THE CENSUS TAKER IS ABROAD IN THE LAND
By CHARLES N. LURIE.
How many children have you?" says the man with the big blank book and the fountain pen.
" 'Bout seventy-five," says the man who looks as though he knows all about subsoils and silos and crops.
"Sure; there 're some of "em," and the farmer's finger is pointed to a fine flock of chickens running about his barnyard.
"I said, "How many CHILDREN have you ?" comes from the recovered questioner.
"Gosh! Thought you said 'chickens.' I've got five young ones, besides my daughter, who's married and lives over in the next township."
Dialogues similar to the one veraciously reported above -perhaps not exactly similar- are taking place all over the nation these fine April days, for the census taker is abroad In the land seeking whom he may enumerate. It is his business to ask questions, and it is the business of you and of me to tell him what he wants to know, for the law says that refusing to answer a census taker or giving him misleading or incorrect information is a misdemeanor, punishable by fine.
All to Be Put In Big Books.
The date of beginning the taking of the census was set several months ago for April I5. All the information about Uncle Sam's big family of nephews and nieces, including the colors of their hair, their conjugal condition and other intimate details, must reach the central office of the census bureau in Washington on or before June 30, 1910.
Then a big force of clerks will get busy with the figures and the other information and tabulate them and compare them and compile them into shape for printing In the black volumes that are such interesting reading for those who find entertainment in such things and are so very dry for the rest of us.
Not long ago Uncle Joe Cannon was reported as saving, "This is a ____ of a big country." It ls Uncle Joe; it is, indeed. Just how big it is in all ways it is the business of the director of the census to find out.
E. Dana Durand, the human eroteme -which Is Greek for "question mark"- is the present director of the United States census. He says he will not take less than 90,000,000 as the figure for the country's present population. But then Mr. Durand is only a young man of thirty-eight and he is naturally optimistic and hopeful.
He has a big job on his hands, and he knows it. Managing a force of 65,000 census enumerators and spending the sum of $13,000,000 for the purpose of finding out for Uncle Sam just where he is at is not an easy task, to be approached in lightness of heart.
Some countries take an inventory of their possessions every five years. Among them are France and Germany. This country thinks a decennial census answers its purpose, the result being in the cases of some schedules that the nation has fairly outgrown the figures before they are announced to the waiting public.
No Censuses In Ancient Times.
The utility of the census is not, however, open to question. All nations in modern times have felt the need of knowing the number of their people as well as the extent of their possessions, and virtually every country now takes a census at intervals that are more or less regular. Ancient censuses were few and far between. The rulers of the old time world were too busy reducing the populations of their own and neighboring countries to care very much how many persons are left.
"We have changed all that," as the Frenchman says. Nowadays It is considered a matter of interest and moment
for the government to know not only how many persons reside and do business within the borders of a country, but also in which businesses they are engaged and in what manner they carry on their affairs. The acres they devote to cultivation and how many are lying fallow, how many domestic animals add to man's wealth and comfort, his means of locomotion, his wealth, individual and collective -all these things and a myriad more are of interest to the statesman and the statistician directly and to the rest of us indirectly.
Farmer the Target of Many Queries.
As the farmer is the bulwark of our liberties, the mainstay of our industries and the supplier of the means whereby we live, naturally a great deal of census attention is devoted to him. Not alone to him and to his family, but to all matters of concern to him and to the rest of us, the census is extended. The agriculturist must tell the census man the total value of his farm, the value of the buildings thereon, of the improvements, including tools, machinery, etc.; the number and value of domestic animals, including cattle, horses, mules, asses and burros, swine, sheep, goats and poultry. Even the busy bee is not excepted, but of course Uncle Sam, being a merciful and reasonable man and remembering that this is the beginning of the farmer's busy season, does not expect him to count each bee separately. An accurate report of the number of swarms possessed will answer the purpose of the census. Crops and dairy products come in for the census man's attention, and forest products and the number of acres under irrigation are among the numerous other subjects on which Information is demanded by Mr. Durand and his subordinates.
Like all the rest of us, the farmer must give details about the members of his family, their ages, sex, relationship to the head of the family, conjugal conditions, occupations, etc. It is reassuring to be told officially that "no inquiry Is to be made regarding household or personal expenses or expenditures for repairs or improvements."
No Snap For the City Census Man.
Turn we now to the city dweller and the man whose duty it is to collect Information about him. In many cases, especially if the task assigned to him takes him into the congested districts, he is finding out that he has not fallen upon a bed of roses or "easy money". Far from it. It Is more likely to be the bottom of the flight of stairs on the outside of a tenement house, for some of the denizens of our big cities are very touchy, for obvious reasons, concerning what they term their "personal affairs."
It is not likely that mortality statistics among census takers will be included in the forthcoming reports, but it is here suggested that a special section be set apart for those young men who lay their lives upon the altar of their country's figures. City census taking is In many cases a job for a strong, healthy man. with the ability to beat a quick retreat and return, backed hy the local police, if necessary. But men may come and men may go, and the census must be taken on Fifth avenue and the Bowery, In New York, as well as Michigan avenue and the region tributary to the Desplaines street station in Chicago. For the paltry sum of four or five dollars a day, the estimated earnings of the census enumerator in a big city, he must be prepared to risk life and limb. If be escapes with the former, however, he probably will have a store of interesting memories to last him at least until 1920, when the whole performance will be repeated.
This article was first published on the 16th of April 1910 in the Daily Review (Decatur, IL)