I have here the results of the ’90 Census. You may think I’m a little tardy with this, but it took a little while to get it. Indeed, I had to settle for a copy from the second printing, in 1802. This is the 1790 census I’m talking about, our nation’s first.

Not to draw any direct connection to my recent comment on population growth, but one can’t help thinking how the country has changed since 1790 and how much of that change — though most of it is technological — has to do with population growth.

In 1790, according to the census, there were 3,893,635 inhabitants of the United States, 694,280 of whom were slaves. (Vermont counted 16 slaves among its population, all of them in Bennington County. New York had 21,324. Maine and Massachusetts had none. Virginians owned the most — 292,627, or just over 39% of that state’s total population. South Carolina, though less populous, had the highest proportion of slaves — 44%.) Add in native Americans, Hawaiians, Eskimos and the like, and the population of what are now the 50 states may have been more like 6 or 8 million (can one of you give me a better feel for this?). Today we are well over a quarter billion.

One of the things that’s striking in looking at the numbers by town is, on the one hand, how even then — 1790 — they were still the same towns as today. Islip, Brookhaven, East Hampton and South Hampton, among the towns in Suffolk County, New York, for example. Yonkers, Bedford, Scarsdale, Mamaroneck, Rye and Harrison among those in Westchester County. The other thing that strikes you is the population of those towns. Yonkers was home to 265 white adult males 16 years of age or older, 220 younger white males, 458 white females (what difference did their age make? they were women — it was not broken out), 12 “other free persons,” and 170 slaves.

For some reason, though women were not broken out by age, one of the nine columns in the town-by-town census for New York is titled “More females than males.” Blank for most towns, Pelham was noted in this column to have 8 more women than men and South Hampton, 110 more.

My first thought would have been that women would regularly outnumber men. Surely more men were lost to war and revolution than women. Could the imbalance — more men in most towns than women — be ascribed to more single men striking out, solo, to make their fortunes in the New World? In any event, the census reporters in New York apparently thought it would be worth noting where females abounded. A sort of combination census and dating guide.

And then there are the towns that have faded in significance. In Albany County (which had 3 more females than males in tiny Kattskill, but 3,191 more males than females in its remaining 20 towns — don’t you all rush to Kattskill at once), Albany itself boasted 3,498 inhabitants. But Ransselaerwicktown was more than twice as large. Ransselaerwicktown? Countywide, Albany was more populous than New York, Queens, Kings and Suffolk combined.

There were 2,376 houses in Boston, 61 in Brookline. Lexington and Concord? One hundred thirty-five houses and 293, respectively.

The second half of my little book has all the same stuff a decade later: the 1800 census. The population of Truro, on Cape Cod, had fallen from 1,193 to 1,152. But neighboring Province-Town had jumped from 454 to 812.

I would like to be able tell you what happened to those 3 surplus ladies from Kattskill, but by 1800, for some reason, Kattskill seems to have vanished from the census. One has visions of its being overrun by 3,191 males from the neighboring counties, out for whiskey and women, and basically just tearing the place apart.

Tomorrow: Fidelity Investments: Bitten by the Hand It Feeds?

 

 

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