Chris Cillizza shares a graph originally posted on Peakbagger.com that charts the population of the top 20 metro areas in the United States between 1790-2010.
Cillizza points out that even more compelling than the claims of superiority often made by cities near the top of the list are the stories of the cities who have tumbled down the rankings, like Detroit (once #4) and Baltimore (once #3). Baltimore, at least, recently saw its first increase in population in 50 years.
Another detail revealed by the graph is evidence of the country’s agrarian past. For instance, in 1790 Salem, Massachusetts, was #5 and Charleston, South Carolina, was #4.