Progress Update

Remember how I will do research projects of your choice if you meet a certain target on link:[my Patreon]? The project that I am currently working on footnote:[Finding population statistics for the revolutionary war and doing a bit of math to create a historically-accurate sample population.] is nowhere near done, but I thought I would share a few things from my research so far.

The First US Census

The first US Census was conducted in 1790, and the results are still available electronically from the US government. They didn’t ask any of the modern questions we might expect about income, ethnicity, profession, etc. Instead, they asked each head of house the following:

That was it.

Not very useful from a historical point of view - although it does allow one to crunch the numbers and work out population density (very low) and rates of urbanization (also very low).

What about other historical databases?

Cambridge has a lovely “Historical Statistics of the United States” that gives all sorts of historical figures about population - but only after 1790. And they didn’t add categories other than the above until later. So their earliest data is clearly cribbed from the census, while their later data is brought in from a large variety of sources.

Okay, so who does have historical records?

Well, my history professor recommended looking into military and parish records. This seems like a good idea, until you realize how many of those there are, and how almost none of them have actually been indexed. And then you continue to look for actual records (by going to speak with your university’s library’s special collections department), and you ask your history professor for the names of some people to speak with. And then you wait to hear back from them. And you still don’t have any historical records.

But clearly you must have something, if you are going to write a post about it.

True! I have several book recommendations, which I am slowly working my way through. The first is “Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth” by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich footnote:[Reference number in the UNH library: HQ1438.A11 U42 1983. I don’t know what catalog system they use, because that clearly isn’t dewy decimal. I eventually tracked it down on the third floor hidden behind a psychology textbook.], which is relevant to my research only in that it’s a social history of the correct time period, but has been interesting-ish so far.

The other recommendation I got was a novel by Alex Meyers, a professor at Philips Exiter, that I haven’t tracked down yet.


That’s all I have for this week - I’ll see you all again next week, though!