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A Brief History of Business in MilfordConnecticut businesses in the Milford Connecticut chamber of commerce in Milford CT Connecticut events in milford Connecticut

The following History of Business in Milford was written by Richard Platt, Milford's Municipal Historian.

Milford was settled in 1639 by a group of English Puritans under the leadership of the Rev. Peter Prudden. The site was chosen because the Wepawaug River widened at its mouth to form a fine natural harbor, the stream was large enough to provide abundant water for livestock, and the necessary power for turning mill wheels. Milford's first business, indeed, was a gristmill, the first in the New Haven Colony, operated by William Fowler. It is believed that this is how Milford got its name.

In addition, a carpenter, a cooper, a tailor, a blacksmith, a tanner, and a weaver were among the early settlers. Connecticut businesses in the Milford Connecticut chamber of commerce in Milford CT Connecticut events in milford Connecticut

Agriculture was a primary activity and remained important up until about 1950. In the early years, everyone farmed, even those who had other occupations. It was necessary to grow most of one's own food, cut timber, build one's own house and barn, and make many of one's own tools, equipment and household goods.

Milford very early became a seaport because of its excellent harbor. Alexander Bryan and his son Richard were the town's first merchants, establishing a rapidly growing trade with Boston, New York, and the West Indies. Their warehouses were at the head of the harbor, near the present Factory Lane.

By the end of the 17th century, Milford also became a shipbuilding center. The first shipyard was just to the east of Fowler's Mill and another at the foot of Factory Lane. Many ships were built here until about 1820.

Oystering began as an important business in 1752. Fishing was also important.

The War of 1812, the Embargo, currency fluctuations, and the tariff of 1816 caused many Milford companies to fail. The final blow was a disastrous flood in 1843 which silted up the harbor and put an end to Milford's seagoing commerce.

Milford Connecticut chamber of commerce serving connecticut businesses in Milford CT providing Connecticut events chamber of commerce milford ConnecticutBut by this time, Milford was beginning to manufacture many items that previously had been imported: carriages, boots and shoes in particular. By mid-19th century, Milford also produced textiles, harnesses, corn brooms, chairs, and cabinet ware.

The railroad, New Haven to New York, was completed in 1848 and manufacturing grew. Baldwin & Flagg's straw hat factory (on Factory Lane), and Beecher & Miles's carriage factory (behind the Town Hall) employed several hundred men. Milford carriages sold widely in the Southern and Western markets. Beecher & Miles added a wooden frame direct drive bicycle in 1868. Boots and shoes continued to be important.

In 1857, oystering became a major industry when Wm. M. Merwin & Sons successfully planted seed oysters in the harbor and later transplanted them to deeper water. This business continued, eventually operated by a General Foods subsidiary, to well into the 20th century.

The electric street railway, contructed in 1898, led to a boom in shore property. Milford, because of its miles of sandy beaches, became an important shore resort.

It should be noted that a Milford native, Frank Julian Sprague, had designed the first electric street railway (trolley system) in Richmond, Virginia. Other noted inventors from Milford were George Coy, who built the first telephone switchboard, and Simon Lake, who perfected the modern even-keel submarine.

World War I caused a jump in population and an increase in new building. Many small businesses were involved in making metal goods and there were numerous machine shops. Many Milford residents were employed at the Argonaut Salvage Co. and at the Lake Torpedo Boat Co. in Bridgeport.

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The Second World War caused another large jump in population, with many residents employed in defense industries in New Haven, Stratford, and Bridgeport. U. S. Electrical Motors was an important local employer.

More recently, the Schick Corporation and the Bic Pen Co. have been major local businesses. In addition, with the establishment of the Connecticut Post Shopping Center next to the newly completed I-95, and other malls, Milford became an important retail center as well. It is significant that the Connecticut Post Mall was constructed on what had been farmland, the trial grounds of the F. H. Woodruff Seed Co., closing the book on what had been Milford's agricultural beginnings.

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Relocation to Milford CT
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5 Broad Street
Milford, CT 06460
Phone: (203) 878-0681
Fax: (203) 876-8517
E-Mail: chamber@milfordct.com
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