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date: 08 December 2021

Industry, Commerce, and Urbanization in the United States, 1790–1870 

The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Urban History
David SchleyDavid Schley

The first census of the United States revealed an overwhelmingly rural nation. In 1790, a scant 5 percent of the country’s 3,929,214 enumerated residents lived in urban settings (defined as communities with more than 2,500 people). The number of cities housing more than 10,000 people could be counted on one hand: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Charleston, coastal entrepôts that mediated between the worlds of Atlantic trade and hinterland agriculture. To be sure, these and other urban places exercised an influence over American commerce and culture disproportionate to their number. But few who examined the raw numbers at the start of the Washington administration would have predicted the demographic, economic, and cultural changes that unfolded over the new nation’s first eighty years.... ...

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