Biggest cities in New York 150 years ago

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May 23, 2022
Hulton Archive // Getty Images

Biggest cities in New York 150 years ago

After the completion of the 1860 census and the election of President Abraham Lincoln, America imploded. Eleven southern states seceded from the Union in 1861, instigating four bloody years of the Civil War and fundamentally altering the social history of the U.S. The estimates of deaths caused by the Civil War begin around 600,000, but some claim as many as 750,000 individuals died throughout the conflict.

With so many families looking for a new start after combat finally ended and approximately 4 million Black Americans emancipated from slavery, it was time for many Americans to look for a new home to put down roots. The obvious choice for many was to move west, where there was more land to buy, settle, and cultivate. Many traveled by covered wagon, spending months on the dusty trail. Others who could afford better accommodations took a 25-day ride by stagecoach. All of them picked new cities and towns to make their homes, spreading the U.S. population more evenly across different states and territories.

On May 10, 1869, the first transcontinental railroad route across the United States was completed, ushering in a new era of transportation. The project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget, though with the loss of many lives, including those of the many Irish and Chinese immigrants hired to work 12-hour days in the hot western sun. Riding by steam engine, passengers could cross the entire country in four days, enabling waves of Americans and immigrants to quickly occupy land that would otherwise take months to settle.

The years of Civil War reconstruction, coupled with wagon, stagecoach, and railroad passengers finding new lives across the U.S., made the urban development reflected in the 1870 census incredibly interesting. Stacker compiled a list of the biggest cities in New York from 150 years ago using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. By transcribing Table XXV of the Ninth Census of the U.S., which was previously only available as a PDF, it's easy to explore what the urban landscape looked like less than a decade after the end of the Civil War as America healed and grew.

The largest city in New York ranked #1 among all cities nationwide in 1870. Of the 100 largest cities in the U.S., 17 were in New York. Keep reading to find out more about the historic metropolitan landscape in your home state or check out the data on your own on our site, GitHub, or data.world.

You may also like: Counties with the most super commuters in New York

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Lewis Hine // Wikimedia Commons

#25. Fishkill, Dutchess County

- Total population: 11,752 (#141 nationwide)
--- Male population: 5,837
--- Female population: 5,915
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 3,241
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Bettmann // Getty Images

#24. Johnstown, Fulton County

- Total population: 12,273 (#135 nationwide)
--- Male population: 5,896
--- Female population: 6,377
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 3,320
Group of men seated in warehouse
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#23. Lockport, Niagara County

- Total population: 12,426 (#132 nationwide)
--- Male population: 5,880
--- Female population: 6,546
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 3,514
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#22. Binghamton, Broome County

- Total population: 12,692 (#126 nationwide)
--- Male population: 6,117
--- Female population: 6,575
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 3,188
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Detroit Publishing Company // Library of Congress

#21. Yonkers, Westchester County

- Total population: 12,733 (#125 nationwide)
--- Male population: 6,100
--- Female population: 6,633
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 3,714
People standing at dry goods store
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USC Libraries/Corbis via Getty Images

#20. Hempstead, Queens County

- Total population: 13,999 (#110 nationwide)
--- Male population: 6,828
--- Female population: 7,171
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 4,237
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Detroit Publishing Company // Library of Congress

#19. Flushing, Queens County

- Total population: 14,650 (#107 nationwide)
--- Male population: 7,354
--- Female population: 7,296
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 4,184
Four men standing in front of drug store.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#18. Cohoes, Albany County

- Total population: 15,357 (#101 nationwide)
--- Male population: 6,908
--- Female population: 8,499
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 5,349
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Bettmann // Getty Images

#17. Elmira, Chemung County

- Total population: 15,863 (#97 nationwide)
--- Male population: 7,741
--- Female population: 8,122
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 4,418
Two men standing in front of variety store
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#16. Newburgh, Orange County

- Total population: 17,014 (#90 nationwide)
--- Male population: 8,088
--- Female population: 8,926
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 4,581
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Minnesota Historical Society/Corbis via Getty Images

#15. Auburn, Cayuga County

- Total population: 17,225 (#89 nationwide)
--- Male population: 8,893
--- Female population: 8,332
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 4,212
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Minnesota Historical Society/Corbis via Getty Images

#14. Yonkers, Westchester County

- Total population: 18,357 (#84 nationwide)
--- Male population: 8,779
--- Female population: 9,578
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 5,260
Three men in a barber shop
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Minnesota Historical Society/Corbis via Getty Images

#13. Morrisania, Westchester County

- Total population: 19,609 (#76 nationwide)
--- Male population: 9,631
--- Female population: 9,978
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 6,077
Group of school children with hands on a bat preparing for baseball game.
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Harvey Porch/Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#12. Newtown, Queens County

- Total population: 20,274 (#69 nationwide)
--- Male population: 10,072
--- Female population: 10,202
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 5,981
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Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#11. Oswego, Oswego County

- Total population: 20,910 (#65 nationwide)
--- Male population: 10,222
--- Female population: 10,688
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 6,724
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Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images

#10. Kingston, Ulster County

- Total population: 21,943 (#61 nationwide)
--- Male population: 10,997
--- Female population: 10,946
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 6,700
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#9. Watervliet, Albany County

- Total population: 22,609 (#60 nationwide)
--- Male population: 11,335
--- Female population: 11,274
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 6,767
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Bettmann // Getty Images

#8. Utica, Oneida County

- Total population: 28,804 (#46 nationwide)
--- Male population: 13,578
--- Female population: 15,226
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 7,759
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Alexander Alland, Sr./Corbis via Getty Images

#7. Syracuse, Onondaga County

- Total population: 43,051 (#29 nationwide)
--- Male population: 21,192
--- Female population: 21,859
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 12,079
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Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#6. Troy, Rensselaer County

- Total population: 46,465 (#28 nationwide)
--- Male population: 22,366
--- Female population: 24,099
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 13,148
Busy Main Street in Rochester, New York
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The Print Collector // Getty Images

#5. Rochester, Monroe County

- Total population: 62,386 (#22 nationwide)
--- Male population: 30,230
--- Female population: 32,156
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 18,727
State Street and Capitol building in Albany
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Detroit Publishing Company // Library of Congress

#4. Albany, Albany County

- Total population: 69,422 (#20 nationwide)
--- Male population: 33,604
--- Female population: 35,818
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 19,367
Elevated view of main street in Buffalo
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Detroit Publishing Company // Library of Congress

#3. Buffalo, Erie County

- Total population: 117,714 (#11 nationwide)
--- Male population: 58,712
--- Female population: 59,002
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 36,690
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William Henry Jackson // Library of Congress

#2. Brooklyn, Kings County

- Total population: 396,099 (#3 nationwide)
--- Male population: 190,028
--- Female population: 206,071
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 111,457
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Hulton Archive // Getty Images

#1. New York, New York County

- Total population: 942,292 (#1 nationwide)
--- Male population: 457,117
--- Female population: 485,175
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 250,353

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