Census Records

Federal Industrial Census

One of the lesser-known censuses in the Society’s collection is the federal decennial industrial census of Missouri, 1850 to 1880. Although not as valuable to genealogical researchers as the population census, the information in the industrial schedules has important uses for researchers studying economic and sociological trends from the mid-to late nineteenth century.

Something of a precursor to the economic census currently used by the U.S. Census Bureau, the industrial, or Products of Industry, census gathered information about individuals or companies that produced a minimum of $500 worth of goods per year. Aside from the urban centers, most Missouri towns had little industrial output during much of the nineteenth century. Before the advent of the large-scale factory, this census measured the basic human dimension of industry. For example, the workshop of a cobbler or a blacksmith was included as an individual entity.

Like the population schedules, the industrial schedules are arranged by county, then by townships or other divisions within each county. In addition to the name of the individual company and the type of businesses or product manufactured, census takers recorded power sources, machinery descriptions, the average number of employees of each sex and wages paid, materials used, and kinds, quantities, and values of production. The amount and type of information increased as the century passed.

The industrial census depicts a time of industrial growth, when much of the work was performed by hand and on a human scale, before the advent of numerous large-scale factories within the state. There are few better tools for assessing Missouri’s economic growth in this era than the industrial census.