Connecticut’s Capital City: Hartford Insurance, Mark Twain and the Charter Oak

Hartford, Connecticut’s fourth largest city, behind Bridgeport, New Haven and Stamford, is perhaps best known for the number of insurance companies housed there, but it was also the home of Samuel L. Clemens, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and The Courant, the oldest continuously published newspaper in the country.

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Nicknamed the “Insurance Capital of the World,” Hartford houses dozens of insurance company headquarters, and insurance remains the region’s major industry. Almost 400 years old, Hartford is among the oldest cities in the United States, and one of the earliest settlements in the Nutmeg State, dating all the way back to 1637.

It may seem like an anomaly today, considering how poor it is, but following the American Civil War, Hartford was actually the wealthiest city in the United States, a stature that lasted for several decades. In 1868, resident author and humorist Mark Twain wrote before he died, “Of all the beautiful towns it has been my fortune to see this is the chief.” Today, Hartford is one of the poorest cities in the nation with 3 out of every 10 families living below the poverty line.

Historically, Hartford has been the international center of the insurance industry, with companies such as Travelers, Aetna, The Hartford, The Phoenix Companies, UnitedHealthcare and Hartford Steam Boiler based in the city, and companies such as Lincoln National Corporation having major operations there. The corporate headquarters of U.S. Fire Arms and United Technologies are also there.

Its history during the Industrial Revolution made it a major manufacturing city, but over the years, most Northeastern manufacturing facilities and factories closed, relocated or reduced operations. Many of the insurers, too, left for the Hartford suburbs in search of better amenities, rents, and tax breaks over and above the city’s current tax structure. MetLife, for example, vacated several floors in CityPlace, Connecticut's largest office building, and joined CIGNA in a large suburban campus in Bloomfield. Lincoln Financial cut its Hartford workforce while Travelers built a training complex in Windsor, just north of Hartford. Other insurers such as MassMutual and The Hartford followed suit going outside the city. However, despite the flight to suburbia, Aetna and Northeast Utilities have returned their operations to downtown Hartford.

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