The 1890 census was a nationally-based survey of the population of the United States. The historical data which would have been furnished by the 1890 census has been largely lost to modern-day inquiry, due to the destruction of the majority of the documentation generated from the census in a fire which swept the foundations of Washington’s Commerce Building thirty-one years later.
As such, the 1890 census now stands in historical records for its overall, comprehensive results, as amount to a population of 62,947,714 then found to be living in the United States. As an item of historical interest, it might be noted by the historically curious that the 1890 census was widely questioned by the U.S. public at the time of its compilation, due to pervasive beliefs that the true numbers of the American population at the time exceeded seventy-five million people.
The creation, processing, and storage of the 1890 census, in addition to its reception, are all of historical significance and interest. In regard to the first matter, the 1890 census stands before history for being the earliest to use punch cards. Whereas before census records took a full eight-year period to register, only a year was required to be devoted to the 1890 census.
The burning, at the aforementioned much later date, of the 1890 census records sparked a public push for surviving and future census records to be preserved in an as-yet to-be-established National Archives. Additionally, the 1890 census revealed a significant fall in Native American population numbers over a forty-year period.