April 18, 2017
Connecticut State Seal
April 26, 2017


Waterbury was settled in 1674 by people from Farmington. But the settlement had to be abandoned. There was a war going on called King Philip’s War. Native Americans were fighting to drive the English out of New England. Three years later, the settlers returned.

The settlement was first called Mattatuck. Mattatuck is a Native American word. It means “place with no trees.” It became the Connecticut Colony’s 28th town in 1686. Mattatuck included areas that are now separate towns. Naugatuck, Middlebury, Watertown, Thomaston, and parts of Wolcott, Plymouth, Oxford, and Prospect were part of Mattatuck. The settlers were farmers, carpenters, millers, and blacksmiths. But the soil was not good for farming.

The town changed its name to Waterbury because of the many rivers and streams nearby. The Naugatuck and Mad rivers flow through Waterbury. The rivers powered mills. But the rivers caused great damage when they flooded.

Waterbury grew and grew. In 1725, 350 people lived there. In 1775, 3,536 lived there.

Waterbury, 1917. Library of Congress

After the American Revolution, Waterbury developed industry. Factories made nails, clocks, pewter buttons, and wool cloth. The city’s main industry, though, became brass. The industry began by making brass buttons. Lots of brass buttons! Brass buttons were made in Waterbury from 1790 until 2002.

Another important industry was clocks. Yankee peddlers travelled around selling things to customers in their homes. They sold clocks and buttons and other small products that they could carry. They peddled their wares throughout the colonies. A person in Georgia could buy buttons from Waterbury.

The railroad arrived in 1849. Like other cities, Waterbury attracted immigrants. Waterbury became a city in 1853. It became known as the Brass City because of its brass factories.

Mickey Mouse Watch made in Waterbury. American Clock & Watch Museum, Bristol

The Great Depression was a time in the 1930s when the nation’s economy was in a slump. The Waterbury Clock Company nearly failed. It had the idea to put Mickey Mouse on a watch. The Mickey Mouse watch was a hit! They sold enough Mickey Mouse watches to save the company—and more.

Waterbury’s brass and copper mills were important during World War I and II. They made most of the ammunition used by the Americans in World War II.

Read “Waterbury’s on Fire!”

Waterbury, 1960. U.S. Census