In 1958, the former Army quartermaster depot in Jeffersonville, IN, located across the Ohio River from Louisville, KY, became a temporary Census Bureau facility to support the processing of the Agriculture and Economic censuses and the 1960 decennial census. Renamed the Data Preparation Division and then the National Processing Center (NPC) several years later, it became a permanent Census Bureau facility, taking on additional responsibilities for data processing and eventually for managing several telephone center operations.
The NPC was a quartermaster depot during the Civil War. In the early days of that conflict, a shirt factory was established in one of the buildings of the Jefferson General Hospital, the original occupant of the site. This factory made shirts and trousers for Army use. The garments were cut out by hand at the hospital and issued in bundles of four or eight to the widows, mothers and sisters of Union soldiers to assemble and return to the hospital a few days later for inspection. Later in the war, the Jeffersonville depot expanded to supply Union troops with clothing, harnesses, saddlery, hardtack, vehicles and various kinds of hardware.
In 1898, after the United States declared war on Spain, civilian employment at the depot increased from 71 to 160 persons. The number of workers who sewed uniforms in their homes grew from 200 to 1,200; they produced a total of 100,000 garments per month. At this time, the depot consisted of two permanent and seven temporary structures.
In 1916, the Jeffersonville facility was called upon to provide additional supplies to troops involved in activities along the Mexican border. In February 1917, the shirt department was enlarged. With the installation of electric cutting knives, three shifts of cutters could be employed; production increased by 90 percent as U.S. entry into World War I drew near.
At the height of World War I operations, 8,000 civilians, working under the supervision of 100 quartermaster officers, were employed at the depot, with more than 20,000 civilians recruited to sew in their homes. At its peak, the half-century-old depot had become the world’s largest shirt factory, producing over eight million shirts annually for the military.
Even though the shirt factory was moved to Philadelphia at the end of the war, many improvements and additions to the depot were made during the 1920’s and 1930’s. Facilities were expanded and the 24-hour work schedule was maintained. Research and development jobs were established and administrative functions were transferred to a new administrative building, now known as Building 66. Many permanent warehouses were also built, including Buildings 60, 61, 63, and 64, which are still used by the Census Bureau.
In 1942, the depot was awarded the coveted Army-Navy "E" award in recognition of its all-out effort in producing vital war materials.
By July 1945, the area of the Jeffersonville depot covered more than 10 city blocks, occupying 255.6 acres, the largest it had ever been. The number of permanent buildings increased to 150, with 42 miscellaneous structures. The Census Bureau now occupies many of these buildings, while others have become private residences and businesses.
During the Korean War (1950-1953), the Jeffersonville Quartermaster Depot again shouldered heavy supply responsibilities; civilian employment skyrocketed to 5,200, with supplies provided ranging from parachutes to refrigerated trailers. After the conflict, however, many of the depot’s responsibilities were shifted to other government installations; it was the end of an era at Jeffersonville.
The Jeffersonville Census Operations Office opened as a temporary facility on July 1, 1958 to prepare and process the Censuses of Business, Manufactures and Mineral Industries and the 1960 Census of Population and Housing. Activities included packaging and shipping equipment and supplies, preparing maps, preliminary processing of report forms and the distribution of printed reports.
After the 1960 census, the Census Bureau assigned additional processing and clerical work to the facility, along with special assignments for the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. In 1962 the office was designated as a continuing service facility, with employment levels that would rise and fall as the workload warranted, and named the Data Processing Division.
In 1998, the Data Processing Division changed its name to the National Processing Center, to more accurately reflect its expanded processing duties. The NPC also assumed management responsibilities for the Hagerstown, MD, and Tucson, AZ telephone centers.
Today, the NPC is a 75-acre ultramodern data processing facility with the latest in telecommunications and computer processing technologies. Eleven buildings – more than one million square feet – house more than 3,100 personal computers and the workforce still expands and contracts depending upon work requirements, employing anywhere from 1,200 to 6,000 workers.