1800-2000: Largest U.S. Cities, The Westward Migration

The following table shows where the population was moving as the country expanded and families became disbursed. In 1800, the largest cities were all in the original 13 colonies. By 1850, some of the “gateway” cities to the west, like Cincinnati, St. Louis, and New Orleans, overtook the eastern cities. By 1900, many people had moved to the Midwest and early settlement of the West centered in San Francisco. By the mid- to late-1900’s, many of the largest cities were in the West and the South.

Top 10 Most Populous Cities in the U.S.
1800-2000

13 COLONIES
City 1800 1850 1900 1950 2000
New York, NY 60,515 515,547 3,437,202 7,891,957 8,008,278
Brooklyn, NY* 115,435
Philadelphia, PA 41,220 121,376 1,293,697 2,071,605 1,517,550
Northern Liberties, PA** 10,718
Southwark, PA** 9,621
Spring Garden, PA** 58,894
Boston, MA 24,937 136,881 560,892 801,444
Charleston, SC 18,824
Baltimore, MD 26,514 169,054 508,957 949,708
Washington, DC 802,178
Providence, RI 7,614
Salem, MA 9,457
Norfolk, VA 6,926
Albany, NY 50,763
Buffalo, NY 352,387

MIDWEST
1800 1850 1900 1950 2000
Cincinnati, OH 115,435 325,902
St. Louis, MO 77,860 575,238 856,796
Chicago, IL 1,698,575 3,620,962 2,896,016
Cleveland, OH 381,768 914,808
Detroit, MI 1,849,568 951,270
WEST
1800 1850 1900 1950 2000
San Francisco, CA 342,782
Los Angeles, CA 1,970,358 3,694,820
San Diego, CA 1,223,400
Phoenix, AZ 1,321,045
SOUTH
1800 1850 1900 1950 2000
New Orleans, LA 116,375
Houston, TX 1,953,631
Dallas, TX 1,188,580
San Antonio, TX 1,144,646

Source: U.S. Census Bureau.

Written By

Jeff Hoyt

Editor in Chief

Since graduating from Harvard with an honors degree in Statistics, Jeff has been creating content in print, online, and on television. Much of his work has been dedicated to informing seniors on how to live better lives. As Editor-in-Chief of the personal… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt

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