Biggest cities in Pennsylvania 150 years ago

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May 23, 2022
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Biggest cities in Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania ranked #2 among all cities nationwide in 1870. Of the 100 largest cities in the U.S., 9 were in Pennsylvania. 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 highest rate of food insecure children in Pennsylvania

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Transcendental Graphics // Getty Images

#25. Hazel, Luzerne County

- Total population: 7,110 (#290 nationwide)
--- Male population: 3,902
--- Female population: 3,208
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 2,321
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Minnesota Historical Society/Corbis via Getty Images

#24. Hickory, Mercer County

- Total population: 7,700 (#268 nationwide)
--- Male population: 4,093
--- Female population: 3,607
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 2,319
Group of men seated in warehouse
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#23. Danville (borough), Montour County

- Total population: 8,436 (#240 nationwide)
--- Male population: 4,280
--- Female population: 4,156
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 2,558
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#22. Birmingham (borough), Allegheny County

- Total population: 8,603 (#233 nationwide)
--- Male population: 4,439
--- Female population: 4,164
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 2,746
People standing in front of a General Store
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Detroit Publishing Company // Library of Congress

#21. Titusville, Crawford County

- Total population: 8,639 (#230 nationwide)
--- Male population: 4,713
--- Female population: 3,926
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 2,123
People standing at dry goods store
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USC Libraries/Corbis via Getty Images

#20. Mahanoy, Schuylkill County

- Total population: 9,400 (#203 nationwide)
--- Male population: 5,154
--- Female population: 4,246
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 3,201
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Detroit Publishing Company // Library of Congress

#19. Chester, Delaware County

- Total population: 9,485 (#198 nationwide)
--- Male population: 4,660
--- Female population: 4,825
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 2,811
Four men standing in front of drug store.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#18. East Birmingham (borough), Allegheny County

- Total population: 9,488 (#197 nationwide)
--- Male population: 4,884
--- Female population: 4,604
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 2,938
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Bettmann // Getty Images

#17. Cornplanter, Venango County

- Total population: 10,100 (#182 nationwide)
--- Male population: 5,563
--- Female population: 4,537
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 2,273
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#16. Wilkesbarre (borough), Luzerne County

- Total population: 10,174 (#175 nationwide)
--- Male population: 5,185
--- Female population: 4,989
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 2,871
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Minnesota Historical Society/Corbis via Getty Images

#15. Altoona, Blair County

- Total population: 10,610 (#164 nationwide)
--- Male population: 5,271
--- Female population: 5,339
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 3,197
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Minnesota Historical Society/Corbis via Getty Images

#14. Norristown (borough), Montgomery County

- Total population: 10,753 (#159 nationwide)
--- Male population: 4,950
--- Female population: 5,803
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 3,050
Three men in a barber shop
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Minnesota Historical Society/Corbis via Getty Images

#13. Easton (borough), Northampton County

- Total population: 10,987 (#156 nationwide)
--- Male population: 5,325
--- Female population: 5,662
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 3,216
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Harvey Porch/Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#12. York, York County

- Total population: 11,003 (#154 nationwide)
--- Male population: 5,192
--- Female population: 5,811
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 3,167
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Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#11. Pottsville (borough), Schuylkill County

- Total population: 12,384 (#133 nationwide)
--- Male population: 5,881
--- Female population: 6,503
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 3,844
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Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images

#10. Allentown, Lehigh County

- Total population: 13,884 (#111 nationwide)
--- Male population: 6,926
--- Female population: 6,958
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 4,044
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#9. Williamsport, Lycoming County

- Total population: 16,030 (#96 nationwide)
--- Male population: 8,120
--- Female population: 7,910
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 4,284
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Bettmann // Getty Images

#8. Erie, Erie County

- Total population: 19,646 (#75 nationwide)
--- Male population: 9,886
--- Female population: 9,760
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 5,835
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Alexander Alland, Sr./Corbis via Getty Images

#7. Lancaster, Lancaster County

- Total population: 20,233 (#70 nationwide)
--- Male population: 9,538
--- Female population: 10,695
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 6,251
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Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#6. Harrisburg, Dauphin County

- Total population: 23,104 (#57 nationwide)
--- Male population: 11,103
--- Female population: 12,001
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 6,476
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Vintage Images // Getty Images

#5. Reading, Berks County

- Total population: 33,930 (#36 nationwide)
--- Male population: 16,525
--- Female population: 17,405
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 10,094
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American Stock/ClassicStock // Getty Images

#4. Scranton, Luzerne County

- Total population: 35,092 (#35 nationwide)
--- Male population: 18,478
--- Female population: 16,614
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 10,175
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Park Commission of Allegheny City // Wikimedia Commons

#3. Allegheny, Allegheny County

- Total population: 53,180 (#23 nationwide)
--- Male population: 26,151
--- Female population: 27,029
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 15,997
Lithograph of Pittsburgh
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Otto Krebs/Library of Congress // Wikimedia Commons

#2. Pittsburgh, Allegheny County

- Total population: 86,076 (#16 nationwide)
--- Male population: 43,722
--- Female population: 42,354
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 25,254
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Bildagentur-online/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#1. Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

- Total population: 674,022 (#2 nationwide)
--- Male population: 320,379
--- Female population: 353,643
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 182,821

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