To be writing about this topic may appear to be a bit strange for a historical society, but there is a method to the madness. Let us start out with the history of the United States Census.
Taken from smithsonianmag.com, the Census-taking in the United States dates all the way back to March 1, 1790, when a census was one of the first things that Congress instructed the new government to do. In authorizing the census… lawmakers were complying with Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which required the federal government to conduct a census of the U.S. population every 10 years, The first census asked just six questions: the name of the (white, male) householder, and then the names of all the other people in the household, divided into these categories: Free white males who were at least 16 years old; free white males who were under 16 years old; free white females; all other free persons; and slaves. The census reflected the values of the United States in 1790: “Slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person. Indians weren’t counted until 1870.
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 first time Tyrone was counted for the census was in 1860, the 8th census conducted. At that time the following questions were asked:
There were multiple questionnaires used for the 1860 census, including a separate slave questionnaire (which collected the same information as in 1850). Listed by column, the free inhabitant questionnaire collected the following information:
- Number of dwelling homes in order of visitation by the enumerator
- Number of family in order of visitation by the enumerator
Enumerators could mark “W” for Whites, “B” for Blacks, or “M” for Mulattos.
- Profession, Occupation, or Trade of each person, male and female, over 15 years of age
- Value of person’s real estate
- Value of person’s personal estate
- Place of birth
Enumerator could list the state, territory, or country of the person’s birth
- Was the person was married within the last year?
- Did the person attend school within the last year?
- If the person was over 20 years of age, could he not read or write?
- Was the person deaf and dumb, blind, idiotic, pauper, or convict?
According to that census the population of Tyrone was “1723 free whites and 43 free colored people.” Besides the questions mentioned previously there was a tremendous amount of additional data collected.
The collectors looked at agriculture by county. They recorded the types of crops grown and the amount harvested. The numbers of livestock by type was also recorded.
Under the area of manufacturing it also was looked at by county. The number one manufacturing process in Blair County in 1860 was the Flour and Meal industry with 35 businesses established. The number two industry was Blacksmithing (17 businesses) followed by Iron and leather production (11 each). The number employer in Blair County was the Iron Industry.
Another category was religion. Each denomination was listed by county with the number of people attending.
One final sub-division of the 1860 census was Death. This area was documented by county, listing 19 age groups. Under each group, it recorded the number of deaths by disease type.
Looking back to this census it must have been a monumental task to record all the data considering most of the collection in this area would have been done on horseback.
Now let us jump back to the 2020 census and why it is so important. Three of the board members of the Tyrone Area Historical Society are also elected officials to the Tyrone Borough Council. Last evening, we heard a presentation from the regional census center stressing the importance of this endeavor. We were told that besides collecting data on the numbers of people in Tyrone what these numbers further generated. The amount of federal funding available to each state is based on its recorded population. Presently there are over 250 federally funded programs where the dollars received are based on population. To mention a few: Medicaid, Medicare Part B, Highway planning and construction, Special Education Grants, Children’s Health Insurance program, National School Lunch Program, Head Start, Low income Home Energy Assistance, and Child Care and Development funding.
The total amount of funding received by Pennsylvania has exceeded $26 billion. That is a tremendous amount. Now let us look at this number on an individual basis. Per capita this breaks down to $2,000 per person that is counted in the census. Going further, let’s look at a family of five, where the head of the household does not respond to the Census request. The equals $10,000 of lost funding potential per year for the next ten years or $100,000. Why should we as Pennsylvanians allow that money to go to another state?
The census is “the nation’s largest civilian exercise,” for Science. The census costs more than $10 billion to conduct and it provides a good portion of the demographic information that the federal government uses to allocate funds. The upcoming 2020 census represents the first time that the census will be able to be filled out online, rather than on paper.
We were told that first each household will receive a postcard asking them to go on-line and complete the questionnaire. For those who do not have a computer a telephone number is also provided. Both of these methods are safe. And I can’t stress safe enough. A few weeks later those who did not respond will receive a paper questionnaire via mail. It is only after this opportunity is missed that employees of the census department will come knocking on your door. We were told that the entire process will take less than 10 minutes.
The bottom line is for each one of us to standup and be counted.
This way we can help each other.