New York, the ' empire state' of the American Union, is the twenty-fifth in area and the first in population. It has a very irregular outline; two-thirds along the shores of Lake Erie, the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, the St Lawrence, and Lake Champlain, and the rest artificial straight lines. Area, 49,170 sq. m., or almost that of England. Long Island is the largest, and Manhattan, containing the most populous part of New York City, the most important of the many islands. The state is traversed by numerous chains of mountains and hills, among which lie beautiful valleys. There is also much rolling land, and there are several extensive plains. The greatest elevations are in the E. and NE., but nearly all the SE. part is hilly or mountainous. From this highland region the land slopes gradually, and declines in a series of terraces, north and west toward Lake Ontario. The most level portions are those bordering that lake and the St Lawrence River. The mountainous region in the east is cut by the gap of the Mohawk River. The narrow valley of this stream, once traversed by a mighty river which drained the great Ontario basin, joins at right angles the deep depression in which are Lake Champlain, Lake George, and the Hudson River. Both of these valleys pass directly through the Appalachian system of mountains, and divide the state into three distinct sections. The mountains are also disposed in three groups. The Adirondacks (highest point, Mount Marcy, 5400 feet), in the NE., are completely isolated by the valleys of Lake Champlain and the Mohawk River. South of the Mohawk valley are the Catskills with the Helderberg and Shawangunk Mountains, covering an area of about 500 sq. m. The Shawangunk Mountains are continuous with the Blue or Kittatinny Mountains of Pennsylvania. The Taconic range of New England enters the state still farther south, and passes south-westerly into New Jersey. This range is cut by the Hudson River, and forms the celebrated Highlands. There are extensive iron-mines, deposits of lead, copper, zinc, etc, and abundance of building-stones. The salt-springs, especially those of the Onondaga salt group, are of great value. There are also valuable petroleum springs, and mineral and medicinal springs.
The most important river belonging entirely to the state is the Hudson. The Oswego, draining a chain of central lakes, the Black, and the Genesee are affluents of Lake Ontario; the St Lawrence forms part of the northern boundary ; the Niagara connects Lakes Erie and Ontario, and the Delaware, the Susquehanna, and the Alleghany rise within and drain the southern portions of the state. New York lies mainly in the lake region of North America, and claims the eastern part of Lake Erie, one-half of Lake Ontario, and one-half of Lake Champlain. Lake George and the Adirondack lakes are in the NE. The mountains, rivers, lakes, and waterfalls (including Niagara) of New York make it famous for its scenery. Other beautiful falls are the Falls of the Genesee, Trenton Falls, the Kaaters-kill Falls in the Catskills, and those of Cohoes, Ticonderoga, and at Watkin's Glen. The average temperature is about 47° F., with a range of over 100°. More than one-half the area is under cultivation. In the lake valleys there are many vineyards ; hops and tobacco are crops ; near New York and the other large cities market-gardening is profitable. But manufacturing is the leading industry, and in the value of its manufactured products New York is the foremost state of the Union. Moreover, its geographical position and its natural avenues of communication with other parts of the country, together with the system of canals and railroads, make it the leading commercial state. Of several canals the Erie is the most important, and within the state there are nearly 8000 miles of railway.
Before the coming of the whites the territory now known as New York was occupied by the Iroquois Indians. Almost simultaneously, in 1609, Samuel Champlain discovered the lake which bears his name, and Henry Hudson explored the Hudson River as far as the present site of Albany. A few years later settlements were made by the Dutch, but they were looked upon as intruders by the English, who in 1664 forced them to surrender their city of New Amsterdam (New York City, q.v.). In the struggle for independence, in the war of 1812, and in the civil war New York played a prominent part. No other state has so many large cities and thriving towns. New York City is the centre of a thickly populated district, which is second only to London in the number of its people and the importance of its commercial interests. The other most important cities are Albany (the capital), Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Troy, Utica, Yonkers, Binghamton, Schenectady, Auburn, Elmira, Oswego, Kingston, Poughkeepsie, Cohoes, Newburgh, Hudson, and Dunkirk. Pop. (1800) 589,051 ; (1850) 3,097,394; (1880) 5,082,871; (1900) 7,26S,S94.