2.4. The Mid-Atlantic States: Urbanization and Industrialization (1865-1900)



Population (1000s), rank

1860

(33 states)

1880

(38 states)

1900

(45 states)

New York

3,880,735

1st

5,082,871

1st

7,268,894

1st

New Jersey

672,035

21st

1,131,116

19th

1,883,669

16th

Pennsylvania

2,906,215

2nd

4,282,891

2nd

6,302,115

2nd

Total population

% of US pop.

 

23.7%

 

 

20.9%

 

 

20.3%

 


Key events that shaped law and society:

  • The mid-Atlantic states grew steadily during this period and held their position as the nation’s economic hub.  All three states were leaders in the national transition from an agrarian to a mixed commercial and industrial economy.
  • New York City and Philadelphia grew rapidly during the postwar era.  Each city developed a culture of its own and developed a permanent rivalry with upstate areas.  This was reflected in New York’s and Pennsylvania’s legal development:  each city sought control of its own local affairs but was often blocked by its state legislature.  Municipal corruption in New York, which attracted national attention during the reign of “Boss” William Tweed (1865-1872), impelled New York to pioneer civil service reform in the 1880s.   
  • The rapid growth of mid-Atlantic cities brought problems as well as riches, most notably ethnic tensions, unsafe workplaces and a chronic shortage of adequate housing.  As a result, New York and Pennsylvania were among the first states to enact tenement and workplace safety reform laws and their courts were among the first to ponder the proper legal balance between reform and established property rights. 
  • Pennsylvania became the coal and steel center of the nation.  In the process, a strong labor movement developed and the state became the scene for some of the most bitter and violent strikes of the 19th century, including the general railroad strike of 1877 and the Homestead strike of 1892.
  • New Jersey continued to exploit its role as the commercial corridor between New York City and Philadelphia.  The Camden & Amboy Railroad’s dominance of state politics ended after 1870 when it merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad, but New Jersey continued to maintain itself as a legal haven for corporations.
  • Like other states, the mid-Atlantic states wrestled with the changed role of blacks in American society after the Civil War and emancipation, as well as movements to give women the vote and expand their property rights and other legal rights.  Consistent with their antebellum traditions, New York and Pennsylvania were leaders in promoting post-war civil rights; New Jersey was not.
t

Mid-Atlantic

cities in top 10 nationally

1860

1880

1900

New York, NY

813,669 (1st)

1,206,299 (1st)

3,437,202 (1st)

Philadelphia, PA

565,529 (2nd)

847,170 (2nd)

1,293,697 (3rd)

Brooklyn, NY

266,661 (3rd)

566,663 (3rd)

(Became part of New York City, 1898)

Buffalo, NY

81,129 (10th)

(Not in top 10)

352,387 (8th)


Cartoon satirizing "Boss" William Tweed of New York City (1871) - courtesy New York Public Library


New York City, 1895 - courtesy New York Public Library


Coal train, Pennsylvania, late 1800s - Courtesy Library of Congress