Census Chronology

The nation's first census 650 federal marshals go house-to-house unannounced, writing down the name of the head of the household and counting the other residents. The census costs $45,000, takes 18 months and counts 3.9 million people.

First inquiries on U.S. manufacturing capabilities are made. At the time, the need to export agricultural products and import manufactured goods had entangled the U.S. in some skirmishes of the Napoleonic Wars.

Congress requests new information on social matters such as "idiocy" and mental illness. Many questions on commerce and industry are added, lengthening the form to 80 questions.

Significant census reforms are made. Federal government marshals scientific and financial resources to to discuss what should be asked, how the information should be collected and how it should be reported. First time detailed information about all members of a household is collected.

Data from the 1860 Census is used during the Civil War to measure relative military strengths and manufacturing abilities of the Union and Confederacy.

Major innovations are made to the "science of statistics" as the Census Bureau introduces mechanical tabulators. Never again is the census hand tabulated.

Entry into World War I (1917) has agencies and policymakers turning to the Census Bureau for industrial statistics to plan the war effort.

The onset of the Great Depression prompts the Census Bureau to make inquiries about unemployment, migration and income.

With the aid of modern sampling techniques, the Census Bureau creates the first "long form" that is sent to only a subset of the population.

First electronic digital computer tabulates figures 1,000 to 1 million times faster than previous equipment.

People of Hispanic or Spanish descent asked to identify themselves as such.

After the 1980 count, the Census Bureau faces 54 lawsuits, many by civil rights groups, charging it with improper and unconstitutional methods of counting.

First time professional advertising campaign ($167 million) is used to promote the count.