The principal difference between urban growth in Europe and in the North American colonies was the slow evolution of cities in the former and their rapid growth in the latter. In Europe they grew over a period of centuries from town economies to their present urban structure. In North America, they started as wilderness communities and developed to mature urbanism in little more than a century.
In the early colonial days in North America, small cities sprang up along the Atlantic Coastline, mostly in what are now New England and Middle Atlantic states in the United States and in the lower Saint Lawrence valley in Canada. This was natural because these areas were nearest to England and France, particularly England, from which most capital goods (assets such as equipment) and many consumer goods were imported. Merchandising establishments were, accordingly, advantageously located in port cities from which goods could be readily distributed to interior settlements. Here, too, were the favored locations for processing raw materials prior to export. Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Montreal, and other cities flourished, and, as the colonies grew, these cities increased in importance.
This was less true in the colonial South, where life centered around large farms, known as plantations, rather than around towns, as was the case in the areas further north along the Atlantic coastline. The local isolation and the economic self-sufficiency of the plantations were antagonistic to the development of the towns. The plantations maintained their independence because they were located on navigable streams and each had a wharf accessible to the small shipping of that day. In fact, one of the strongest factors in the selection of plantation land was the desire to have its front on a water highway.
When the United States became an independent nation in 1776, it did not have a single city as large as 50,000 inhabitants, but by 1820 it had a city of more than 10,000 people, and by 1880 it had recorded a city of over one million. It was not until after 1823, after the mechanization of the spinning had weaving industries, that cities started drawing young people away from farms. Such migration was particularly rapid following the Civil War (1861-1865).
欧洲城市增长与北美殖民地之间的主要差异在于前者城市的缓慢演变以及后者城市的快速增长。在欧洲，他们在几个世纪的时间里从城镇经济发展到现在的城市结构。在北美，它们起初是荒野社区，并在一个多世纪的时间里发展成为成熟的都市主义。 在北美早期的殖民时期，小城市沿着大西洋海岸线兴起，大部分位于美国现在的新英格兰和中大西洋各州以及加拿大的圣劳伦斯河谷下游。这很自然，因为这些地区离英格兰和法国最近，特别是英格兰，大多数资本货物（设备等资产）和许多消费品都是从这些地区进口的。因此，商品销售场所有利地位于港口城市，货物可以从那里容易地分配到内部定居点。这里也是出口前加工原料的首选地点。波士顿，费城，纽约，蒙特利尔和其他城市蓬勃发展，随着殖民地的增长，这些城市的重要性也在增加。在殖民地南方，这种情况不那么真实，那里的生活集中在大型农场，即种植园，而不是城镇周围，就像沿大西洋海岸线向北的地区一样。种植园的局部隔离和经济自给自足与城镇的发展相对立。种植园保持了独立性，因为它们位于可通航的溪流中，每个都有一个码头可供当天的小型运输。事实上，选择种植园土地的最重要因素之一是希望在水上高速公路上占据一席之地。 当美国在1776年成为一个独立的国家时，它没有一个拥有5万居民的单一城市，但是到1820年，它拥有一个超过10,000人的城市，并且到1880年它已经记录了一个超过一百万的城市。直到1823年之后，在纺纱机械化织造工业之后，城市开始吸引年轻人远离农场。在南北战争（1861-1865）之后，这种迁移特别迅速。