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Growth of the State


Battle of lake Champlain
Battle of lake Champlain

Much of the War of 1812 (1812-1815) between the United States and Britain was fought along New York’s frontiers with Canada. During the war, which was fought over the maritime rights of neutral nations, the British navy blockaded U.S. ports. Many New York merchants opposed the war because the blockade interfered with trade.

Attempts by the United States to invade British territory in Canada were unsuccessful, and in 1814 the British launched an offensive against Niagara and Lake Champlain. In a decisive naval battle, Americans under Captain Thomas Macdonough defeated the British near Plattsburgh, on Lake Champlain, thwarting the British invasion of the northern United States.

In the last years of the 18th century large tracts of land in central and western New York had been opened for settlement. An area extending from just below Ithaca to Lake Ontario, called the Military Tract, was reserved for veterans of the American Revolution. Lands west of Seneca Lake that had formerly been owned by Massachusetts were turned over to New York and sold to business leaders and speculators. After the revolution, New England’s farmers, discouraged by stony soil and high taxes, moved west into New York. In 1820 half the state’s inhabitants were New Englanders or their descendants. Central and western New York were quickly settled, but the north country remained a sparsely populated wilderness for many years.

From the 1820s to 1860, New York State and especially New York City were transformed by a flood of immigrants and unprecedented urban growth. The United States experienced a wave of immigration from Europe, starting in 1820 and reaching a peak in 1845. For most immigrants, their point of entry was New York City, and huge numbers of them stayed there. By 1860 New York was the nation’s largest city, with a population of 1 million, and nearly half of those residents were foreign-born. New York State’s population also exploded during this period, from 340,120 people in 1790 to more than 3.8 million in 1860. Nearly one-fifth of those residents were foreign-born. In contrast to colonial times, when most New Yorkers lived on farms, by 1860 about half of them lived in cities and towns.

The largest group of immigrants was the Irish, especially after a devastating potato famine struck their homeland in the 1840s. Many settled in New York City, while German immigrants tended to settle upstate, especially in Buffalo and Rochester. This influx of people included skilled European craftsmen and a huge pool of low-wage laborers that enabled New York to develop diverse industries. But low wages, long hours, and harsh working conditions made life difficult for many industrial workers. To try to improve their conditions, many skilled artisans and factory workers, who were mostly women and children, joined labor unions. With such rapid population growth, New York City and other urban areas faced problems of inadequate water supplies, sanitation and housing.

By 1830 New York ranked first among the states in population, manufacturing, trade, commerce, and transportation. New York City emerged as the primary center for textile manufacturing and ready-made clothing, banking, imports, insurance, and the stock exchange. From 1825 to the late 1850s the Genesee Valley was a national center for growing wheat. Other important products included livestock, corn, barley, oats, and hops. When the Midwest became the major source of grain, New York’s farmers turned to dairy products, fruits and vegetables. They supplied great quantities of milk, butter, cheese, and other perishable goods to the growing cities. "New York" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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