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Meriden City

Meriden City Hall is located at 142 East Main Street, Meriden, CT 06450; phone: 203-630-4030.

Beginnings [1]

In 1661, Jonathan Gilbert of Hartford was granted a farm of 350 acres in this district by the General Court. Edward Higbee, who was put in charge of the estate, 'was the first white man to take up his abode in Meriden,' which was named for Gilbert's birthplace, Meriden Farm, in the English county of Surrey.

Meriden was the seat of an extensive silver-plating industry; it lies in the central Connecticut Valley. Flanked by the Hanging Hills on the west and the scenic Mt. Beseck range on the east, it has one of the most attractive natural settings of any city in the State.

Numerous large public parks with shady drives winding past woodland lakes are quiet oases amid the industrial activity of the city. The business district, in which was concentrated six of the plants of the International Silver Company, said to be the largest manufacturers of silverware in the world, was typical of most industrial communities. In addition to the silver factories, about 75 other plants were engaged in the production of such diversified products as ball bearings, electric lamps, fixtures and household appliances, automotive accessories, and thermos bottles.

The history of Meriden is closely identified with the development of the silver industry which was the outgrowth of a small pewter shop. As early as 1794, Samuel Yale, who had worked with the craftsman, Thomas Danforth of Rocky Hill, commenced to produce pewter buttons. Numerous button and tin shops soon followed. The manufacture of Britannia ware was introduced here in 1808 by Ashbel Griswold. Griswold first used a mixture of tin and lead that was little more than pewter. Teapots were cast in 2 parts, and soldered together; spouts and handles were cast separately and soldered in place. Each article was then put on a lathe, turned and polished. Other small plants sprang up and by 1852 were so numerous that many of them combined to organize the Meriden Britannia Company. Shortly afterward, improved machinery made possible the rolling and pressing of metal by means of dies and forms. A new alloy of tin, antimony, and copper produced a more durable metal, which retained a more pronounced luster.

The first mechanical piano-player in the world was the Angelus, manufactured by H. K. Wilcox in Meriden in 1895. The former Angelus plant subsequently became a subsidiary of General Electric, producing molded plastics for electrical equipment.

Although about 68 percent of Meriden's population was either foreign-born or foreign or mixed parentage, newcomers quickly assimilated and no areas of Meriden were distinctly typical of any one nationality.

Several prominent literary and musical figures have been residents of Meriden. Ross and Carmella Ponselle, of the Metropolitan Opera Company, spent their childhood here and received their first training in music from a local teacher. Gerhary Hauptmann, German dramatist, wrote his poetic drama, 'The Sunken Bell,' while living in the city, and is said to have derived his inspiration from Meriden's Hanging Hills. Ella Wheeler Wilcox was a resident for many years.

  1. Workers of the Federal Writers' Project, Works Progress Administration, Connecticut: A Guide to its Roads, Lore and People, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1938.
**Information is curated from a variety of sources and, while deemed reliable, is not guaranteed.
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