What Types of People Lived in the North American Middle Colonies?

The people living in the North American Middle Colonies were more diverse ethnically and religiously than the populations in the other colonies, and outside of the few cities, their economy was based primarily on small single-family farms, craftwork and the fur trade. In the cities, which included the ports of New York and Philadelphia, merchants exported agricultural products and imported European manufactured goods. Because of the greater degree of ethnic diversity in the Middle Colonies, there was also a greater degree of tolerance, and all white males, the majority of which were landowners, were considered equals regardless of their European descent or religion.

The Middle Colonies consisted of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The European groups that settled these colonies were primarily English, Scottish, Irish, Dutch, German and French Huguenot. Their religious affiliations were Anglican, Calvinist, Baptist and Quaker, with smaller communities of Mennonites, Amish and Presbyterians.

Labor was in short supply in the Middle Colonies, and by the mid-1700s, the slave population in the New York colony grew to about 12 percent, with a majority situated in Manhattan as house servants. Indentured servitude arrangements involving white European adolescents represented another method of overcoming the shortage of labor in the Middle Colonies. At the age of 21, their service arrangement ended and many became farmers.

Unlike the large plantations growing in the Southern Colonies, the Middle Colony farms were small, and ranged in size between 50 and 150 acres. An abundance of timber helped to develop a lumber industry in the Middle Colonies, and the textile and steel industries took root in the Pennsylvania colony. Although the Middle Colonies developed industries to a much greater extent than the Southern Colonies, they did not approach the degree of industrialization taking place in the New England Colonies.