When I was growing up in the 80’s, I had a set of 1963 World Book Encyclopedias, each of which was chock full of bar graphs and comparison charts which showed, repeatedly, that the USA had the largest, biggest, and bestest of nearly everything in the world. We had the tallest buildings, the biggest city, the largest economy, the most cars, the fastest trains, etc. However, as time has dragged on, I’ve run into an increasing list of lost “superlatives” where I was previously sure that we were the best in the world, only to find out that we’ve fallen way behind.
World’s Largest City
At the time my cherished 1963 World Book was published, New York City had a population of around 7 million, with 15 million in the metropolitan area, making it the largest city in the world. New York overtook London around 1925, with its steady stream of immigrants coming to the USA, and jobs aplenty in the booming downtown core. Heavy investment over the preceding 30 years in terms of constructing the world’s largest subway system, also made New York’s meteoric growth feasible.
But the city’s growth stagnated, having grown only incrementally to 8.5 million in the 50 years since then. Meanwhile, literally more than a score of other cities have grown past it, with New York City dropping to the 23rd largest city in the world.
World’s Largest Metropolitan Area
Living in New York for a few years, most locals seem pretty convinced they have the largest metropolis in the world. However, it’s not even CLOSE anymore.
Greater New York was, for over 60 years in the 20th century, the largest metropolis in the world. Even after Tokyo passed New York with more people inside the city limits, greater New York (including New Jersey, Connecticut, Long Island, etc) was for some years more the most populous in the world.
Now, defining a “metropolitan area” can be tricky. In the USA, cities are usually defined by an area that has people commuting to a common core city. But in China, which presently has 3 metro areas that are significantly larger than Greater New York,
World’s Tallest Building
[todo] From the 1884 construction of the first skyscraper in Chicago all the way until 1998, the tallest building in the world was ALWAYS in the United States. For 41 years (1931-1972), the tallest building in the world was the Empire State Building, and for another 24 years, the tallest building in the world was the Sears Tower in Chicago.
Now, we’re not even close. After the events of 9/11, we had every chance to show some New York chutzpah and come back from the ashes with the tallest and most ostentatious building in the world, but alas – the tallest floor you can ascend to in the USA is now behind 9 other skyscrapers the world over.
List of tallest buildings by highest occupied floor (height to roof)
|Rank||Building||City||Country||Height (m)||Height (ft)||Floors||Built||Reference|
|1||Burj Khalifa||Dubai||UAE||739.44 m||2,426 ft||163||2010|||
|2||Shanghai Tower||Shanghai||China||574.61 m||2,073 ft||121||2015|||
|3||Ping An Finance Center||Shenzhen||China||555.1 m||1,821 ft||115||2016|||
|4||Abraj Al-Bait Towers||Mecca||Saudi Arabia||530.0 m||1,740 ft||120||2012|||
|5||Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre||Guangzhou||China||530 m||1,739 ft||111||2016|||
|6||Lotte World Tower||Seoul||South Korea||497.6 m||1,633 ft||123||2016|||
|7||Shanghai World Financial Center||Shanghai||China||487.41 m||1,599 ft||101||2008|||
|8||International Commerce Centre||Hong Kong||China||479.83 m||1,574 ft||118||2010|||
|9||Taipei 101||Taipei||Taiwan||449.20 m||1,471 ft||101||2004|||
|10||Willis Tower||Chicago||United States||442.14 m||1,451 ft||108||1974|||
|11||World One||Mumbai||India||442.0 m||1,450 ft||117||2016|||
|12||Kingkey 100||Shenzhen||China||442.0 m||1,449 ft||100||2011|||
|13||Guangzhou International Finance Center||Guangzhou||China||432.00 m||1,417 ft||103||2009|||
|14||432 Park Avenue||New York City||United States||425.5 m||1,396 ft||88||2015|
|15||One World Trade Center||New York City||United States||417.0 m||1,368 ft||104||2014|
World’s Largest Subway System
World’s Largest Passenger Train Network
Largest Automobile Market in the World
World’s Fastest Internet
World’s Largest Casino City (by gambling revenue)
Seems we have many shared experiences from the 80’s. I had the Encyclopedia Britannica, thought a tad outdated. Strange how fast the world has changed in such a short period of time. Competition with the USA seems to have helped bring other nations up. But where is the effort and desire in America anymore to even want to be the best? That was a driving passion of Americans for a long time.