National Geographic : 1959 Nov
Great-grandfather seeks information about himself. James C. Kelly, 86-year-old immigrant from England, consults Ruth Fitzwater, a clerk at Suitland, regarding his status in a previous census. Confi dential files help those lacking birth certificates to qualify for pass ports, pensions, and citizenship. Mr. Kelly, a resident of Washington, D. C., has 9 children, 20 grandchildren, and 9 great-grandchildren. asks for a population figure as of that date, and any deaths and births occurring after ward must wait till the next time. The Departments of Defense and State and other Federal agencies cooperate with census by forwarding questionnaires to military fami lies or to civilians assigned abroad. Through the Maritime Administration, masters of ships in port and on the high seas collect the nec essary information from crews and officers. Transients Sought in Special Hunt Next year, on the night before D-day, and again 10 days later, two great nocturnal hunts will be carried out all over the country. On March 31, called T- (for transient) night, census representatives will descend 708 on hotels, motels, trailer camps, YMCA's-any place housing temporary lodgers. In addition to conducting personal inter views, they will distribute "T-cards" to be filled in by incoming and outgoing guests. The other supplemen tary hunt, on M- (for mis sion) night, calls for spe cial ingenuity and tact. Then squads of enumera tors will comb skid-row flophouses, mission shel ters, and the shantytowns on the edges of cities. In 1950 more than 1,250,000 transients and floaters were counted across the country. An average enumerator finishes his job in 10 days to two weeks. By the end of the month virtually all cards and questionnaires are in. Then comes the hardest part. Before today's billions of living facts can be mar shaled into neatly printed tables of statistics, they must be microfilmed, con verted to electrical pulses, and shot through intricate machines. Indeed, with out automatic equipment the national head count would have choked to death long ago on its own undigested paper work. The original census report of 1790 was pub lished in a 56-page booklet dealing with fewer than four million people (page 713). By 1880, when the population had passed 50 million, the information filled 22 volumes with a total of more than 17,000 pages and took seven years to tabulate by hand. By then the figures were out of date, and it was almost time for another census. In digging out of the predicament, two in ventive census employees-the late Herman Hollerith and James Powers-created tools that not only revolutionized census proce dures, but laid the foundation for the modern business-machine industry.