The Westward Movement

This paper discusses the growth of the river cities from 1800 to 1850 when the railroads caused their decline.

All the colonial cities of the United States were seaports. All were essentially commercial communities seeking wealth by foreign trade. It was the profits from pursuits such as maritime trade plus the profits derived from the increase in land values and from local expenditures by government which permitted their eventual growth. The river cities of the Mississippi would repeat this same process in the years from 1800 to 1850, the difference being that the entire process would be vastly speeded up so that, whereas it took a city like Philadelphia more than 90 years to grow from 0 to 50,000, it required Cincinnati only 40 years to reach the same size.. Like the colonial cities, the six major river cities–Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis, St. Louis, New Orleans–all were maritime in orientation. Their primary distinctions were simply that they had landings rather …

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