Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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THE 1910 AGRICULTURAL CENSUS

By Frank Passic, FR, Calhoun County, Michigan.
Team 24 News. Detroit Regional Office, Bureau of the Census Newsletter.
Volume 7, Issue 4.July-August 2006, pp. 16-17.

Late summer is the time of harvest in our land of the “fruited plain.” Throughout our country, crops of all sorts are being harvested and processed for consumption by consumers. Perhaps in your travels you may have stopped at a farmer’s vegetable stand along the road to purchase some fresh sweet corn or beans, or have attended a farmer’s market, or have even grow crops yourself.

As an agrarian society, it was especially important for the U.S. government to know the state of affairs concerning our farms, crops and livestock. Beginning in 1840, an Agricultural Census was conducted as part of each U.S. Decennial operation through 1910. In 1920, this special Census was expanded to once every five years. In 1997, the responsibility was changed from the Census Bureau to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Last issue we discussed the 1910 U.S. Census badge and mentioned the Enumerator’s Manual. The second portion of that Manual contains the instructions for the 1910 Agricultural Census. Instead of counting people, you instead counted horses, cows, as well as crops and other agricultural products. All these were recorded on special schedules that the enumerator carried with them during the course of their work. Farmers were interviewed and were requested to provide various statistics about their agricultural operations in 1909-10 if the size of their farm was 3 or more acres, or if the value of their crops was at least $250.

The purpose of the 1910 AC was to: 1) obtain an accurate inventory of all classes of farm property; 2) obtain a complete listing of farm operations; and 3) obtain a statement about the number of domestic animals in cities and villages. Farmers were asked to provide statistics concerning such topics as: the number and value of the various crops raised, the total number of acres on the farm and woodland; the value of the farm including the buildings and implements, the amount of the mortgage indebtedness, the amount of money spent for farm labor, and the amount of money spent to feed the farm animals. There were also different questions asked concerning ownership, tenants, share-cropping, institutional farms, collective farms, and similar arrangements.

There were a variety of rules and procedures which the enumerator had to follow when conducting the AC. We’ve selected several here from the Manual which you may find interesting. Imagine yourself arriving at a farm and having to know these rules:

“Paragraph 229. Milch cows [No, it doesn’t say milk, it says milch]. Be careful not to confuse cows and heifers kept for milk and cows and heifers not kept for milk. Report as cows kept for milk those whose milk is used in some form for human food. Cows milked for three months, during the year 1910, should be reported as kept for milk, although a part of the year they run with their calves.” Got that?

“Paragraph 230. Pure-Bred Animals. Do not overlook Inquiry 34, relating to pure-bred animals. This inquiry should be gone over with the farmer whenever live stock of any kind is kept on the farm. If a farmer has a pure-bred bull, boar, or other animal which he is crossing with common stock, it is of great importance that such animal be reported.” Yes, even boars were to be reported.

Here’s an interesting situation. How would you handle this? “Paragraph 227. Where the custom prevails of the owner of a large number of hives of bees distributing them among the farmers of the region, who keep them on their farms, the bees so distributed must be reported on the schedule of such farm.” The question here arises, “How does a Census enumerator count bees?” The answer: He/she lets the farmer supply that information from inside the farmhouse. The technical name for a bee farm is an apiary. Can you pronounce that word correctly?

What happens if a cow spent part of its time (such as in the winters) on one farm, but the rest of the year on another farm? How/where would you count that cow? Sound familiar? The answer is found in Paragraph 228 which states: “Where the owner of cattle gives them out to be taken care of on other ranches or farms, such cattle must be reported on the individual ranches or farms where they are kept and not on the ranch or farm of their owner.” Where the animal was being kept on a regular basis as on April 15, 1910 was the key to where the animal was to be counted.

Another provision concerned “temporary horses.” Paragraph 226 states, “If a farmer hires his neighbor’s team for a short time, this team is not to be regarded as on the farm for census purposes, and should not be included in that farm schedule, although it may happen to be at work on the farm on April 15, 1910.”

We’re illustrating here the cover of the 1910 Instructions to Enumerators manual, which is 62 pages long. It contains 257 paragraphs of instructions of not only how to count people, but also how to count farm animals (or bees), crops, and list various farm operations. I’ve supplied a copy of this Manual to our newsletter editor at the RO. Feel free to contact her if you are interested in reading this sometime.


The 1910 Instructions to the Enumerator's manual


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