I’ve spent the last week reading the 1910 United States Federal Census. Now before you start snoozing, let me just tell you that it is fascinating! I’ve been using the census for family history research for several years. I guess I’m a little “slow” because until last month it hadn’t occurred to me to research the history of the whole town by reading the census. First a few quick facts about the time period. From the Kingwood College Library, American Cultural History of the Twentieth Century, I learned these facts about the United States in the decade from 1910 -1919:
· Population: 92,407,000
· Life Expectancy: Male 48.4 Female: 51.8
· Average Salary $750 / year
· The Ziegfeld girls earned $75/week.
· Unemployed 2,150,000
· National Debt: $1.15 billion
· Union Membership: 2.1 million Strikes 1,204
· Attendance: Movies 30 million per week
· Lynchings: 76
· Divorce: 1/1000
· Vacation: 12 day cruise $60
· Whiskey $3.50 / gallon, Milk $.32 / gallon
· Speeds make automobile safety an issue
· 25,000 performers tour 4,000 U.S. theaters
William Howard Taft was president. Bryan County was formed in 1907 and by 1910 had a population of over 29,000 people.
In case you’ve never looked at it before, here is a brief listing of what was included on the 1910 census:
Residence, including street and house number, and whether you owned or rented.
Name and relationship of all household members.
Age, gender, race, and marital status of each household member.
Number of children born to the mother of the household, and how many children were still living.
Place of birth of each resident, place of birth of parents of each resident, and whether they were citizens.
Language spoken in the home.
Trade or profession of each resident, general nature of the industry they worked in, and whether they were in business for themselves or employed by someone.
Number of weeks residents were out of work in 1909.
Whether a resident could read or write.
Whether a resident was attending school.
Whether a resident was a survivor of the Union or Confederate Army or Navy.
Whether a resident was blind or disabled. (Some earlier census questions actually say “idiotic or insane”.)
I’ve been focusing this week on occupations because I’m also working on a history of the buildings in Caddo. Besides, I’m always interested in what people do for a living. However, as I read the census a few general things about Caddo and its early residents became very clear. First of all most of the residents of 1910 Caddo were Southerners. After looking at pages and pages of data I came to the conclusion that most of Caddo’s history can be traced to Tennessee, Missouri, Mississippi, Kentucky and the Carolinas. Oh, there’s an odd Yankee now and then. There’s a handful of Germans, and even a Swedish blacksmith. But for the most part, residents listed their birthplace AND that of their parents, as one of the aforementioned states. Many families seemed to have in-laws, parents, boarders, or step-children living with them. Some listed as many as 10 children born to the mother, but few still living. I also noticed that most residents were under 60 years old. That is probably explained by the median age listed earlier. Wilson Cooper, the mayor of Caddo in 1910, was an exception. He was an ancient 72 years old and his wife was 69!
There are familiar occupations listed on the census: teacher, minister, bookkeeper, prison guard, carpenter, general laborer, lawyer, barber, housekeeper, plumber, cook. But there are also jobs that have changed dramatically or no longer exist: mule trader, milliner, wagon driver, wood cutter, servant, laundress, agent (salesman?), confectioner, dressmaker, saddle maker. I was also amazed by the number of people who listed their job as “laborer-odd jobs” or servant. Many showed they had been unemployed several weeks during the previous year. Hard times.
If you take the time to study the simple facts listed in the census you can put together a more personal history of Caddo. William Malone was one of several druggists. He and his wife Clara lived on Choctaw St. with their three daughters and a son. He was from Texas and owned his own house. One of his neighbors was John Pithy (?census is handwritten) and his wife Annie Belle. John was a bank cashier. He was born in Alabama and had four children. John Schwartz, a widower from Indiana (I told you there were a few Yankees) lived on Hunter St. with his three children and owned a retail store. His parents were from Germany. Ulysses Markham was the postmaster. Edward Maddox and James Hogan are listed as Caddo grocers. Thomas Odill was a tailor.
These are the things that fascinate me about Caddo’s history, or the history of our nation- not dates and battles and major events, but the ordinary daily lives of people. I’m still reading the 1910 census and I have about six more pages left. Then it’s on to 1920!
(And I’m off for spring break March 13-17 so I plan to read more old issues of the Caddo newspapers at the genealogy library.)