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UNITED STATES CENSUS
The taking of a decennial census is authorized by the U.S. Constitution in order to determine apportionment of representation and taxation among the states. The first federal census was taken in 1790 under the direction of district marshals and the returns filed with the President (U.S. Stat. at Large, I, 101). Thereafter, the U.S. Secretary of State assumed all responsibility for census-taking.
The statutory provisions governing the taking of the census remained basically unchanged until the Census Act of 1850, which provided for the collection of additional statistics pertaining to the industry, education, and natural resources of the country (U.S. Stat. at Large, IX, 402). The new census form included six separate schedules designed to elicit information in the following areas: free inhabitants; slave inhabitants; products of industry; products of agriculture; mortality; and social statistics. The schedule of free inhabitants was expanded to include the names as well as the number of all individuals in each household (U.S. Stat. at Large, IX, 428). Also beginning with the 1850 census, supervision of census taking became the responsibility of the newly created Department of Interior.
Further modifications were made under the Census Act of 1880, which provided for the establishment of a temporary census office in the Department of Interior and the appointment of a superintendent of the Census by the President. The 1880 act further provided for specially appointed enumerators and supervisors to replace district marshals as census takers. The census office became a permanent bureau in 1902. It was transferred to the Department of Labor and Commerce in 1903, and since 1913 the Bureau of the Census has remained in the Department of Commerce.
In 1919 annual report of Director of the Bureau of Census notes that in 1918-1919 the special census date created form 1850-1880 was returned to the states origin to free up needed space in the Department of Commerce. In 1955 the population date for 1880 was also returned to the states.
1 Descriptive Inventory of the Archives of the State of Illinois.
jrf; February 14, 1989