By the first decades of the 20th century, Connecticut was becoming primarily an urban, immigrant state, while the system for electing legislators still gave rural areas more power than city dwellers. Once overwhelmingly Protestant, the population was swelled by newcomers from Ireland, Italy, as well as from Poland and other Eastern European countries, who made Roman Catholicism the largest religious denomination. A number of Jewish immigrants also settled in Connecticut. By 1910 about 30 percent of the population was foreign-born. As had the Civil War, World War I (1914-1918) stimulated Connecticut industry, especially in munitions. After the war ended the state remained prosperous until the Great Depression, the economic hard times of the 1930s.
Important industries were machine tools, consumer goods, and financial services—especially insurance, which was centered in Hartford. During the Depression rising unemployment, coupled with alienation from the Republican business establishment, brought Democrats into power. Led by a Yale University professor of English, Governor Wilbur L. Cross (1931-1939), the state introduced public works programs to provide jobs and passed laws to establish a minimum wage, unemployment compensation, and protection against job discrimination. Democrats also improved state colleges, hospitals, and prisons, and tightened regulation of business. In 1938, however, a municipal corruption scandal helped the Republican Party return to power, with the election of Governor Raymond E. Baldwin. Since that time, Connecticut has remained a competitive, two-party state.
World War II (1939-1945) restored Connecticut prosperity as new military products, such as Pratt and Whitney airplane engines, Hamilton Standard propellers, Cheney silk parachutes, and Electric Boat submarines, joined old ones such as ships, artillery, guns, munitions, and uniforms.
When the war ended, high-wage union jobs in these factories were cut back, but production increased again during the Cold War, the diplomatic and economic struggle between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) that followed World War II. Connecticut became the first producer of nuclear-powered submarines and a major supplier of Sikorsky military helicopters. By 1960 Connecticut was one of the nation’s richest states, based on income per person. From the 1950s through the 1980s Connecticut thrived, except for short downturns during national recessions. Many major corporations, such as General Electric, American Brands, and Union Carbide, moved their headquarters to the state’s southwest corner near New York City.
The economic boom, fueled by defense spending and financial services industries, made Connecticut a mostly middle-class, suburban state, with scattered, undeveloped rural pockets located away from its cities and interstate highways.
However, Connecticut’s growing population of blacks and Hispanics did not share in the prosperity. As whites left for the suburbs, Connecticut’s cities became increasingly poor and segregated. In the 1960s, militant black and student activists pushed for reforms, as the state made efforts to rebuild urban neighborhoods and desegregate school systems. Race riots occurred in major cities during the summers from 1967 to 1969.
A 1964 ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States forced Connecticut to reapportion its legislature and adopt a new constitution to comply with the principle of “one person, one vote.” This constitution finally broke the dominance of the legislature by more rural areas at the expense of cities. In 1974 Ella T. Grasso was elected governor of Connecticut, becoming the state’s first female chief executive and the first woman in the United States elected governor in her own right, rather than as her husband’s successor. At the end of the 1980s, cutbacks in defense spending, coupled with major changes in American business and a national recession, put an end to Connecticut’s 50-year economic boom. In the first half of the 1990s Connecticut lost population, as young people left in search of jobs and retirees moved to warmer climates where taxes were lower. The state lost more than 125,000 manufacturing jobs; the famous Colt firearms company entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and defense-related companies such as United Technologies and the Electric Boat Shipyard laid off thousands of workers. To balance the budget, the state was forced to impose a tax on earned income for the first time in 1991. However, the 1990s saw progress for some of Connecticut’s Native American people. In 1983 one of two surviving groups of Pequot, the Mashantucket Pequots of Ledyard, gained federal recognition and settled a land claim.
The group, with 200 to 300 members, opened a gambling casino on their reservation in 1992, and their large profits made them an economic force in the area. Revenue from the casino paid for many improvements on the reservation as well as the construction of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. The Mohegan won federal recognition in 1994 and also operated a successful casino near Uncasville. In the mid-1990s Connecticut led the nation in per capita wealth, but its three largest cities—Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven—were among the nation’s poorest. Housing and school segregation continued for black and Hispanic residents, as Connecticut, like much of the United States, grappled with stark economic, racial, and ethnic division. "Connecticut" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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