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From comes this map. You can see a larger, more readable version at the website site, along with tables that show the Top 4 metropolitan areas back to 1680 and the Top 20 from 1790 on:

The graph and tables on this page attempt to show how the urban hierarchy of the United States has developed over time. The statistic used here is the population of the metropolitan area (contiguous urbanized area surrounding a central city), not the population of an individual city.

Metropolitan area population is much more useful than city population as an indicator of the size and importance of a city, since the official boundaries of a city are usually arbitrary and often do not include vast suburban areas.

For example, in 2000 San Antonio was the 10th largest city in the U.S., larger than Boston or San Francisco, but its Metro Area was only ranked about 30th. The same thing was happening even back in 1790: New York was the biggest single city, but Philadelphia plus its suburbs of Northern Liberties and Southwark made it the biggest metro area.

Map of changing populations of Top 20 U.S. cities.
Here are the Top 20 metro areas with the year they reached peak population from which they have since declined.
If you live in any of these metro areas, it might be interesting to see when your home town was at it's peak—for example, if you now live in St. Louis, you can imagine a time (1870) when your city was the 4th most-populous urban center in the country. Of course, "not likely to reach past high ranking" does not mean impossible, but I think most would agree that no one expects to see Charleston, SC as the 4th largest metro area in the US anytime soon.

This list is sorted chronologically, and note that the first part of the list is dominated by East Coast cities, and the last part by metro areas in the Midwest. No cities in the West are on the list. Sunbelt metro areas have all been growing quickly in recent decades and at this point I don't think we can say that any have clearly peaked in their ranking.

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2009Heroes on the Hudson:

Some are calling it a miracle. But it was superb training, excellent aircraft design, and razor sharp reflexes by everyone involved, from onboard crew to local ferryboats that swung into operation within seconds, that saved all aboard and who knows how many below:

Capt Sullenberger, 57, who ditched US Airlines Flight 1549 safely into the Hudson River in New York, has over 40 years of flying experience and heads his own safety consulting business. The former US Air Force fighter pilot from California has served as an instructor and as an Airline Pilots Association (Alpa) safety chairman and accident investigator.
In addition to serving as an safety officer for the pilot's union, Captain Sullenberger is a reportedly certified glider pilot. A skill that was no doubt critical as he guided his 120,000 pound airliner-turned glider into a 180 degree turn and picture perfect emergency landing in the frigid Hudson River. Had that plane barreled into any part of the densely populated city on both sides of the river separating New York City and New Jersey, not only would most everyone on board have likely perished, the carnage below would have been catastrophic.

Tweet of the Day:

Jon Stewart on Iran deal: "Congress is the Justin Bieber of our government"

On today's Kagro in the Morning show, a shooting in an IN supermarket leaves 3 dead. Greg Dworkin rounds up the story of Brian Krebs, who broke the Target data breach news; CREDO's transparency move; Chris Christie lawyering up; and the Kellers vs. everybody, as addressed by Alexandra Petri in "Enter the Concern Troll." Should the Kochs pay millions to treat people fairly, or to crush dissent & buy the Senate? A 19-year-old relieves the stress of his security guard job by running through the neighborhood firing his AK-47 in the air. A dissection of Politico Magazine's "Congressional Moneyball." Jedidiah Purdy's "No One's Job: West Virginia's Forbidden Waters."

High Impact Posts. Top Comments.


Do you live in one of the Top 20 U.S. metro areas or elsewhere.

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| 5361 votes | Vote | Results

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