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1890 United States Census

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1890 United States Census

1890 Census form

The Eleventh United States Census was taken June 2, 1890. The data was tabulated by machine for the first time. The data reported that the distribution of the population had resulted in the disappearance of the American frontier. Most of the 1890 census materials were destroyed in a 1921 fire.

Census questions

The 1890 census collected the following information:[1]

  • address
  • number of families in house
  • number of persons in house
  • names
  • whether a soldier, sailor or marine (Union or Confederate) during Civil War, or widow of such person
  • relationship to head of family
  • race, described as white, black, mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, Chinese, Japanese, or Indian
  • sex
  • age
  • marital status
  • married within the year
  • mother of how many children, and number now living
  • place of birth of person, and their father and mother
  • if foreign-born, number of years in US
  • whether naturalized
  • whether naturalization papers have been taken out
  • profession, trade or occupation
  • months unemployed during census year
  • ability to read and write
  • ability to speak English, and, if unable, language or dialect spoken
  • whether suffering from acute or chronic disease, with name of disease and length of time afflicted
  • whether defective in mind, sight, hearing or speech, or whether crippled, maimed or deformed, with name of defect
  • whether a prisoner, convict, homeless child, or pauper
  • home rented, or owned by head or member of family, and, if owned, whether free from mortgage
  • if farmer, whether farm is rented, or owned by head or member of family; if owned, whether free from mortgage; if rented, post office box of owner


The Hollerith keypunch was used to tabulate the 1890 census—the first time a census was tabulated by machine.

The 1890 census was the first to be compiled using methods invented by Herman Hollerith. Data was entered on a machine readable medium, punched cards, and tabulated by machine.[2][3] This technology reduced the time required to tabulate the census from eight years for the 1880 census to one year for the 1890 census.[3] The total population of 62,947,714[4] was announced after only six weeks of processing.

Significant findings

The United States census of 1890 showed a total of 248,253 Native Americans living in America, down from 400,764 Native Americans identified in the census of 1850.[5]

The 1890 census announced that the frontier region of the United States no longer existed,[6] and that the Census Bureau would no longer track the westward migration of the U.S. population. Up to and including the 1880 census, the country had a frontier of settlement. By 1890, isolated bodies of settlement had broken into the unsettled area to the extent that there was hardly a frontier line. This prompted Frederick Jackson Turner to develop his Frontier Thesis.[7]

Data availability

The original data for the 1890 Census is no longer available. Almost all the population schedules were damaged in a fire in the basement of the Commerce Building in Washington, D.C. in 1921. Some 25% of the materials were presumed destroyed and another 50% damaged by smoke and water (although the actual damage may have been closer to 15–25%). The damage to the records led to an outcry for a permanent National Archives.[8][9] In December 1932, following standard Federal record-keeping procedures, 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 accept the census records. Congress authorized destruction of that list of records on February 21, 1933, and the surviving original 1890 census records were destroyed by government order by 1934 or 1935. The other censuses for which some information has been lost are the 1800 and 1810 enumerations.

No microdata from the 1890 census survive, but aggregate data for small areas, together with compatible cartographic boundary files, can be downloaded from the National Historical Geographic Information System.

State rankings

Rank State Population
01 New York 6,003,174
02 Pennsylvania 5,258,113
03 Illinois 3,826,352
04 Ohio 3,672,329
05 Missouri 2,679,185
06 Massachusetts 2,238,947
07 Texas 2,235,527
08 Indiana 2,192,404
09 Michigan 2,093,890
10 Iowa 1,912,297
11 Kentucky 1,858,635
12 Georgia 1,837,353
13 Tennessee 1,767,518
14 Wisconsin 1,693,330
15 Virginia 1,655,980
16 North Carolina 1,617,949
17 Alabama 1,513,401
18 New Jersey 1,444,933
19 Kansas 1,428,108
20 Minnesota 1,310,283
21 Mississippi 1,289,600
22 California 1,213,398
23 South Carolina 1,151,149
24 Arkansas 1,128,211
25 Louisiana 1,118,588
26 Nebraska 1,062,656
27 Maryland 1,042,390
28 West Virginia 762,794
29 Connecticut 746,258
30 Maine 661,086
31 Colorado 413,249
32 Florida 391,422
33 New Hampshire 376,530
34 Washington 357,232
35 South Dakota 348,600
36 Rhode Island 345,506
37 Vermont 332,422
38 Oregon 317,704
39 North Dakota 190,983
40 Delaware 168,493
41 Montana 142,924
42 Nevada 47,355


  1. ^ "Library Bibliography Bulletin 88, New York State Census Records, 1790-1925".  
  2. ^ Truesdell, Leon E. (1965). The Development of Punch Card Tabulation in the Bureau of the Census: 1890-1940. US GPO. 
  3. ^ a b Hollerith's Electric Sorting and Tabulating Machine, ca. 1895 from the American Memory archives of the Library of Congress
  4. ^ "Population and Area (Historical Censuses)" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on June 24, 2008. Retrieved June 20, 2008. 
  5. ^ Dippie, Brian W. (1982). The Vanishing American: White Attitudes and U.S. Indian Policy. Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press. p. ??.  
  6. ^ Porter, Robert; Gannett, Henry; Hunt, William (1895). "Progress of the Nation", in "Report on Population of the United States at the Eleventh Census: 1890, Part 1". Bureau of the Census. pp. xviii–xxxiv. 
  7. ^ Turner, Frederick Jackson (1969). The Early Writings of Frederick Jackson Turner Compiled by Everett E. Edwards. Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press. 
  8. ^ Blake, Kellee (Spring 1996). "First in the Path of the Firemen: The Fate of the 1890 Population Census, Part 1".  
  9. ^ Blake, Kellee (Spring 1996). "First in the Path of the Firemen: The Fate of the 1890 Population Census, Part 1".  

External links

  • Historic US Census data from the U.S. Census Bureau website
  • by Columbia UniversityHollerith 1890 Census Tabulator
  • "The Fate of the 1890 Population Census" from the National Archives website
  • 1890 Census Supplement Book-Set
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