THE CENSUS: One, Two, Three .. .

There were 3,929,214 people (including slaves, but not untaxed Indians) in the U.S. in 1790, when Thomas Jefferson ran off the first census. Seventeen censuses later, the U.S. population figures to tumble over the 180 million mark. Last week around the nation, the census takers —170,000 of them—were going through travail and triumph to bring in the exact figures. Predictably, the nosy head counters were sure to have their hands full, for it has always been thus:

¶ In 1860, census takers were obliged to ask whether the respondent was perhaps a former convict, a pauper, or an idiot.


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