Cumberland, officially the City of Cumberland, is a western gateway city in the central neck of Maryland athwart only one of five navigable land routes west over the Allegheny Mountains and past the formidable barrier of the Allegheny Front escarpment, serving as an entry into the mid-west of the United States and through the Cumberland Narrows pass from the western slopes of the Alleghenies complex Geostructure up to the Allegheny Plateau. As such it served as a historical outfitting and staging point for westward emigrant trail migrations throughout the first half of the 1800s, allowing the settlement of the Ohio Country and the lands of the Louisiana Purchase, after the American Revolution.
It is the county seat of Allegany County, and the primary city of the Cumberland, MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area. The Cumberland, MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area is one of the poorest in the United States, ranking 305th out of 318 metropolitan areas in per capita income. At the 2010 census, the city had a population of 20,859, and the metropolitan area had a population of 103,299. Cumberland is a regional business and commercial center for Western Maryland and the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia. Historically Cumberland was known as the "Queen City," as it was once Maryland's second largest city. Cumberland Maryland is often referred to as "Where the South Begins."
Cumberland is named after the son of King George II, Prince William, the Duke of Cumberland. It is built on the site of the old Fort Cumberland, the starting point for British General Edward Braddock's ill-fated attack on the French stronghold of Fort Duquesne (located on the site of present-day Pittsburgh) during the French and Indian War. (See Braddock expedition.)
Cumberland was also an outpost of Colonel George Washington during the French and Indian War and his first military headquarters was built here. Washington later returned to Cumberland as President in 1794 to review troops that had been assembled to thwart the Whiskey Rebellion.
Cumberland was a key road, railroad and canal junction during the 19th century and at one time the second largest city in Maryland (second to the port city of Baltimore — hence its nickname "The Queen City"). The surrounding hillsides provided coal, iron ore and timber that helped supply the Industrial Revolution. In addition, the city was a major manufacturing center, with industries in glass, breweries, fabrics and tinplate. However, following World War II, it began to lose much of its industrial importance and its population declined from 39,483 in the 1940 census to fewer than 22,000 today.