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Census Takers Wanted

Census figures for the year 2010 will give an updated view of the population of Nebraska and of its agriculture and industries. The state has been included in all federal censuses from 1860 to the present. The Grand Island Independent of March 1, 1890, reprinted from the Nebraska State Journal a brief article on practical preparations for the census of 1890, including the pay scale for government-hired enumerators:

"The new census supervisor for the First district of Nebraska, the genial Tom Cooke, is now comfortably ensconced in the rooms of the district clerk and the United States marshal in the government building [in Lincoln]. . . . Mr. Cooke said: 'The work of taking the census will be commenced on June 1 and must be completed by July 1, and in cities of over 10,000 inhabitants enumerators will be expected to complete their work during the first fifteen days of June.

"I intend to sub-divide the First district into enumerator's districts and each enumerator will have from 2,500 to 3,000 people. The districts will be divided so as to comply as nearly as possible with the ward or voting precinct lines. In the country districts I propose to appoint one enumerator for each voting precinct. . . . [T]hose who desire to be appointed enumerators must make written application containing the applicant's name, postoffice address and the ward or precinct in which he resides.'

"'The compensation of enumerators will be as follows: Two cents for each living inhabitant, 2 cents for each death, 15 cents for each farm, 20 cents for each establishment of productive industry, 5 cents for each surviving soldier, sailor or marine or the widow of each soldier, sailor or marine.'

"'It is desired that persons who may be tendered appointments as enumerators should be given to understand distinctly that if they accept such appointments and qualify as enumerators, they cannot without justifiable cause refuse or neglect to perform the duties of the position. Having assumed the office they cannot retire from it at their own pleasure.'"

Dr. Edgar Z. Palmer, author of a 1951 article in Nebraska History on the 1890 census, concluded that there was some misreporting, designed to inflate the population figures of some cities of southeastern Nebraska. The original records were later destroyed by a fire in Washington. Only a fragment of the general population schedules and an incomplete set of special schedules enumerating Union veterans and widows are available today.

Gov. John M. Thayer
John M. Thayer appeared on the list of Union veterans and widows of veterans that survived a 1921 fire that destroyed most census returns of 1890. Thayer served two full terms as governor of Nebraska

(June 2010)



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