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 the entry into the Appalachian portion of Maryland, and 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.