Economics & Living Situations


During the mid-1800’s, much of Hartford’s economic welfare was centered around waterfronts, but with the growing use of railroads and canals, river commerce began fading, while banking, insurance, and manufacturing enterprises began to flourish. With this shift, wealthy businessmen and their families abandoned riverfront living in favor of moving deeper within the city and closer to their work, which meant that poor, lower class families began to inhabit the no longer flourishing waterfront areas, and in great number. Tenement living was commonplace in almost every American city in the mid- to late-1800’s. At best, living conditions were uncomfortable…at worst, they were incredibly unsafe. Tenement buildings frequently lacked proper ventilation, large number of people inhabited small quarters, about twelve to thirteen people to a room (Riis, How the Other Half Lives). It is also likely that records were not kept of every person inhabiting each building at a given time.

        With living spaces so cramped and in such poor condition, it is easy to imagine that crime would have taken place in higher volume in these neighborhoods, as opposed to the wealthier, and likely more efficiently policed neighborhoods within the city. Based on Eric Larson’s Devil in the White City, one can conclude that the ease with which people tended to disappear (under mysterious circumstances) was not a phenomenon isolated in Chicago.

Frances A. Brown, commonly known as Ada Brown, was murdered in October 1884. The incident occurred on 30 Sheldon Street in a building which was commonly known as Jackson’s Block. The neighborhood is in the area known as “City Center” and is made up tenement housing. In 1850, Hartford held a population of 13,555, which increased to 79,850 in 1900. Within 50 years the population of Hartford increased by 66,295.

Two major developments that characterized Connecticut and its economy include immigration and industrialization. Between 1870-1900, the number of manufactures in Connecticut nearly doubled, which included the state’s gross products. Major industry products included textiles and hardware, however smaller manufacturing products emerged as well, such as the typewriter and bell production. A major industry born in Hartford was the Colt Armory, which was completed in 1856.  The 200 acre company created an industrial utopia for immigrant workers, allowing a ten hour work day and a one hour lunch break. During 1880 the average hourly wage was 0.135, while the average wage for a 60 hour work week was 8.10  Ada Brown was murdered by her one of her love interest Martin Harrison, over the matter of a ten dollar bill. A ten dollar bill in the 1800’s would be equivalent to $183.20 in 2016.

Both of these concepts, tenement living, and the economic status of those living within the cities can be connected to Ada Brown’s Murder. She was living within the tight walls of Jackson’s Block on Sheldon Street, which is within one mile of the city’s center, and was in a dispute over the matter of a ten dollar bill, which one would have to work over 60 hours a week a earn.  

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