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Why did New York become the financial hub of America, rather than one of the other big cities?

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I take you did look at the Wikipedia article and found no answer, yes? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_New_York_City –  Lohoris Feb 2 '12 at 13:31
@Casebash When wikipedia covers the topic so well, you may find it's better to ask a question of greater detail on a specific element of history. –  New Alexandria Nov 1 '12 at 4:26

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

There are several reasons:

  • One was historical - this was where Buttonwood Agreement was signed in 1792, starting what would later become the New York Stock & Exchange Board and eventually morphed into NYSE.

  • One was geographical. New York was one of the main Atlantic sea ports in USA, thus ensuring connections to European and especially London banking. Leaving aside Philadelphia and Boston, I think it was the only big sea port situated in a major city that was NOT in the South.

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Why would being in the south be a disadvantage? –  Casebash Feb 2 '12 at 20:33
Also, what if the Buttonwood Agreement? –  Casebash Feb 2 '12 at 20:49
@Casebash Don't cite me on this, since I'm working from memory, but the South was disadvantaged in the early days of the US and was bound on the South by the Spanish, which at the time had tenuous relations, at best. In addition, the South had tropical diseases that Europeans (at the time) were not used to, such as malaria, that made it more difficult to conduct commerce (one of the reasons African slaves, who had built some resistance to subtropical diseases, were so prized). –  Edwin Feb 2 '12 at 21:16
@Casebash - among other reasons, having the North win a war over you kinda puts a slight damper on one of the losers' cities being a financial hub candidate :) Plus, the North was a lot more industrialized –  DVK Feb 2 '12 at 21:24
@Casebash - please follow the Wiki link - the article is fairly comprehensive –  DVK Feb 2 '12 at 21:28

New York was a natural trade center for a few key reasons.

Access to Upstate NY

Upstate NY was very important place in commercial history. The settlement of New York was driven by access to beaver and other furs, and the Hudson River was the 16th century equivalent to an interstate highway, leading right to the port of New York City.

Later, as fertile land in New England was accounted for, agriculture became a huge force. The feudal-style Dutch Patroonships produced all sorts of goods, and the Schoharie Valley was called "the breadbasket of the american revolution", and much of the agricultural surplus was shipped down the river to New York. Later, the construction of turnpikes opened up the interior of Central NY, which meant more farming, more credit & banking activity in Albany and NYC and more economic activity.

Dutch Heritage

Most of the English Colonies were formed by relatively homogeneous, religiously-oriented communities. New Amsterdam was totally different -- it was a commercial venture of the Dutch West India Company. Being motivated by money vs. god, there was a diversity of religious backgrounds, languages, etc.

The Erie Canal

The construction of the Erie Canal brought New York to a whole new level -- the flow of goods from Western New York and Ohio all came through New York to be shipped all over the world.

All of this stuff created a scenario where New York City became this dense concentration point or hub for wealth and trade. Until the later half of the 20th century, this proximity made the New York metro region a premier industrial center -- which further strengthened it's role as a financial center.

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I would add that Holland was the financial centre of the Earth in 17-18th centuries. NY, having the best specialists in finances simply couldn't fail.

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Hmm... Wouldn't Holland and England be equally central? Or was the London banking dominance a product of 19th century? –  DVK Feb 3 '12 at 15:06
As I remember from the Brodel's History of the Economy, yes. –  Gangnus Feb 3 '12 at 18:59
While its good information I'm not clear on how this answers the question. –  MichaelF Feb 4 '12 at 12:38
London was not the financial cener of Europe till the middle of 18 century. For about 50 years it competed with Amsterdam. Only after the Napoleon wars did London win the leadership. Isn´t it out of topic? –  Gangnus Feb 5 '12 at 13:39
@Gangnus The Dutch business culture had a big impact on New York. I don't think that access to Dutch banking had the same type of impact. –  duffbeer703 Feb 6 '12 at 16:24

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