Nashua is a city in Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, United States. As of the 2010 census, Nashua had a total population of 86,494, making it the second largest city in the state (and in the three northern New England states) after Manchester.
Built around the now-departed textile industry, in recent decades it has been swept up in southern New Hampshire's economic expansion as part of the Boston region. Nashua was twice named "Best Place to Live in America" in annual surveys by Money magazine. It is the only city to get the No. 1 ranking on two occasions—in 1987 and 1997.
The area was part of a tract of land in Massachusetts called Dunstable, which had been awarded to Edward Tyng of Dunstable, England. Nashua lies approximately in the center of the original 1673 grant. The previously disputed boundary between Massachusetts and New Hampshire was fixed in 1741 when the governorships of the two provinces were separated. As a consequence, the township of Dunstable was divided in two. Tyngsborough and some of Dunstable remained in Massachusetts, while Dunstable, New Hampshire, was incorporated in 1746 from the northern section of the town.
Located at the confluence of the Nashua and Merrimack rivers, Dunstable was first settled about 1655 as a fur trading town. Like many 19th century riverfront New England communities, it would be developed during the Industrial Revolution with textile mills operated from water power. By 1836, the Nashua Manufacturing Company had built three cotton mills which produced 9.3 million yards of cloth annually on 710 looms. On December 31, 1836, the New Hampshire half of Dunstable was renamed Nashua, after the Nashua River, by a declaration of the New Hampshire legislature (the Dunstable name lives on across the Massachusetts border). The Nashua River was named by the Nashuway Indians, and in the Penacook language it means "beautiful stream with a pebbly bottom", with an alternative meaning of "land between two rivers". In 1842 the town split again in two for eleven years following a dispute between the area north of the Nashua, and the area south of the river. During that time the northern area (today "French Hill") called itself "Nashville", while the southern part kept the name Nashua. They reconciled in 1853 and joined together to charter the "city of Nashua". Six railroad lines crossed the mill town, namely the Boston, Lowell and Nashua; Worcester and Nashua; Nashua and Acton; Nashua and Wilton; Concord and Nashua; and Rochester railroads; with 56 trains entering and departing daily in the years before the Civil War. These various railroads led to all sections of the country, north, east, south, and west. The Jackson Manufacturing Company employed hundreds of workers in the 1870s.
Like the rival Amoskeag Manufacturing Company upriver in Manchester, the Nashua mills prospered until about World War I, after which a slow decline set in. Water power was replaced with newer forms of energy to run factories. Cotton could be manufactured into fabric where it grew, saving transportation costs. The textile business started moving to the South during the Great Depression, with the last mill closing in 1949. Many citizens were left unemployed. But then Sanders Associates, a newly created defense firm that is now part of BAE Systems, moved into one of the closed mills and launched the city's rebirth. Sam Tamposi is credited with much of the city's revival. The arrival of Digital Equipment Corp. (now part of Hewlett-Packard) in the 1970s made the city part of the Boston-area high-tech corridor.