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1890 US Census

The Eleventh United States Census was taken beginning June 2, 1890. It determined the resident population of the United States to be 62,979,766—an increase of 25.5 percent over the 50,189,209 persons enumerated during the 1880 census. The data was tabulated by machine for the first time. The data reported that the distribution of the population had resulted in the disappearance of the American frontier. Most of the 1890 census materials were destroyed in a 1921 fire and fragments of the US census population schedule exist only for the states of Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, and Texas, and the District of Columbia.

This was the first census in which a majority of states recorded populations of over one million, as well as the first in which multiple cities – New York as of 1880, Chicago, and Philadelphia – recorded populations of over one million. The census also saw Chicago rank as the nation's second-most populous city, a position it would hold until 1990, in which Los Angeles (currently 57th) would supplant it.

The original data for the 1890 Census is no longer available. Almost all the population schedules were damaged in a fire in the basement of the Commerce Building in Washington, D.C. in 1921. Some 25% of the materials were presumed destroyed and another 50% damaged by smoke and water (although the actual damage may have been closer to 15–25%). The damage to the records led to an outcry for a permanent National Archives. In December 1932, following standard federal record-keeping procedures, the Chief Clerk of the Bureau of the Census sent the Librarian of Congress a list of papers to be destroyed, including the original 1890 census schedules. The Librarian was asked by the Bureau to identify any records which should be retained for historical purposes, but the Librarian did not accept the census records. Congress authorized destruction of that list of records on February 21, 1933, and the surviving original 1890 census records were destroyed by government order by 1934 or 1935. The other censuses for which some information has been lost are the 1800 and 1810 enumerations.

Few sets of microdata from the 1890 census survive, but aggregate data for small areas, together with compatible cartographic boundary files, can be downloaded from the National Historical Geographic Information System.

Genealogically speaking, it's frustrating at best, which leads to genealogy humor.

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