• This map shows which century saw each state reach its highest population ranking.

  • The methodology uses data from the U.S. Census for states and territories encompassing present-day borders. For example, West Virginia peaked in 1800, despite the state coming into existence politically in 1863.

  • The trends are very clear. New England (with the exception of Connecticut) and three mid-Atlantic states reached their highest rankings in the late 1700s, when there were simply fewer states. Of the yellow states, all of the Southern ones ranked the highest in the early to mid 1800s, right up to the Civil War. Ohio, Indiana and the Plains states got their highest ranks in the later half of the 19th century. The early 1900s saw the peak of the rural Heartland, while commercial powerhouses of Illinois, Michigan, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania kept rising until the 1970s. Western and southern "Sun Belt" states are still rising in ranking as of 2010, ranging from behemoths Texas and California to small, fast risers Utah, Nevada and New Mexico.

I got a question about whether or not I had to adjust data to account for the Three-Fifths Compromise.

Under the Three-Fifths Compromise, slaves and "Indians not taxed" (i.e. living on reservations) were counted as three-fifths of a whole freeman. However, the law only applied to "Representation and direct Taxes." These words are actually still in the Constitution of today. Of course, further down the page, the 14th Amendment supersedes the Compromise.

So while these groups were counted as three-fifths for those two specific purposes, when it came to the actual censuses slaves and American Indians were counted as a whole person. Therefore, there wasn't any adjusting to do after all!

  • Other maps I made: