Monday, August 2, 2010

1790 ~ The First Census USA

On August 2, 1790, Federal representatives fanned out across the original 13 states, tabulating information on American households, just as they have every 10 years since. The information was used to estimate taxes, assign congressional representation and generally make demographic sense of U.S. society.

The enumerators (census takers) counted 3,929,326 people (later revised to 3,929,214 by some counts), “excluding Indians not taxed.” Of those counted, nearly 700,000 were slaves.

In Maryland, Virginia and South Carolina, slaves outnumbered free white men. Vermont, population 85,539, reportedly contained 16 slaves, a number later corrected to zero.

New York and Philadelphia were the new nation’s big cities, with 33,000 and 28,000 inhabitants respectively.

A complete set of the schedules for each state, with a summary for the counties, and in many cases for towns, was filed in the State Department, but unfortunately they are not now complete, the returns for the states of Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Virginia having been destroyed when the British burned the Capitol at Washington during the War of 1812.

You can read more on the Census Department's web site at

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