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1850 United States census

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1850 United States census

← 1840 June 1, 1850 (1850-06-01) 1860 →

Filled-out census-taker's form from 1850 U.S. census, including household of Abraham Lincoln
General information
CountryUnited States
AuthorityCensus Office
Total population23,191,876 (Increase 35.9%)
Most populous ​stateNew York
Least populous ​stateFlorida

The 1850 United States census was the seventh decennial United States Census Conducted by the Census Office, it determined the resident population of the United States to be 23,191,876—an increase of 35.9 percent over the 17,069,453 persons enumerated during the 1840 census. The total population included 3,204,313 enslaved people.

Although the official date of the census date was June 1, 1850,[1] completed census forms indicate that the surveys continued to be made throughout the rest of the year.[2][3]

This was the first census where there was an attempt to collect information about every member of every household; women and children were named. Slaves were included by gender and estimated age on Slave Schedules, listed by the name of the owner. Prior to 1850, census records had recorded only the name of the head of the household and broad statistical accounting of other household members (three children under age five, one woman between the age of 35 and 40, etc.). This was also the first census to ask about place of birth of free residents.

Hinton Rowan Helper made extensive use of the 1850 census results in his influential anti-slavery book The Impending Crisis of the South (1857).

Census questions[edit]

The 1850 census, Schedule 1, Free Inhabitants, collected the following information:[4]

  • name
  • age
  • sex
  • color (white, black or mulatto) for each person
  • whether deaf and dumb, blind, psychologically ill or idiotic
  • value of real estate owned (required of all free persons)
  • profession, occupation or trade of each male over 15 years of age
  • place (state, territory or country) of birth
  • whether married within the year
  • whether attended school within the year
  • whether unable to read and write (for people over 20)
  • whether a pauper or convict

Full documentation for the 1850 population census, including census forms and enumerator instructions, is available from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series.


The 1850 United States census collected a great amount of data that gave insight into the state of the U.S. economy in 1850. Some of the data revealed the growth of the economy with regard to agricultural and manufactured production, international trade, federal debt, taxation, transportation, education, and land expansion.

Agricultural Production
This census calculated the total land by state (in square miles), the total production of major goods and livestock per state (in respective units), the total value of each good produced, the total number of plantations per state, and various other statistics. The total agricultural production between in 1850 was calculated at about 1.3 billion dollars.
Manufactured Production
This census included the total manufactured production (in dollars), the total amount of capital invested, the total value of wages paid, the percent of profit (by state and total), the profit by state of major industries (cotton, wool, various iron work, breweries, fishing, salt), and other less significant statistics. Total manufactured production was valued at just over one billion dollars. This is a great increase over the totals estimated in 1820 and 1840. Also, in total, the manufacturing industry recorded an overall profit of 43%.
International Trade
The 1850 census contains the total value of imports and exports by state, statistics and names of the major imports and exports, the total values of shipping by state, and the value of imports and exports with various individual countries. The United States traded most with the United Kingdom. The imports and exports with the United Kingdom were both valued around 145 million dollars.
Federal Debt
This census contains yearly federal debt totals, total federal revenues, and total expenditures from 1790 to 1853. The total debt of the United States on July 1, 1854, was roughly 47.2 million dollars.
The census contains some calculation of total annual federal taxes, but it is incomplete. It does however, give state taxation totals.
Transportation and Communication
This census calculates the total cost, size, and quantity of railroads and canals. The funded debt for railroads and canals in 1853 was 130 million. Their gross earnings were more than 38 million dollars. This census also contains estimates for growth in mileage of telegraphic lines in the United States. In 1853 the country contains 89 telegraph lines that stretched 23,261 miles (37,435 km). When published in 1854, the country had an estimated 30,000 miles (48,000 km) of telegraphic lines, a drastic increase.
This census displays the advances of the United States in education and literacy by documenting the number of libraries, the number of schools (public, private, and colleges), state literacy rates, the total newspaper production and consumption, the educational levels of differing races, the total value of tuition costs, the amount of federal land given for education, and other various statistics.
Land Expansion
The 1850 census shows the great amount of territorial expansion that took place in the United States, following the Admission of Texas, the Oregon Treaty, and the Treaty with Mexico following the war in 1848. These three pieces of territory totaled an addition of more than a million square miles to the nation. In 1850, the United States contained 31 states and 4 organized territories (Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah).
The 1850 United States census can be seen as a historical document that gives insight into the state of the nation's economy in 1850. It is much more detailed and provides more information than the 1840 census.

This census was conducted during a very important period of growth and innovation in the United States, the Industrial Revolution. The statistics in this census provide data on the rate of growth that was taking place in 1850, which resulted in the emergence of the United States as an economic world power. Many of the statistics were compared to those of Great Britain and other world powers. This shows where the United States stood economically relative to the rest of the world.

Data availability[edit]

Microdata from the 1850 population census are freely available through the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series. Aggregate data for small areas, together with compatible cartographic boundary files, can be downloaded from the National Historical Geographic Information System.

State rankings[edit]

Rank State Population
01 New York 3,097,394
02 Pennsylvania 2,311,786
03 Ohio 1,980,329
04 Virginia [5] 1,421,661
05 Tennessee 1,002,717
06 Massachusetts 994,514
07 Indiana 988,416
08 Kentucky 982,405
09 Georgia 906,185
10 North Carolina 869,039
11 Illinois 851,470
12 Alabama 771,623
13 Missouri 682,044
14 South Carolina 668,507
15 Mississippi 606,526
16 Maine 583,169
17 Maryland 583,034
18 Louisiana 517,762
19 New Jersey 489,555
20 Michigan 397,654
21 Connecticut 370,792
22 New Hampshire 317,976
23 Vermont 314,120
24 Wisconsin 305,391
X West Virginia [6] 302,313
25 Texas 212,592
26 Arkansas 209,897
27 Iowa 192,214
28 Rhode Island 147,545
29 California 92,597
30 Delaware 91,532
31 Florida 87,445
X New Mexico 61,547
X District of Columbia [7] 51,687
X Oregon 12,093
X Utah 11,380
X Minnesota 6,077
X Washington 1,201

City rankings[edit]

Rank City State Population[8] Region (2016)[9]
01 New York New York 515,547 Northeast
02 Baltimore Maryland 169,054 South
03 Boston Massachusetts 136,881 Northeast
04 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 121,376 Northeast
05 New Orleans Louisiana 116,375 South
06 Cincinnati Ohio 115,435 Midwest
07 Brooklyn New York 96,838 Northeast
08 St. Louis Missouri 77,860 Midwest
09 Spring Garden Pennsylvania 58,894 Northeast
10 Albany New York 50,763 Northeast
11 Northern Liberties Pennsylvania 47,223 Northeast
12 Kensington Pennsylvania 46,774 Northeast
13 Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 46,601 Northeast
14 Louisville Kentucky 43,194 South
15 Charleston South Carolina 42,985 South
16 Buffalo New York 42,261 Northeast
17 Providence Rhode Island 41,513 Northeast
18 Washington District of Columbia 40,001 South
19 Newark New Jersey 38,894 Northeast
20 Southwark Pennsylvania 38,799 Northeast
21 Rochester New York 36,403 Northeast
22 Lowell Massachusetts 33,383 Northeast
23 Williamsburgh New York 30,780 Northeast
24 Chicago Illinois 29,963 Midwest
25 Troy New York 28,785 Northeast
26 Richmond Virginia 27,570 South
27 Moyamensing Pennsylvania 26,979 Northeast
28 Syracuse New York 22,271 Northeast
29 Allegheny Pennsylvania 21,262 Northeast
30 Detroit Michigan 21,019 Midwest
31 Portland Maine 20,815 Northeast
32 Mobile Alabama 20,515 South
33 New Haven Connecticut 20,345 Northeast
34 Salem Massachusetts 20,264 Northeast
35 Milwaukee Wisconsin 20,061 Midwest
36 Roxbury Massachusetts 18,364 Northeast
37 Columbus Ohio 17,882 Midwest
38 Utica New York 17,565 Northeast
39 Charlestown Massachusetts 17,216 Northeast
40 Worcester Massachusetts 17,049 Northeast
41 Cleveland Ohio 17,034 Midwest
42 New Bedford Massachusetts 16,443 Northeast
43 Reading Pennsylvania 15,743 Northeast
44 Savannah Georgia 15,312 South
45 Cambridge Massachusetts 15,215 Northeast
46 Bangor Maine 14,432 Northeast
47 Norfolk Virginia 14,326 South
48 Lynn Massachusetts 14,257 Northeast
49 Lafayette Louisiana 14,190 South
50 Petersburg Virginia 14,010 South
51 Wilmington Delaware 13,979 South
52 Poughkeepsie New York 13,944 Northeast
53 Manchester New Hampshire 13,932 Northeast
54 Hartford Connecticut 13,555 Northeast
55 Lancaster Pennsylvania 12,369 Northeast
56 Lockport New York 12,323 Northeast
57 Oswego New York 12,205 Northeast
58 Springfield Massachusetts 11,766 Northeast
59 Fall River Massachusetts 11,524 Northeast
60 Smithfield Rhode Island 11,500 Northeast
61 Wheeling Virginia[10] 11,435 South
62 Newburgh New York 11,415 Northeast
63 Paterson New Jersey 11,334 Northeast
64 Dayton Ohio 10,977 Midwest
65 Taunton Massachusetts 10,441 Northeast
66 Norwich Connecticut 10,265 Northeast
67 Kingston New York 10,232 Northeast
68 Nashville Tennessee 10,165 South
69 New Brunswick New Jersey 10,019 Northeast
70 Portsmouth New Hampshire 9,738 Northeast
71 Newburyport Massachusetts 9,572 Northeast
72 Newport Rhode Island 9,563 Northeast
73 Auburn New York 9,548 Northeast
74 Camden New Jersey 9,479 Northeast
75 Augusta Georgia 9,448 South
76 Covington Kentucky 9,408 South
77 Fishkill New York 9,240 Northeast
78 New London Connecticut 8,991 Northeast
79 Penn Pennsylvania 8,939 Northeast
80 Schenectady New York 8,921 Northeast
81 Memphis Tennessee 8,841 South
82 Hempstead New York 8,811 Northeast
83 Alexandria Virginia 8,734 South
83 Chenango New York 8,734 Northeast
85 Montgomery Alabama 8,728 South
86 Portsmouth Virginia 8,626 South
87 Brookhaven New York 8,595 Northeast
88 Concord New Hampshire 8,576 Northeast
89 Seneca New York 8,505 Northeast
90 Nantucket Massachusetts 8,452 Northeast
91 Georgetown District of Columbia 8,366 South
92 Chicopee Massachusetts 8,291 Northeast
93 Lawrence Massachusetts 8,282 Northeast
94 Augusta Maine 8,225 Northeast
95 Dover New Hampshire 8,196 Northeast
96 New Albany Indiana 8,181 Midwest
97 Elmira New York 8,166 Northeast
98 Lexington Kentucky 8,159 South
99 Danvers Massachusetts 8,109 Northeast
100 Indianapolis Indiana 8,091 Midwest


The Utah Territorial census was taken in 1851. Secretary Broughton Harris refused to certify the census of Utah territory. Harris complained that Brigham Young had conducted the census without him, claimed several irregularities, and consequently withheld funds reserved for the census.[11] The controversy contributed to Harris' decision to join other Runaway Officials of 1851 and abandon his post in Utah Territory. Relationships with the federal government continued to sour and eventually resulted in the Utah War.

Local government officials feared having an enslaved population might impede the territory's quest for statehood, since certain members of Congress were concerned about expansion of slavery into the western territories.[12] The 1850 census slave schedule for Utah Territory reported only 26 slaves, with a note that all of them were heading to California, and did not include any enslaved people remaining in the territory.[13] John David Smith estimates that there were 100 blacks in Utah by 1850, with two-thirds of them enslaved.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "What day was the census taken each decade?". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
  2. ^ "United States Census 1850, Maryland, Washington county Film Viewer – Image 127 of 529". familysearch.org. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
  3. ^ "United States Census, 1850, Tennessee, Bedford county Film Viewer – Image 250 of 389". familysearch.org. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
  4. ^ "Library Bibliography Bulletin 88, New York State Census Records, 1790–1925". New York State Library. October 1981. pp. 44 (p. 50 of PDF).
  5. ^ Includes population in future state of West Virginia.
  6. ^ Until 1863, the state of West Virginia was part of Virginia; the data for each state reflect the present-day boundaries.
  7. ^ The District of Columbia is not a state but was created with the passage of the Residence Act of 1790.
  8. ^ Population of the 100 Largest Cities and Other Urban Places in the United States: 1790 to 1990, U.S. Census Bureau, 1998
  9. ^ "Regions and Divisions". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on December 3, 2016. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  10. ^ Is located in present day West Virginia
  11. ^ W. Paul Reeve; Ardis E. Parshall (2010). Mormonism: A Historical Encyclopedia. p. 26. ISBN 978-1-59884-107-7.
  12. ^ Nathaniel R. Ricks (2007). A Peculiar Place for the Peculiar Institution: Slavery and Sovereignty in Early Territorial Utah (MA thesis). Brigham Young University. hdl:1877/etd1909.
  13. ^ Ronald G. Coleman (1976). "Blacks in Utah History: An Unknown Legacy". In Helen Z. Papanikolas (ed.). The Peoples of Utah. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society. pp. 115–140. ISBN 978-0-913738-26-9.
  14. ^ Randall M. Miller; John David Smith (1997). Dictionary of Afro-American Slavery. Greenwood Publishing. p. 506. ISBN 978-0-275-95799-5.

External links[edit]