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From Physical to Political Geography

Descriptions of Population Distribution in Census Publications: 1800, 1900, and 2000

August 9, 2012

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Early in the country’s history, descriptions of population distribution across the landscape were tied closely to physical features such as mountains and rivers. Once the extent of generally settled area was established, descriptions tended to focus on gains, losses, and movement of people within and between specific territories, states, or places. By the 20th century, a broader view of population distribution on a national scale is reflected by the increased use of terms such as suburban, rural, metropolitan, and counties. These wordclouds offer an interesting summary of some of the key words in the original material.

SOURCE: Census atlases from 1900 and 2000.

NOTE: Descriptions of population distribution for 1800 and 1900 were taken from the Census Bureau’s 1900 Statistical Atlas of the United States. The atlas includes descriptions of important changes in population distribution between each decade, starting with the first Federal census in 1790. The introduction to the second chapter “Population Distribution” in the Census Atlas of the United States (Census Bureau, 2007) provided the basis for the 2000 wordcloud. The text was edited considerably to combine similar words and eliminate commonly used words.