New York City in the 19th Century


New York began the 19th century as the largest city in the United States, with more than 60 thousand inhabitants, and continued to grow and grow. Early in the century, New York City surpassed Philadelphia as the country's chief financial center

The street grid of Manhattan was introduced by the Commissioners’ Plan in 1811, seeking to provide for orderly development and land sales in Manhattan. It was a design for the streets of Manhattan above Houston Street and below 155th Street. The Commission was appointed by New York State Legislature, in 1807, in support of the Common Council of the City of New York.

More: Maps of NYC - 19th Century

In 1810, the City had 96 thousand inhabitants. In 1812, the new City Hall building opened and other institutions moved to the surrounding area in the following decades.

On May 12, 1823, the first franchise for supplying the City of New York with gas was granted by the Common Council to the New York Gas Light Company. It had the right of laying pipes underground for conducting gas to light the public lamps and buildings throughout that part of the City south of Grand St., Sullivan St. and Canal St.

The opening of the Erie Canal, in 1825, boosted trade. New York was the commercial metropolis of the United States and also achieved primacy in manufacturing. More and more immigrants arrived in the City.

In 1833, New York Sun was founded by Benjamin H. Day. In 1835, New York Herald was founded by James Gordon Bennett. Two great fires, in 1835 and 1845, devastated great part of Lower Manhattan. In 1845, magnetic telegraph opened between New York and Philadelphia.

In 1850, the City had 516 thousand people. In 1852, the YMCA began operating in NY. In 1853, the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations was held in New York City. In 1851, the Erie Railroad connected NYC with the Great Lakes, telegraph poles were being installed in the Wall Street area and The New York Times was founded on Nassau Street, near the growing Printing House Square. In 1860,  New York World was founded by Manton Marble.

During the Civil War (1861-1865), New York was a major recruiting center for soldiers. The City was also a big stage for riots. Parts of the City were dominated by gangs.

In the 1860s, garment was the first manufacturing industry in New York City. Sugar was the second. Printing and publishing was the third largest manufacturing industry in the City.

By 1870, New York had almost one million people and the early skyscrapers were under construction. Telegraph poles and overhead wires were already visual pollution in the city. They were removed and buried after the Great Blizzard of 1888.

In 1873, a financial panic on Wall Street triggered an economic depression in North America that lasted until the late 1870s. The crisis started in Europe, months before, due to bad investments in railroads.

Electric lights in New York streets first appeared in 1880, on Broadway, as a demonstration by Charles F. Brush. On September 4, 1882, Thomas Edison’s Pearl Street Station began generating electricity in Lower Manhattan.

In 1883, Brooklyn Bridge opened to traffic. In 1886, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated.

In 1898, New York City expanded to encompass its current geographic boundaries, including its five boroughs: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island.

In 1889, to mark the centennial of Washington's inauguration, the Memorial Arch was erected in Washington Square to frame the beginning of Fifth Avenue.

In the late 19th century, New York grew at a dramatic rate. Industrial expansion and population growth radically changed the face of the City. Noise, traffic jams, slums, air pollution, and sanitation and health problems became commonplace. In 1900 New York was the busiest port in the world and had 3.4 million inhabitants.

More: Historical maps of New York City





New York 19th Century


Old City of New York


New York City Hall, park and environs, in 1849 or before (illustration by John Bachmann). Broadway is on the left. The City Hall was completed in 1812 and the city government moved from the old Federal Hall.


City Hall Park


Market Slip NY


New York City NY


Map New York NY


Map New York City Longworth 1808



Broadway NY



New York 17th century


Manhattan photographs


Broadway NY 19th century




Great Blizzard 1888


German Winter Garden


New York City Hall


Dakota NY


Old New York


7th Regiment

Looking north from Broome Street.


Fifth Avenue 19th Century


East River NYC


Election NY




NY Early Skyscrapers


Historic Buildings


Southwest Prospect NY


NY Hotels


Ellis Island




East River waterfront


NYC Broadway


Lower Manhattan



Central Park NY


New York NY


Union Square 19th Century


Waterfront NY


City Hall fire NY


Central Park 19th century




Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch


Manhattan NYC



Canal Street


Bowling Green images


Panorama New York NY


Harbor NY


New York NY 19th century



Central Park


City Hall Park




NY Brooklyn old


New York nineteenth century


Lower New York


Wall Street images


Great Fire 1835


Crystal Palace



Broadway NY 19th Century

NY 19th Century



New York 18th century


Vintage images


NY Great Fire 1845


Copyright © Geographic Guide - NYC in the Nineteenth Century.


New York City in the 19th Century