1890 United States Census

The Eleventh United States Census was taken June 2, 1890. Unfortunately, most of the 1890 census was destroyed in 1921 during a fire in the basement of the Commerce Building in Washington, D.C. The 1890 census announced that the frontier region of the United States no longer existed and therefore the tracking of westward migration would no longer be tabulated in the census. This trend prompted Frederick Jackson Turner to develop his milestone Frontier Thesis.

The 1890 census was the first to be compiled on a tabulating machine, developed by Herman Hollerith. [http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/mcc:@field(DOCID+@lit(mcc/023)) Hollerith's Electric Sorting and Tabulating Machine, ca. 1895] from the American Memory archives of the Library of Congress] This introduction of technology reduced the time taken to tabulate the census from eight years for the 1880 census to one year for the 1890 census. The total population of 62,947,714 [cite web |url=http://www2.census.gov/prod2/statcomp/documents/1991-02.pdf |title=Population and Area (Historical Censuses) |publisher=United States Census Bureau] was announced after only six weeks of processing. The public reaction to this tabulation was disbelief, as it was widely believed that the "right answer" was at least 75,000,000.

The logistical difficulties in compiling the census drove computing technology for the next fifty years until computers became widespread in industry. IBM's first electronic computer was created primarily to deal with the needs of the census in addition to military and academic uses.

This census is one of the three for which the original data is no longer available. Almost all the population schedules were damaged in a fire in 1921, with 25% destroyed and 50% damaged by smoke and water damage. The damage to the records led to an outcry for a permanent National Archives. In December of 1932, according to standard Federal record keeping procedure at the time, the Chief Clerk of the Bureau of the Census sent the Librarian of Congress a list of papers to be destroyed, including the original 1890 census schedules. The Librarian was asked by the Bureau to identify any records which should be retained for historical purposes but the Librarian did not except the census records. Congress authorized destruction of that list of records on February 21, 1933 and thus the 1890 census remains were destroyed by government order by 1934 or 1935. The other censuses that have lost almost all information were the 1800 and 1810 enumerations.Fact|date=November 2007

References

External links

* [http://www.census.gov/population/www/censusdata/hiscendata.html Historic US Census data] from the U.S. Census Bureau website

* [http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1996/spring/1890-census-1.html] from the National Archives website


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