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1840 United States Census: Wikis


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The United States Census of 1840 was the sixth census of the United States. Conducted by the Bureau of the Census on June 1, 1840, it determined the resident population of the United States to be 17,069,453 — an increase of 32.7 percent over the 12,866,020 persons enumerated during the 1830 Census. The total population included 2,487,355 slaves. In 1840, the center of population was about 260 miles (418 km) west of Washington near Weston, West Virginia.



One notable effect of the published census results on the political debates of the time was that the percentage of "insane negroes" seemed to increase the further North one went, reaching catastrophic proportions in Massachusetts and Maine. Pro-slavery advocates pointed to this as evidence of the beneficial effects of slavery. These statistics were later revealed to be false, but no formal correction to the census results was ever published, partly due to John C. Calhoun being Secretary of State in 1844.[1]

Census questions

The 1840 census asked these questions[2]:

  • Name of head of family
  • Address
  • Number of free white males and females
    • in five-year age groups to age 20
    • in 10-year age groups from 20 to 100
    • 100 years and older
  • number of slaves and free colored persons in six age groups
  • number of deaf and dumb
  • number of blind
  • number of insane and idiotic in public or private charge
  • number of persons in each family employed in seven classes of occupation
  • number of schools and number of scholars
  • number of white persons over 20 who could not read and write
  • number of pensioners for Revolutionary or military service

Data availability

No microdata from the 1840 population census are available, but aggregate data for small areas, together with compatible cartographic boundary files, can be downloaded from the National Historical Geographic Information System.

External links




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