Letchworth had a very diverse light industry, including K & L Steel Foundry, often a target for German bombers in World War II, the Letchworth Parachute Factory, J. Dent and Son (also known as The Aldine Press, Garden City Press).The biggest employer was British Tabulating Machine Company, later merging with Powers-Samas to become International Computers and Tabulators (ICT) and finally part of International Computers Limited (ICL).
This ban was finally lifted after a referendum in 1958, which resulted in the Broadway Hotel becoming the first public house in the centre of the Garden City.
Several other pubs have opened since 1958, but to this day the town centre has fewer than half-a-dozen pubs – a remarkably low number of a town of its size.
John Betjeman in his poems Group Life: Letchworth and Huxley Hall painted Letchworth people as earnest health freaks.
One commonly-cited example of this is the ban, most unusual for a British town, on selling alcohol in public premises.
One effect of this is that the centre of the town is normally a noticeably quiet and peaceful place in the evenings.
One of the most prominent industries to arrive in the town in the early years was the manufacture of corsets: the Spirella Company began building a large factory in 1912, close to the middle of town and the railway station that opened the next year.For example, the Garden City project would be financed through a system that Howard called "Rate-Rent", which combined financing for community services (rates) with a return for those who had invested in the development of the City (rent).The book also advocated a rudimentary form of competitive tendering, whereby the municipality would purchase services, such as water, fuel, waste disposal, etc., from (often local) commercial providers.These systems were never fully implemented, in Letchworth, Welwyn or their numerous imitators.A competition was held to find a town design which could translate Howard's ideas into reality, and September 1903 the company "First Garden City Ltd." was formed, Richard Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin were appointed architects, and 16 km² of land outside Hitchin were purchased for building.Pubs that had existed from before the foundation of the Garden City continued – including the Three Horseshoes in Norton, The George IV on the borders with Baldock, and the Three Horseshoes and The Fox in Willian – continued to operate (as they do to this day), and undoubtedly benefited from the lack of alcohol to be had in the centre of the town, as did the pubs in neighbouring Hitchin and Baldock.