Largest Cities in the U.S., 1790

In 1790, America's largest cities were ports located near the East Coast and were really better connected with the British urban system than they were with one another. On land, much travel was by wagon and was slow and expensive.

America's cities were small, and the urbanization process had not yet begun to accelerate as it would after 1840 with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution.

1. New York NY 49,401
2. Philadelphia PA 28,522
3. Boston MA 18,320
4. Charleston SC 16,359
5. Baltimore MD 13,503
6. Providence RI 6,380
7. New Haven CT 4,487
8. Richmond VA 3,761
9. Albany NY 3,498
10. New Bedford MA 3,313
11. Norfolk VA 2,959
12. Hartford CT 2,683
13. Portland ME 2,233
14. Worcester MA 2,095
15. Springfield MA 1,574

Viewed on a log-log graph where the horizontal axis represents the rank of cities (1, 2, 3, etc.) and the vertical axis represents their population, one can see that no one city dominated in 1790. In fact, the United States has never had a "primate city," which is one that is many times larger than any other city in the country.

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Last Revised: October 11, 1996