How Things Have Changed~Census, 1890

The United States Constitution in Article One, Section Two, Sub-section Three, mandates that “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers . . . . 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.” This year requires such a census. It is thirty years since the election of Lincoln and fourteen years since the election of 1876 and the country has changed. The information from this census helps us understand something of the background of the two presidential elections in this decade, that is, of 1892 and 1896. Since the Civil War the country by 1890 has become more urban, more industrial, more populous and increasing more of a player in international affairs.


population density


The census shows the total population to be 62,947,714 which is an increase of 24.9% over the census of 1880 and double the population of 1860 which was 31,443,322. Of this total population, 48.8% are female and 51.2% are male; 12.1% are under the age of 5; 23.3% ages 5 to 14; 10.5% are 15 to 19; 6.4% are 50 to 59; 3.9% are 60 to 69 years of age; 2.3% are age 70 and over. Potential male voters, that is males age 21 and over, number 16,940,311. [Only in Wyoming can women vote.]

African Americans number 7,470,040 persons, Chinese Americans number 107,475 persons, Japanese Americans number 2,039, and “civilized” Indians number 58,806. [By this term the Federal government meant Native Americans who had assimilated the dominant culture; those who practiced traditional ways or continued to speak their own languages or follow traditional religion or wore traditional clothes or hairstyles or refused “white” education or in some or many ways refused assimilation were not counted as “civilized” and often not counted at all which often led to significant under-counting of Native Americans where such smaller counts worked to the advantage of government. Of the total population, 14.8% [better than 9.3 million persons] are immigrants, born in countries other than the United States and, regardless of what year they arrived, have become citizens or are in the process of becoming citizens or simply choose to live in America. Of immigrants, 5,246,613 came to the United States from 1881 to 1890.


counting the statistics


Overall population density is 21.3 persons per square mile of land. The greatest population density is found in the New England and Middle Atlantic states. For example Massachusetts has 278.5 people per square mile, Rhode Island 318.4, Connecticut 154.6, New York 125.9, New Jersey 193.8, Pennsylvania 116.9. Southern states are less densely populated. For example, Virginia has 41.3 people per square mile, South Carolina 38.2, Georgia 31.2, Florida 7.2, Alabama 29.4. As may be expected, the least dense population is found in Western states. Montana has 0.9 people per square mile, Colorado 3.9. Along the Pacific coast, Washington has 5.2 people per square mile, Oregon 3.3 and California 7.8.

Marital status of the total population: 59.3% are single [of course this includes children under the legal age to marry], 35.7% are married, 4.7% are widows or widowers, significantly less than 1.0% are divorced, and the small remainder simply did not report their status.

The ten largest states are New York [5,997,853 people], Pennsylvania [5,258,014 people], Illinois [3,826,351 people], Ohio [3,672,316 people], Missouri [2,679,184 people], Massachusetts [2,238,943 people], Texas [2,235,524 people], Indiana [2,192,404 people], Michigan [2,093,889 people], and Iowa [1,911,806 people].

The ten largest cities are 1) New York– 1,515,301 people; 2) Chicago, Illinois– 1,099,850 people; 3) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania– 1,046,964 people; 4) Brooklyn, New York– 806,343 people; 5) St Louis, Missouri– 451,770 people; 6) Boston, Massachusetts– 448,477 people; 7) Baltimore, Maryland– 434,439 people; 8) San Francisco, California– 298,997; 9) Cincinnati, Ohio– 296,908 people; 10) Cleveland, Ohio– 261,353 people. Washington, D C is the 14th largest city with a population of 230,392. Among the 100 largest cities the ones in the South include New Orleans, Louisiana [12th with 242,039 people]; Richmond, Virginia [35th with 81,388 people]; Nashville, Tennessee [38th with 76,168 people]; Atlanta, Georgia [42nd with 65,533 people]; Charleston, South Carolina [53rd with 54,955 people]; Savannah, Georgia [69th with 43,189 people]; Dallas, Texas [#77 with 38,067 people]; San Antonio, Texas [81st with 37,673 people]; Norfolk, Virginia [88th with 34,871 people]; Augusta, Georgia [90th with 33,300 people]; and Mobile, Alabama [97th with 31,076 people]. On the Pacific coast, the largest cities include Los Angeles, California [57th in size with 50,395 people]; Oakland, California [60th in size with 48,682 people]; Portland, Oregon [61st in size with 46,385 people]; Seattle, Washington [70th in size with 42,837 people]; and Tacoma, Washington [84th in size with 36,006 people].



Of all persons over the age of 10, 48.0% are gainfully employed. Among those employed, 39.6% work in agriculture, fishing and mining; 22.4% work in manufacturing and mechanical industries; 19.2% work in domestic and personal service; 14.6% work in trade and transportation; 4.2% work in professional services. Women working outside of the home number 3,914,571; of them 69.8% are single, 16.1% are widowed and the remaining are married, except for the less than 1.0% who are divorced.

The industrial strength of the country has grown significantly. The census identified 355,415 “manufacturing establishments.”

Agriculture remains strong. The census reports that 357,616,755 acres of land are under cultivation and yield 34.3 million bushels of barley; 293 thousand bushels of buckwheat; 367.7 million bushels of corn; 401.4 million bushels of oats; 8.6 million bushels of rye; 217.5 million bushels of potatoes; 43.9 million bushels of sweet potatoes; 8.9 million bushels of wheat; 957.2 million pounds of cotton; 301.3 million pounds of cane sugar; 32.9 million pounds of maple sugar; 2.3 million gallons of molasses; 128.6 million pounds of rice; 488.3 million pounds of tobacco.

Exports and Imports:

The five major trading partners for U S exports are, in order, the United Kingdom (buying 49.2% of exports), Germany (9.4%), France (5.5%), Canada (4.4%), and Australia (1.8%). The five major partners from which the U S buys imported goods and materials are the United Kingdom (22.6% of imports), Germany (12.0%), France (9.5%), Brazil (7.2%), and Cuba (6.6%).



A total of 11,674,878 children are attending school; 1,603,806 of them attend private or parochial schools while the others attend public schools. Of all these students, 51% are male, 49% are female, 8.6% are “colored” [in which the census includes African Americans and Asian Americans], 4.4% are immigrant children [meaning that they were not born in the United States but came with their parents], and 25.3% are first generation Americans [meaning that their parents came from some other country but they themselves were born in the United States after their parents arrived]. Of the teachers who educate the children, 61.5% are white women, 2.6% are women of color, 32.5% are white men, and 3.4% are men of color. Of the children of Native Americans, 12,410 are in boarding schools and another 3,967 attend day schools. Teachers and staff at these schools are 90.3% white and 67.0% are female. Among all persons age 10 and over, a total of 47,413,559, 13.3% are illiterate. Among illiterate persons, 52.4% are female; 81.5% cannot read or write; 18.5% can read at some level but cannot write. Of all persons age 10 and over, 1,718,498 cannot speak English. [This year the 998 American colleges and universities will confer 15,539 bachelor degrees, 17.3% to women; 1,015 master’s degrees, none to women; 149 doctoral degrees, only 2 to women.]


There are 234,000 telephones or 3.7 for every 1,000 people. The 19,382 telegraph offices operate 679,000 miles of wire. [This year they will send 55,879,000 messages and generate $20,055,000 in revenues.] Mail is delivered by 62,401 post offices. [This year totaling 4,005,408,000 pieces and selling 2,219,737,000 stamps to generate $60,882,000 in revenues while expending $66,259,000 in costs.]


Railroads operate across 163,562 miles of track with 30,153 locomotives pulling 27,653 passenger cars and 987,109 freight cars. Some urban areas operate street railways [trolley or streetcar service]. These systems have 32,505 passenger cars running over 8,123 miles of track and carrying 2,023,010,202 passengers. The cities with the most miles of service are Philadelphia, Pennsylvania [276.9 miles]; Boston, Massachusetts [237.8 miles]; Chicago, Illinois [193.1 miles]; New York City [180.6 miles]; St Louis, Missouri [115.2 miles]; and New Orleans, Louisiana [112.6 miles]



This census developed the most detailed information about religious practice in the United States of any census done before 1890. In it the census takers identified 143 distinct religious bodies. For purposes of general summaries, they combined these into “denominational families” with a total number of members. The largest part of that list is as follows:

Catholics 6,257,871

Methodist 4,589,284

Baptist 3,712,468

Presbyterian 1,278,332

Lutheran 1,231,072

Episcopalian 540,509

Reformed 309,458

United Brethren 225,281

Latter Day Saints 166,125

Jewish 130,496

Friends (Quakers) 107,208

Dunkards 73,795

Unitarians 67,749

Adventist 60,911

Universalist 49,194

Mennonite 41,541

Respondents identified 142,521 edifices as buildings designated specifically for worship and an additional 23,334 halls, schoolhouses and private homes used for religious purposes. Rabbis, priests, ministers, deacons and other religious leaders total 111,036 persons.

1890 census-01~media


At the time of the census there are 1,034,073 living veterans of the United States armed forces who served in the Civil War. There are also 145,359 living widows of Civil War U S veterans. Living Confederate veterans number 432,020 along with 60,564 widows of Confederate soldiers and sailors. The greatest numbers of Union veterans live in Pennsylvania (10.7% of Union veterans), Ohio (9.8%), New York (8.3%), Illinois (6.8%), and Indiana (6.1%). The remainder are scattered among other states. The greatest number of Confederate veterans live in Texas (15.5% of Confederate veterans), Virginia (11.2%), Georgia (10.8%), North Carolina (10.2%), and Alabama (7.8%). The remainder are scattered among the other states.

Criminal Justice:

Prisons and jails hold 82,329 persons, excluding only juveniles in reformatories. White men constitute 63.9% of prisoners, men of color 28.3%, white women 5.4%, and women of color 2.4%. Of all prisoners, 54.9% are in state prisons [as distinct from workhouses, county, city or federal prisons] and 1.1% are in asylums or hospitals for the insane. Juvenile reformatories hold 14,846 offenders, 77.7% of whom are male.

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