1870 United States census

1870 United States census

← 1860 June 1, 1870 (1870-06-01) 1880 →

Seal of the United States Census Bureau.svg
General information
Country United States
Total population 38,925,598 (Increase 22.6%)
Most populous ​state New York
Least populous ​state Nevada

The United States census of 1870 was the ninth United States census. It was conducted by the Census Bureau from June 1, 1870 to August 23, 1871. The 1870 census was the first census to provide detailed information on the African-American population, only five years after the culmination of the Civil War when slaves were granted freedom. The total population was 38,925,598 with a resident population of 38,558,371[1] individuals, a 22.6% increase from 1860. The 1870 census' population estimate was controversial, as many believed it underestimated the true population numbers, especially in New York and Pennsylvania.[2]

This was the first census in which all 100 largest cities recorded populations of over 10,000.

This was the last federal census conducted using the US Marshal Service as enumerators.

Census Act of 1850

The Census Act of 1850 established the primary machinery of the ninth census. The Census Bureau, working within the Department of the Interior, oversaw the recording and tabulation of results gathered by assistant marshals, who were hired and supervised by Federal marshals. Two new structural changes during the 1870 census occurred: marshals had to return the completed population questionnaire to the Census Office in September and penalties for refusing to reply to enumerator questions were extended to encompass every question on the questionnaires.

Census organization

The commonly past-used slave questionnaires were redesigned to reflect the American society after the Civil War. The five schedules for the 1870 census were the following: General Population, Mortality, Agriculture, Products of Industry, and Social Statistics.

The general population saw a 22.6% increase to 38,555,983 individuals in 1870. Charges of an undercount, however, were brought against Francis Amasa Walker, the Superintendent of the 1870 census.

Mortality rates in 1870, in general, decreased as a fraction of the total population by <0.1% from 1860 and by 0.1% from 1850. The lower death rates indicate that the standard of living increased, due to some exogenous factor, over the period of twenty years from 1850 to 1870.[citation needed]

In terms of products of industry, total U.S. wealth increased by 17.3% from 1860 to 1870, to reach an assessed wealth of $14,178,986,732. The four largest state contributors to this wealth were New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, in that order. Most of the wealth was concentrated in the developed Northeast region, as newer territories like Wyoming were beginning to develop their young economies.

The 1870 census was the first of its kind to record the nativity of the American population. This social statistic helped determine which areas were more highly composed of immigrants than native-born Americans. New York City had the most foreign-born individuals, with 419,094 foreigners, who comprised 44.5% of the city's total population. Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, and San Francisco also had a great population of foreigners that made up a significant fraction of their total populations. Therefore, a great ethnic and cultural change was witnessed from 1860 to 1870, as part of the population growth was due to immigrants moving in and a shuffling of residents across state borders.

Census results

Population results of the 1870 census
True population Total United States 38,925,598
States only 38,205,598
Territories 720,000
Constitutional/resident population* Total United States 38,558,371
States only** 38,115,641
Territories 442,730
White population Total United States 33,589,377
States only 33,203,128
Territories 386,249
African American population Total United States 4,880,009
States only 4,835,106
Territories 44,903
Native American population (on reservations) Total United States 357,981
States only 89,957
Territories 268,024
Native American population (not on reservations) Total United States 25,731
States only 21,228
Territories 4,503
Chinese population Total United States 63,199
States only 56,124
Territories 7,075
Japanese population Total United States 55
States only 55
Territories 0


*The constitutional population excludes the populations of Native Americans "maintaining their tribal relations and living upon Government reservations" and "the newly acquired district of Alaska."[3]

**When considering congressional apportionment, the total state population of the Constitutional population was used.

Census questions

Schedule 1 of the 1870 census collected the following information[4]

  1. Dwelling-houses numbered in the order of Visitation
  2. Families numbered in the order of visitation
  3. Names
  4. Age
  5. Sex
  6. Color
  7. Profession
  8. Value of Real Estate
  9. Value of Personal Estate
  10. Place of Birth (State, Territory, Country)
  11. Father's Birthplace*
  12. Mother's Birthplace*
  13. If born within the year, state month
  14. If married within the year, state month
  15. Attended School within the Year (Y/N)
  16. Cannot Read (Y/N)
  17. Cannot Write (Y/N)
  18. Deaf & dumb, blind, insane, idiotic, pauper, or convict
  19. Male Citizens of U.S. of 21 years of age or upwards
  20. Male Citizens of U.S of 21 years of age and upwards where rights to vote is denied on grounds other than rebellion or other crime**[5]

*If born in another country

**This question asked if one's right to vote is being denied due to a legal matter other than rebellion or conviction. Such circumstances included being unable to pay poll taxes, or being unable to pass a literacy test.

Full documentation for the 1870 population census, including census forms and enumerator instructions, is available from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series.

Population undercount

Although Francis Walker, the Superintendent of the 1870 census, defended the quality of the census, arguing that standardized, clear, and statistical approaches and practices were carried out across all regions of the United States, the public at the time was disappointed in the national growth rate and suspected underenumeration. With especially bitter complaints coming from New York and Philadelphia claiming up to a third of the population was not counted, the President made the rare move to order a recount in those areas. While it was thought a large fraction of the population was not counted for being indoors in the wintry cold, newer estimates resulted in only a 2.5% increase in Philadelphia's population and a 2% increase in New York's.

This controversy of the 1870 undercount resurfaced in 1890, when the national growth rate between 1880 and 1890 was discovered to be much lower than it was between 1870 and 1880. Critics then asserted that the 1870 population must have been underenumerated by over 1.2 million people to account for the discrepancy between growth rates; it was presumed that the growth rate in 1880 had to be exaggerated because of the 1870 undercount. Despite the fact that modern investigations have yet to quantify the exact effect of the undercount, most modern social scientists do not believe the undercount was as severe as 1890 investigators assumed. Today most analyzers compare the 1870 undercount to the non-response rates seen in most modern census data.

State and territory populations

Rank State Population
01 New York 4,382,759
02 Pennsylvania 3,521,951
03 Ohio 2,665,260
04 Illinois 2,539,891
05 Missouri 1,721,295
06 Indiana 1,680,637
07 Massachusetts 1,457,351
08 Kentucky 1,321,011
09 Tennessee 1,258,520
10 Virginia 1,225,163
11 Iowa 1,194,020
12 Georgia 1,184,109
13 Michigan 1,184,059
14 North Carolina 1,071,361
15 Wisconsin 1,054,670
16 Alabama 996,992
17 New Jersey 906,096
18 Mississippi 827,922
19 Texas 818,579
20 Maryland 780,894
21 Louisiana 726,915
22 South Carolina 705,606
23 Maine 626,915
24 California 560,247
25 Connecticut 537,454
26 Arkansas 484,471
27 West Virginia 442,014
28 Minnesota 439,706
29 Kansas 364,399
30 Vermont 330,551
31 New Hampshire 318,300
32 Rhode Island 217,353
33 Florida 187,748
X District of Columbia [note 1] 131,700
34 Delaware 125,015
35 Nebraska 122,993
X New Mexico 91,874
36 Oregon 90,923
X Utah 86,336
37 Nevada 42,941[note 2]
X Colorado 39,864
X Washington 23,955
X Montana 20,595
X Idaho 14,999
X South Dakota 11,776
X Arizona 9,658
X Wyoming 9,118
X North Dakota 2,405


  1. ^ The District of Columbia is not a state but was created with the passage of the Residence Act of 1790.
  2. ^ Includes a population of 450 for Rio Virgin Country, which was located in Nevada but enumerated as part of Utah in the 1870 census.

Town populations (sorted by population)


  1. ^ US Census Bureau, Census History Staff. "1870 Fast Facts – History – U.S. Census Bureau". www.census.gov. Retrieved April 28, 2019.
  2. ^ Munroe, James Phinney (1923) A Life of Francis Amasa Walker, Holt, p. 111 Conditions for the work were therefore so adverse that the new superintendent (Walker), with characteristic frankness, repudiated in many instances the results of the Census, denouncing them as false or misleading and pointing out the plain reasons. p. 113 When the appointments of enumerators were made in 1870 the entire lot was taken from the Republican party, and most of those in the South were negroes. Some of the negroes could not read or write, and the enumeration of the Southern population was done very badly. My judgement was that the census of 1870 erred as to the colored population between 350,000 and 400,000
  3. ^ a b Bureau, US Census. "1870 Census: A Compendium of the Ninth Census (June 1, 1870)". www.census.gov. Retrieved April 29, 2019.
  4. ^ "1870 Federal Census Schedule 1 Form" (PDF). National Archives.
  5. ^ "1870 Enumerator Instructions (to Assistant Marshals)". IPUMS USA. Retrieved August 27, 2019.
  6. ^ Population of the 100 Largest Cities and Other Urban Places in the United States: 1790 to 1990, U.S. Census Bureau, 1998
  7. ^ "Regions and Divisions". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on December 3, 2016. Retrieved September 9, 2016.