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Growth & Distribution of Cities 1790-2000

1850 cities map
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A map showing the growth and distribution of
American cities in 1850.

When the first decennial census of the United States was taken in 1790, the new nation was lightly populated, containing only a handful of port cities with more than 10,000 people. In the two centuries since then, the nation's population has grown many times over, expanded westward, and become far more urban. The spread of cities across the American landscape is one of the more compelling stories of demographic growth and change. This series of 22 maps, from the Census Bureau's Census in Schools program, graphically presents this story. Population data were compiled for all incorporated places in the United States (and minor civil divisions in New England) containing at least 10,000 people in any decennial census. Maps were then created for each decennial year, 1790 through 2000, showing locations and size classes of those cities. When compared, the maps provide a fascinating visual representation of growth through time and changes in distribution in American cities across the country.

2000     1990     1980     1970     1960     1950     1940     1930     1920     1910     1900
1890     1880     1870     1860     1850     1840     1830     1820     1810     1800     1790

Additional information:

For maps highlighting additional Census 2000 data, see Mapping Census 2000: The Geography of U.S. Diversity.

The Census Bureau recently published the Census Atlas of the United States. The atlas is the first comprehensive atlas of population and housing produced by the Census Bureau since the 1920s. The atlas contains nearly 800 maps covering topics such as language and ancestry characteristics, housing patterns and the geographic distribution of the population.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Census History Staff | Last Revised: August 07, 2014