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1910 census was a big dealin the coal regions

Published March 13. 2010 09:00AM


The census 100 years ago was a big deal in this area, especially since so many immigrant families had moved to and settled in the coal regions during the late 19th and early 20th century.

Tamaqua was a good example of the population surge. In 1900, it numbered just over 7,000. By 1910, town officials were expecting the census figures to show a population of over 12,000.

An article in the Pottsville Journal said that Tamaqua's population had "grown almost marvelously" since the previous census and projected that it might even hit 15,000.

Schuylkill County was also in its heyday by 1910, registering a population of 207,894. As mining declined throughout the second half of the 20th century, so too did the population and by the 2006 census, the county's population was down to 147,405.

Carbon County, meanwhile, showed some growth during that period, from 52,846, in 1910 to 62,567 by 2006.

The most dramatic increase in the region, however, was in Monroe County. In 1910 there were only 22,941 but by 2006, the population had spiked to 165,685.

The Tamaqua Courier noted in 1910 that nine out of 10 foreign families enumerated by the latest census were Lithuanians, followed by Poles and Italians. In reporting this fact, a reporter added his own line of commentary.

"Most all the Lithuanians own their own homes and are thrifty people," he stated in the Courier.

Tamaqua's enumerators in 1910 included Thomas R. Davis, Bert Sitler, Arthur Schaefer, Hayes Whetstone, W.A. Conrad, Andrew Hause and Ernest A. Gilfert, Jr. John W. Jones was the census taker in Coaldale.

For the first time, prospective census employees had to take open competitive examinations administered throughout the country.

The press published a list of the questions so that the average person "may be prepared to answer promptly and not delay the enumerator in his work."

The census takers were to keep all information secret. The penalty for violating this rule brought a fine of $100 or imprisonment for two years, or both.

Enumerators began their work on "Census Day" - April 15. Their pay was meager by today's scale - 2 cents per name. They were expected to average between $3 and $3.50 per day, the Courier reported.

A total of 32 questions were asked, including: address; name; relationship to family head; sex; race; age; marital status; number of years of present marriage for women; number of children born and number now living; birthplace and mother tongue of person and parents; if foreign born, year of immigration, whether naturalized, and whether able to speak English, or if not, language spoken; occupation, industry, and class of worker; if an employee, whether out of work during year; literacy; school attendance; home owned or rented; if owned, whether mortgaged; whether farm or house; whether a survivor of Union or Confederate Army or Navy; whether blind or deaf and dumb.

Some people found a few of the census questions peculiar.

Those who died between the time the census began (April 15) and its closing day (April 30), were recorded with the living.

Babies born on or after April 15 were not counted "for the reason that they did not form part of the population during the 10 days preceding and including April.

Regarding marriages, "the census did regard any bridegroom as a single man if he had taken unto himself a wife since April 15. And any lady who has attached herself to a husband since that date will also be regarded as single and will be set down in the record as such."

One Courier reporter used his wry humor in his story about the census. He said he had some questions that the enumerators "should but will not ask." A number of key social issues of the day, as well as the writer's personal pet peeves, were on this personal list of questions.

They included:

Have you paid your dog tax?

Have you whitewashed your cellar?

Do you throw your waste paper in the alleys?

Does your son smoke cigarettes?

If you owned a trolley line, would you sell six tickets for a quarter?

Are you in favor of a sane Fourth of July?

Who owns the streets, the pedestrian or the autoist?

How long has it been since you tasted real country-raised beef?

Has your coal bin been emptied?

How would you like to live in Pittsburgh?

Were you ever shot by a gun that wasn't loaded?

What is the smallest fish you ever caught, or the largest snake you ever killed?

Do you like lemon butter and angel cake?

Can a mile of good turnpike be built for about half what the state pays?

What is the best weapon to throw at a black cat on the back fence on a dark night?

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