The census tells us who we are and where we are going as a nation. The census helps our communities determine where to build everything from schools to supermarkets, and from homes to hospitals. It helps the government decide how to distribute funds and assistance to states and localities. It is also used to draw the lines of legislative districts and reapportion the seats each State holds in Congress.
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The twelfth census of the United States was conducted under the terms of the census act of March 3, 1899, and supervised by the Director of the Census, William R. Merriam. The enumeration was conducted in each state and organized territory, including Washington, DC, Alaska, Hawaii, and “Indian Territory.”1 The census was taken as of June 1, 1900, and was to be completed in 2 weeks in places of 8,000 inhabitants or more (as of the 1890 Census) and 1 month in rural districts. The United States and its territories were divided into 297 supervisors’ districts, which were subdivided into 52,726 enumeration districts.
The enumeration of military and naval personnel (with in the country and abroad) was conducted through the Departments of War and the Navy. Similarly, the enumeration of the “Indian Territory” was carried out in cooperation with the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Large institutions (prisons, hospitals, etc.) were enumerated through the appointment of special “institution” enumerators.
Enumerators were much more closely supervised during the 1900 Census. In large cities, special agents were appointed to assist the census supervisor. Enumerators used “street books,” in which a record of each enumerator’s work was made on a daily basis. Enumerators used individual census slips for obtaining a correct return for any person (particularly lodgers and boarders) absent at the time of the enumerator’s visit.
Additionally, “absent family” schedules were used for securing a complete record for any person residing within the enumeration district, but temporarily absent.
1 Censuses were not conducted until 1890 of Indian Territory. Alaska’s first census was conducted in 1880. Hawaii was annexed by the United States on August 12, 1898. Therefore, the 1900 Census was the first census of the islands taken under the supervision of the United States. The Hawaiian Government, however, did conduct censuses every 6 years, from 1866 to 1896.