South Street and Brooklyn Bridge, New York City, c. 1901.

In New York City, South Street in lower Manhattan was a central place for trade when this photo was taken in 1901. With the Brooklyn Bridge in the background, workers load and unload goods from ships in the harbor. From the markets for these goods, cities became creators of jobs in manufacturing, trade, and retail. New York was the nation’s largest port, but all major cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans, Chicago and Boston, became gateways for the export and import of goods.


African-American fruit vendors at the Sixth Street Market,
Richmond, Va., 1908.

Also essential to city life are the local markets that sell goods in the neighborhood.
The high levels of density that historically characterized neighborhood life in the city led to the increased importance of local markets to provide goods and services based on the needs of the ethnic groups that lived in that neighborhood. East Asian immigrants today travel to Flushing, Queens, to find food, clothing, and other products from their homelands that they often cannot find in larger stores that cater to the general population.

Queens County has the most diverse population of any
county in the U.S. and the Queens neighborhood of Flushing
has a strong concentration of Asians. Here, a Korean-
American vendor sells vegetables on a Flushing street, 2008.

But not all markets are local, and cities are also international centers of finance and banking. Stock, bond, commodity, and currency markets are all headquartered in
cities where much capital is raised for investment in the world economy. The density of the city provides the concentration of human capital, technology, and services that facilitate the functioning of markets in the ever more complex global economy.


The floor of the New York Stock Exchange
hums with activity in January, 2001.