Fun with the Census: Not really the Census, but close

The info that I thought was Census stuff, isn’t Census stuff, it is actually Commissioners of the District of Columbia stuff. Once upon a time DC had a board of Commissioners and off the top of my head I think they were appointed by Congress. Anyway those Commissioners put out some lovely annual reports which have a good deal of info. Sadly, that info seems to be on scratched microfilm in the GovDocs section of my place’s library. The photocoping fees for it is a strong disincentive for me to make copies and I should shop around. I hear the Library of Congress and the University of Maryland are more affordable.
So why would you, with your mild interest in the past have an interest in some old annual reports? Well besides knowing they counted only 11 Chinese women in all of the District in 1897, 4 of them living on Sq. 425 (currently being occupied by the Convention Center), the reports break down the blocks or squares with some interesting information. Their census was enumerated by the police in some instances, and I can’t determine who did the other sections of the report. There is a break down between “White” and “Colored”, colored I’m gathering would include the Chinese, Indians, African Americans, and other non-Europeans, by square. Some go further by locating the handful of Chinese (327 men, 11 women), one Japanese guy, and enough Indians to count on your fingers (3 men, 2 women) in the District in 1897. Gives you a sense of how cosmopolitian the city was, uhm? [

2 thoughts on “Fun with the Census: Not really the Census, but close”

  1. You spelled ‘cosmopolitan’ incorrectly.

    Webster’s defines “cosmopolitan” as:

    1 : having worldwide rather than limited or provincial scope or bearing
    2 : having wide international sophistication
    3 : composed of persons, constituents, or elements from all or many parts of the world

    Intercontinental air travel did not exist in the period to which you are referring. Intercontinental sea travel was not uncommon, but it was also not readily accessible for most Africans, Europeans, South Americans, and Asians. And I’m pretty sure that Washington’s tourist industry was relatively non-existent in 1897 (no hordes of Japanese on buses to see the Cherry Blossoms) – so, of course there were a lot of white people walking around DC. No need to be sarcastic about it! Don’t forget the nation was barely 100 years old at the time, and at the time the biggest influx of immigrants was coming from western Europe. Diversification takes time, as does gentrification… but they’re the same thing. It’s good that Shaw is diversifying/becoming cosmopolitan, no?

  2. The transcontinental railroad, wasn’t that built on the backs of cheap Chinese labor in the post-civil war period? And Chinatown in SanFran established some time around the mid 19th century, and there was a Chinatown in DC before it moved to the the Chinatown we all know and love but I don’t have the dates for that at hand. Yet at 327 people, I wonder is that enough people to justify a ‘town’?
    Yes, travel before cheap airfare was hard, but it seems enough Chinese were coming over to the US that we as a nation decided to pass the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Of course, America was getting tired of the huddled masses streaming in from Ireland and Slavic countries too, but I don’t know (can’t remember actually) if we bothered to pass an act to ban them too.
    Come to think of it, in my 1880 Census study of the Truxton Circle area, a good number of households were foreign born. North Capitol was chock full of Germans. So though travel wasn’t accessible to most people of the world, enough of them came to the US to make an impression. More so in other cities though.

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