A Comparison of the
Number of Millionaires in New York City vs Buffalo New York
1880 -1910

By Martha Neri
February 26, 2019

This document was created to prove or disprove the number of millionaires in Buffalo, New York in 1900.  There are several works, in print and on online, on Buffalo’s history that state:  “The city [Buffalo] boasted sixty millionaires, twice the number in all the United States in 1850.”[1]  This is the earliest printed statement that I have been able to locate.  In context it might have been accurate for the author’s intention.  The first half of the sentence has, unfortunately, been repeated so often out of context that it has assumed factual status.   “In 1901, Buffalo had 60 millionaires, more per capita than any city in the US.” [2][3]     It just isn’t true. 

The Facts
Up to the 1880s:
“Millionaires in New York City were a rarity until 1860. “
By 1883, however, there were 352 including Wm. Steinway, founder of Steinway pianos. "The American Experience," available from the PBS Web  [4]

“In 1890, almost half (1800) the millionaires in America lived in or around New York City. In 1892, there were about 4,047 millionaires in America. [5]   New York City had 1,103 and Buffalo had 51 millionaires. [6]  The rest of New York State had 352.  The list, however, does not claim to be complete.

1  Elwin H. Powell, The Design of Discord: Studies of Anomie, Oxford University Press, 1970, p. 67
2 https://buffaloah.com/h/highlgts.html, There is no source given for this information.

3  www.43north.org, “The majority of the city’s 60 millionaires lived on the street until the end of World War II. In fact, at one point in history, Buffalo had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the United States.”

 4 site. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/carnegie/gallery/metman.html

 5 https://www.bing.com/search?q=number+of+millionaires+in+New+York+City+in+1900&go=Search&qs=n&form=QBRE&sp=-1&pq=number+of+millionaires+in+new+york+city+in+1900&sc=1-47&sk=&cvid=4E0AFB92BA57447382F46172CCD55BF7

The Tribune Monthly, Vol. VI, No.6, June 1892, p. 36, 37, 85, 88, 90.

We must have had more than 60 millionaires in Buffalo in 1900.  I have not found evidence of exactly how many there were but according to this math there must have been many more.  Suffice it say that we were growing steadily in wealth had grown from 13th largest city in 1880 to 8th in 1900.

The population of NYC in 1890 was 1,515,301.   The Tribune claims there were 1,103 millionaires.  That would have been 1 millionaire for every 1,373 residents.

In 1890 there were 255,664 residents in Buffalo.  The Tribune states 51 millionaires lived in the city.  The result would have been 1 millionaire for every 5,013 residents.

Using the same arithmetic for 1900, Buffalo had 352,387 residents and supposedly 60 millionaires.  That would have been 1 millionaire for every 5,873 residents.  Those numbers do not reflect the growth of the City of Buffalo. There were many millionaires in Buffalo in 1892 and even more by 1900.  There is no exact number but we were a very wealthy city with 352,387 residents.

Additional References on millionaires in the USA:

Richard Hofstadter. The Age of Reform: From Bryan to FDR. 1955.  New York: Random House.  “In the post- Civil War period all this was changed.  The rapid development of the big cities, the building of a great industrial plant, the construction of the railroads, the emergence of the corporation as the dominant form of enterprise, transformed the old society and revolutionized the distribution of power and prestige.   During the 1840s there were not twenty millionaires in the entire country; by 1910 there were probably twenty millionaires sitting in the United States Senate.“  [From] Sidney Ratner: American Taxation. 1942. New York, pp. 136, 275.

A Timeline of Population in New York City, Philadelphia and Chicago Buffalo, New York                                  1880, 1890, & 1900

Table 11.  Population of the 100 Largest Urban Places:  1880 
Source:  U.S. Bureau of the Census Internet Release date:  June 15, 1998
Rank | Place                             | Population |
1    New York city, NY *................  1,206,299
 2    Philadelphia city, PA..............    847,17013 
13  Buffalo city, NY...................    155,134

Table 12.  Population of the 100 Largest Urban Places:  1890 
Source:  U.S. Bureau of the Census Internet Release date:  June 15, 1998
 1   New York city, NY *................  1,515,301
 2    Chicago city, IL...................  1,099,850
11            Buffalo city, NY...................    255,664

Table 13.  Population of the 100 Largest Urban Places:  1900 
Source:  U.S. Bureau of the Census Internet Release date:  June 15, 1998

1.    New York, N.Y.
 2.    Chicago, Ill.
8.    Buffalo, N.Y.    352,387
Source: www.infoplease.com

Text Copyright 2019 Martha Neri

Page by Chuck LaChiusa in 2019
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