Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
By Frank Passic, Field Representative, Calhoun County, MI
I like to collect historical Census badges, and recently came across one which has a beautiful design and a fascinating history. This particular badge comes from the country of Lithuania, located in Eastern Europe. My maternal grandparents came from that Baltic country, and so I had a personal incentive to collect a Census badge from there.
In 1922, the Lithuanian parliament mandated that a Census of the population be conducted in Lithuania. The task was accomplished from Monday, September 17 through Sunday, September 23, 1923: a period of one week. How would you like to have only one week to conduct a Census here in the U.S.? As things turned out, the 1923 Census was the only population Census conducted by independent Lithuania between the two World Wars. The Census was conducted under the auspices of the Central Statistical Bureau (part of the Finance Ministry department).
The Lithuanian parliament approved 605,600 litas’ ( equivalent to U.S. $60,560; one Lithuanian litas was worth one-tenth of a U.S. dollar) in funds in order to conduct the Census. Divided among the population, it cost 20 cents to enumerate each person. By comparison it cost 30 cents in England and 50 cents in the United States at the time. Comparatively, I wonder what the cost figure will be "per person" for the US 2010 Decennial Census?
The 1923 Lithuanian Census workforce consisted of 3,100 government workers, teachers, and high school and college students who all fanned out across the country during the third week of September, 1923. Each of Lithuania’s 20 counties (at the time) was designated an enumeration territory. In addition, four cities: Kaunas, Siauliai, Panevezys, and Vilkmerge, were given "county" territory status for the Census, making a total of 24 enumeration territories. Each territory was broken down into regions, and then into enumeration districts. The aforementioned city of Siauliai, by the way, was the birthplace of Victor David Brenner, the designer of our U.S. Lincoln penny!
Data was transmitted daily by telephone and telegraph to Central Bureau of Statistics in Kaunas. The compiling of the data continued throughout 1924, and the results were published in the Bulletin of Statistics in 1924 and 1925. A public version was published in 1926 in Lithuanian and French. Some interesting data from the 1923 Census: 44.1% of the population was illiterate, with 32.6% of those being over the age of 10. 67.5% of Lithuanian women stated that they had "gainful employment." 75% of the population was engaged in some type of agricultural trade.
The final tally recorded 2,028,971 persons living in Lithuania at the then-established borders. The ethnic origin or nationality question was asked as part of the 1923 Lithuanian Census, with the following results: Lithuanians--1,701,900; Jews--153,700; Poles--65,600; Russians--50,500; Germans—29,200; Latvians—9,000; White Russians—4,400; Others—14,700.
As recognition of their 1923 service, Census takers were awarded with a Census takers badge in 1925. Thus this badge was ceremonial, rather than used for identification during the actual count. The badge is made of brass, and is pentagonal in shape. The bottom points downward. The badge measures 30 mm. x 25 mm. The enameled surface consists of red, white, blue, and black enamel with raised lettering and designs. The badge was manufactured in Czechoslovakia.
The obverse design features a blue enamel circle in the center featuring a golden genealogical tree. The design is surrounded by a red ornamental ring. The legend around the edge of the badge states, "PIRMASIS VISUOTINIS LIETUVOS GYVENNTOJU SURASYMAS," meaning "The First Comprehensive Census of the Residents of Lithuania." The year "1925 M" ("M" stands for meta/year) appears at the bottom amidst a black background.
The reverse is flat, with a serial number stamped in the center. This particular badge owned by this writer and illustrated here bears a number of "113." The one illustrated in the book by Algimantas Astikas bears a number of "3178." One offered on E-Bay back in 2005 had a serial number of 1908. Each badge was attached with a ribbon containing the Lithuanian flag tri-colors. There were two versions of fasteners. One had a 45 mm. pin halfway up which was flattened when it was fastened to a man’s lapel. The other version, for women, had a loop with a twisted brass pin which they could fasten to their dresses like a safety pin.
The badge illustrated here is rare. It was the first such badge this writer was able to purchase after several years of searching. Information about this badge appears in the 1993 book "Lietuvos Ordinai, Medaliai Ir Zinkleliai 1918-1940" [Lithuanian Orders, Medals, and Badges] by Algimantas Astiktas, pages 295 and 296.
Lithuanian Census Badge, 1923, Obverse side
Lithuanian Census Badge, 1923, Reverse side
All text copyright, 2021 © all rights reserved Frank Passic