Manhattan Island: Aerial illustrated view, 1860

In 1860, not a single bridge connected the island of Manhattan to any of the adjacent boroughs such as Brooklyn, located across the East River. It was the beginning of the Age of Steamships, and the very earliest generation of steam- powered vessels can be seen in this aerial view. Most of today’s New York City was farmland just 150 years ago. The rapid urbanization of China in modern times repeats the same pattern as the rise of great American cities, but instead of 100 years to build them, a dozen cities in China the size and scale of Manhattan have been built in less than 20 years, some in less than 10. Seeing New York City as tall buildings surrounded by farmland demonstrates the accelerated nature of the erecting of the modern urban landscape – an acceleration difficult to imagine.