A Port in Time

  • Aaron Gurwitz
Part of the Palgrave Studies in American Economic History book series (AEH)


New York City happened to be somewhat larger than other North American central places on the eve of catastrophic agglomeration primarily because, starting in 1815, New York was the principal port of entry for foreign goods coming into the United States. After the fact, it seems to have been inevitable that New York would rise to its position as the largest U.S. city once the pace of urbanization had accelerated, given its deep, easily accessible, and generally ice-free harbor and its central position between population centers in New England and the Chesapeake Bay area. In the context of the inevitability paradigm, if there was a “critical juncture” along the New York’s path to dominance it would have been the construction of the Erie Canal, presumably because it directed Midwestern agricultural exports through New York’s port. This chapter presents the case for the view that, from the perspective of the early 1830s, New York’s rise was not inevitable and that alternative U.S. urban hierarchies with some other city, most likely Philadelphia or Baltimore, at its pinnacle were, in fact, plausible.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aaron Gurwitz
    • 1
  1. 1.New YorkUSA

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