Why is Waterbury called “the Brass City”?
Brass has always been important to Waterbury.
In fact the city motto is “Quid Acere Perennius?”—what is more lasting than brass? The original brass manufacturers turned to metal products due to the fact that the soil in the area was too poor to sustain farming.
The city’s association with the metal dates back to 1802 when Abel Porter & Co. was established. The company produced brass buttons recycled from copper kettles and other scrap metal. Eventually there were three major brass companies in town: the American Brass Company, the Scovill Manufacturing Company, and the Chase Brass and Copper Company.
Waterbury garnered a reputation for the quality and durability of its goods, supplying brass for safety pins, buttons, buckles, and bullets.
The local companies even supplied brass for use in the construction of Boulder Dam in Colorado. While wartimes brought prosperity to the brass manufacturers, the 1950s and 1960s saw a decline in demand and what was once a prosperous industry went into a serious decline. Additionally, automation eliminated many jobs and workers sought other means of income.
Many smaller companies went out of business due to lack of corporate funding and competition from foreign countries. American Brass still manufactures some brass goods in Waterbury, as does Chase. Scovill has diversified and gone out of the brass business entirely.
In 1975, it sold its operation to Century Brass. Today that is the only remaining large mill in the town that was once heralded as the Brass Capital.