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Census of 1900

Returns from the census of 1900 caused controversy when the figures were released. The August 23, 1900, issue of the Omaha Daily News (on microfilm at the Nebraska State Historical Society) disputed the figures given for Omaha and stated the reasons in some detail:

"According to the twelfth census the population of Omaha Neb., is 102,555.

"In 1890 it was 140,452, showing a decrease of 26.98 per cent. In 1880 the population was 30,518, showing an increase of 360.23 per cent from 1880 to 1890 . . . .

"Many Omahans may believe that we have more people, but this is the official count as given out officially by the census bureau and there is no way of getting behind the returns.

"There is a loss of nearly 27 per cent, as compared with the population that the census of 1890 gave the city, when Omaha's population was reported to be 140,452. This decrease is almost unaccountable, even when it is admitted that the 1890 census of Omaha was padded.

"For example, the federal census is entirely out of proportion with the school census and the directory census. The census of the school population taken by the board of education last June showed that there were 30,765 school children between the ages of 5 and 21 years of age. According to this, on the prevalent basis that each child represents a population of between four and five, there are 145,000 people in Omaha. . . .

"The directory for the present year contains a total of 54,392 names. According to the general basis that each . . . actually represents between three and four persons-men, women, and children-Omaha's population is 149,456-over 45,000 more than the federal census."

As the Daily News article admitted in the fourth paragraph, there was a widespread belief that census returns for 1890 were padded in some Nebraska cities (including Omaha). This helped pave the way for the disappointing Omaha population figures for 1900.

(January 1998)



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