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Historical Census and Ward Maps: U.S. Census Maps

A guide to the cartographic resources of Cornell University Library with links to online resources.

First Census

Photo Credit: Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-387

As Secretary of State in 1790, Thomas Jefferson was chief administrator of the first census. He certified the results reported by marshals and assistants in the original 13 States plus the districts of Kentucky, Maine, Vermont, and the Southwest Territory (Tennessee). A total of 3.9 million people were counted in the first census, although for apportionment purposes the count was around 3.6 million.
(U.S.Census web site)

What is the U.S. Census

Over the last century, the Census Bureau’s census and survey operations have become heavily dependent on maps, both for collecting data and, along with charts, for presenting statistics. Maps (many in color) and charts were first used to illustrate the demographic, economic, and other characteristics of various geographic areas covered in the 1870 census and have appeared in even greater number and variety for most censuses and surveys in later years. Outline maps are printed in reports or separately, allowing data users to identify the exact areas for which statistics are presented in their printed
reports, tapes, or other products. Since 1900, thousands of maps have been collected from state and local agencies, and/or prepared by the Census Bureau’s mapmakers, for taking censuses and assigning geographic codes to the results. In the 1980s, the agency began working with the U.S. Geological Survey to develop an electronic data base, called the TIGER (topologically integrated geographic encoding and referencing) system, which combined these various mapmaking, coding, and related functions into a single coordinated, computerized operation.

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