Strengthening New York After the Civil War

By Phineas Upham

One of the major challenges that New York faced during the Civil War, aside from unrest among citizens related to the draft, was Southern business itself. New York was growing steadily as the NYSE was rising toward its peak before the Crash of 1929, but much of that growth was fueled by Southern businesses in cotton and textiles.

New York harbor received a large benefit from these two industries, which were both based on ideals staunchly opposed by Northerners. New York found itself at odds, but the state ended up sending the highest concentration of soldiers to fight on behalf of the North. The war was devastating to the South, which threatened New York’s stability as a financial mecca.

What happened instead was transition, most likely fueled by a large influx of working class people. The Irish potato famine had driven many immigrants to New York seeking a way out of starvation and into a better life. Eastern European Jewish and Polish immigrants also came seeking the Statue of Liberty, which had become an international symbol of hope outside of America.

New York harbor quickly became the oyster capital of the United States, a title it retained well into the 20th century. Working-class citizens migrated to Buffalo and Niagara Falls, where cheap energy from hydroelectric plants made factories reasonable and inexpensive. New York even had a cheese industry established in the Mohawk Valley, with 240,000 farms by 1881.

In order for New York to survive the post-Civil War era, it needed to grow its own industry and rely on more than the New York Stock Exchange.

Phineas Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Phineas Upham website or Twitter page.