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circles. The completed questionnaires were photographed onto microfilm with automatic cameras. The FOSDIC then "read” the blackened dots (which appeared as clear holes on the negative film) and transferred the data they represented to magnetic tape to be processed by computer at speeds that ranged from 3,000 items a minute in 1960 to 70,000 items per minute by the time the 1990 census data were tabulated.9 Collecting the data. The 1960 census was the first in which population and housing data were extensively collected by mail. The field canvass was preceded by the delivery to every occupied housing unit of a questionnaire that contained the 100-percent questions (those asked for all persons and housing units). Householders were asked to complete the questionnaire and hold it until an enumerator visited.

was in the sample, all of the household members were in the sample, too. This scheme yielded sufficient data for accurate estimates of population and housing characteristics for areas as small as a census tract (an average of 4,000 people). The only population questions asked on a 100-percent basis (name and address, age, sex, race, and since 1980, Hispanic origin, marital status, and relationship to householder), were those necessary to identify the popu lation and avoid duplication. The sampling pattern changed in later censuses. For 1970, some sample questions were asked of either a 15-percent or a 5-percent sample of households, but some were asked for both, thus constituting a 20-percent sample. There was no "split sample" for 1980, but it was used at every other household (50 percent) in places with fewer than 2,500 inhabitants and at every sixth household (17 percent) elsewhere. For Census 2000, the overall sampling rate was 1-in-6 households, but the actual sampling rate for any given geographic entity depended on its estimated population density and included four rates: 1-in-2, 1-in-4, 1-in-6, and 1-in-8 households. Reflecting the concerns of the Depression years, the 1940 census asked several questions to measure employment and unemployment, internal migration, and income. It was also the first to include a census of housing that obtained a variety of facts on the general condition of the Nation's housing and the need for public housing programs. (Prior to this, the housing data collected as part of the population censuses were generally limited to one or two items.) At the time of the 1950 census, a survey of residential financing was conducted as a related, but separate, operation with information collected on a sample basis from owners of owner-occupied and rental properties and mortgage lenders. Similar surveys accompanied subsequent censuses. There also were surveys of components of housing change with the 1960, 1970, and 1980 censuses (but not 1990, when the survey was scheduled for 1989 and 1991). These measured the quantitative and qualitative impact of basic changes that occurred in the Nation's housing stock during the previous decade. The survey also offered a measure of "same" units, i.e., the preponderant part of the housing inventory that was not affected by the basic changes. (The first survey of this type had been a key part of the National Housing Inventory in 1956.)

The sample items were on a different questionnaire. In urban areas, containing about 80 percent of the Nation's population, the enumerators carried questionnaires contain ing the sample population and housing questions for every fourth housing unit. If the units were occupied, the householders were asked to fill out the sample questionnaires themselves and mail them to the census district office. The enumerators completed the questionnaires for vacant units. When these questionnaires were received in the district offices, the responses were transcribed to the special FOSDIC schedules. In rural areas, the enumerators obtained the sample information during their visits, and they recorded it directly on FOSDIC schedules. The 1970 census marked the use nearly everywhere of separate, FOSDIC-readable household questionnaire5-approximately 70 million of them-rather than the large schedules that contained information for four or more households. Thus, respondents could mark the appropriate answer circles on their questionnaires, which then could be processed directly without transcription. Subsequent censuses were taken principally by mail-approximately 60 percent of the population in 1970, 90 percent in 1980, and 94 percent or more in 1990 and 2000. The questionnaires contained the 100-percent and, where appropriate, sample questions. In areas where the mailout/mailback procedure was used, enumerators contacted, either by telephone or personal visit, only those households that had not returned questionnaires or had given incomplete or inconsistent answers. For the remainder of the population, most of which was located in rural areas or small towns, postal carriers left a census form containing the 100-percent questions at each residential housi ing unit on their routes. An enumerator visited each of these households to collect the completed questionnaires

Processing. The major innovation of the 1950 census was the use of an electronic computer-the Universal Automatic Computer I (UNIVAC 1)—the first of a series delivered in 1951 to help tabulate some of the census data. Nearly all of the data processing was done by computer in the 1960 census. Beginning in 1960, census data were tabulated with the aid of the film optical sensing device for input to com puters (FOSDIC)—an electronic device for "reading" the data on questionnaires. Special questionnaires were designed on which the answers could be indicated by marking small

9 The FOSDIC was replaced for Census 2000 with mark and optical character recognition (OMR and OCR) equipment.


Measuring America the country's industrial and military potential), free White males under 16 years, free White females, all other free persons (by sex and color), and slaves. It is presumed that the Secretary of State (Thomas Jefferson), acting under the authority of the President, sent the marshals within each state, copies of the census act, and the required inquiries1o. The marshals then incorporated these inquiries into "schedules” of their own design.

and ask the additional questions for any household or housing unit in the sample. These procedures were continued, with modifications, for 1990 and 2000. In many rural areas, the enumerators, rather than the postal carriers, delivered the questionnaires and asked that they be completed and mailed back. In some inner-city areas, the enumerators took address lists with them, checked for additional units, and enumerated any persons they found living there. Publishing. For 1970, extensive discussions with census data users led to a major increase in the amount of statistics tabulated, especially for small areas. As part of the 1970 census program, the Census Bureau published 100percent (but not sample) data for each of 1.5 million census blocks (including all blocks in urbanized areas), as compared with 1960, when block data were provided for 750,000 blocks within the city limits of places with 50,000 or more inhabitants. For 1980, there were data for 1.8 million blocks, with the population limit lowered to include incorporated places with populations of 10,000 or more; several states were “blocked" in their entirety. For 1990 and 2000, the block statistics program was expanded to cover the entire country, or approximately 7.5 million blocks. The 1970, 1980, and 1990 population and housing census data appear in series of printed reports either on paper or microfiche, or both-similar to those issued after the 1960 census, with accompanying maps, where appropriate. In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau issued public-use microdata tapes, usually containing much more detail than the printed reports, for users with computer access. After 1980, some data were made available on diskettes, online, through commercial computer networks, and by 1990, on CD-ROMs. Following Census 2000, data were released via the Internet, on CD-ROMs, computer-assisted "print-ondemand," and for some publications, the traditional printed volumes.

The Second Census: 1800 A February 28, 1800, act provided for the taking of the second census of the United States, which included the states and territories northwest of the Ohio River and Mississippi Territory. The guidelines for the 1800 enumeration followed those of the first enumeration, except that the work was to be carried on under the direction of the Secretary of State. The enumeration was to begin, as in 1790, on the first Monday in August, and conclude in 9 calendar months. The marshals and secretaries were required to deposit the returns of their assistants, which were to be transmitted to the Secretary of State (not the President as in 1790), on or before September 1, 1801.

INDIVIDUAL HISTORIES OF THE UNITED STATES CENSUSES The First Census: 1790 The first enumeration began on Monday, August 2, 1790 little more than a year after the inauguration of President Washington and shortly before the second session of the first Congress ended. The Congress assigned responsibility for the 1790 census to the marshals of the U.S. judicial districts under an act that, with minor modifications and extensions, governed census-taking through 1840. The law required that every household be visited and that completed census schedules be posted in "two of the most public places within (each jurisdiction), there to remain for the inspection of all concerned ..."and that "the aggregate amount of each description of persons" for every district be transmitted to the President. The six inquiries in 1790 called for the name of the head of the family and the number of persons in each household of the following descriptions: Free White males of 16 years and upward (to assess

The Third Census: 1810 The third census, taken by the terms of an act of March 26, 1810, stipulated that the census was to be “an actual inquiry at every dwelling house, or of the head of every family within each district, and not otherwise" and commenced on the first Monday of August. The results of the 1810 census were published in a 180page volume. Data for the population were presented by counties and towns in the northern sections of the country (except New York, which was by counties only), and in Ohio, Kentucky, and Georgia. The returns for the southern states were limited to counties. Territories were generally returned by counties and townships. No additional details concerning the population were collected by the census; however, an act of May 1, 1810, required marshals, secretaries, and assistants to take (under the Secretary of the Treasury), "an account of the several manufacturing establishments and manufactures within their several districts, territories, and divisions." The marshals collected and transmitted these data to the Secretary of the Treasury at the same time as the results of the population enumeration were transmitted to the Secretary of State. No schedule was prescribed for the collection of industrial data and the nature of the inquiries were at the discretion of the Secretary of the Treasury. An act of May 16, 1812, provided for the publication of a digest of manufactures containing data on the kind, quality,

1° Carrol D. Wright and William C. Hunt, The History and Growth of the United States Census. Government Printing Office: Washington, DC, 1900. p. 17.

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129 1840), the enumeration began on June 1, 1840. Marshals were to receive two copies of the census receipts from enu. merators by November 1, 1840, one of which was to be sent to the Secretary of State by December 1, 1840. Again, as a result of delays, the deadlines for assistants and marshals were extended to May 1 and June 1, 1841, respectively. (The January 14, 1841 act extending these deadlines also provided for the re-enumeration of Montgomery County, Maryland, (due to discrepencies in the reports), to begin on June 1, 1841, and to be completed, with receipts returned, by October 1, 1841.) No population questionnaire was prescribed by the Congress-the design of the questionnaire was left to the discretion of the Secretary of State, and closely followed that used in 1830. The law did specify the inquiries to be made of each household. The Seventh Census: 1850

and value of goods manufactured, the number of establishments, and the number of machines of various kinds used in certain classes of manufactures. The report, containing incomplete returns covering these items for more than 200 kinds of goods and included several items that were principally agricultural, was published in 1813. The Fourth Census: 1820 The fourth census was taken under the provisions of an act of March 14, 1820. The enumeration began on the first Monday of August, and was scheduled to conclude within 6 calendar months; however, the time prescribed for completing the enumeration was extended to September 1, 1821. The 1820 census act required that enumeration should be by an actual inquiry at every dwelling house, or of the head of every family within each district. As in 1810, the 1820 census attempted to collect industrial statistics. Data relating to manufactures were collected by the assistants, sent to the marshals, and then transmitted to the Secretary of State at the same time as the population returns. The report on manufactures presented the data for manufacturing establishments by counties, but the results were not summarized for each district and an aggregate statement was compiled as a result of incomplete returns. (The poor quality of manufacturing data was blamed partly on insufficient compensation for the collection of the data and the refusal of manufacturers to supply it). The Fifth Census: 1830 Prior to the passage of the census act authorizing the fifth census in 1830, President Adams, in his fourth address to the U.S. Congress on December 28, 1828, suggested the census commence earlier in the year than August 1. He also proposed that the collection of age data should be extended from infancy, in intervals of 10 years, to the "utmost boundaries of life". These changes were incorporated into the census act of March 23, 1830. As in the previous census, the enumeration was made by an actual inquiry by the marshals or assistants at every dwelling house, or, as the law stated, by "personal” inquiry of the head of every family, and began on June 1 (instead of the first Monday of August as in previous censuses.) The assistants were required to transmit their returns to the marshals of their respective districts by December 1, 1830. Marshals filed these returns and the aggregate counts for their respective districts to the Secretary of State, by February 1, 1831. However, because of delays in the compilation of the census returns, the filing date was extended to August I, 1831.

In March 1849, Congress enacted a bill establishing a census board, whose membership consisted of the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Postmaster General, This board was "to prepare and cause to be printed such forms and schedules as may be necessary for the full enumeration of the inhabitants of the United States; and also proper forms and schedules for collecting in statistical tables, under proper heads, such information as to mines, agriculture, commerce, manufactures, education, and other topics as will exhibit a full view of the pursuits, industry education, and resources of the country." The Congress also authorized the creation of the Department of the Interior in March 1849, and part of the enabling act provided that the Secretary of the Interior should "exercise all the supervisory and appellate powers now exercised by the Secretary of State in relation to all acts of marshals and others in taking and returning the census of the United States." The seventh census was governed by the provisions of an act of May 23, 1850, which directed that six schedules be used to collect the information requested by the Congress. The enumeration began on June 1, 1850, and was to be completed, with the results returned to the Secretary of the Interior by November 1, 1850. The Census Board prepared and printed six schedules for the 1850 census as follows:

• Schedule No. 1 - Free Inhabitants.

• Schedule No. 2 - Slave Inhabitants.

The 1830 census concerned the population only. No attempt was made to collect additional data on the Nation's manufactures and industry. The Sixth Census: 1840 The sixth census was governed by the same general provisions of law as in 1830. Under the provisions of an act of March 3, 1839 (and amended by an act of February 26,

• Schedule No. 3 - Mortality. This schedule collected data

including name, age, sex, color, and place of birth-on persons having died during the year ending June 1, 1850. Additional data were collected on constitutional and mari. tal status; profession, occupation, or trade; month of death; disease or cause of death; number of days ill; and any suitable remarks.


Measuring America collected data on agricultural production for the year ending June 1, 1850.

The 1870 census commenced on June 1, 1870, and was taken under the provisions of the census act of May 23, 1850.12

The Secretary of Interior appointed General Francis A. Walker Superintendent of the Ninth Census on February 7, 1870.13 Although the 1870 Census was under the 1850 act, a new bill approved on May 6, 1870, made the following changes: • The marshals were to submit the returns from "schedule

1" (free inhabitants) to the Census Office by September 10, 1870. All other schedules were to be submitted by October 1, 1870. The 1850 law authorizing penalties for refusing to reply to the inquiries was expanded to apply to all inquiries made by enumerators. Redesigned schedules used for 1870 and the omission of a "slave" schedule made possible several additional inquiries as follows:

Schedule No. 5 - Products of Industry. This schedule collected data on the products of industry for the year ending June 1, 1850, and applied to all forms of productive industry, including manufactures (except household manufactures), mining, fisheries, and all kinds of mercan

tile, commercial, and trading businesses. • Schedule No. 6 - Social Statistics. This schedule collected

aggregate statistics for each subdivision enumerated on the following topics: valuation of real estate; annual taxes; colleges, academies, and schools; seasons and crops; libraries; newspapers and periodicals; religion;

pauperism; crime; and wages. Each of these schedules was supplemented by printed instructions in which the intention of each inquiry was explained. In addition, each assistant was supplied with a "sample" schedule that had been completed the way the Census Board had intended. Each schedule included a space at the head for the entry of the name of the civil division for which the enumeration was made and the date on which the inquiries were completed. Assistants were required to sign each completed schedule. Joseph C.G. Kennedy supervised the enumeration and compilation of census data at the end of the 1850 Census. He served as "Secretary of the Census Board from May 1, 1849 to May 31, 1850, before being appointed Superintendent Clerk, by the Secretary of the Interior. Kennedy was succeeded as Superintendent Clerk by James D. B. De Bow, on March 18, 1853. Upon completing the compilation of census results, De Bow resigned the office on December 31, 1854, and the census office was disbanded. The Eighth Census: 1860 The Eighth Census of the United States was authorized by the previous census May 23, 1850 act. On the recommendation of the Secretary of the Interior, the provisions of this act were to be “adhered to, following the requirement for the taking of the eighth, or any subsequent census under its provisions, if no law, therefore, was passed before January 1 of the year in which the census was required.'1" By an act of May 5, 1860, a clerical force was provided for the census office and on June 1, 1860, and Joseph C. G. Kennedy was appointed Superintendent. The census office, and the position of Superintending Clerk were (for all practical purpose) abolished in May 1862. A portion of the clerks engaged in census work were transferred to the General Land Office, where the work of the 1860 census was completed, including the publication of a two-volume census report, under the direction of the Commissioner of the General Land Office.

Schedule No. 1 - General Population Schedule. This schedule collected data from the entire population of the United States. Schedule No. 2 - Mortality. This schedule collected data on persons who died during the year. In addition to the 1860 inquiries, inquiries were modified to include Schedule l's additions to collect data on parentage and to differentiate between Chinese and American Indians. Inquiries concerning "free or slave" status and "number of days ill” were discontinued. Schedule No. 3 - Agriculture. The 1860 inquiries were used with additional requests for (1) acreage of woodland, (2) production of Spring and Winter wheat, (3) livestock sold for slaughter, (4) total tons of hemp produced, (5) total wages paid, (6) gallons of milk sold, (7) value of forest products, and (8) estimated value of all farm productions.

Schedule No. 4 - Products of Industry. Using the 1860 schedule as a basis, additional information was requested on (1) motive power and machinery, (2)

12 Although a Congressional committee stated that the 1860 Census had been "the most complete census that any Nation has ever had," it was recognized that the 1850 act was inadequate to meet the changing conditions in which the 1870 Census would need to be conducted. A special committee of the U.S. House of Representatives (Second Session, Forty-First Congress) investigated and reported on the need for a new census act. The committee's report was submitted as a bill on January 18, 1870. This bill was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, but defeated in the Senate, compelling the use of the 1850 Census act.

13 General Walker was one of several "experts" participating in the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee deliberations on the 1870 Census. Prior to being appointed Superintendent of the Ninth Census, Walker was Chief of the Bureau of Statistics, which then was an agency within the Treasury Department.

Wright and Hunt, p. 50.

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Each supervisor was responsible for recommending the organization of his district for enumeration, choosing enumerators for the district and supervising their work, reviewing and transmitting the returns from the enumerators to the central census office, and overseeing the compensation for enumerators in each district.

Schedule No. 4 - Social Statistics. Section 18 of the March 3, 1879, census act made the collection of social statistics the responsibility of experts and spe. cial agents, not the enumerators. Although some data were collected by enumerators using the general population schedule (Schedule No. 1), the majority of the data were collected through correspondence with officials of institutions providing care and treatment of certain members of the population. Experts and special agents also were employed to collect data on valuation, taxation, and indebtedness; religion; libraries; colleges, academies, and schools; newspapers and periodicals, and wages.

Each enumerator was required by law "to visit personally each dwelling house in his subdivision, and each family therein, and each individual living out of a family in any place of abode, and by inquiry made of the head of such family, or of the member thereof deemed most credible and worthy of trust, or of such individual living out of a family, to obtain each and every item of information and all the particulars." In case no one was available at a family's usual place of abode, the enumerator was directed by the law "to obtain the required information, as nearly as may be practicable, from the family or families, or person or persons, living nearest to such place of abode." The 1879 census act also provided for the collection of detailed data on the condition and operation of railroad corporations, incorporated express companies, and telegraph companies, and of life, fire, and marine insurance companies (using Schedule No. 4 - Social Statistics). In addition, the Superintendent of Census was required to collect and publish statistics of the population, industries, and

Schedule No. 5 - Relating to Manufactures. In addition to the inquiries made in 1870, this schedule contained new inquiries as to the greatest number of hands employed at any time during the year, the number of hours in the ordinary work day from May to November and November to May, the average daily wages paid to skilled mechanics and laborers, months of full- and part-time operation, and machinery used.

Special agents were charged with collecting data on specific industries throughout the country, and included the manufactures of iron and steel; cotton, woolen, and worsted goods; silk and silk goods;


Measuring America

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