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A census taker in trouble (full article)


For several weeks past Mr. John I. Davenport, Chief Supervisor of Elections, has had a force of clerks at work copying the City census returns with a view to using the statistics therein contained as a check against fraudulent registration and voting at the coming election. One of the curious results of his supervision was the arrest yesterday of John J. Murphy, one of the census enumerators, and a resident of No. 156 Prince-street. The warrant for Murphy's arrest was issued by United States Commissioner Shields, on an affidavit made by Mr. Davenport. The affidavit sets out that Murphy was duly appointed and qualified under oath as an enumerator of the census, and that in the performance of his duty as such, on June 7, 1880, he willfully and knowingly made a false and incorrect return of the occupants then living in the house No. 119½ Greene-street. The house in question is a house of ill-repute in the Eighth Ward, and only a few doors from where the prisoner resides. The tabulated returns made by Murphy from that house show the following eminent citizens to have been residents or occupants of the premises No. 119½ Greene-street:

 Name.  Age.  Nativity.  Occupation.
 James A. Garfield  30  Ohio  Book-keeper.
 Chester A. Arthur  26  New-York  Collector.
 Edward Cooper  30  New-York  Glue-maker.
 James Conkling  29  New-York  Notion store.
 Charles McDonald  24  New-York  "At home."
 John Fox  27  New-York  Liquor-dealer.
 James B. Blaine  23  Maine  Stock-broker.
 Samuel Tilden  29  New-York  Money-broker.
 Lewis Sanford  32  New-York  Cook.

Murphy was arrested by Deputy United States Marshal Mickle, and taken before Commissioner Shields yesterday afternoon. He is a cnpple, and about 35 years old. Tears filled his eyes while he was in court, and he was very much agitated. He told parties who questioned him as to his motive in making this singular return that there were a number of young men in the house at the time; that he asked them their names and other particulars, and that they gave them as he had entered them.
"What else could I do but take them?" he asked, tearfully. If he should be convicted -and there is every likelihood that he will be- the statute prescribes a penalty of $5,000 fine and two years' imprisonment. Chief Supervisor Davenport has evidence to show that there were no men in the house at the time Murphy made the return, and that the only information given him was that of the female inmates concerning their own names, ages, nativities, and occupations, which information appears on the return. The census enumerators were paid at a certain rate per 100 for the names they filled into their returns, but in no case was the compensation to exceed at the rate of $4 per day. Mr. Davenport thinks that Murphy was actuated either by an idea of humor or practical joking, or that he was trying to get up a full list of names merely to get the highest compensation. The fact of his getting Ohio as Garfield's place of nativity, Arthur's occupation as a "collector," Cooper's occupation as a "glue-maker," Blaine as a stock-broker, and Tilden as a money-broker, betrays a kind of quiet satire and information combined that, Mr. Davenport believes, shows that there was a method in the matter. The "Charles McDonald" was doubtless intended for Charles McDonnell, the Police Captain of the precinct, whose station-house is only a few yards from Murphy's residence. The prisonor's bail was fixed at $3,000, but he had not furnished it when the court closed, and he went to Ludlow-Street Jail for the night. The examination of the case is set down for Tuesday next.

This article was first published on the 14th of August, 1880 in the New York Times (New York, NY)