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Bureau of the Census.


Decennial censuses, 1790-1900. - Before the adoption of the Constitution, which provided for a decennial enumeration on which to base representation and direct taxation, estimates of the colonial population had been purely conjectural. The first enumeration after the establishment of our present form of government was made, under the act of March 1, 1790, by United States marshals, who made their returns to the President. Each marshal was empowered to employ as many assistants as he deemed necessary. The decennial enumerations continued to be made by United States marshals and their assistants until and including the census of 1870. Beginning with the Second Census (1800), the Secretary of State had general supervision, until the establishment of the Department of the Interior (1849), when the Census Office was placed under that Department, where it remained until 1903. On July of that year, under the act approved February 14, 1903, it was transferred to the Department of Commerce. By order of the Secretary, dated July 1, 1903, the name "Bureau of the Census'' was adopted.

In January, 1800, two learned societies memorialized Congress to enlarge the scope of the census inquiries, and Congress provided for the collection, at the Third Census (1810), of certain industrial Statistics upon schedules prepared by the Secretary of the Treasury. At this enumeration "an actual inquiry at every dwelling house" was prescribed.

At the Fourth Census (1820) a limited number of industrial and occupation statistics were gathered. The Fifth Census (1830) related to population only, and for the first time uniform printed schedules were used. The Sixth Census (1840) extended its inquiries to occupations of the people and included industrial and commercial statistics. The census of 1840 marks the beginning of an effort to make the decennial enumeration the instrument for ascertaining something beyond the mere number of persons of each sex and the number; embraced within each of certain broad age groupings. Prior to that census nothing had been done systematically to show the growth and development of the country's industries and resources.

The Department of the interior took up the supervision of the census in 1849, the first to be taken under its direction being the Seventh Census (1850). At this census six schedules were used, relating, respectively, to (1) free Inhabitants, (2) slave inhabitants, (3) mortality, (4) productions of agriculture, (5) products of industry, and (6) social statistics. This radical enlargement of the statistical field covered marks an epoch in the history of census taking in the United States.

The Eighth (1860) and Ninth (1870) Censuses were taken under the act of May 23, 1850, which provided for and governed the Seventh Census, The work of the Eighth Census was completed under the Commissioner of the General Land Office. Tallying machines were first used in the Ninth Census.

In 1869 and 1870 a special committee of Congress investigated in detail census needs, and the report of its chairman, General Garfield, formed the groundwork of the Tenth Census.

An unsuccessful effort to establish a quinquennial census was made in 1875.

The Superintendent of Census was first appointed by the President, by and with the advise and consent of the Senate, at the Tenth Census (1880), the duties pertaining to this position having theretofore been discharged by a superintending clerk or superintendent, appointed by the head of the Department to which the Census Office was attached. At this census (1880) the services of United States marshals were dispensed with, and supervisors of census were appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, the supervisors, in turn, nominating enumerators in their respective districts. The tallying machines introduced at the Ninth Census were again employed at time census of 1880.

Provision was made in the census act of 1880 for an inter-decennial census, in 1885, by any State or Territory, the Federal Government to bear a portion of the expense. Three States and two Territories availed themselves of this opportunity.

The census of 1880, in the variety of its investigations and in completeness of detail, marks the beginning of the third era in census taking in this country. The enumeration's prior to 1850 had in effect amounted to little more than a count of the population, and its classification according to sex and broad age groups, though some advance along the line of industrial statistics had been made. The three censuses taken under the law of 1850, although decided improvements over the earlier enumerations, were deficient in many respects. The census of 1880, by reason of the changes made in the methods of supervising and collecting data, and of the employment of experts to make special investigations, enabled the Nation to knew more accurately the facts concerning its population, wealth, industries, and varied resources.

The census of 1890 was taken along the same comprehensive lines as the preceding census. It use not intended originally to follow the plan of the Tenth Census, but the law of March 1, 1889, under which the Eleventh Census was taken, supplemented by later legislation requiring information as to "farms, homes, and mortgages, " resulted in practically as many different subjects of inquiry. The work of the census was assigned to a divisions, each devoted to some special branch or feature. An electrical system of tabulation was used for the first time in compiling the statistics relating to population and mortality and to crime, pauperism, and benevolence. The work was completed by the Commissioner of Labor, by direction of Congress.

The census of 1900 was taken under the act of March 3, 1899, by which the Director of the Census was given entire control of the work, including the appointment of the statisticians, clerks, and other employees of the Census Office. The decennial work was limited to inquiries relating to population, mortality, agriculture, and manufactures, but provision was made for the collection of statistics relating to various special subjects after the completion of the decennial work. This division of the work constituted a radical departure from the course pursued at the censuses of 1880 and 1890, at which the effort was made to carry on, practically simultaneously, the work relating to twenty or more distinct subjects of investigation. The general reports of the Twelfth Census, comprised in ten quarto volumes, were published, in conformity with the requirements of the census act, on or before July 1, 1902, or within two years from the date set for the legal termination of the enumeration work. The system of electrical tabulation, introduced at the Eleventh Census, was again employed in the work of the Twelfth, after a competitive test, and was utilized to advantage in the tabulation of the statistics of population, mortality, and agriculture.

Establishment of permanent bureau. - The necessity for the establishment of a permanent statistical bureau to which the work of the decennial census might also be entrusted was recognized, indirectly at least, as early as 1845, and recommendations for the establishment of a national bureau of statistics were embodied in the annual reports of the Secretary of the Interior for the years 1860 to 1865, inclusive.

Similar suggestions were made at later dates for the establishment of a central bureau of statistics at Washington, but no direct action toward providing for a permanent census office, as such, was taken by Congress until February 16, 1891, when the Senate directed the Secretary of the Interior to consider and report on the expediency of the establishment of a permanent census bureau. No final action in the matter was taken by Congress, however, and nothing more was done until March 19, 1896, when the Commissioner of Labor was directed to report to Congress for its consideration, as soon as practicable, a plan for a permanent census service. The Commissioner of Labor, under date of December 7, 1896, reported, as thus directed, a tentative organic administrative act by which a census office, independent of any of the executive departments, was to be established, leaving the details of the Twelfth and subsequent censuses to the officers having them, respectively, in charge. Nothing came of this effort, however, and no provision was made for a permanent census office until the passage of the act of March 6, 1902, which made permanent, after June 30, 1902, the Census Office temporarily established by the act of March 3, 1899. The act approved July 2, 1909 (36 Stat., 1), entitled "An act to provide for the Thirteenth and subsequent decennial censuses,'' and several later acts of varying though loss importance, amplified considerably the duties of the Bureau and constitute the larger part of the law under which it now operates.

Work of the Bureau.

The Bureau of the Census is charged with the duty of taking the decennial censuses of the Rutted States, of making certain other statistical investigations at regular intervals, and of collecting such special statistics as may be authorized by law from time to time. The last decennial census (1910) covered the subjects of population, manufactures, mines and quarries, and agriculture. An intermediate census of manufactures is taken in the fifth year after the decennial census. The act establishing the permanent Census Bureau requires that, after the completion of the regular decennial census, the Director of the Census shall decennially collect statistics relative to the defective, dependent, and delinquent classes; crime, including judicial statistics pertaining thereto; social statistics of cities; public indebtedness, expenditures, and taxation; religious bodies; transportation by water, and express business; savings banks and other savings institutions; mortgage, loan, and similar institutions; and the fishing industry, in cooperation with the Bureau of Fisheries. Every five years statistics must be collected relating to street and electric railways, electric light and power stations, and the telephone and telegraph industries. Biennially the Official Register of the United States is prepared and published. Annual statistics must he gathered relating to births and deaths in States and cities maintaining efficient registration systems; the finances of cities having a population of 30,000 and over; the production and distribution of cotton; and the quantity of leaf tobacco on hand.

The carrying on of these inquiries involves the collection of the necessary data by mail or by personal visits of employees to individuals and commercial establishments; the subsequent assembling, tabulation, and compilation of the information secured; and the publication in reports of tables setting forth the data, with comparisons, percentages, averages, textual comment, maps, and diagrams. These reports form a list of publications which in the course of ten years comprises upward of 400 unbound or paperbound bulletins of a more or less temporary character, and over 50 bound quarto volumes.

The following brief statement conveys only a superficial idea of the work involved in carrying on the functions mentioned:

Decennial census of population. - The last decennial census was taken as of April 15, 1910. The general methods are as follows: Data concerning each individual with regard to name, sex, color or race, age, marital condition, nativity, citizenship, language, occupation, education, etc., are collected and transferred to printed schedules by enumerators who make a house-to-house canvass under the direction of supervisors. These schedules are then forwarded to the Bureau. The office work consists of the following steps: (1) A count of the population direct from the schedules for the purpose of calculating the pay of the enumerators, and in order that, after subsequent careful examination of the schedules to determine their accuracy, the population of the various localities and States, and ultimately of the United States as a whole, may be announced as promptly as possible; (2) such editing of the schedules as is necessary to prepare them for the punching clerks, particularly with reference to the returns of mother tongue and occupation; (3) the punching of a card for each individual making up the population, showing, by the positions of the punched holes, all the facts appearing on the schedule concerning him, this work being done by means of a machine; (4) the verification of the cards by means of electrical machines which automatically reject cards in which any of the required holes have not been punched or in which the holes are inconsistent with each other, and the correction of such rejected cards; (5) the sorting of the cards by means of electrical sorting machines into main groups, as determined, for example, by sex, color, or nativity, several different sorting; being required at the different stages of the work; (6) the tabulation of the data indicated on the cards by means of electrical tabulating machines, it being necessary to run the cards through the machines several times in order to take off all of the data; (7) the compilation of the statistics for publication.

Decennial census of agriculture. - A separate schedule is provided for each individual farm and contains numerous questions pertaining to the farm and its productions, including name and address of farmer and his color or race, country of birth, and age; acreage, value, and tenure of farm; number and value of domestic animals; quantity and value of live stock products; and acreage, quantity, and value of crops. These data are collected and transferred to the schedules by the enumerators of the population census, and are tabulated in the office by the aid of adding machines.

Decennial census of mines and quarries. - This inquiry is made by the Bureau of the Census its collaboration with the United States Geological Survey, which collects annual statistics of mineral production. The investigation covers, among other items such matters as geographic distribution of industry; nature statistics of organization; value of products; capital invested; expenses of operation and development; number, sex, and age of persons engaged; hours of labor; land tenure; and power. The information is collected on schedules by special agents or by clerks detailed from the office, a general schedule for all establishments, as well as numerous special-industry schedules, being used. The statistic on the schedules are examined in the office and are tabulated by the use of adding machines.

Quinquennial census of manufactures. - This census covers all manufacturing establishments conducted under what is known as the factory system, exclusive of so-called neighborhood, household, and hand industries, but including steam laundries. By a special provision of the Thirteenth Census Act, retail slaughtering establishments are also canvassed in order to secure an enumeration of animals slaughtered for food and of hides procured. The inquiry as to manufactures covers character of ownership of the establishment; number, sex, and age of wage earners and other persons engaged; and capital, wages, cost of material, other expenses, and value of products. Additional data are also ascertained with regard to the quantities of the principal products manufactured and of the principal materials used This information is collected and tabulated in substantially the same manner as that obtained in the mines and quarries inquiry.

Biennial Preparation of Official Register of the limited States. - The Official Register is published about December 1 of each year in which a new Congress assembles, and relates to the preceding July 1. In it are listed, by name, in alphabetical order, all Federal civilian employees except those in the Postal Service. Limited data as to office in which employed, salary, legal residence, etc., are included.

Annual inquiries. - The collection of statistics of cities involves the abstracting, from the office records of municipalities having a population of 30,000 and over, of data relating to the total expenditures for city government and for specified public services and objects, the revenue derived from all sources and from each specified source, and the amount and character of municipal debt. The information is secured on schedules by employees sent from the Bureau to the various cities, the results being compiled in the office. Special inquiries as to the operations of particular branches of city administration - such as those in charge of schools, of parks, of sewers, etc. - are made from time to time.

The work of gathering statistics of births and this involves the receipt and recording of transcripts of the original certificates thereof, furnished by persons selected for the purpose by the State and city authorities. The transcripts are tabulated in the office by methods similar to these used in the population census. The greater part of this work is in connection with death statistics, which are compiled so as to show general and suicide death rates; summaries of deaths, by causes, sex, and race by color and nativity, by urban and rural localities; and average death rates in States and cities.

The cotton statistics assembled by the Bureau are collected in the cotton-producing States by local agents, and elsewhere by mail or by employees detailed from the office. The results of the canvas's are issued in the form of annual reports on the production, distribution, and consumption of cotton and cottonseed products; monthly reports showing cotton consumed and on hand in manufacturing establishments and warehouses; ten summaries showing amount of cotton ginned, compiled during the cotton-ginning season from telegraphic reports; and three summaries, compiled during the crushing season, showing amounts of cotton seed crushed and linters obtained.

A semiannual statement is issued showing the amount of leaf tobacco on hand in factories and warehouses.

Geographer's division. - The work of properly and economically dividing the country into enumeration districts, and of preparing maps, etc., to accompany and illustrate reports, is performed by a staff of employees under the charge of the geographer.

Mechanical appliances. - The mechanical appliances used in the census work include a large number of punching, sorting, and tabulating machines, many of which have been devised and wholly or partially constructed, or have been modified, by the mechanical force of the Bureau. This work, with that of maintaining the machines in operation, calls for a considerable amount of expert service, the constant aim being to produce improvements with a view to economizing and accelerating the work of the machines. The mechanical equipment used during the Thirteenth Census included 200 hand punching, machines, 300 electric punching machines, 17 card-carting machines, 96 card-tabulating machines, and over 350 adding machines.


The organization of the Bureau is of a twofold nature - one for intercensal years, the other comprising a largely expanded force during decennial "census periods." The former is provided for by the act of March 6, 1902, establishing the permanent office, and is modified from time to time by annual appropriation acts. Special provision is made by Congress for the expanded force during the census period, which covers three years beginning on July 1 of the year preceding that in which the enumeration is made.

The permanent force may, briefly, be said to consist of a Director, chief clerk, geographer, four chief statisticians, eight chiefs of division, a small number of expert special agents, and such clerks and mechanical and sub-clerical employees as may be authorized. The total force at present is approximately 600. There is also a force of special agents, numbering about 750, who are residents of the cotton-growing States, and whose duties (which are occasional) consist of collecting statistics of cotton ginned, consumed, and on hand in their respective localities.

The force during the census period is expanded by the addition of a few officials, such as an Assistant Director, an appointment clerk, and a disbursing clerk, and a large number of employees in the clerical and sub-clerical grades. During the Thirteenth Census period this force in Washington reached a maximum of nearly 4,000. Supervisors and enumerators, to the numbers of approximately 330 and 70,000, respectively, were also employed for the actual enumeration in the field.

The force of the Bureau during either census or intercensal periods is divided into groups, according to the nature of the inquiries which constitute its main functions. These groups during a census period are as follows: (1) Administrative force; (2) Division of Population; (3) Division of Agriculture; (4) Division of Statistics of Cities; (5) Division of Manufactures; (6) Division of Vital Statistics (7) Division of Publication; (8) Division of Revision and Results; (9) Geographer's Division; and (10) mechanical force. The work of these divisions is sufficiently indicated by their designations. Their strength, except in the ease of the administrative force, varies considerably from time to time, as the amount of work devolving on the divisions increases or decreases.

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