Economy & Class

As a disclaimer to this post, we’d like everyone to know we’ve taken this week’s post as an opportunity to “start over”. We’ve re-discussed our past two topics once more, with the intention of painting a better, more broad picture of both the economic atmosphere and class development in the city of Hartford during the nineteenth century. In the following weeks we will begin to dig deeper, and bring more specific information to the discussion.

Economy & Class

While many cities in the mid-19th century were trying to become the most prominent and successful, the city of Hartford was just trying to establish itself. “The population rose gradually, by an average of one thousand people a year” (Baldwin 34). Even so, Hartford had promising intentions and a specific image in mind for what the city might become. “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” (Lauren, Ashley, Anxhela, Blog Post 1). Hartford was hailed as the richest in per capita in income and the most architecturally beautiful city through the late 19th century. Even though Hartford had an increased per capita income it was also known to have the worst tenement conditions of any cities within the same size. (Confronting urban legacy: Rediscovering Hartford and New England’s forgotten cities. 10) Therefore, “Hartford exemplified the conceptual dichotomies of the rich and poor, and the urban vs. rural. “ (Xiangming Chen). Simply put, Hartford housed some of the wealthiest individuals, as well as the poorest.

“During the mid-1800’s, much of Hartford’s economic welfare was centered around waterfronts” (Lauren, Ashley, Anxhela, Blog Post 1). New England was developed and depended on waterpower, which required falling water. Therefore Hartford was known as a “flat water city” due to the fact that it lacked falling water. Even though Hartford and its population first lived near the river and the waterfront, once manufacturing operations and industry moved into the cities center, families and businessmen as well to follow the flow of jobs. Hartford and Hartford County became a net importer of food in the mid-1820’s. which suggested that the industrial economy was developing within the region.The working class and workforce was moving into manufacturing and which allowed for population growth as well. However people were only moving into small villages on the slopes of the walls of Connecticut River Valley, but with the perfection of  steam technology and construction to the railroads, Hartford’s’ region leapt into industrial transformation, allowing for economical growth.

With the emergence of industrial transformation in Hartford and Connecticut, the social class and the class gap began to grow. Unlike today and the many derivations of classes that people can fit into, during the 1800’s there were three distinct social classes, the upper class, middle class, and lower class. The lower class consisted of slaves, indentured servants, and those who were uneducated- trade workers. There was a large gap between the lower class and those who lived within the middle class. The middle class however was split up into two subsections; the working middle class, and the middle class. This class was made up of lawyers, teachers, factory owners, shopkeepers, etc. These two subsections were able to put their children through school. The upper class was made up by military officials, diplomats, clergymen, and royalty. During this time period, the upper class did not have to pay taxes while the lower class did. The industrial revolution however created an even larger gap between the lower working class, and those who lived within the middle working class, because the upper and middle class benefited from the industrial revolution. These two classes were composed of people that had wealth and success. Even though most could afford goods anyway, the prices lowered even more, so that those who could not afford them before could now enjoy the comfort and convenience of the new products being made.

The middle class was composed of businessmen and other professionals. As the Industrial Revolution grew, the more powerful these individuals became. With the sudden need for education, individuals and groups formed new libraries, schools, and universities. The middle and upper classes had better food and housing, which led to fewer diseases and longer living among these groups. Since these classes were treated so well, their population grew and thus had minimal difficulty living during the Industrial Revolution. However, the working class did not enjoy the luxuries  the middle- and upper-classes did. Due the revolution and the increase of machinery, workers were replaced by machinery. Therefore, even though the price of goods were decreasing and becoming more affordable, they only became more affordable to those who had jobs.


Works Cited

Baldwin, Peter C. Domesticating the Street: The Reform of Public Space in Hartford, 1850-1930. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1999. PDF.

Chen, X., & Bacon, N. (n.d.). Confronting urban legacy: Rediscovering Hartford and New England’s forgotten cities.

Leary, Lauren, Ashley Wesley, and Anxhela Cenkolli. “Economics & Living Situations.” (Blog Post 1). Web log post. The Murder of Ada Brown. N.p., 28 Sept. 2016. Web.

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