Britt, at first merely a station on the rail line, owes its existence to the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad. Britt was named, as were several stations on the line, for one of the railroad’s employees, either a brakeman or a chief engineer. In the 1870s, the many sloughs around Britt made much of the land unsuitable for farming. Yet farmers did settle, and by June 20, 1878, early pioneers platted the businesses, churches, and residences they relied upon as the village of Britt.
The city was officially incorporated on June 23, 1881. It remains a vibrant home to families who appreciate its lively civic life, strong business community, and commitment to quality public education. In 1885, the population of Britt was 639. In the 2010 census, the population was 2,062, a number that has held steady since the city’s centennial in 1978.
The railroad remains a defining part of Britt’s heritage. On August 22, 1900, the city hosted its first Hobo Convention, an event promoted as one of the biggest celebrations in the area. Today, the city of Britt is home to the National Hobo Convention held annually on the second weekend in August. It remains the largest gathering of hobos, rail-riders, and tramps in the United States. The history of this relationship is chronicled in the National Hobo Museum. Other museums and organizations also testify to Britt’s strong heritage and traditions: the Hobo Days Association, the Hancock County Historical Society, the Armstrong House, the Hancock County Agricultural Association, the Hancock County Agricultural Museum, the Draft Horse Show, and the Hancock County Fair.