Danbury is a city in northern Fairfield County, Connecticut, United States, approximately 70 miles (1 hour) from New York City. It had population at the 2010 census of 80,893. Danbury is the fourth largest city in Fairfield County and is the seventh largest city in Connecticut.
The city was named for the place of origin of many of the early settlers, Danbury, Essex, in England, and has been nicknamed Hat City, because it used to be a center of the hat industry, at one point producing almost 25% of America's hats.
Danbury was first settled by colonists in 1685, when eight families moved to the area from the area that is now Norwalk and Stamford. The area was then called Pahquioque by the Pahquioque American Indians. One of the first settlers was Samuel Benedict who bought land from the Paquioque natives in 1685 along with his brother James, James Beebe, and Judah Gregory. Originally called Paquiack ("open plain" or "cleared land") by local American Indians, the settlers chose the name Swampfield for their town, but in October 1687, the general court decreed the name Danbury. The general court appointed a committee to lay out the boundaries of the new town. A survey was made in 1693, and a formal town patent was granted in 1702 according to the 1693 survey.
During the American Revolution, Danbury was an important military supply depot for the Continental Army. On April 26–27, 1777, the British under Major General William Tryon burned and looted the city. The central motto on the seal of the City of Danbury is Restituimus (Latin for "We have restored"), a reference to the destruction caused by the Loyalist army troops. The American General David Wooster was mortally wounded near the town of Ridgefield at the Battle of Ridgefield by these same British forces which had earlier attacked Danbury. He is buried in Danbury's Wooster Cemetery, and the private Wooster School in Danbury is named in his honor.
In 1780, the first hat factory in Danbury was established by Zadoc Benedict, employing three workers and producing 18 hats a week. Danbury was known as "The Hat City" or the "Hatting Capital of the World" during the early 20th century, as it produced almost 24% of America's hats in 1904.
In 1802, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, a group expressing fear of persecution by the Congregationalists of that town, in which he used the expression "Separation of Church and State". It is the first known instance of the expression, which contrary to popular belief does not appear in the U.S. Constitution in those words, but is often believed to be present by the combined effect of the establishment and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment. James Madison, considered the founder of the Constitution, also used very similar language regarding a separation of church and state. The letter is on display at the Unitarian-Universalist Congregation of Danbury.
The first Danbury Fair was held in 1821. By 1869, it became a yearly event and was held until 1981. After 1981, the fairgrounds were demolished to make room for the Danbury Fair Mall, which opened in the fall of 1986.
The central part of Danbury was incorporated as a borough in 1822. The borough was reincorporated as the city of Danbury on April 19, 1889. The city and town were consolidated on January 1, 1965.
The Kohanza Reservoir, one of the many reservoirs built to provide water to the hat factories, broke on January 31, 1869. The ensuing flood of icy water killed 11 people in half an hour, and caused major damage to many homes and farms.
In 1902, the American Federation of Labor union called for a nationwide boycott of a non-union hat manufacturer, Dietrich Loewe, in Danbury. The manufacturer sued the union under the Sherman Antitrust Act for unlawfully restraining trade. The U.S. Supreme Court held that the union was liable for damages in 1908. This case is also known as the Danbury Hatters' case.
A tract near the Danbury Fairgrounds known as Tucker's Field was purchased by local pilots in 1928 and leased to the town. This became an airport, which is now Danbury Municipal Airport .
Connecticut's largest lake, Candlewood Lake, was artificially created in 1929 where Wood Creek and the Rocky River meet near the Housatonic River. The land that is now the lake was owned and operated by Connecticut Light and Power Company as a hydroelectric power facility until sold for $9 million in June 2006.
In the August 1988 issue of Money magazine, Danbury topped the magazine's list of the best U.S. cities to live in, mostly due to low crime, good schools, and location.
Social activism, desegregation, and conscientious objectors during World War II
During the Second World War, Danbury's prison was one of many sites used for the incarceration of conscientious objectors. One in six inmates in the United States' federal prisons was a conscientious objector, and prisons like Danbury found themselves suddenly filled with large numbers of highly educated men skilled in social activism. Due to the activism of inmates within the prison, and local laborers protesting in solidarity with the conscientious objectors, Danbury became one of the nation's first prisons to desegregate its inmates.