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The first official mentioning of the geographic area on the banks of today's Wupper River as "elverfelde" was in a document of 1161. Etymologically, elver is derived from the old Low German word for "river." (See etymology of the name of the German Elbe River; cf. North Germanic älv.) Therefore the original meaning of "elverfelde" can be understood as "field on the river." Elverfelde received its town charter in 1610.
The 1820s saw the commencement of the Plymouth Brethren in Dublin, Ireland and Georgetown, British Guyana. This evangelical religious movement spread to the Continent and emerged in Germany chiefly out of Pietist groups through the work of Julius Anton von Poseck, William Henry Darby and Carl Brockhaus. By the 1850s the resultant group had a focal point in Elberfeld and are known to the present as the Elberfelder Brethren. They have branches throughout Germany and Switzerland and beyond. A translation of the Darby Bible into German was produced by this group and is known as the Elberfelder Bibel.
In 1826 Friedrich Harkort, a famous German industrialist and politician, had a type of suspension railway built as a trial and ran it on the grounds of what is today the tax office at Elberfeld. In fact the railway, the Schwebebahn Wuppertal, was eventually built between Oberbarmen and Vohwinkel and runs through Elberfeld.
In 1888 the district of Sonnborn was incorporated into Elberfeld. In 1929 the towns of Barmen, Elberfeld, Vohwinkel, Cronenberg and Ronsdorf became a municipal entity officially called "Barmen-Elberfeld;" in the same year, the unified city administration through a vote of its council members decided to rename the newly incorporated city "Wuppertal." This took place in 1930. Today Elberfeld is the largest municipal subdivision of Wuppertal.
- Arno Breker, sculptor
- Wilhelm Busch (clergyman), Lutheran minister
- Werner Eggerath, East German politician
- Karl Germer, Outer Head of the Ordo Templi Orientis (1947-1962)
- Will Glahé, accordionist, composer, and bandleader.
- Carl Grossberg, artist
- Walter Kaufmann (physicist), physicist
- Hans Knappertsbusch, conductor
- Erich Koch, NSDAP Gauleiter of East Prussia, Reichskommissar of Ukraine
- Johann Peter Lange, Protestant theologian
- Else Lasker-Schüler, poet
- Julius Pluecker, mathematician and physicist
- Sigurd Raschèr, saxophonist
- Sir Hans Wolfgang Singer, economist
- Horst Stein, conductor
- Horst Tappert, actor
- Günter Wand, Conductor
- Carl Wirths, politician