Brantford, incorporated as a city in 1877, is geographically surrounded by Brant, is connected to Woodstock in the west and Hamilton in the east by Highway 403 and to Cambridge to the north by Highway 24. Highway 424, connecting Highway 401 from Cambridge to Highway 403 in Brantford, is in the planning stages.
Brantford is sometimes known by the nickname The Telephone City, after one of the city's most famous former residents, Alexander Graham Bell.
The city was first settled in 1784 when Captain Joseph Brant and the Six Nations Indians left New York to settle in Canada. As a reward for their loyalty to the Crown, they were given a large land grant on the Grand River. The original Mohawk settlement was on the south edge of the present-day city at a location favourable for landing canoes. Brant's crossing of the river gave the original name to the area: Brant's ford. By 1847, European settlers began to settle further up the river at a ford in the Grand River and named the village Brantford. The native settlement was abandoned except for the Mohawk Chapel which remains Ontario's oldest Protestant church.
Brantford was an important Canadian industrial centre for the first half of the 20th Century, and was once the number three city in Canada in terms of cash-value of manufactured goods exported. The city is at the deepest navigable point of the Grand River, and was once a railroad hub of Southern Ontario. The combination of water and rails helped Brantford develop from a farming community into a blue collar industrial city based on the agriculture implement industry centred around companies such as Massey-Harris, Verity Plough and the Cockshutt Plough Company. This industry, more than any other, provided the well-paying and steady employment that allowed Brantford to sustain economic growth through most of the 20th century.
By the 1980s and 1990s, the economy of Brantford was in steady decline as a result of the bankruptcies of White Farm Equipment, Massey-Ferguson, Koering-Waterous, Harding Carpets, and other manufacturers. The closure of the businesses left thousands of people unemployed and created one of the most economically depressed areas in the country. The unemployment rate, however, has steadily decreased in more recent years, from almost 14% in 1993 down to 6.3% in 2006. This improved employment picture led to the rate of personal bankruptcy in Brantford falling by 6.2% in 2006.
The completion of the Brantford to Ancaster section of Highway 403 in 1997, was intended to provide an increased incentive for business to locate in Brantford because of easy access to Hamilton and Toronto, as well as being along the quickest route through southern Ontario between Detroit and Buffalo. In 2004 Procter & Gamble and Ferrero SpA chose to locate in the city. Though Wescast Industries, Inc. recently closed their local foundry, their corporate headquarters will remain in Brantford.
Brantford has many forms of entertainment available within the city. It houses cinemas, bowling alleys, and other traditional entertainment centres but also is home to the Brantford OLG Casino and weekly pro-wrestling down the road from the casino at J's Place in the form of the Pure Wrestling Association.
The Sanderson Centre offers live performances. The Ford Plant, Jack Hammers, and J's Place offer live music. Angel's Diner offers 1950s style fast food while chain restaurants like Boston Pizza, McDonald's, New York Fries, and Brantford's own Fast Eddies offer up more specialized forms of fast food.
The Kinsmen Club of Brantford offer many entertaining events throughout the year, including a weekly Kingo game which runs every Thursday evening.