Fascinating Chart: Top 20 Metropolitan Areas in the U.S.A., 1790-2010

This amazing chart follows the rise and fall — and in some cases, rise and fall and rise — of American cities. Peak Bagger has charted the rank of 20 metropolitan areas every decade from 1790 to 2010. Poor Detroit.

Most interestingly — New York City took the number one spot over 200 years ago, and has held onto it ever since. But Los Angeles and San Francisco have come from behind to take the number two and number four spots, respectively. Washington, D.C. has had a wild ride. Note that this chart only looks at rank, not absolute size or growth rate.

What's especially interesting is the chart of peak years — the years when particular cities had their highest ranking. For a lot of Eastern cities, it's the 18th century or early 19th century, including 1740 for Boston, and 1800 for Providence, Philadelphia and Norfolk. But Detroit peaked in 1930 and Chicago peaked in 1950. Huh. [via Laughing Squid and Washington Post]