Top 10 Largest Cities 100 Years Ago

This is a list of the Top 10 most heavily populated cities in Europe. This list was compiled using 1913 census and include all those who lived within the ‘city limits’ or ‘city boundary’ at the time.


1. London, U.K.



Population: 4,684,794

London started of the 20th century as the capital of the world’s largest Empire and Britain’s dominant city. One third of the entire trade of Great Britain went through London’s docks.

Royal junctures such as the coronation of King Edward VII emphasized London’s role as the national capital of the largest empire of the world. But London was also a source for change. The decade saw rising political unrest in the capital as women and working men protested their demands to be given the right to vote. London’s local government also dawned a new era as 28 new metropolitan boroughs took over the administration of districts in inner London.


2. New York, USA

New York
Population: 4,024, 780

In many ways the streets of New York in the early 1900s would look familiar to those who live and walk the streets today. Traffic was muddled with early cars, streetcars, bicycles, pedestrians and horses all fighting to find space in this vibrant city. Inhabitants were a mix of people from a myriad of different cultures. Central Park was a favorite gathering spot for the city’s poor who wanted to escape the packed tenements. Wall Street was still one of the country’s great financial centers. Broadway plays and professional baseball games were also present for those who could afford the tickets. The city, however, has gotten taller. In 1913 the Woolworth Building opened. At 55 stories, it was the tallest building in the world at that time.


3. Paris, France

Population: 2,750,000.

Paris is a city along the Seine River in France that has many famous landmarks. It is very rich in art and culture. I wrote this report about twenty five years ago. It’s about how this famous city grew and changed over the last few thousand years, since 1900, and through both World Wars.

In the early 1900s, artists from across the world migrated to the Left Bank of Paris. This tour featured the cafés, apartments, and streets where these artists lived and worked during the prime season of Modernism.

Few locations and time periods have seen as much artistic production as Paris during the early 1900s. The American writers Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote some of their best works in the city of love; Irish writer James Joyce wrote and published Ulysses, widely considered to be one of the most important novels of the 20th century. Painters such as Pablo Picasso created works that drastically altered the definition of art.


4. Tokyo, Japan


Population: 2,433,000

Southwest Tokyo, now known as the “burbs” of Tokyo, began to slowly enlarge in the early 1900s as the idea of developer Eichi Shibusawa. He purchased and named the area Denenchofu with a plan to create a “garden suburb” designed after some of the suburban developments in other major cities. His idea gained more than enough success, but the garden suburb truly began to boom after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. Central Tokyo was leveled but Denenchofu remained virtually unharmed. Soon after many broad-minded Tokyoites bought into the idea, giving birth to what is now often called the “Beverley Hills” of Tokyo.


5. Berlin, Germany

Population: 2,006,850

The primordial conditions were unbearable for a world national capital, and the Imperial government brought in its scientists, engineers and urban planners to not only solve the scarcity but to forge the world’s model city. With those changes a British expert concluded that Berlin represented “the most complete application of science, order and method of public life,” adding “it is a marvel of civic administration, the most modern and most perfectly organized city that there is.”

In the meantime, Berlin had become an industrial city. Improvements to the infrastructure were needed; in 1896 the construction of the subway (U-Bahn) began and was completed in 1902. The neighborhoods around the city center were filled with tenement blocks.

The surroundings saw extensive development of industrial areas East of Berlin and wealthy residential areas in the South-West.
In terms of high culture, museums were being built an enlarged, and Berlin was on the verge of becoming a major musical city. Berlin dominated the German theater scene, with the government-supported Opernhaus and Schauspielhaus, as well as numerous private playhouses included the Lessing and the Deutsches theatres.


6. Chicago, Illinois

Population: 1,990,750

Life was vastly different in the early 1900s when you compare it to the conveniences we take for granted today – telephones, cell phones, cars, computers and the Internet.

Here are some examples that you might find hard to believe, but in reality, were the norm for our ancestors:
• 1 in 7 homes had a bathtub
• Dozen eggs cost .14 cents
• only 1 in 13 homes had a telephone
• one pound of sugar cost .4 cents
• one pound of butter cost .24 cents


7. Vienna, Austria


Population: 1,897,630

The significance of social mores and reputation on society in Vienna during the 1900’s is apparent in several different works of literature. This blooming artistic society emphasized the knowledge of arts and intellectual development. Families endeavored to make certain that at least one son was well educated in order to enter a professional field. It was felt that Vienna could thrive in the artistic field as it had been left in the dust by foreign rivals in political and scientific ventures. The Viennese absorbed the arts like a sponge.

In addition to a constant desire for knowledge, the Viennese culture contained within itself a rigid social structure. Reputation was of the utmost importance as it reflected one’s honor. Honor was incredibly of great value as the tradition of the duel, in which human life became as uncertain as a roll of the dice, was employed to test it. One wished to maintain the honor and reputation of any intelligent individual from a “good family.” A good family meaning, one that embodied the qualities valued in Viennese culture for many generations.


8. Osaka, Japan


Population: 1,760,000

Historically the commercial center of Japan, Osaka functioned and still functions as one of the command centers for the Japanese economy. The ratio between daytime and night time population is 141%, the highest in Japan, highlighting its status as an economic center. Its nighttime population is 2.6 million, the third in the country, but in daytime the population surges to 3.7 million, second only to Tokyo.

The modern municipality was built in 1889 with an initial area of 15 km², extending beyond today’s Chūō and Nishi wards. Later, the city went through three main expansions to reach its current size of 222 km²

Osaka was the industrial center most clearly defined in the development of capitalism in Japan. The rapid industrialization attracted many Korean immigrants, who set up a life apart for themselves. The political system was pluralistic, highlighting the promotion of industrialization and modernization. Literacy was high and the educational system expanded rapidly, producing a middle class with a taste for literature and a willingness to support the arts.

Like its European and American counterparts, Osaka displayed slums, unemployment, and poverty. In Japan it was here that municipal government first introduced a comprehensive system of poverty relief. Osaka policymakers stressed the significance of family formation and mutual assistance as the best way to battle poverty.


9. Philadelphia, USA

Population: 1, 438, 318

Philadelphia became “Workshop of the World” by the early 1900s. It was America’s industrial powerhouse. Whereas New York was the financial and commercial capital after outgrowing Philadelphia in the 1830s, and Boston was the academic center of the world with Harvard University, Philadelphia made things and lots of them. Name a product and Philadelphia made some version of it. In the fashion of its English roots, Philadelphia’s houses were row homes, connected both sides, on narrow streets.


10. St. Petersburg


Population: 1,391, 000

This period in the city’s history was both luminous and troublesome. It all started with the grand coronation of Nicholas II in Moscow, which resulted in the thousands of casualties of the Khodynka disaster, and ended with a horrific war – WWI. However, in the early 1900s St. Petersburg was obsessed with celebration.
In 1902 bureaucratic St. Petersburg celebrated 100 years of the government reforms of Alexander I and his establishment of the ministries.

In May 1903 St. Petersburg celebrated the city’s 200th anniversary. The new Troitski (Trinity) Bridge was finally opened, with the Czar and a church service took place in Senatskaya Square next to the Bronze Hrseman, to honor the founder of the city.

But trouble began to brew in January 1905, when a peaceful demonstration of workers was fired on by troops on Palace Square. This triggered public outrage and marked the start of the 1905-07 Revolution. The events of January 9 1905 rapidly became known as “Bloody Sunday”.


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