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Censuses by Towns PDF Print E-mail
Written by Paul Marston   
Thursday, 11 October 2007 20:06

Many states have the population of just a few cities and towns. This is very obvious when you look at the map and see that the towns are few and far between in some states and quite dense in others. In some cases, it is because the state was sparsely populated in back then, but mostly it is because that figures are not available, especially in a state west of the Mississippi River. In the 1840 census there are only population figures for a handful of cities and towns and in the 1830 census, there are no such figures at all as such. In a few cases, a city is tabulated separately as part of the county.

For comparison purposes, I have also included the 2000 population for the same jurisdiction if the place still exists. In the case of the cities, towns and villages, name changes are quite common. If the name is substantially the same, I have used the modern name including the modern spelling. However, if the name is completely different, I have used the 1850 version of the name. In some cases, I have been unable to determine exactly where a given population center was located in 1850 since either the area no longer has a population or the name has changed and there is no record of what the modern name is for that area. This is particularly true in California where there were population figures given for mining camps that no longer exist or even have been covered up by a man created lake. In such cases, the place shows up with an 1850 population figure given in the tables, but there is no area of that name shown on the map since I have no idea of the latitude and longitude for that population center. If anyone knows the correct geographic location for some of these "orphan" population centers from 1850, please contact me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it so that I can supply the missing geographic coordinates and get the area placed on the map.

There is another consideration in comparing population figures for larger cities in 2000 as opposed to 1850. It is quite common for the area covered by a city in 1850 to be very much smaller than the area covered by that same city in 2000 due to annexation. A prime example of this is Philadelphia where the modern city covers all of Philadelphia County whereas in 1850, there were dozens of areas outside the city limits with their own names and population figures. Those locales are now just neighborhoods in modern Philadelphia and the old name may mean nothing to a current resident of Philadelphia. To see how the area covered by modern Philadelphia has grown in population since 1850, you compare the 1850 figure to the one given for 2000 for Philadelphia County, not the city. The same holds true in Virginia where many of the modern independent cities that are no longer in any county were still part of the original county back in 1850. A prime example is Elizabeth City County which no longer exists. That area is now the City of Hampton Roads and the 2000 population figure for that 1850 county is the one for Hampton Roads in 2000.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 March 2008 20:00
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