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U.S. Census Bureau History: Gone With the Wind

Margaret Michell with her book, Gone With the Wind
Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel, Gone With the Wind,
won both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book
Award before it was made into an
Academy Award winning movie.

December 15, 2014, marks the 75th anniversary of the premier showing of Gone With the Wind at the Loew's Grand Theatre in Atlanta, GA. During this "Golden Age" of film—the period from the 1920s to 1960s—some of Hollywood's greatest personalities, including Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, and Judy Garland [PDF 425KB], starred in the most beloved movies ever produced. In 1939 alone, classics such as The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Gunga Din, and one of the highest grossing films of all time—Gone With the Wind drew thousands of movie-goers to theaters throughout the United States.

Based on Maragett Mitchell's Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novel,Gone With the Wind follows Scarlett O'Hara, the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner who copes with the devastation to Clayton County and Atlanta, GA, in the wake of the Union Army's 1864 "March to the Sea" campaign, the Confederacy's surrender ending the Civil War, and the start of the period known as Reconstruction. During this time, the plantation system of agriculture that relied upon slavery came to an end, and millions of slaves were freed. At the time of the 1860 Census, Scarlett O'Hara's state of Georgia had a slave population [PDF 5.5 MB] of 462,198, second only to Virginia. Despite widespread devastation from the war and disruption to the South's economy, Atlanta's population grew from 9,554 in 1860 to 21,789 in 1870. Today, the city of Atlanta is home to approximately 448,000 people. Clayton County's population today is approximately 224,000 compared with 4,466 in 1860 and 5,477 in 1870.

  • Gone With the Wind was playing in theaters when the movie's stars participated in the 1940 Census of Population and Housing. Clark Gable, [PDF 794KB] aged 39, and his third wife, Carole Lombard, aged 30, were enumerated at their Encino, CA, farm where they listed their occupations as "actor" and "actress," respectively, with each earning in excess of $5,000 annually.
  • Actress Olivia de Havilland, [PDF 555KB] aged 23, played Melanie Hamilton in Gone With the Wind. The actress was enumerated at her Nella Vista Avenue home in Los Angeles, CA, during the 1940 Census, reported her country of birth as "Japan" and earned more than $5,000 for the 31 weeks she worked in 1939.
  • Hattie McDaniel [PDF 522KB] won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of "Mammy" in Gone With the Wind. During the 1940 Census, she and her niece Mabel Hendricks lived at 2177 West 31st Street, Los Angeles, CA. Like many actresses past and present, McDaniel shaved 5 years from her age when the census taker inquired about her date of birth.
  • When Gone With the Wind premiered in 1939, approximately 85 million [PDF 52.9KB] people went to the movies each week and spent $659 million [PDF 53KB] annually. In 2010, nearly 25.8 million [PDF 59.8KB] people went to the movies each week and spent $10.6 billion annually.
  • Approximately 179,000 [PDF 60.4] people were employed in the motion picture industry as actors, producers, camera operators, makeup artists, lighting technicians, editors, etc., in 1939. In 2007, motion picture and sound recording industries employed 336,000 [PDF 54.8KB].
  • As of May 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nationally, 68,850 people reported their occupation as actor, producer, or director. Most of the nation's actors (31,450) reside in California, followed by New York (7,130), New Jersey (2,250), Louisiana (1,920) and Massachusetts (1,710).
  • The number of entertainment options have grown considerably in the 75 years since Gone With the Wind premiered. Although the average American spent 12 hours [PDF 60.6KB] at movie theaters in 2008, they spent 3,545 hours watching television, 744 hours listening to the radio, 232 hours reading books and magazines, and 107 hours playing video games. Average per peson spending at the box office in 2008 was $38.34, compared with $357.60 for television, $106.77 for home video rental, and $61.77 for video games.
  • Although Hollywood is still considered the epicenter of filmmaking, a March 2014 report [PDF 1.65MB] published by Film L.A. indicated that California had slipped to fourth place behind Louisiana, Canada, and the United Kingdom in total live-action feature projects, related film jobs, and related production spending. Many filmakers have looked beyond California's borders in response to generous incentives and infrastructure investment made by these locales. For example, Louisiana Economic Development offers filmmakers a 30 percent tax credit on in-state expenditures and an additional 5 percent payroll tax credit for productions using in-state labor.

Ruins of the Confederate enginehouse, Atlanta, GA
Gone With the Wind's, Scarlett O'Hara escaped from the city of Atlanta, GA, after remnants of the Confederate Army set the city aflame before abandoning it to the Union Army. Many of Atlanta's buildings, like the enginehouse sheltering the locomotives "Telegraph" and "O.A. Bull" were destroyed by September 1864.
Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration

Historic census records from 1790 to 1940 are maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration, not the U.S. Census Bureau.

Visit the National Archives Website to access 1940 Census records

Online subscription services are available to access the 1790-1940 census records. Contact your local library to inquire if it has subscribed to one of these services.

This Month In Census History

The entertainment industry's impact on the demographics of Los Angeles, CA, was evident when the U.S. Census Bureau announced on December 8, 1953, that the special census [PDF 88.2KB] of the city taken earlier that year made Los Angeles the third largest city [PDF 88.2KB] in the United States, surpassing Philadelphia, PA.

Filming the Wizard of Oz

Did You Know?

On December 28, 1828, during his fourth address to the U.S. Congress, President John Quincy Adams suggested the census be taken earlier in the year than August 1. In response, the census was taken in June from 1830 to 1900. Census Day moved to April 15 for the 1910 Census and January 1 in 1920. Since 1930, the census has been taken as of April 1.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Census History Staff | Last Revised: November 21, 2014