1790 United States census

August 2, 1790 (1790-08-02) 1800 →

Title page of 1790 United States census
General information
CountryUnited States
AuthorityOffice of the United States Marshal
Results
Total population3,929,214
Most populous ​stateVirginia (747,610)
Least populous ​stateDelaware (59,094)

The 1790 United States census was the first United States census. It recorded the population of the whole United States as of Census Day, August 2, 1790, as mandated by Article 1, Section 2, of the Constitution and applicable laws. In the first census, the population of the United States was enumerated to be 3,929,214 inhabitants.[1][2]

Congress assigned responsibility for the 1790 census to the marshals of United States judicial districts under an act, which with minor modifications and extensions, governed census taking through the 1840 census. "The law required that every household be visited, that completed census schedules be posted in 'two of the most public places within [each jurisdiction], there to remain for the inspection of all concerned...' and that 'the aggregate amount of each description of persons' for every district be transmitted to the president."[3]

Contemporary perception

Both Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and President George Washington expressed skepticism[4] over the results, believing that the true population had been undercounted. If indeed an undercount was the result, possible explanations for it include dispersed population, poor transportation links, limitations of contemporary technology, and individual refusal to participate.[5]

Questions

Column Title[6]
1 Name of the head of family
2 Number of free white males age 16 and over
3 Number of free white males under age 16
4 Number of free white females
5 Number of all other free persons
6 Number of slaves

Loss and availability of data

Although the census was proved statistically factual, based on data collected, the records for several states (including Delaware, Georgia, New Jersey, and Virginia) were lost sometime between 1790 and 1830.[7] Almost one-third of the original census data have been lost or destroyed since their original documentation. These include some 1790 data from: Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Vermont; the validity and existence of most of these data, though, can be confirmed in many secondary sources pertaining to the first census.[8]

No microdata from the 1790 population census are available, but aggregate data for small areas, together with compatible cartographic boundary files, can be downloaded from the National Historical Geographic Information System.[9]

Data

Under the direction of the Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, marshals collected data from all thirteen states (Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts including the District of Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia), and from the Southwest Territory.[3] The census was not conducted in Vermont until 1791, after that state's admission to the Union as the 14th state on March 4 of that year. (From 1777 until early 1791, and hence during all of 1790, Vermont was a de facto independent country whose government took the position that Vermont was not then a part of the United States.)

At 17.8 percent, the 1790 census's proportion of slaves to the free population was the highest ever recorded by any census of the United States.[10]

State or territory
Free white males of 16 years and upward[a]
Free white males under 16 years
Free white females[a]
All other free persons
Slaves
Slaves % of state population
Total
% of U.S. population
Vermont[11][12] 22,435 22,328 40,505 255 16[b][13] 0.0% 85,539[c] 2.2%
New Hampshire[14][12] 36,086 34,851 70,160 630 158 0.1% 141,885 3.6%
Maine[15][12] 24,384 24,748 46,870 538 0 0.0% 96,540 2.4%
Massachusetts[16][12] 95,453 87,289 190,582 5,463 0 0.0% 378,787 9.8%
Rhode Island[17][12] 16,019 15,799 32,652 3,407 948 1.4% 68,825 1.7%
Connecticut[18][12] 60,523 54,403 117,448 2,808 2,764 1.2% 237,946 6.0%
New York[19][20][12] 83,700 78,122 152,320 4,654 21,324 6.3% 340,120 8.6%
New Jersey[12] 45,251 41,416 83,287 2,762 11,423 6.2% 184,139 4.6%
Pennsylvania[21][12] 110,788 106,948 206,363 6,537 3,737 0.9% 434,373 11.0%
Delaware[12] 11,783 12,143 22,384 3,899 8,887 15.0% 59,094[d] 1.5%
Maryland[22][12] 55,915 51,339 101,395 8,043 103,036 32.2% 319,728 8.1%
Virginia[23][12] 110,936 116,135 215,046 12,866 292,627 39.1% 747,610[e][24][12] 18.9%
Kentucky[12] 15,154 17,057 28,922 114 12,430 16.9% 73,677 1.9%
North Carolina[25][12] 69,988 77,506 140,710 4,975 100,572 25.5% 393,751 9.9%
South Carolina[12] 35,576 37,722 66,880 1,801 107,094 43.0% 249,073 6.3%
Georgia[12] 13,103 14,044 25,739 398 29,264 35.5% 82,548 2.1%
Southwest Territory[12] 6,271 10,277 15,365 361 3,417 9.6% 35,691 0.9%
Total 813,365 802,127 1,556,628 59,511 697,697 17.8% 3,929,326 100%
  1. ^ a b Heads of families were included.
  2. ^ The census of 1790, published in 1791, reports 16 slaves in Vermont. Subsequently, and up to 1860, the number is given as 17. An examination of the original manuscript allegedly shows that there never were any slaves in Vermont. The original error occurred in preparing the results for publication, when 16 persons, returned as "Free colored", were classified as "Slave". But this claim is disputed by at least one historian.
  3. ^ Corrected figures are 85,425, or 114 less than figures published in 1790, due to an error of addition of several towns.
  4. ^ Corrected figures are 59,096, or 2 more than figures published in 1790, due to error in addition.
  5. ^ The figures for Virginia do not include the population of Kentucky. Though Kentucky was then a part of Virginia, the Kentucky figures were compiled separately, and are shown on the line for Kentucky. The Virginia figures do include the portion of Virginia that later became the state of West Virginia.

City rankings

Commemorative pitcher with census results
Rank City State Population[26][27] Region (2016)[28] Population (2022)
1 New York New York 33,131 Northeast 1,596,273 [Manhattan only]
2 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 28,522 Northeast 69,433 (2020)

[Center City only]

3 Boston Massachusetts 18,320 Northeast 650,706
4 Charleston South Carolina 16,359 South 153,672
5 Baltimore Maryland 13,503 South 569,931
6 Norwalk Connecticut 11,942 Northeast 91,401
7 Northern Liberties Pennsylvania 9,913 Northeast
8 Salem Massachusetts 7,921 Northeast 44,722
9 Newport Rhode Island 6,716 Northeast 24,684
10 Providence Rhode Island 6,380 Northeast 189,563
11 Marblehead Massachusetts 5,661 Northeast 20,233
12 Southwark Pennsylvania 5,661 Northeast
13 Gloucester Massachusetts 5,317 Northeast 29,836
14 Newburyport Massachusetts 4,837 Northeast 18,662
15 Portsmouth New Hampshire 4,720 Northeast 22,713
16 Sherburne Massachusetts 4,555 Northeast 14,421
17 Middleborough Massachusetts 4,526 Northeast 24,376
18 New Haven Connecticut 4,487 Northeast 138,915
19 South Kingstown Rhode Island 4,131 Northeast 32,056
20 Taunton Massachusetts 3,804 Northeast 59,922
21 Lancaster Pennsylvania 3,762 Northeast 57,453
22 Richmond Virginia 3,761 South 229,395
23 Albany New York 3,498 Northeast 100,826
24 New Bedford Massachusetts 3,313 Northeast 100,682
25 Beverly Massachusetts 3,290 Northeast 42,235
26 Smithfield Rhode Island 3,171 Northeast 21,987
27 Danbury Connecticut 3,031 Northeast 86,967
28 Plymouth Massachusetts 2,995 Northeast 64,269
29 Norfolk Virginia 2,959 South 232,995
30 North Kingstown Rhode Island 2,907 Northeast 27,802
31 Andover Massachusetts 2,863 Northeast 36,363
32 Rochester New Hampshire 2,857 Northeast 33,169
33 Petersburg Virginia 2,828 South 33,394
34 Alexandria Virginia 2,748 South 155,525
35 Farmington Connecticut 2,696 Northeast 26,728
36 Hartford Connecticut 2,683 Northeast 120,686
37 Londonderry New Hampshire 2,622 Northeast 26,543
38 Gilmanton New Hampshire 2,613 Northeast 3,945 (2020)
39 Hudson New York 2,584 Northeast 5,826

References

  1. ^ US Census Bureau, Census History Staff. "1790 Fast Facts - History - U.S. Census Bureau". www.census.gov. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  2. ^ Bureau, US Census. "1790 Census: Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790". Census.gov. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  3. ^ a b US Census Bureau, Census History Staff. "1790 Overview - History - U.S. Census Bureau". www.census.gov. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  4. ^ US Census Bureau, Census History Staff. "1790 Overview - History - U.S. Census Bureau". www.census.gov. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  5. ^ Bureau, US Census. "U.S. Marshals Overcame Hardships and Challenges to Count 3,929,214 People in a Young America". Census.gov. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  6. ^ "1790 Census: Heads of Families". U.S. Census Bureau.
  7. ^ Dollarhide, William (2001). The Census Book: A Genealogists Guide to Federal Census Facts, Schedules and Indexes. North Salt Lake, Utah: HeritageQuest. p. 7.
  8. ^ "1790 Census". 1930 Census Resources for Genealogists.
  9. ^ "About IPUMS NHGIS | IPUMS NHGIS". www.nhgis.org. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  10. ^ "Slave, Free Black, and White Population, 1780-1830". userpages.umbc.edu. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  11. ^ Census, United States Bureau of the (1907). Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: Vermont. U.S. Government Printing Office. ISBN 978-0-87152-015-9.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Free and Slave Populations by State (1790)". Teaching American History. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  13. ^ "Slavery in Vermont". slavenorth.com. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  14. ^ Census, United States Bureau of the (1907). Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: New Hampshire. Clearfield Company, Incorporated.
  15. ^ Census, United States Bureau of the (1908). Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: Maine. U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  16. ^ Census, United States Bureau of the (1908). Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: Massachusetts. U.S. Government Printing Office. ISBN 978-0-87152-021-0. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  17. ^ Census, United States Bureau of the (1907). Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: Rhode Island. U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  18. ^ Census, United States Bureau of the (1908). Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: Connecticut. U.S. Government Printing Office. ISBN 978-0-87152-362-4. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  19. ^ Census, United States Bureau of the (1908). Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: New York. U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  20. ^ Heads of families at the first census of the United States taken in the year 1790: New York . Washington, Govt. Print. Off. 1907.
  21. ^ Census, United States Bureau of the (1908). Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: Pennsylvania. U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  22. ^ Census, United States Bureau of the (1907). Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: Maryland. U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  23. ^ Census, United States Bureau of the (1908). Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: Virginia. U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  24. ^ Census Office, United States (1909). "A Century of Population Growth from the First Census of the United States to the Twelfth, 1790–1900". p. 47.
  25. ^ Census, United States Bureau of the (1908). Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: North Carolina. U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  26. ^ Population of the 100 Largest Cities and Other Urban Places in the United States: 1790 to 1990, U.S. Census Bureau, 1998
  27. ^ "Population of Connecticut Towns 1756–1820". Connecticut Secretary of the State. State of Connecticut. Archived from the original on January 13, 2017. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
  28. ^ "Regions and Divisions". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on December 3, 2016. Retrieved September 9, 2016.

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