Hartford, city (1990 pop. 139,739), state capital, Hartford co., central Conn., on the west bank of the Connecticut River; settled as Newtown 1635–36 on the site of a Dutch trading post (1633; abandoned 1654), inc. 1784. The second largest city in the state, it is a port of entry. Hartford was long world famous as an insurance center. Its insurance business began in 1794, and the area was once home to the headquarters of more than 35 insurance companies. Mergers and downsizing during the late 20th cent., however, greatly lessened the insurance industry's importance. Manufactures include precision instruments, computers, transportation equipment, firearms, and electrical equipment.
One of the earliest and strongest colonial centers, Hartford and two other towns formed (1639) the Connecticut Colony, adopting the Fundamental Orders. From 1701 to 1875 it was joint capital with New Haven. It was an important military supply depot during the American Revolution, and in 1814–15, it hosted the Hartford Convention. The Hartford Courant, founded in 1764, is one of the country's oldest newspapers.
Landmarks include the old statehouse (1796; designed by Charles Bulfinch), where the Hartford Convention met; the site of the Charter Oak; the capitol (completed 1878; designed by Richard M. Upjohn); and the famous Travelers Insurance tower. Hartford has a noted art museum (the Wadsworth Atheneum), a symphony orchestra, and opera and ballet companies. The Connecticut state library includes the Colt collection of firearms. Other attractions are the Harriet Beecher Stowe House (1871), where Stowe lived from 1873 to 1896, and the Mark Twain House (1873–74). Noah Webster, John Fiske, and the elder J. P. Morgan were born in Hartford; the theologian Horace Bushnell, the author Charles Dudley Warner, and the poet Wallace Stevens lived there. The city's many parks include Elizabeth Park, scene of an annual rose festival, and Colt Park. Among Hartford's institutions of higher education are Trinity College, the Univ. of Hartford, Hartford College for Women, and a branch of the Univ. of Connecticut and its schools of law and social work. There is also the American School for the Deaf and the Connecticut Institute for the Blind.