04 March 2012

1940 Census: A 1939 Approach

I spent part of my day today taking pictures of newspapers. This is part of the collection of family archives I received last fall, and I am still, slowly, working my way through. Given the recent attention on the release of the 1940 US Census, this article quickly caught my eye. Found at random in a 1939 newspaper, it describes for the reader the history of the first census in the United States.

The transcription:

The Orting Oracle; 27 Apr 1939. Orting, Pierce County, Washington. Vol. 51, Number 24. Page 2.

“How It Started
Provision for the taking of a census of the United States every 10 years is made in the Contitution, and this was originally intended primarily for the purpose of determining how the representation in the House of Representatives should be appointed.
The first census was taken in 1790, in accordance with a bill introduced in the House by James Madison, who later became President. This simply provided for a count of the population; divided into the following classes: White males over 16, white males under 16, white females, free blacks and slaves.
Madison at first wanted to list the occupations of the people, but fear of opposition by the citizens, who might suspect that the government was trying to get a line on their income so as to levy higher taxes, caused the Senate the strike out that provision.
Six months was allowed for the taking of the first census, the total cost of which was $44,377. In some sections a good many people objected to giving the mere information concerning age, but a fairly good job was done and it was shown that the new nation had a population of 3,929,214.
The taking of the 1940 census will probably require the services of 150,000 persons, and the enumerators will be expected to complete their part of the work in 30 days. The count is expected to show a population of about 132 million, the population shown by the census of 1930 was 122,757,046.”