This time history takes us back to the 1600’s when the first Census was taken in Virginia. People were counted in nearly all of the British colonies that became the United States at the time of the Revolutionary War. Of course there was census in Bible times, directed to be taken by God to various men.
Following independence, there was an almost immediate need for a census of the entire Nation. Both the number of seats each state was to have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the states’ respective shares in paying for the war were to be based on population. Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, adopted in 1787.
Our Founding Fathers had concluded that the states’ wishes to report fewer people in order to lower their shares in the war debt would be offset by a desire for the largest possible representation in Congress. Thus, the census would be fairly accurate.
The First U.S. Census—1790
Shortly after George Washington became President, the first census was taken. It listed the head of household, and counted (1) the number of free White males age 16 and over, and under 16 (to measure how many men might be available for military service), (2) the number of free White females, all other free persons (including any Indians who paid taxes), and (3) how many slaves there were.
The Expanding Censuses...
Down through the years, the Nation’s needs and interests became more complex. This meant that there had to be statistics to help people understand what was happening and have a basis for planning. The content of the decennial census changed accordingly. For example, the first inquiry on manufactures was made in 1810; it concerned the quantity and value of products. Questions on agriculture, mining, and fisheries were added in 1840; and in 1850, the census included inquiries on social issues—taxation, churches, pauperism, and crime. The censuses also spread geographically, to new states and territories added to the Union as well as to other areas under U.S. sovereignty or jurisdiction. There were so many more inquiries of all kinds in the censuses of 1880 and 1890 that almost a full decade was needed to publish all the results. Although the census furnished large quantities of statistics, it was failing to provide information when it was most needed. Accordingly, Congress limited the 1900 census to questions on population, manufactures, agriculture, and mortality. Many of the dropped topics reappeared in later censuses as advances in technology made it possible to process and publish the data faster. quantities of statistics, it was failing to provide information when it was most needed. Accordingly, Congress limited The 1900 census to questions on population, manufactures, agriculture, and mortality. Many of the
dropped topics reappeared in later censuses as advances in technology made it possible to process and publish the data faster.
To read additional information check out: http://www.census.gov/history/index.html