1840 United States Census

The United States Census of 1840 was the sixth census of the United States. Conducted by the Census Office 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, Virginia.

1840 United States Census
General information
CountryUnited States
Date takenJune 1, 1840 (1840-06-01)
Total population17,069,453
Percent change 32.7%

This was the first census in which:

  • A state recorded a population of over two million (New York)
  • A city recorded a population of over 300,000 (New York)
  • Multiple cities recorded populations of over 100,000 (New York, Baltimore, and New Orleans)


Controversy over statistics for mental illness among Northern blacks

The 1840 Census was the first that attempted to count Americans who were "insane" or "idiotic". Published results of the census indicated that alarming numbers of black persons living in non-slaveholding States were mentally ill, in striking contrast to the corresponding figures for slaveholding States.

Pro-slavery advocates trumpeted the results as evidence of the beneficial effects of slavery, and the probable consequences of emancipation.[1] Anti-slavery advocates contended, on the contrary, that the published returns were riddled with errors, as detailed in an 1844 report by Edward Jarvis of Massachusetts in the American Journal of the Medical Sciences, later published separately as a pamphlet,[1][2] and in a memorial from the American Statistical Association to Congress, praying that measures be taken to correct the errors.[3]

The memorial was submitted to the House of Representatives by John Quincy Adams, who contended that it demonstrated "a multitude of gross and important errors" in the published returns.[4] In response to the House's request for an inquiry, Secretary of State John C. Calhoun reported that a careful examination of the statistics by the supervisor of the census had fully sustained their correctness.[5][6] The returns were not revised.[7]

Census questions

The 1840 census asked these questions:[8]

  • 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, by race
  • number of blind, by race
  • number of insane and idiotic in public or private charge, by race
  • 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. A compendium of data from the sixth census, organized by States, counties, and principal towns is available on the web site of the Census Bureau.

State rankings

RankStatePopulation
01New York2,428,921
02Pennsylvania1,724,033
03Ohio1,519,467
04Virginia1,025,227
05Tennessee829,210
06Kentucky779,828
07North Carolina753,419
08Massachusetts737,699
09Georgia691,392
10Indiana685,866
11South Carolina594,398
12Alabama590,756
13Maine501,793
14Illinois476,183
15Maryland470,019
16Missouri383,702
17Mississippi375,651
18New Jersey373,306
19Louisiana352,411
20Connecticut309,978
21Vermont291,948
22New Hampshire284,574
XWest Virginia [9]224,537
23Michigan212,267
24Rhode Island108,830
25Arkansas97,574
26Delaware78,085
XFlorida54,477
XIowa43,112
XDistrict of Columbia [10]33,745
XWisconsin30,945

City rankings

RankCityStatePopulation[11]Region (2016)[12]
01New YorkNew York312,710Northeast
02BaltimoreMaryland102,313South
03New OrleansLouisiana102,193South
04PhiladelphiaPennsylvania93,665Northeast
05BostonMassachusetts93,383Northeast
06CincinnatiOhio46,338Midwest
07BrooklynNew York36,233Northeast
08Northern LibertiesPennsylvania34,474Northeast
09AlbanyNew York33,721Northeast
10CharlestonSouth Carolina29,261South
11Spring GardenPennsylvania27,849Northeast
12SouthwarkPennsylvania27,548Northeast
13WashingtonDistrict of Columbia23,364South
14ProvidenceRhode Island23,171Northeast
15KensingtonPennsylvania22,314Northeast
16LouisvilleKentucky21,210South
17PittsburghPennsylvania21,115Northeast
18LowellMassachusetts20,796Northeast
19RochesterNew York20,191Northeast
20RichmondVirginia20,153South
21TroyNew York19,334Northeast
22BuffaloNew York18,213Northeast
23NewarkNew Jersey17,290Northeast
24St. LouisMissouri16,469Midwest
25PortlandMaine15,218Northeast
26SalemMassachusetts15,082Northeast
27MoyamensingPennsylvania14,573Northeast
28New HavenConnecticut12,960Northeast
29UticaNew York12,782Northeast
30MobileAlabama12,672South
31New BedfordMassachusetts12,087Northeast
32CharlestownMassachusetts11,484Northeast
33SavannahGeorgia11,214South
34PetersburgVirginia11,136South
35SpringfieldMassachusetts10,985Northeast
36NorfolkVirginia10,920South
37AlleghenyPennsylvania10,089Northeast
38HartfordConnecticut9,468Northeast
39LynnMassachusetts9,367Northeast
40DetroitMichigan9,102Midwest
41RoxburyMassachusetts9,089Northeast
42NantucketMassachusetts9,012Northeast
43BangorMaine8,627Northeast
44AlexandriaDistrict of Columbia8,459South
45LancasterPennsylvania8,417Northeast
46ReadingPennsylvania8,410Northeast
47CambridgeMassachusetts8,409Northeast
48WilmingtonDelaware8,367South
49NewportRhode Island8,333Northeast
50PortsmouthNew Hampshire7,887Northeast
51WheelingVirginia7,885South
52TauntonMassachusetts7,645Northeast
53PatersonNew Jersey7,596Northeast
54WorcesterMassachusetts7,497Northeast
55GeorgetownDistrict of Columbia7,312South
56NewburyportMassachusetts7,161Northeast
57LexingtonKentucky6,997South
58NashvilleTennessee6,929South
59SchenectadyNew York6,784Northeast
60Fall RiverMassachusetts6,738Northeast
61WarwickRhode Island6,726Northeast
62PortsmouthVirginia6,477South
63DoverNew Hampshire6,458Northeast
64AugustaGeorgia6,403South
65LynchburgVirginia6,395South
66GloucesterMassachusetts6,350Northeast
67ClevelandOhio6,071Midwest
68DaytonOhio6,067Midwest
69NashuaNew Hampshire6,054Northeast
70ColumbusOhio6,048Midwest
71HarrisburgPennsylvania5,980Northeast
72HudsonNew York5,672Northeast
73AuburnNew York5,626Northeast
74MarbleheadMassachusetts5,575Northeast
75New LondonConnecticut5,519Northeast
76WilmingtonNorth Carolina5,335South
77AugustaMaine5,314Northeast
78PlymouthMassachusetts5,281Northeast
79CumberlandRhode Island5,225Northeast
80AndoverMassachusetts5,207Northeast
81FrederickMaryland5,182South
82BathMaine5,141Northeast
83MiddleboroughMassachusetts5,085Northeast
84GardinerMaine5,042Northeast
85DanversMassachusetts5,020Northeast
86ConcordNew Hampshire4,897Northeast
87DorchesterMassachusetts4,875Northeast
88EastonPennsylvania4,865Northeast
89YorkPennsylvania4,779Northeast
90ZanesvilleOhio4,766Midwest
91BeverlyMassachusetts4,689Northeast
92ChicagoIllinois4,470Midwest
93CarlislePennsylvania4,351Northeast
94PottsvillePennsylvania4,345Northeast
95ColumbiaSouth Carolina4,340South
96HaverhillMassachusetts4,336Northeast
97BarnstableMassachusetts4,301Northeast
98FayettevilleNorth Carolina4,285South
99SteubenvilleOhio4,247Midwest
100New AlbanyIndiana4,226Midwest

References

  1. Leon F. Litwack (1958), "The Federal Government and the Free Negro, 1790-1860", Journal of Negro History, 43 (4): 261–78, 263–68, JSTOR 2716144, and sources there cited.
  2. Edward Jarvis (1844). Insanity Among the Coloured Population of the Free States. Philadelphia: T.K. & P.G. Collins, Printers. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  3. Edward Jarvis; William Brigham; J. Wingate Thornton (1844). Memorial of the American Statistical Association Praying the Adoption of Measures for the Correction of Errors in the Returns of the Sixth Census. Public Documents Printed by Order of the Senate of the United States, Second Session of the Twenty-Eighth Congress. I. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  4. John Quincy Adams (1877). Charles Francis Adams (ed.). Memoirs of John Quincy Adams: comprising portions of his diary from 1795 to 1848. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co. pp. 27–28, 61, 119–20. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  5. Litwack (1958), 267
  6. John Caldwell Calhoun; South Carolina General Assembly (1859). Richard K. Crallé (ed.). The Works of John C. Calhoun: Reports and Public Letters. V. New York: D. Appleton and Company. p. 458. Retrieved May 31, 2013. Calhoun engaged William A. Weaver, the superintendent of the 1840 census, to review the figures and check them against related data from the 1830 census. Ibid. Weaver reported that he had examined "each specification of error" and concluded that the memorialists had themselves erred in their claims. While there doubtless had been minor errors, he said, there had been no glaring methodological mistakes as charged. See William Edwin Hemphill, ed., The Papers of John C. Calhoun: 1845, Columbia, S.C.: Univ. of South Carolina Press, 1993, vol. 21, p. 156.
  7. Litwack (1958), 268
  8. "Library Bibliography Bulletin 88, New York State Census Records, 1790-1925". New York State Library. 1981. Note that several pages on U.S. federal web sites incorrectly assert that the 1840 census questionnaire closely followed that from the 1830 census, which did not include questions concerning mental illness.
  9. Between 1790 and 1860, the state of West Virginia was part of Virginia; the data for each states reflect the present-day boundaries.
  10. The District of Columbia is not a state but was created with the passage of the Residence Act of 1790. The territory that formed that federal capital was originally donated by both Maryland and Virginia; however, the Virginia portion was returned by Congress in 1846.
  11. Population of the 100 Largest Cities and Other Urban Places in the United States: 1790 to 1990, U.S. Census Bureau, 1998
  12. "Regions and Divisions". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on December 3, 2016. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
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