Aleteia logoAleteia logoAleteia
Tuesday 06 June |
Saint of the Day: St. Norbert
Aleteia logo
Art & Culture
separateurCreated with Sketch.

What did the first US census look like?



J-P Mauro - published on 08/15/17

Only 6 questions long and delivered on horseback

What can God do in your life with one Bible verse a day?
Subscribe to Aleteia's new service and bring Scripture into your morning:
Just one verse each day.
Click to bring God's word to your inbox

August 2, 1790 was the day the United States first implemented a census. reminds us that back in those days census takers were sent riding on horseback across the 13 original states, as well as the districts of Kentucky, Maine and Vermont and the Southwest Territory (now Tennessee). This is a far cry from the upcoming 2020 census, which will be the first census made available to fill out online.

There were many things that our budding nation determined based on the results of the first census. Jeremy Norman from explains:

“The results were used to allocate Congressional seats … electoral votes and funding for government programs.” The United States Census Bureau also acknowledges that the precise enumeration of free white males was intended “to assess the country’s industrial and military potential.”

The results revealed that, in 1790, there were 3.9 million people living in the US, a figure which surprised Washington and Jefferson, who were expecting more. Of course, there probably were a lot more people than the report showed, since slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person and Native Americans were not counted at all until the 1870s.

While the census was only 6 questions long in 1790, it grew to 53 questions long by 2000. The most recent census in 2010 attempted to return to the original format and was shortened to 10 questions. The upcoming 2020 census is expected to be about the same length.

Support Aleteia!

Enjoying your time on Aleteia?

Articles like these are sponsored free for every Catholic through the support of generous readers just like you.

Thanks to their partnership in our mission, we reach more than 20 million unique users per month!

Help us continue to bring the Gospel to people everywhere through uplifting and transformative Catholic news, stories, spirituality, and more.

Support Aleteia with a gift today!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Entrust your prayer intentions to our network of monasteries

Top 10
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.