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Federal and early American: 1784-1854
New York City became the first capital of the newly formed United States on September 13, 1788 under the U.S. Constitutional Convention. On April 30, 1789 the first President of the United States, George Washington, was inaugurated at Federal Hall on Wall Street. New York City remained the capital of the U.S. until 1790, when the honor was transferred to Philadelphia.
New York grew as an economic center, first as a result of Alexander Hamilton's policies and practices as the first Secretary of the Treasury and, later, with the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. After the Revolutionary War thousands of mostly New England Yankees moved into the city. Their numbers were such that by 1820, the city had far outstripped its pre-War population, was largely middle class with a growing upper-class, and was fully 95% of American born heritage. Its economy was a vigorous artisan and craftsman society second to none in the United States while its banking and commercial sectors were fast becoming dominant in the country as a whole. From 1800-1840 the city grew in wealth and power and never again would the city have such a substantially stable society of American born citizens.
It was into this stable Protestant middle class American society of stockbrokers, guildsmen, bankers, artisans, craftsmen, merchants, shippers, porters, and shopkeepers, and well paid laborers, all operating in an early republican environment of volunteer firefighters, watchmen, and other civic organization that thousands of mostly illiterate unskilled Catholic Irish fleeing the rural depression of their homeland disembarked onto New York City in the 1840s. The Irish Potato Famine brought a large influx of Irish immigrants, and by 1850, the Irish comprised one quarter of the city's population. Government institutions, including the New York City Police Department and the public schools, were established in the 1840s and 1850s to respond to growing demands of residents.
The social change was an earthquake. Lacking the bureaucratic civic structure of today, the city's infrastructure built as it was a volunteer network of similar minded individuals collapsed. Partisan networks developed to protect neighborhoods of native Americans from the Irish, and the Irish formed gangs to protect themselves. Crime rose as competing ethnic volunteer groups vied for control of the municipal patronage and its utility networks of fire, sanitation, garbage, and police.
Tammany Hall began to grow in influence with the support of many of the immigrant Irish, culminated in the election of the first Tammany mayor, Fernando Wood, in 1854.
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