The United States of America: A Study of the American Commonwealth, Its Natural Resources, People, Industries, Manufactures, Commerce, and Its Work in Literature, Science, Education, and Self-Government - Vol. 2

By Nathaniel Southgate Shaler | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V.
OUR CITIES.

THE cities of a country do not necessarily illustrate its chief national characteristics, nor do they always indicate the degree nor the kind of its prosperity. They are, however, its most conspicuous social and industrial features, and in some respects its most interesting features.

The cities of the United States--those of them that have a population of not less than eight thousand--contain nearly one third of its total population and of its total wealth. They afford no obvious index of the extent and importance of the agriculture, the mining, and the lumbering which develop our three greatest "natural resources." Nor do they represent to any considerable degree the enormous population engaged in this development. They are, however, the expression of nearly all in our population and in our property that has to do with the interchange and the further development of the products of these primary industries.

The great increase of the country and of the population has been attended by a still greater increase in its cities. Considering in this study only such places as have over eight thousand inhabitants, it appears that in the year 1800 there were only 6 cities of this class; in 1830 there were 26; in 1860 there were 141, and in 1890 there were 443.

In 1800 the total population of the cities was 210,873, being only 3.9 per cent of the population of the country; in 1830 it was 864,509, or 6.7 per cent; in 1800 it was 5,072,256, or 16.1 per cent; in 189 it was 18,235,670, or 29.12 per cent.

If the limit of population were reduced from eight thousand to four thousand, the result would be even more striking. In 1880 , nearly thirteen million--about one fourth of the entire population --lived in communities of not less than four thousand each.

Although in 1790 Philadelphia was the larger by more than fifty per cent, within this century New York has always been the largest city in the United States. In 1800 it had 60,515 inhabitants; in 1830 it had 197,112; in 1860 it had 805,568, and in 1890 it

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