New York State city national ranks 1790-2010

The left axis is the national rank (by population), the right is New York State's population as a percentage of the nation's total population.

nys cities population national rank 1790-2010

Table: city ranks

Some of the cities don't show up on the graph because they only appear for one year. But they're noted below. ("(A)" means the city was merged.)

That time the Capital Region included four of the nation's 100 biggest cities

nys cities population national rank 1790-2010 crop

Don't worry, there's a bigger version.

Albany was once the 9th largest city in the nation, by population. And Schenectady the 17th. And Troy the 19th.

It's true. Of course, that was in 1840, 1800, and 1840.

Inspired by this chart of the nation's most populous metro areas over the country's history [via], we figured it'd be interesting to chart the national ranks (up to 100) of New York cities from 1790-2010. A few of the rankings surprised us (Cohoes! Watervliet!). And the trends help illustrate New York State's shifting position within the nation.

OK, let's have a look...


A graph and table are above in large format -- click or scroll all the way up.

A few things

+ At various points in the mid-to-late 19th century, New York State had 14 of the largest cities in the country.

+ It's remarkable that New York City has held the top spot for so long. (Brooklyn drops off the graph because it was combined with New York.)

+ The 20th century is pretty much one long decline.

+ 1820-1860 must have been an interesting time for the influence of the area now known as the Capital Region -- at various points it had as many as four of the nation's 100 biggest cities.

+ Look at what's now Watervliet at #97 in 1850. And Cohoes at #97 in 1870.

+ The population totals in some of those early years are... modest. In 1790 Albany was the 19th most populous city in the country -- with 3,498 people.

+ Even though Albany's national rank crested from 1830-1840, its actual population didn't reach its high mark until 1950 when it hit almost 135,000. (The Census Bureau estimates there were 97,904 people living in Albany as of 2012.)

+ Schenectady's an interesting case -- it drops out of the top 100 for four decades, reappearing in 1910. Between 1900 and 1910 the city's population increased almost 130 percent. Can you guess what happened around that time?

Sources

Census Bureau: Population of the 100 Largest Cities and Other Urban Places in the United States: 1790-1990

Census Bureau: Cities with 100,000 or More Population in 2000 ranked by Population, 2000 in Rank Order

Census Bureau: Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places Over 50,000, Ranked by July 1, 2012 Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012

Wikipedia: Demographics of New York

Wikipedia: Demographics of the United States [via the Census Bureau]

Comments

Amazing stuff. This is why I come to AOA.

New motto!

"Upstate New York: We were totally relevant in 1850"

I understand that the horse and buggy traffic commuting into Albany in the 1800's was just terrible. Plus, there were never enough stables for your horses...

What the heck happened between 1880 and 1890? The populations of Troy, Utica, and Albany took a serious nosedive...

@komradebob: Influenza epidemic?

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