Largest cities in the United States by population by decade

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

This list tracks and ranks the population of the top 10 largest cities and other urban places in the United States by decade, as reported by each decennial United States Census, starting with the 1790 Census. For 1790 through 1990, tables are taken from the U.S Census Bureau's "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] The 2010 rankings are based on the 2010 census results.[3]

The Census Bureau's definition of an "urban place" has included a variety of designations, including city, town, township, village, borough, and municipality. The top 10 urban areas in 1790 consisted of various places designated as cities, towns and townships. The top 10 urban areas in 2010 are all separate incorporated places.

This list generally refers only to the population of individual urban places within their defined limits at the time of the indicated census. Some of these places have since been annexed or merged into other cities. Other places may have expanded their borders due to such annexation or consolidation. For example, after the 1898 consolidation of New York City, the Census Bureau has defined all the boroughs within its city limits as one "urban place". Similarly, Philadelphia's population has included the census counts within both the former urban areas of Northern Liberties, Pennsylvania and Southwark, Pennsylvania ever since Philadelphia's 1854 consolidation.

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 barely overtaken Philadelphia as the most populous city in the country (though Philadelphia still had the larger metropolitan population in 1790).

Rank City State Population[4] Notes
1 New York City New York 33,131 New York ranked as the nation's most populous city at the time of the first census count.[a]
2 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 28,522 Prior 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.
3 Boston Massachusetts 18,320 Listed as a town in the 1790 census; presently a city.
4 Charleston South Carolina 16,359
5 Baltimore Maryland 13,503 Existed as a town at the time; now an independent city.
6 Northern Liberties Pennsylvania 9,913 Township now absorbed in Philadelphia. See Northern Liberties, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
7 Salem Massachusetts 7,921 Listed as a town in the 1790 census; presently a city.
8 Newport Rhode Island 6,716 Listed as a town in the 1790 census; presently a city.
9 Providence Rhode Island 6,380 Listed as a town in the 1790 census; presently a city.
10 Marblehead Massachusetts 5,661 Still a town as of 2014.
Southwark Pennsylvania 5,661 Before the 1854 Act of Consolidation, Southwark was an independent municipality; it is now a neighborhood in South Philadelphia.

The total population of these 11 cities was 152,087.

1800[edit]

Rank City State Population[5] Notes
1 New York City New York 60,515
2 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 41,220
3 Baltimore Maryland 26,514
4 Boston Massachusetts 24,937 Listed as a town.
5 Charleston South Carolina 18,824
6 Northern Liberties Pennsylvania 10,718 Now a neighborhood in Philadelphia.
7 Southwark Pennsylvania 9,621 Now a neighborhood in South Philadelphia.
8 Salem Massachusetts 9,457 Listed as a town. Today, Salem is a city.
9 Providence Rhode Island 7,614 Listed as a town. Last appearance in top ten.
10 Norfolk Virginia 6,926 Listed as a borough. Now an independent city.

The total population of these 10 cities was 216,346.

1810[edit]

Rank City State Population[6] Notes
1 New York City New York 96,373
2 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 53,722
3 Baltimore Maryland 46,555
4 Boston Massachusetts 33,787
5 Charleston South Carolina 24,711
6 Northern Liberties Pennsylvania 19,874 Now a neighborhood of Philadelphia.
7 New Orleans Louisiana 17,242 First entry in the top 10 list not located in one of the original 13 colonies.
8 Southwark Pennsylvania 13,707 Now a neighborhood in South Philadelphia.
9 Salem Massachusetts 12,613 Listed as a town. Today, Salem is a city.
10 Albany New York 10,762

The total population of these 10 cities was 329,346.

1820[edit]

Rank City State Population[7] Notes
1 New York City New York 123,706 New York was the first city in the U.S. to surpass 100,000 people in population.
2 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 63,802
3 Baltimore Maryland 62,738
4 Boston Massachusetts 43,298
5 New Orleans Louisiana 27,176
6 Charleston South Carolina 24,780
7 Northern Liberties Pennsylvania 19,678 Now a neighborhood of Philadelphia.
8 Southwark Pennsylvania 14,713 Now a neighborhood in South Philadelphia.
9 Washington District of Columbia 13,247 First 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.
10 Salem Massachusetts 12,731 Listed as a town in 1820 census. Today, Salem is a city.

The total population of these 10 cities was 405,869.

1830[edit]

Rank City State Population[8] Notes
1 New York City New York 202,589
2 Baltimore Maryland 80,620 Baltimore is the second city to rank number two.
3 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 80,462
4 Boston Massachusetts 61,392
5 New Orleans Louisiana 46,082
6 Charleston South Carolina 30,289
7 Northern Liberties Pennsylvania 28,872 Now a neighborhood in Philadelphia.
8 Cincinnati Ohio 24,831 Listed as a town. First appearance on top 10 from a Midwestern state.
9 Albany New York 24,209
10 Southwark Pennsylvania 20,581 Now a neighborhood in South Philadelphia.

The total population of these 10 cities was 599,927.

1840[edit]

Rank City State Population[9] Notes
1 New York City New York 312,710
2 Baltimore Maryland 102,313 Baltimore is likely the second city in the U.S. to surpass the 100,000 population mark.
3 New Orleans Louisiana 102,193 New Orleans' rapid growth shows the increasing importance of Mississippi River trade.
4 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 93,665
5 Boston Massachusetts 93,383
6 Cincinnati Ohio 46,338 Listed as a town.
7 Brooklyn New York 36,233 At this time, Brooklyn was a city.
8 Northern Liberties Pennsylvania 34,474 Now a neighborhood in Philadelphia.
9 Albany New York 33,721
10 Charleston South Carolina 29,261 Charleston lost population between the 1830 and 1840 censuses. Last appearance in the top 10.

The total population of these 10 cities was 884,291.

1850[edit]

By 1850, the United States was in the midst of the First Industrial Revolution.

Rank City State Population[10] Notes
1 New York City New York 515,547
2 Baltimore Maryland 169,054
3 Boston Massachusetts 136,881
4 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 121,376
5 New Orleans Louisiana 116,375
6 Cincinnati Ohio 115,435
7 Brooklyn New York 96,838
8 St. Louis Missouri 77,860 First Top 10 appearance of any city west of the Mississippi River.
9 Spring Garden Pennsylvania 58,894 Now a neighborhood of Philadelphia.
10 Albany New York 50,763 Last appearance in the top 10.

The total population of these 10 cities was 1,459,023.

1860[edit]

1860 was the eve of the American Civil War. This was the eighth United States Census.

Rank City State Population[11] Notes
1 New York City New York 813,669
2 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 565,529 The 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.
3 Brooklyn New York 266,661
4 Baltimore Maryland 212,418
5 Boston Massachusetts 177,840
6 New Orleans Louisiana 168,675
7 Cincinnati Ohio 161,044
8 St. Louis Missouri 160,773
9 Chicago Illinois 112,172 First 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.
10 Buffalo New York 81,129 First appearance in the top 10. Would disappear from list by next census and not re-appear until 1900.

The total population of these 10 cities was 2,719,910.

1870[edit]

This was the ninth United States Census.

Rank City State Population[12] Notes
1 New York City New York 942,292

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

2 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 674,022
3 Brooklyn New York 396,099
4 St. Louis Missouri 310,864

The 1870 St. Louis Census total may have been slightly boosted by fraud. [b]

5 Chicago Illinois 298,977 Census was taken one year before the Great Chicago Fire, which burned down a large portion of the city.
6 Baltimore Maryland 267,354
7 Boston Massachusetts 250,526
8 Cincinnati Ohio 216,239
9 New Orleans Louisiana 191,418
10 San Francisco California 149,473 First west coast city in the Top 10. Its population boom began after 1848 with the Gold Rush and continued with silver discoveries such as the Comstock Lode in 1859.

The total population of these 10 cities was 3,697,264.

1880[edit]

Rank City State Population[13] Notes
1 New York City New York 1,206,299 This marks the first time the population of a U.S. city exceeds 1 million.
2 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 847,170
3 Brooklyn New York 566,663
4 Chicago Illinois 503,185 Great Chicago Fire destroyed approx. one third of the city's infrastructure in 1871.
5 Boston Massachusetts 362,839
6 St. Louis Missouri 350,518 The city of St. Louis seceded from St. Louis County in 1876.[b] The population of St. Louis City and St. Louis County during the Census was ~386,000[14]
7 Baltimore Maryland 332,313
8 Cincinnati Ohio 255,139
9 San Francisco California 233,959
10 New Orleans Louisiana 216,090 Last appearance in the top 10.

The total population of these 10 cities was 4,874,175.

1890[edit]

The 1890 Census was the Eleventh.

Rank City State Population[15] Notes
1 New York City New York 1,515,301 This 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).
2 Chicago Illinois 1,099,850 Chicago 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.
3 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 1,046,964
4 Brooklyn New York 806,343 This is the last census where the City of Brooklyn is independent. It would be absorbed into New York City.
5 St. Louis Missouri 451,770
6 Boston Massachusetts 448,477
7 Baltimore Maryland 434,439
8 San Francisco California 298,997
9 Cincinnati Ohio 296,908
10 Cleveland Ohio 261,353 First appearance in the top 10.

The total population of these 10 cities was 6,660,402.

1900[edit]

The 1900 Census was the Twelfth.

Rank City State Population[16] Notes
1 New York City New York 3,437,202 This is the first census after the creation of The Five Boroughs.
2 Chicago Illinois 1,698,575
3 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 1,293,697
4 St. Louis Missouri 575,238
5 Boston Massachusetts 560,892
6 Baltimore Maryland 508,957
7 Cleveland Ohio 381,768
8 Buffalo New York 352,387 Re-appearance in the top 10 (last 1860).
9 San Francisco California 342,782 Last appearance in the top 10 before the 1906 earthquake and fire.
10 Cincinnati Ohio 325,902 Last appearance in the top 10.

The total population of these 10 cities was 9,477,400.

1910[edit]

The 1910 Census was the Thirteenth.

Rank City State Population[17] Notes
1 New York City New York 4,766,883 Much 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.
2 Chicago Illinois 2,185,283
3 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 1,549,008
4 St. Louis Missouri 687,029
5 Boston Massachusetts 670,585
6 Cleveland Ohio 560,663
7 Baltimore Maryland 558,485
8 Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 533,905 Pittsburgh entered the Top 10 after annexing the neighboring city of Allegheny in 1907. This is now the city's North Side.
9 Detroit Michigan 465,766 First appearance in the top 10.
10 Buffalo New York 423,715 Last appearance in the top 10.

The total population of these 10 cities was 12,401,322.

1920[edit]

The 1920 Census was the Fourteenth.

Rank City State Population[18] Notes
1 New York City New York 5,620,048
2 Chicago Illinois 2,701,705
3 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 1,823,779
4 Detroit Michigan 993,078 The rise of the automobile industry in the Detroit area propelled its growth substantially between 1910 and 1920, doubling its population in only 10 years.
5 Cleveland Ohio 796,841 Only time in the top five
6 St. Louis Missouri 772,897
7 Boston Massachusetts 748,060
8 Baltimore Maryland 733,826
9 Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 588,343
10 Los Angeles California 576,673 Los Angeles makes the top ten for the first time.

The total population of these 10 cities was 15,355,250.

1930[edit]

The 1930 Census was the Fifteenth.

Rank City State Population[19] Notes
1 New York City New York 6,930,446
2 Chicago Illinois 3,376,438
3 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 1,950,961
4 Detroit Michigan 1,568,662
5 Los Angeles California 1,238,048 First West Coast city to make the Top 5.
6 Cleveland Ohio 900,429
7 St. Louis Missouri 821,960
8 Baltimore Maryland 804,874
9 Boston Massachusetts 781,188
10 Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 669,817

The total population of these 10 cities was 19,042,823.

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.

Rank City State Population[20] Notes
1 New York City New York 7,457,995
2 Chicago Illinois 3,396,808
3 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 1,931,334 First ever population drop for Philadelphia.
4 Detroit Michigan 1,623,452
5 Los Angeles California 1,504,277
6 Cleveland Ohio 878,336 First ever population drop for Cleveland.
7 Baltimore Maryland 859,100
8 St. Louis Missouri 816,048 First ever population drop for St. Louis.
9 Boston Massachusetts 770,816 First ever population drop for Boston.
10 Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 671,659 Last appearance in the top 10.

The total population of these 10 cities was 19,909,825.

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 in inner cities, while the improved infrastructure of the Eisenhower Interstate System more easily facilitated car commutes and so-called white flight of the white middle class. The G.I. Bill made available low interest loans for returning white 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.

Rank City State Population[21] Notes
1 New York City New York 7,891,957
2 Chicago Illinois 3,620,962 Population peaked this census.
3 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 2,071,605 Population peaked this census.
4 Los Angeles California 1,970,358 Los Angeles is one of the few cities to have nearly continuous growth since 1950.
5 Detroit Michigan 1,849,568 Population 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 that figure.
6 Baltimore Maryland 949,708 Population peaked this census.
7 Cleveland Ohio 914,808 Population peaked this census.
8 St. Louis Missouri 856,796 Population peaked this census.
9 Washington District of Columbia 802,178 Population peaked this census. Re-appearance in the top 10 (last in 1820).
10 Boston Massachusetts 801,444 Population peaked this census. Last appearance in top 10.

The total population of these 10 cities was 21,729,384.

1960[edit]

The 1960 Census was the Eighteenth.

Rank City State Population[22] Notes
1 New York City New York 7,781,984 First ever population drop for New York City.
2 Chicago Illinois 3,550,404 First ever population drop for Chicago.
3 Los Angeles California 2,479,015
4 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 2,002,512
5 Detroit Michigan 1,670,144 First ever population drop for Detroit.
6 Baltimore Maryland 939,024
7 Houston Texas 938,219 First appearance in the top 10 and first Texas city.
8 Cleveland Ohio 876,050
9 Washington District of Columbia 763,956
10 St. Louis Missouri 750,026 Last appearance in the top 10. First time the population of the 10th largest city is less than the decade before.

The total population of these 10 cities was 20,962,889.

1970[edit]

The 1970 Census was the Nineteenth.

Rank City State Population[23] Notes
1 New York City New York 7,894,862
2 Chicago Illinois 3,366,957
3 Los Angeles California 2,816,061
4 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 1,948,609
5 Detroit Michigan 1,511,482
6 Houston Texas 1,232,802 Sixth city in the US to surpass 1 million.
7 Baltimore Maryland 905,759
8 Dallas Texas 844,401 First appearance in top 10.
9 Washington District of Columbia 756,510 Last appearance on top 10.
10 Cleveland Ohio 750,903 Last appearance on top 10. Cleveland is notably smaller by population and larger by area, therefore less dense than it was in 1920.

The total population of these 10 cities was 22,028,346.

1980[edit]

By 1980, the trends towards suburbanization started in the 1950s continued. City population continued to grow in the west and south.[24]

Rank City State Population[24] Notes
1 New York City New York 7,071,639 New York City experiences the largest loss of people within a city in American history when it loses nearly 825,000 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.
2 Chicago Illinois 3,005,072 Chicago for the last time ranked the second most populous city.
3 Los Angeles California 2,966,850
4 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 1,688,210
5 Houston Texas 1,595,138
6 Detroit Michigan 1,203,339
7 Dallas Texas 904,078
8 San Diego California 875,538 First appearance in the top 10.
9 Phoenix Arizona 789,704 First appearance in the top 10.
10 Baltimore Maryland 786,775 Last appearance in the top 10.

The total population of these 10 cities was 20,886,343.

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]

Rank City State Population[25] Notes
1 New York City New York 7,322,564 New York City gained population during the 1980s after heavy losses in the 1970s.
2 Los Angeles California 3,485,398 Los Angeles becomes the nation's second largest city.
3 Chicago Illinois 2,783,726 After nearly 100 years as the nation's second largest city Chicago is surpassed by Los Angeles and becomes the third largest city.
4 Houston Texas 1,630,553 Houston jumps just slightly ahead of Philadelphia, becoming the nation's fourth largest city.
5 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 1,585,577
6 San Diego California 1,110,549 San Diego is the 2nd California city to pass the 1 million mark.
7 Detroit Michigan 1,027,974
8 Dallas Texas 1,006,877 Dallas is the 2nd city in Texas to pass the 1 million mark.
9 Phoenix Arizona 983,403
10 San Antonio Texas 935,933 First appearance in top 10.

The total population of these 10 cities was 21,872,554.

2000[edit]

Rank City State Population[26] Notes
1 New York City New York 8,008,278 Surpasses 8 million for the first time.
2 Los Angeles California 3,694,820 Los Angeles surpasses Chicago's peak population, but growth is noticeably slower than previous decades.
3 Chicago Illinois 2,896,016 Chicago gained population during the 1990s.
4 Houston Texas 1,953,631
5 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 1,517,550
6 Phoenix Arizona 1,321,045 First city in Arizona to surpass 1 million.
7 San Diego California 1,223,400
8 Dallas Texas 1,188,580
9 San Antonio Texas 1,144,646 San Antonio is the 3rd city in Texas to surpass the 1 million mark.
10 Detroit Michigan 951,270 Detroit's last appearance in the top 10; (fell to #18 in the 2010 census).

The total population of these 10 cities was 23,899,236.

2010[edit]

Seven of the country's ten largest cities in 2010 were located in the Sun Belt region of the south and west, all of which have far lower population density than their earlier top-ranking counterparts. A different ranking is evident when considering U.S. metro area populations which count both city and suburban populations.

Rank City State Population[3] Notes
1 New York City New York 8,175,133
2 Los Angeles California 3,792,621
3 Chicago Illinois 2,695,598 Population loss after gain in 2000 census
4 Houston Texas 2,099,451 First city in Texas to surpass the 2 million mark
5 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 1,526,006 First population gain since 1950
6 Phoenix Arizona 1,445,632
7 San Antonio Texas 1,327,407
8 San Diego California 1,307,402
9 Dallas Texas 1,197,816
10 San Jose California 945,942 First appearance in top 10

The total population of these 10 cities was 24,513,008.

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. ^ a b 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]