The 10 Most Populous U.S. Cities Every Decade Since 1790

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Click the below image to view the full-size visualization (2,995x4,265)

Click here to download the visualization in PDF format to print or use to easily zoom and view the data.

The United States Census is a decennial census that is mandated by Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution. As the country developed and expanded, statistics were needed to aid with planning, and the census has evolved through the years to fulfill different needs. By 1850, questions about social issues, taxation, churches, pauperism, and crime were added.

The first census of the entire United States occurred on Aug. 2, 1790. It discovered that the population of the United States was 3,929,214. At the time, the most populated state was Virginia (747,610 people), and the most populated city was New York City (33,131). New York City has remained the most populous city throughout the decades, reaching a total population of 8,175,133 by the 2010 census. That means the population of NYC has increased by 24,675% in 220 years!

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The top ten most populous cities in 1790 were as follows:

  1. New York, New York (33,131)
  2. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (28,522)
  3. Boston, Massachusetts (18,320)
  4. Charleston, South Carolina (16,359)
  5. Baltimore, Maryland (13,503)
  6. Northern Liberties Township, Pennsylvania (9,913)
  7. Salem, Massachusetts (7,921)
  8. Newport, Rhode Island (6,716)
  9. Providence, Rhode Island (6,380)
  10. Marblehead, Rhode Island (5,661)

The top ten most populous cities in 2010 were as follows:

  1. New York, New York (8,175,133)
  2. Los Angeles, California (3,792,621)
  3. Chicago, Illinois (2,695,598)
  4. Houston, Texas (2,099,451)
  5. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1,526,006)
  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)