New York: Our Magnificent State

Volume: XIV  Pages: 492-518

New York  

(Popularly called the "Empire State"). A North Atlantic State of the United States. It lies between latitudes 40 30' and 45 1' north, longitudes 71 51' and 79 46' west, and is bounded on the northwest by Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River, which separate it from the Canadian Province of Ontario; on the north by the Province of Quebec; and on the east by the States of Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, a part of the Vermont boundary being formed by Lake Champlain. On the south the Atlantic Ocean and its arms, Long Island Sound, New York Bay, and Staten Island Sound, surround Long Island and Staten Island , which belong to the State, while the mainland portion is bounded by a part of these waters and by the States of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. On the west the boundary is completed by the latter State, together with Lake Erie and the Niagara River. New York has roughly the shape of a triangle , with the base on the Great Lakes and the apex extending down to the ocean. Its extreme length from north to south is 312 miles, and from east to west 326 miles. It ranks twenty-sixth in size among the States, its area being 49,170 square miles, of which 47,620 square miles are land surface.


The topographical features of New York are varied and complex, but a certain number of more or less well-marked physical divisions may be recognized. The great Appalachian belt first comes out upon the coast in this State. The Piedmont plain, which has such a distinctive development farther south, is here scarcely represented ; and the coastal plain is represented only by Long Island , which is low and sandy, with an average elevation of about 70 feet and a maximum of 380 feet. The first division of the mainland , covering the southeastern corner of the State, consists of the Highlands , an extension of the Highlands of New Jersey. It is a rugged region rising in some of its peaks to a height of about 1500 feet, and is pierced by the Hudson in a magnificent gorge. It falls into gentle undulations toward Long Island Sound and New York Bay. Northwest and north of the Highlands follows an extension of the Kittatinny Valley of New Jersey. This is low compared with t!
he neighboring elevations , but east of the Hudson the land rises into the Taconic Range, 2800 feet high, which runs along the eastern boundary into Massachusetts and Vermont, where its extension forms the Green Mountains. West of this Taconic region rises the extension of the Pennsylvanian part of the Appalachian system in the form of a vast plateau covering more than one-third of the State , and reaching from the Hudson to within two or three miles of Lake Erie. It is deeply eroded by river valleys lying in places over 1000 feet below the higher portions . Its eastern part rises in many peaks over 3000 feet in the wild and much dissected mountain region known as the Catskills, whose highest peak, Slide Mountain, has an attitude of 4205 feet. South of the Catskills are the Shawangunk Mountains. The average elevation of the western part of the great plateau is about 1200 feet, with some points reaching 2000 feet. Throughout its length on the north, east and southeast, it is bounded by a limestone escarpment in some places very high and abrupt, and known in the east as the Helderberg Mountain. North of this escarpment is a low-lying region, forming in the west the lake shore plain and in the east the Mohawk Valley. The latter is bounded on the north by an irregular and hilly country, which merges imperceptibly into the last great topographical region, the Adirondacks. The Adirondacks with their outlying hills cover the entire northern part of the State. Their central portion is heavily forested, and is a famous summer resort. Several of their peaks are over 4000 feet high, and Mount Marcy, the highest point in the State , has an altitude of 5344 feet.


The rivers of the State flow in all directions, and supply five main systems--The Saint Lawrence , Hudson, Mississippi, Susquehanna, and Delaware. The Saint Lawrence drainage basin is the largest in the State, but includes mostly small streams flowing into Lakes Erie and Ontario, the Saint Lawrence River, and Lake Champlain. The largest of these streams are the Genesee, the Oswego, and the Black rivers, all emptying into Lake Ontario. The second drainage basin is that of the Hudson--the only large river flowing entirely within the State. It explains in large part the commercial supremacy of New York, since through its western branch-valley of the Mohawk, through which it has been practicable to construct a canal, it opens a continuous waterway into the heart of the Continent. Even before the Erie Canal was constructed the Hudson and Mohawk valleys constituted an important trade route between the Atlantic and the Great Lakes. The Delaware and Susquehanna rivers both rise in this State, draining its south-central portion. The latter is a large river before it crosses the boundary, but is not navigable. The Mississippi system is represented only by the Allegheny River in the extreme western part of the State. Many of the rivers flow through picturesque gorges, and are broken by falls and rapids, the most noted of which, besides Niagara, are those of the Genesee at Rochester.

New York is dotted with numerous lakes celebrated for beauty. Some of them are of considerable size, and nearly all are of elongated type, formed by the damming of river valleys by glacial materials. This type appears most conspicuously in the group known as the Finger Lakes in the western part of the State. They lie nearly parallel in a north and south direction. The largest are Lakes Seneca and Cayuga, each nearly 40 miles long and from 2 to 3 miles wide. Lake Chautauqua in the extreme west and the picturesque Lake George in the extreme east are of similar formation, as is also Oneida Lake in the central portion, though the last has a width of over 5 miles, with a length of 20 miles. The Adirondack region abounds in mountain lakes of romantic beauty.


The climate of the State is of the continental rather than the insular type, though the extreme coastal regions of Long Island are somewhat tempered by the ocean. The range of temperature is nowhere as great as in the States of the Northwestern plains . The average maximum is about 100 and the minimum zero, or a few degrees below, but these figures vary much with the topography, the winters in the Adirondacks being very cold. The mean temperature for January is 30 on the coast 26 in the northwest, and 15 in the Adirondacks. The corresponding figures for July are 72, 70, and 64. The rainfall is abundant throughout the State. In the Adirondacks it is nearly 60 inches, and at New York City, 42 inches. In the rest of the State it ranges between 35 and 45 inches, being least in the northwest.


There are two areas of Archaean rocks, which probably represent the portions of the State that rose above the pre-Cambrian ocean. These are the Adirondack region of the north and the Highlands of the extreme south. Both consist of very ancient crystalline and metamorphic rocks, granites, gneisses, etc., with intruded basic rocks forming the central or Mount Marcy group of the Adirondacks. The northern Archaean area is flanked on the north by outcrops of Potsdam sandstone of the Cambrian age, and again on all sides by a narrow band of Trenton limestone, while a tongue of Lower Cambrian extends from the southern end of Lake Champlain toward the Hudson Valley. In the early Silurian Age a great upheaval connected the Adirondacks with the Highlands and raised above sea-level the regions bordering these on the west. That portion now appears as Lower Silurian slates and lime stones, running in a great curve from Lake Ontario toward Lake George, and thence south and southwestward into the Kittatinny Valley of New Jersey. On this formation the upper Silurian rests unconformably and crops out along the southern shore of Lake Ontario. The rest of the State , including the entire southwestern and south-central portion as far east as the Hudson Valley, remained submerged until the close of the Devonian Age, when, in the early Carboniferous Age, it was raised by the great Appalachian upheaval. This portion is now covered by rocks of the Devonian system, forming the great western plateau, which is terminated by the abrupt escarpment formed by the Helderberg limestone. The eastern portion of the plateau is more folded and upturned than the western, and is capped by harder sandstone, whence it remains at a higher level as the Catskill Mountains. The Upper Devonian may have been overlain by a light Carboniferous stratum; but if so, the latter has been entirely worn away, and the State contains no rocks later than the Upper Devonian, with the exception of a small area of Triassic and Cretaceous strata in the southeastern part. Glacial action has been very effective in shaping the present topography of New York, by the formation of lakes, the changing of river courses, the scooping out of some valleys, and filling in of others, and the deposition of moraine materials, these materials covering the older rock-formations in an irregular sheet from a few inches to several hundred feet in thickness, and constituting the principal soil of the State.

Mineral Resources

The coal measures, which are so extensively developed south of the boundary, are not represented in this State. There are valuable clay deposits in the lowlands around the lakes and river valleys, formed by the deposits from the larger lakes which covered those regions in Pleistocene times. The granites of the Archaean regions, the limestones of the Trenton and Niagara formations in the northwest, and the Potsdam and Catskill sandstones, especially those layers of the Hamilton group known as the Hudson River bluestone, form valuable sources of building stone. The principal metallic ore is iron, which occurs in extensive beds of magnetite and hermatite in the crystal-line rocks of the Adirondacks. Interbedded with the shales of the Upper Silurian strata south of Lake Ontario are extensive deposits of rock salt from 15 to 150 feet thick, while other minerals are found in smaller quantities in various parts of the State.


New York has no coal mines , and is in this respect in marked contrast with the sister Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The State ranks high in the stone-quarrying industry. All the more important varieties of stone , as well as industrial clays, are worked. The output of limestone in 1900 was valued at $1,730,162, the largest for any year in the decade 1890-1900. The sandstone for the same year (nearly two-thirds being bluestone) was valued at $1,467,496-also the largest value attained from 1890-1900. The annual production of granite and of marble each ranges in value from about $200,000 to $500,000. Slate is of less importance. New York produces over half of the total output of rock cement for the country, the value for 1900 being $2,045,451. Portland cement is also made. The value of the clay products for 1900 was $8,073,769-a little less than in 1890 of which over one-sixth represented pottery , and the remainder brick and tile. New York is the largest salt-producing State, the value of the product being over one-third that for the entire country. Prior to 1893 New York was exceeded by Michigan in the salt output, but it has regularly held first rank since that year. Since 1898 the annual value has been more than $2,000,000. The yield of the different kinds of iron ore in 1900 was: red hematite, 44,467 long tons; brown hematite, 44,891; magnetite, 345,714; and carbonate, 6413 long tons , the value of the entire product being $1,103,817. Petroleum and natural gas are obtained in the western part of the State. The value of the natural gas yield was greatest in 1890--$552,000. The highest subsequent figure was that for 1900--$363,367. Only one State , Wisconsin, exceeds New York in the value of its mineral waters , the total receipts being $929,038, from 44 springs reporting in 1900.


The fishery industries, like those of most of the Middle Atlantic coast States, have greatly declined in value of late. Its vessel fisheries, however, show an increase. In 1898 there were 9185 persons engaged in the industries, as against 12,246 in 1891. The value of the catch for the same year was $3,545,189, showing a decline of nearly 30 per cent, since 1891, although the amount of the catch increased during the same period. Suffolk County, on Long Island , is the foremost county in the State in fisheries. The oyster represents more than one-half of the total value. Next come menhaden, bluefish, and clams. In the counties bordering on the Hudson the fisheries are of minor importance. The chief species here are shad and alewives. The lake fisheries of New York are also of some importance. The menhaden industry has been considerably consolidated in late years. Its product in 1898 was $405,488. The value of the canned fish amounted in 1900 to $197,869.


For a long time New York was the first State in agricultural importance, and as late as 1890 was surpassed by Illinois alone in the value of farm products. In 1900, although these products had increased 51 per cent, in the decade ending with that year, the amount was exceeded in three Western States. Each decade since 1870 has witnessed a decrease in the value of farm land and farm improvements , a fact generally explained by the rise of Western competition. The area of improved land reached its maximum in New York in 1880, and declined in each of the subsequent decades. In 1900 74.3 per cent of the land area of the State was included in farms, and of this amount 68.9 per cent. was improved. The average size of farms decreased from 112.1 acres in 1850 to 99.9 acres in 1900. Tenant farming is growing in favor, and embraced in 1900 23.9 per cent. of all farms. Over one-half of
the total crop acreage is devoted to hay and forage, and exceeds the corresponding area in any other State. The importance of the dairy industry gives a special value to hay. While the total product is sometimes exceeded in other States, it generally stands first as to total value. Oats is the most important cereal and is a favorite crop in the Saint Lawrence Valley . Wheat and corn are of about equal prominence. Both regained from 1890 to 1900 a part of the very large loss of area which characterized them in the preceding decade. Only one other State rivals New York in the Production of rye and buckwheat. After hay, the potato is the most valuable farm product. The State is unapproached in the area devoted to this vegetable, and in the value of its production. New York also takes first rank in garden farming. Long Island is almost wholly devoted to this industry, for which it has the special advantage of being near to the New York market. In the production of beans the State holds second rank. In the western counties north of the watershed and in Ulster County are large fruit orchards, the apple trees constituting 70 per cent. of the total number of fruit trees in the State. Grapes are grown abundantly in the southern part of the Hudson Valley and in the lake region. Tobacco is raised in the Chemung Valley and northeastward to the eastern end of Lake Erie. Hops are a prominent crop in some of the central counties, but recently there has been a significant decrease, owing to Western competition. A large income is annually obtained from the products of floriculture. Fertilizers are very commonly used throughout the State, an average of $20 per farm being expended for them.

Stock-raising is characterized by the great prominence of dairy cows. The number of cows has increased steadily, and the dairy industry has likewise grown. In 1900 the value of dairy products constituted 30.5 per cent of the gross farm income. The receipts from the sales of milk in that year were $36,248,833, and from sales of butter, $9,868,446. From 1890 to 1900 there was a decided increase in the number of cattle and a marked decrease in the number of sheep. Poultry products are a very prominent item.

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Website: The History
Article Name: New York: Our Magnificent State
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From my collection of books: The New International Encyclopedia, Dowd, Mead and Company-New York. 1902-1905 A Total of 21 Volumes.
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