Located on the Merrimack River, it began as a farming community that would evolve into an important industrial center, beginning with sawmills and gristmills run by water power. In the 18th century, Haverhill developed tanneries, shipping and shipbuilding. The town was for many decades home to a significant shoe-making industry, by the end of 1913 Haverhill boasted one tenth of the shoes produced in America and because of this the town was known for a time as the "Queen Slipper City." The city was also known for the manufacture of hats.
Haverhill has played a role in nearly every era of American history, from the initial colonial settlement, to the French and Indian Wars, and the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars.