartford also became an important cultural and communications center. The Hartford Courant, founded in 1764, is the country's oldest continuously published newspaper. The nations oldest public art museum, the Wadsworth Athenaeum, was founded in 1844. Supported by prominent benefactors like J.P. Morgan, the museum grew to become one of the top ten art museums in the country. Authors like Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe were drawn to the area, because, as Twain said "of all the beautiful towns it has been my fortune to see, this is the chief."