chapter  6
30 Pages

The Census of 1840

European countries in the 1830s were of course not strangers to modern calculation. In fact , academic and bureaucratic statistics in countries like England , Belgium, and Prussia quickly overshadowed American statistical efforts, and all of the major developments in the mathematical theory of statistics in the nineteenth century originated in Europe. 2 But what struck foreign travelers in America was the extent to which the ordinary inhabitants had incorporated and internalized a tendency to measure, count, and calculate. With decimal currency and the newly popular double-entry bookkeeping, men of business in the 1830s were accustomed to reckoning their financial worth with speed and ease. 3 In the new pediatric-advice manuals, mothers could peruse a table of distributions of 7,077 neonatal weights to see how their own newborn babes measured Up.4 Even children might encounter statistics in the pages of Parley's Magazine, where an 1835 article conjured up rows of black children, ten abreast, stretching forty miles in the distance, to represent vividly the vast numbers of enslaved children in the South, as an illustration of the meaning of statistics. 5 The many statistical presentations in newspapers, periodicals, almanacs, and pamphlets of the lacksonian years demonstrate that there was a keen popular concern to know how many paupers and how many millionaires there were, how many drunks and how many prostitutes , how many scholars and how many lunatics, how many Democrats and how many Whigs. 6 And everywhere the rule of the clock had permeated American life; cheap, mass-produced wooden clocks became standard household fixtures even in remote areas, forcing almanacs to abandon the unevenness of solar time for the fiction of uniform days and "mean" time .7