Largest cities in the United States by population by decade

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Population as a function of time for cities that have appeared in the top 10 since 1790. Note that the logarithmic scale means that the observed slope gives the percentage growth, not the absolute growth.
Linear visualization of population of the United States cities only when they are among the top 10. video

This entry tracks and ranks the population of the largest cities in the United States by decade, starting with the 1790 Census. For 1790 through 1990, tables are taken from "Population of the 100 Largest Cities and Other Urban Places in the United States: 1790 to 1990."[1] For year 2000 rankings, data from the Census Bureau's tally of "Cities with 100,000 or More Population Ranked by Selected Subject" is used.[2] For further research on year 2000 urban population, the County and City Data Book might be instructive.[3]

1790[edit]

Philadelphia had been the most populous city in the United States before any census count. When the first U.S. census count was done in 1790, New York had slightly edged Philadelphia as the most populous city in the country (though Philadelphia still had the larger metropolitan population in 1790). The source population numbers for this list come from the United States Census Bureau.[4]

RankCityStatePopulationNotes
1New YorkNew York33,131New York ranked as the nation's most populous city at the time of the first census count.[1]
2PhiladelphiaPennsylvania28,522Prior to 1854, the term "Philadelphia" referred to present-day Center City. The 1854 Act of Consolidation greatly expanded the City of Philadelphia to its present borders, coterminous with Philadelphia County. Philadelphia has remained on the top 10 list of largest American cities throughout its history.
3BostonMassachusetts18,320
4CharlestonSouth Carolina16,359
5BaltimoreMaryland13,503Existed as a township at the time. Now an independent city.
6Northern LibertiesPennsylvania9,913Township now absorbed in Philadelphia. See Northern Liberties, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
7SalemMassachusetts7,921Listed as a town in 1790 census. Presently a city.
8NewportRhode Island6,716Listed as a town in 1790 census. Presently a city.
9ProvidenceRhode Island6,380Listed as a town in 1790 census. Now a city.
10MarbleheadMassachusetts5,661Still a town as of 2006.
SouthwarkPennsylvania5,661Before 1854 Act of Consolidation, Southwark was an independent municipality; it is now a neighborhood in south South Philadelphia.

Total population of these 10 cities was 152,087.

*Salem, Newport, and Marblehead are all far smaller than the largest 275 cities listed in List of United States cities by population in 2010, so exact ranking is unavailable.

1800[edit]

Source data for population is available from the Census Bureau.[5]

RankCityStatePopulationNotes
1New YorkNew York60,51582.65% higher than year 1790.
2PhiladelphiaPennsylvania41,22044.52% higher than year 1790.
3BaltimoreMaryland26,51496.36% higher than year 1790.
4BostonMassachusetts24,93736.12% higher than year 1790.
5CharlestonSouth Carolina18,82414.90% higher than year 1790.
6Northern LibertiesPennsylvania10,718Now a neighborhood in Philadelphia.

8.12% higher than year 1790.

7SouthwarkPennsylvania9,621Now a neighborhood in South Philadelphia.

69.95% higher than year 1790.

8SalemMassachusetts9,457Listed as a town. Today, Salem is a city.

19.39% higher than year 1790.

9ProvidenceRhode Island7,614Last appearance in top ten. Drops to 11th by 1810.

19.34% higher than year 1790.

10NorfolkVirginia6,926Listed as a borough. Now an independent city.

Total population of these 10 cities was 216,346 people.

1810[edit]

A list of the 46 largest cities from the 1810 census is available from the Census Bureau and the source of this information.[6]

RankCityStatePopulationNotes
1New YorkNew York96,373
2PhiladelphiaPennsylvania53,722
3BaltimoreMaryland46,555
4BostonMassachusetts33,787
5CharlestonSouth Carolina24,711
6Northern LibertiesPennsylvania19,874Now a neighborhood of Philadelphia.
7New OrleansLouisiana17,242First entry in the top 10 list not located in one of the original 13 colonies.
8District of SouthwarkPennsylvania13,707Now a neighborhood in South Philadelphia.
9SalemMassachusetts12,613Listed as a town. Today, Salem is a city.
10AlbanyNew York10,762

Total population of these 10 cities was 329,346 people.

1820[edit]

A list of the 61 largest cities from the 1820 census is available from the Census Bureau and the source of this information.[7]

RankCityStatePopulationNotes
1New YorkNew York123,706New York was the first city to surpass 100,000 people in population.
2PhiladelphiaPennsylvania63,802
3BaltimoreMaryland62,738
4BostonMassachusetts43,298
5New OrleansLouisiana27,176
6CharlestonSouth Carolina24,780
7Northern LibertiesPennsylvania19,678Now a neighborhood of Philadelphia.
8SouthwarkPennsylvania14,713Now a neighborhood in South Philadelphia.
9WashingtonDistrict of Columbia13,247First appearance of the new capital in the top 10. Would disappear from the list by next census and not appear on top 10 till 1950.
10SalemMassachusetts12,731Listed as a town in 1820 census. Today, Salem is a city.

Total population of these 10 cities was 405,869 people.

1830[edit]

Source data for population is available from the Census Bureau.[8]

RankCityStatePopulationNotes
1New YorkNew York202,589
2BaltimoreMaryland80,620Baltimore is the second city to rank number two.
3PhiladelphiaPennsylvania80,462
4BostonMassachusetts61,392
5New OrleansLouisiana46,082
6CharlestonSouth Carolina30,289
7Northern LibertiesPennsylvania28,872Now a neighborhood in Philadelphia.
8CincinnatiOhio24,831Listed as a town. First appearance on top 10 from a Midwestern state.
9AlbanyNew York24,209
10District of SouthwarkPennsylvania20,581Now a neighborhood in South Philadelphia.

Total population of these 10 cities was 599,927 people.

1840[edit]

Source data for population is available from the Census Bureau.[9]

RankCityStatePopulationNotes
1New YorkNew York312,710
2BaltimoreMaryland102,313Baltimore is likely the second city to surpass the 100,000 population mark.
3New OrleansLouisiana102,193New Orleans' rapid growth shows the increasing importance of Mississippi River trade.
4PhiladelphiaPennsylvania93,665
5BostonMassachusetts93,383
6CincinnatiOhio46,338Listed as a town.
7BrooklynNew York36,233At this time, Brooklyn was a city.
8Northern LibertiesPennsylvania34,474Now a neighborhood in Philadelphia.
9AlbanyNew York33,721
10CharlestonSouth Carolina29,261Charleston lost population between the 1830 and 1840 censuses. Last appearance in the top 10.

Total population of these 10 cities was 884,291 people.

1850[edit]

By 1850, the United States was in the midst of the First Industrial Revolution. A list of the hundred largest cities from the 1850 census is available from the Census Bureau and the source of this information.[10]

RankCityStatePopulationNotes
1New YorkNew York515,547
2BaltimoreMaryland169,054
3BostonMassachusetts136,881
4PhiladelphiaPennsylvania121,376
5New OrleansLouisiana116,375
6CincinnatiOhio115,435
7BrooklynNew York96,838
8St. LouisMissouri77,860First Top 10 appearance of any city west of the Mississippi River.
9District of Spring GardenPennsylvania58,894Now a neighborhood of Philadelphia.
10AlbanyNew York50,763Last appearance in the top 10.

Total population of these 10 cities was 1,459,023 people.

1860[edit]

1860 was the eve of the American Civil War. A list of the hundred largest cities is available from the Census Bureau.[11] This was the eighth United States Census.

RankCityStatePopulationNotes
1New YorkNew York813,669
2PhiladelphiaPennsylvania565,529The large jump in population between the seventh and eighth censuses is due to the 1854 Act of Consolidation, which greatly expanded the City of Philadelphia to be coterminous with Philadelphia County, and abolished all other local governments in the county. The "Philadelphia" prior to 1854 is present-day Center City.
3BrooklynNew York266,661
4BaltimoreMaryland212,418
5BostonMassachusetts177,840
6New OrleansLouisiana168,675
7CincinnatiOhio161,044
8St. LouisMissouri160,773
9ChicagoIllinois112,172First appearance in the top 10. In the previous census, it was the 24th largest American city with a population of 29,963. Chicago would be one of the world's fastest growing cities in its infancy.
10BuffaloNew York81,129First appearance in the top 10. Would disappear from list by next census and not re-appear until 1900.

1870[edit]

A list of the hundred largest cities is available from the Census Bureau.[12] This was the ninth United States Census.

RankCityStatePopulationNotes
1New YorkNew York942,292

A slight drop in the rise of population due to the war.

2PhiladelphiaPennsylvania674,022
3BrooklynNew York396,099
4St. LouisMissouri310,864

The 1870 St. Louis Census total was boosted by fraud. [2]

5ChicagoIllinois298,977Census was taken one year before the Great Chicago Fire, which burned down a large portion of the city.
6BaltimoreMaryland267,354
7BostonMassachusetts250,526
8CincinnatiOhio216,239
9New OrleansLouisiana191,418
10San FranciscoCalifornia149,473First west coast city in the Top 10. Its population boom began after 1848 with the Gold Rush and continuing with silver discoveries such as the Comstock Lode in 1859.

1880[edit]

The Census bureau provides a list of the 100 largest cities in the United States during this year.[13]

RankCityStatePopulationNotes
1New YorkNew York1,206,299This marks the first time the population of a U.S. city exceeds 1 million.
2PhiladelphiaPennsylvania847,170
3BrooklynNew York566,663
4ChicagoIllinois503,185Great Chicago Fire destroyed a third of the city in 1871.
5BostonMassachusetts362,839
6St. LouisMissouri350,518The city of St. Louis seceded from St. Louis County in 1876, and an investigation found that the 1870 St. Louis Census total was boosted by fraud.[3]
7BaltimoreMaryland332,313
8CincinnatiOhio255,139
9San FranciscoCalifornia233,959
10New OrleansLouisiana216,090Last appearance in the top 10.

1890[edit]

The 1890 Census was the Eleventh. The Census Bureau provides a list of the 100 largest cities in that year.[14]

RankCityStatePopulationNotes
1New YorkNew York1,515,301This is the last census before New York was consolidated into The Five Boroughs (therefore the figure is that of New York County (which at the time consisted of Manhattan and what later would become The Bronx).
2ChicagoIllinois1,099,850Chicago overtakes Philadelphia as the nation's second most populous city and likely becomes the second city in the nation to surpass the 1 million mark.
3PhiladelphiaPennsylvania1,046,964
4BrooklynNew York806,343This is the last census where the City of Brooklyn is independent. It would be absorbed into New York City.
5St. LouisMissouri451,770
6BostonMassachusetts448,477
7BaltimoreMaryland434,439
8San FranciscoCalifornia298,997
9CincinnatiOhio296,908
10ClevelandOhio261,353First appearance in the top 10.

1900[edit]

The 1900 Census was the Twelfth. The Census Bureau provides a list of the 100 largest cities in that year.[15]

RankCityStatePopulationNotes
1New YorkNew York3,437,202This is the first census after the creation of The Five Boroughs.
2ChicagoIllinois1,698,575
3PhiladelphiaPennsylvania1,293,697
4St. LouisMissouri575,238
5BostonMassachusetts560,892
6BaltimoreMaryland508,957
7ClevelandOhio381,768
8BuffaloNew York352,387Re-appearance in the top 10 (last 1860).
9San FranciscoCalifornia342,782Last appearance in the top 10 and before the 1906 earthquake and fire.
10CincinnatiOhio325,902Last appearance in the top 10.

1910[edit]

The 1910 Census was the Thirteenth. The Census Bureau provides a list of the 100 largest cities in that year.[16]

RankCityStatePopulationNotes
1New YorkNew York4,766,883Much of the population of New York City was in Manhattan, which reached its historical high of over 2.3 million. However, the other boroughs began to grow rapidly as the Interborough Rapid Transit system expanded.
2ChicagoIllinois2,185,283
3PhiladelphiaPennsylvania1,549,008
4St. LouisMissouri687,029
5BostonMassachusetts670,585
6ClevelandOhio560,663
7BaltimoreMaryland558,485
8PittsburghPennsylvania533,905Pittsburgh entered the Top 10 after annexing the neighboring city of Allegheny in 1907. This is now the city's North Side.
9DetroitMichigan465,766First appearance in the top 10.
10BuffaloNew York423,715Last appearance in the top 10.

1920[edit]

The 1920 Census was the Fourteenth. The Census Bureau provides a list of the 100 largest cities in that year.[17]

RankCityStatePopulationNotes
1New YorkNew York5,620,048
2ChicagoIllinois2,701,705
3PhiladelphiaPennsylvania1,823,779
4DetroitMichigan993,078The rise of the automobile industry in the Detroit area propelled its growth substantially between 1910 and 1920, doubling its population in only 10 years.
5ClevelandOhio796,841
6St. LouisMissouri772,897
7BostonMassachusetts748,060
8BaltimoreMaryland733,826
9PittsburghPennsylvania588,343
10Los AngelesCalifornia576,673Los Angeles makes the top ten for the first time.

1930[edit]

The 1930 Census was the Fifteenth. The Census Bureau provides a list of the 100 largest cities in that year.[18]

RankCityStatePopulationNotes
1New YorkNew York6,930,446
2ChicagoIllinois3,376,438
3PhiladelphiaPennsylvania1,950,961
4DetroitMichigan1,568,662
5Los AngelesCalifornia1,238,048First West Coast city to make the Top 5.
6ClevelandOhio900,429
7St. LouisMissouri821,960
8BaltimoreMaryland804,874
9BostonMassachusetts781,188
10PittsburghPennsylvania669,817

1940[edit]

Four of the ten cities here would have their first ever population drop in 1940. Though slight, they would presage a precipitous decline that started in 1950. The 1940 Census was the Sixteenth. The Census Bureau provides a list of the 100 largest cities in that year.[19]

RankCityStatePopulationNotes
1New YorkNew York7,457,995
2ChicagoIllinois3,396,808
3PhiladelphiaPennsylvania1,931,334First ever population drop for Philadelphia.
4DetroitMichigan1,623,452
5Los AngelesCalifornia1,504,277
6ClevelandOhio878,336First ever population drop for Cleveland.
7BaltimoreMaryland859,100
8St. LouisMissouri816,048First ever population drop for St. Louis.
9BostonMassachusetts770,816First ever population drop for Boston.
10PittsburghPennsylvania671,659Last appearance in the top 10.

1950[edit]

1950 was a watershed year for many cities in the United States. Many cities in the country peaked in population, and began a slow decline caused by suburbanization associated with pollution, congestion, and increased crime rates, while the improved infrastructure of the Eisenhower Interstate System more easily facilitated car commutes and so-called white flight of the middle class. The G.I. Bill made available low interest loans for returning World War II veterans seeking more commodious housing in the suburbs. Although populations within city limits dropped in many American cities, the metropolitan populations of most cities continued to increase greatly.

The source document for these numbers is available from the United States Census Bureau.[20]

RankCityStatePopulation% of population lost by 2010Notes
1New YorkNew York7,891,957Gain
2ChicagoIllinois3,620,96226Population peaked this census.
3PhiladelphiaPennsylvania2,071,60526Population peaked this census.
4Los AngelesCalifornia1,970,358GainLos Angeles is one of the few cities to have nearly continuous growth since 1950.
5DetroitMichigan1,849,56861Population peaked. As of 2013, Detroit is the only city in the United States to have a population grow beyond 1 million and then fall below 1 million.
6BaltimoreMaryland949,70835Population peaked this census.
7ClevelandOhio914,80857Population peaked this census.
8St. LouisMissouri856,79663Population peaked this census.
9WashingtonDistrict of Columbia802,17825Population peaked this census. Re-appearance in the top 10 (last in 1820).
10BostonMassachusetts801,44423Population peaked this census. Last appearance in top 10.

1960[edit]

The 1960 Census was the Eighteenth. The Census Bureau provides a list of the 100 largest cities in that year.[21]

RankCityStatePopulationNotes
1New YorkNew York7,781,984First ever population drop for New York City.
2ChicagoIllinois3,550,404First ever population drop for Chicago.
3Los AngelesCalifornia2,479,015
4PhiladelphiaPennsylvania2,002,512
5DetroitMichigan1,670,144First ever population drop for Detroit.
6BaltimoreMaryland939,024
7HoustonTexas938,219First appearance in the top 10 and first Texas city.
8ClevelandOhio876,050
9WashingtonDistrict of Columbia763,956
10St. LouisMissouri750,026Last appearance in the top 10. First time the population of the 10th largest city is less than the decade before.

1970[edit]

The 1970 Census was the Nineteenth. The Census Bureau provides a list of the 100 largest cities in that year.[22]

RankCityStatePopulationNotes
1New YorkNew York7,894,862
2ChicagoIllinois3,366,957
3Los AngelesCalifornia2,816,061
4PhiladelphiaPennsylvania1,948,609
5DetroitMichigan1,511,482
6HoustonTexas1,232,802Sixth city in the US to surpass 1 million.
7BaltimoreMaryland905,759
8DallasTexas844,401First appearance in top 10.
9WashingtonDistrict of Columbia756,510Last appearance on top 10.
10ClevelandOhio750,903Last appearance on top 10. Cleveland is notably smaller by population and larger by area, therefore less dense than it was in 1920.

1980[edit]

By 1980, the trends towards suburbanization started in the 1950s continued. City population continues to grow in the west and south.[23]

For a more complete ranking, see the source material from the Census Bureau.[24]

RankCityStatePopulationNotes
1New YorkNew York7,071,639New York City experiences the largest loss of people within a city in American history when it loses nearly 900,000 people in only a ten-year span. The city experienced severe financial strains and near bankruptcy of the local government during the 1970s until it was bailed out by the federal government.
2ChicagoIllinois3,005,072Chicago for the last time ranked the second most populous city.
3Los AngelesCalifornia2,966,850
4PhiladelphiaPennsylvania1,688,210
5HoustonTexas1,595,138
6DetroitMichigan1,203,339
7DallasTexas904,078
8San DiegoCalifornia875,538First appearance in the top 10.
9PhoenixArizona789,704First appearance in the top 10.
10BaltimoreMaryland786,775Last appearance in the top 10.

1990[edit]

By 1990, trends had continued that started during the 1970s: Western and southern cities continued to grow in size and population, and northeastern cities generally lost population.[25]

RankCityStatePopulationNotes
1New YorkNew York7,322,564New York City gained population during the 1980s after heavy losses in the 1970s.
2Los AngelesCalifornia3,485,398Los Angeles becomes the nation's second largest city.
3ChicagoIllinois2,783,726
4HoustonTexas1,630,553Houston jumps just slightly ahead of Philadelphia, becoming the nation's fourth largest city.
5PhiladelphiaPennsylvania1,585,577
6San DiegoCalifornia1,110,549San Diego is the 2nd California city to pass the 1 million mark.
7DetroitMichigan1,027,974
8DallasTexas1,006,877Dallas is the 2nd city in Texas to pass the 1 million mark.
9PhoenixArizona983,403
10San AntonioTexas935,933First appearance in top 10.

2000[edit]

The 2000 census was the most detailed to date. The Census Bureau provides a list of all cities with populations over 100,000.[26][27]

RankCityStatePopulationNotes
1New YorkNew York8,008,278Surpasses 8 million for the first time.
2Los AngelesCalifornia3,694,820Los Angeles surpasses Chicago's peak population, but growth is noticeably slower than previous decades.
3ChicagoIllinois2,896,016Chicago gained population during the 1990s.
4HoustonTexas1,953,631
5PhiladelphiaPennsylvania1,517,550
6PhoenixArizona1,321,045First city in Arizona to surpass 1 million.
7San DiegoCalifornia1,223,400
8DallasTexas1,188,580
9San AntonioTexas1,144,646San Antonio is the 3rd city in Texas to surpass the 1 million mark.
10DetroitMichigan951,270Detroit's last appearance in the top 10, ranked #18 in 2010 census.

2010[edit]

The United States has dozens of major cities. It also has 33 of the world's 178 global cities, with 10 American cities in the highest ranked category of "Alpha" global city: New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Miami, Boston, Dallas, Atlanta, and Philadelphia.

The figures below are for populations within the city limits, which are of various sizes for each city. Not included are the population of suburban areas. Notable is that seven of the country's ten largest cities are located in the Sun Belt region of the south and west, all of which have far lower population density their earlier top-ranking counterparts. A different ranking is evident when considering U.S. metro area populations which count both city and suburban populations. The ten most populous cities, are based on the 2010 census data.

RankCityStatePopulationNotes
1New YorkNew York8,175,133
2Los AngelesCalifornia3,792,621
3ChicagoIllinois2,695,598Population loss after gain in 2000 census
4HoustonTexas2,099,451First city in Texas to surpass the 2 million mark
5PhiladelphiaPennsylvania1,526,006First population gain since 1950
6PhoenixArizona1,445,632
7San AntonioTexas1,327,407
8San DiegoCalifornia1,307,402
9DallasTexas1,197,816
10San JoseCalifornia945,942First appearance in top 10

For a more extensive list of present population estimates see List of United States cities by population.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ Jackson, Kenneth T. (1985). Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-504983-7. , Chapter 8: "Suburbs Into Neighborhoods: The Rise and Fall of Municipal Annexation."
  2. ^ Arenson, Adam (2011). The great heart of the republic: St. Louis and the cultural Civil War. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. p. 191-192. ISBN 0674052889.
  3. ^ Arenson, Adam (2011). The great heart of the republic: St. Louis and the cultural Civil War. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. p. 191-192. ISBN 0674052889.

Sources

External links[edit]