Who Are These Americans? The Census of 1860

Who are these Americans?

As the reader watches the war relentlessly grind on through the summer of 1862, she may ask herself, “Who are these Americans, engaging in this blood bath?” This is the first of an occasional series looking at the United States and the people on the eve of and during the Civil War.

One of the best sources for a statistical profile is the census of 1860. The Constitution of the United States in Article One, Section 2, Sub-section 3 mandates the taking of the census. “The actual enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct.”

Seal of the Census Bureau

Because Congress began meeting under the Constitution in 1789, the first census was undertaken in 1790 and subsequently every ten years.

According to the 1860 Census, the total population of the United States is 31,443,321 persons. Of the total population, there are 3,953,760 slaves and 487,970 free persons of color. There are 5,155,608 families in the country, of whom only 8% own slaves. Native Americans account for only 30,673 persons; however, this number includes only those who live in cities, towns or among white settlers. These persons are labeled “Civilized Indians.” The census estimates that there are 205,400 Native Americans who live in traditional fashion among their own nations. [There is no exact way to determine Native American population prior to European conquest but several reliable authors suggest that it may well have been 3 and 7 million in what would become the 48 contiguous states.]

About 13% of the total population were born outside of the United States.

Census Bureau Processing Center–mid nineteenth century

The median age is 19.4 years; 15.4% of the population is under age 5; 6.0% of the population is over age 60.

Women constitute 49.1% of the total population. For every 100 women between the ages of 20 and 40 there are 21.2 live births

Only 19.7% live in urban areas. Of those urban areas there only 2 with populations over 500,000; 1 with a population between 250,000 and 500,000; 6 with populations between 100,000 and 250,000; 7 with populations between 50,000 to 100,000; 19 with populations between 25,000 and 50,000 and 58 with populations between 10,000 to 25,000. On averaged there are 10.6 persons per square mile of territory.

The largest cities are:

New York, New York– 805,651

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania– 585,529

Brooklyn, New York– 266,061

Baltimore, Maryland– 212,418

Boston, Massachusetts– 177,812

New Orleans, Louisiana– 168,675

Cincinnati, Ohio– 161,014

St Louis, Missouri– 150,773

Chicago, Illinois– 109,260

Buffalo, New York– 81,129

Newark, New Jersey– 71,914

Louisville, Kentucky– 68,033

Albany, New York– 62,367

Washington, D.C.– 61,122

San Francisco, California– 59,802

one of the questionaire pages from the 1860 census

The states which will join the Confederacy include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The border states of Kentucky and Missouri will fracture and for a time each will have two state governments–one claiming to be part of the Confederacy and one claiming to be part of the Union. The western part of Virginia will break away and come into the Union as the state of West Virginia.

In the states which will join the Confederacy, of the total population in each state, that of Alabama is 45% slave, of Arkansas 26% are slaves, in Florida 44% are slaves, likewise in Georgia 44% are slaves, in Louisiana 47% are slaves, in Mississippi 55% are slaves, in North Carolina 33% are slaves, in South Carolina 57% are slaves, in Virginia 31% are slaves, in Texas 30% are slaves and in Tennessee 25% are slaves.

map of slave distribution based on 1860 census

Likewise in these states, the white male population between the ages of 18 and 45 is Alabama– 99,967; Arkansas– 65,231; Florida– 15,739; Georgia– 111,005; Louisiana– 83,456; Mississippi– 70,295; North Carolina– 115,369; South Carolina– 55,046; Texas– 92,145; Tennessee– 159, 353; and Virginia– 196,587.

In the most populous states which will remain loyal to the Union, the white male population between the ages of 18 and 45 is New York– 796,881; Ohio– 459,534; Pennsylvania– 555,172; Indiana– 265,295; Illinois– 375,026; Massachusetts– 258,419; Michigan– 164,007; California– 169,975; Iowa– 139,316; Connecticut– 94,411.

There are in the nation 65 medical schools and 54,543 physicians; 8,132 nurses [predominantly men but not totally]; 5,606 dentists and 271 midwives [mostly likely there are more, often skilled women who serve their local communities, not always for pay and who would not report the work as an occupation].

Women volunteers with the Sanitary Commission

The 387 daily newspapers have a circulation reaching 1,480,000 readers. Newspapers, magazines, books, flyers and posters are generated by 23,166 printers. Mail service is provided by 28,498 post offices. Telegraph operators number 1,956. The fairly new occupation of “photographer” has 504 practitioners. There are 6,010 book binders and 1,861 booksellers and stationers.

Of the labor force,

– 6.2 million work in agriculture

– 1.9 million in manufacturing and construction

– 940,000 in domestic service

– 170,000 in mining

– 50,000 in forestry and fisheries

In addition to the millions who work in agriculture, providing food and drink to the growing population includes the work of 40,070 grocers; 30,103 butchers; 19,001 bakers; 13,263 bar keepers; 6,307 brewers; 6,293 confectioners; 2,551 distillers; 2,261 saloon keepers; 129 wine makers.

Mining yields $4,000,000 worth of gold [in period dollars] and 9,057,000 tons of bituminous coal.

California gold miner

Railroads operate 30,626 miles of track and employ 33,567 workers. Other transportation and related workers include 34,824 teamsters; 7,553 steamboatmen; 112,357 blacksmiths; 12,728 harness makers; 10,180 coach makers; 32,693 wheelwrights; 13,392 ship’s carpenters; 2,632 boat builders; 21,640 carters; 234 ferrymen; 67,360 mariners; 2,359 sail makers; 12,756 saddlers;

Keeping the nation clothed and groomed are 101,868 “tailors and tailoresses”; 90,198 seamstresses; 38,633 laundresses; 36,178 weavers; 25,723 milliners; 11,647 hatters; 11,140 barbers; 10,175 jewelers; 4,547 watch makers; 3,120 corset makers; 2,478 shoemakers; 761 shirt makers; 753 glovers; 444 ladies “hair workers”; 419 hoop skirt makers; 261 sewing machine operators.

college women in a biology class

In education, 62.0% of white males between the ages of 5 and 19 are enrolled in school and 57.2% of while females between the ages of 5 and 19 are enrolled in school being taught by 110,469 teachers. There are somewhere between 300 and 400 colleges. The census does not enumerate them until the 1870 census. In the antebellum period there are a number of so-called “ladies-seminaries” which sometimes function at the collegiate level and others which offer basically a high school level program and some which are what would later be called “finishing schools” where well-to-do young girls are taught manners and proper “lady-like” activities. [Of today’s colleges and universities, 182 were founded before 1861 and 161 of those began as church-related colleges. ]The 1860 census lists 2500 professors and 49,993 students. There are also 5,625 music teachers.

In religion, there are 1.7 million Methodists, 0.6 million Baptists and 0.3 million Presbyterians. Clergy of all faiths total 37,329.

Rev Charles Finney–one of the most popular preachers of the period. He considered slave-owning to be a sin and refused to preach in the antebellum South

Cigarette smoking grows in popularity; Virginia and North Carolina have a total of 348 factories producing cigarettes.

Business is carried out by 124,485 clerks without typewriters or photocopiers. Slave traders, referred to in the census as “Negro traders,” number 111. However, nationwide there are 1,348 auctioneers, of whom 31.9% live in slave holding states, some of whom certainly sold slaves periodically and in the slave holding states there are 33,085 “overseers.” In period terminology, this includes people who would later come to be called “job foreman” and other such titles. But in 1860 the term predominantly signifies overseers of slaves. Only 18,610 persons in the free states are listed under this job title.

Of note there are 33,103 lawyers in the entire country which equals approximately 1 lawyer for every 950 persons. [In 1990 it will be 1 lawyer for every 330 persons, higher in places like Washington, D.C. where it will be 1 lawyer for every 25 persons.]

young lawyer Lincoln

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