1840 United States census

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1840 United States census

  1830 June 1, 1840 (1840-06-01) 1850  

Seal of the United States Census Bureau.svg
General information
CountryUnited States
Total population17,069,453 (Increase2.svg 32.7%)
Most populous state New York
Least populous state Delaware

The United States census of 1840 was the sixth census of the United States. Conducted by the Census Office on June 1, 1840, it determined the resident population of the United States to be 17,069,453 – an increase of 32.7 percent over the 12,866,020 persons enumerated during the 1830 census. The total population included 2,487,355 slaves. In 1840, the center of population was about 260 miles (418 km) west of Washington, near Weston, Virginia (now in West Virginia).


This was the first census in which:

Controversy over statistics for mental illness among Northern blacks

The 1840 census was the first that attempted to count Americans who were "insane" or "idiotic". Published results of the census indicated that alarming numbers of black persons living in non-slaveholding States were mentally ill, in striking contrast to the corresponding figures for slaveholding States.

Pro-slavery advocates trumpeted the results as evidence of the beneficial effects of slavery, and the probable consequences of emancipation. [1] Anti-slavery advocates contended, on the contrary, that the published returns were riddled with errors, as detailed in an 1844 report by Edward Jarvis of Massachusetts in the American Journal of the Medical Sciences, later published separately as a pamphlet, [1] [2] and in a memorial from the American Statistical Association to Congress, praying that measures be taken to correct the errors. [3]

The memorial was submitted to the House of Representatives by John Quincy Adams, who contended that it demonstrated "a multitude of gross and important errors" in the published returns. [4] In response to the House's request for an inquiry, Secretary of State John C. Calhoun reported that a careful examination of the statistics by the supervisor of the census had fully sustained their correctness. [5] [6] The returns were not revised. [7]

Census questions

The 1840 census asked these questions: [8]

Data availability

No microdata from the 1840 population census are available, but aggregate data for small areas, together with compatible cartographic boundary files, can be downloaded from the National Historical Geographic Information System. A compendium of data from the sixth census, organized by States, counties, and principal towns is available on the web site of the Census Bureau.

State rankings

01New York2,428,921
04Virginia [9] 1,464,334
07North Carolina753,419
11South Carolina594,398
18New Jersey373,306
22New Hampshire284,574
XWest Virginia [10] 224,537
24Rhode Island108,830
XDistrict of Columbia [11] 33,745

City rankings

RankCityStatePopulation [12] Region (2016) [13]
01 New York New York 312,710 Northeast
02 Baltimore Maryland 102,313 South
03 New Orleans Louisiana 102,193 South
04 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 93,665 Northeast
05 Boston Massachusetts 93,383 Northeast
06 Cincinnati Ohio 46,338 Midwest
07 Brooklyn New York 36,233 Northeast
08 Northern Liberties Pennsylvania 34,474 Northeast
09 Albany New York 33,721 Northeast
10 Charleston South Carolina 29,261 South
11 Spring Garden Pennsylvania 27,849 Northeast
12 Southwark Pennsylvania 27,548 Northeast
13 Washington District of Columbia 23,364 South
14 Providence Rhode Island 23,171 Northeast
15 Kensington Pennsylvania 22,314 Northeast
16 Louisville Kentucky 21,210 South
17 Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 21,115 Northeast
18 Lowell Massachusetts 20,796 Northeast
19 Rochester New York 20,191 Northeast
20 Richmond Virginia 20,153 South
21 Troy New York 19,334 Northeast
22 Buffalo New York 18,213 Northeast
23 Newark New Jersey 17,290 Northeast
24 St. Louis Missouri 16,469 Midwest
25 Portland Maine 15,218 Northeast
26 Salem Massachusetts 15,082 Northeast
27 Moyamensing Pennsylvania 14,573 Northeast
28 New Haven Connecticut 12,960 Northeast
29 Utica New York 12,782 Northeast
30 Mobile Alabama 12,672 South
31 New Bedford Massachusetts 12,087 Northeast
32 Charlestown Massachusetts 11,484 Northeast
33 Savannah Georgia 11,214 South
34 Petersburg Virginia 11,136 South
35 Springfield Massachusetts 10,985 Northeast
36 Norfolk Virginia 10,920 South
37 Allegheny Pennsylvania 10,089 Northeast
38 Smithfield Rhode Island 9,534 Northeast
39 Hartford Connecticut 9,468 Northeast
40 Lynn Massachusetts 9,367 Northeast
41 Detroit Michigan 9,102 Midwest
42 Roxbury Massachusetts 9,089 Northeast
43 Nantucket Massachusetts 9,012 Northeast
44 Bangor Maine 8,627 Northeast
45 Alexandria District of Columbia 8,459 South
46 Lancaster Pennsylvania 8,417 Northeast
47 Reading Pennsylvania 8,410 Northeast
48 Cambridge Massachusetts 8,409 Northeast
49 Wilmington Delaware 8,367 South
50 Newport Rhode Island 8,333 Northeast
51 Portsmouth New Hampshire 7,887 Northeast
52 Wheeling Virginia [14] 7,885 South
53 Taunton Massachusetts 7,645 Northeast
54 Paterson New Jersey 7,596 Northeast
55 Worcester Massachusetts 7,497 Northeast
56 Georgetown District of Columbia 7,312 South
57 Newburyport Massachusetts 7,161 Northeast
58 Lexington Kentucky 6,997 South
59 Nashville Tennessee 6,929 South
60 Schenectady New York 6,784 Northeast
61 Fall River Massachusetts 6,738 Northeast
62 Warwick Rhode Island 6,726 Northeast
63 Portsmouth Virginia 6,477 South
64 Dover New Hampshire 6,458 Northeast
65 Augusta Georgia 6,403 South
66 Lynchburg Virginia 6,395 South
67 Gloucester Massachusetts 6,350 Northeast
68 Cleveland Ohio 6,071 Midwest
69 Dayton Ohio 6,067 Midwest
70 Middletown New Jersey 6,063 Northeast
71 Nashua New Hampshire 6,054 Northeast
72 Columbus Ohio 6,048 Midwest
73 Harrisburg Pennsylvania 5,980 Northeast
74 Hudson New York 5,672 Northeast
75 Auburn New York 5,626 Northeast
76 Marblehead Massachusetts 5,575 Northeast
77 New London Connecticut 5,519 Northeast
78 Wilmington North Carolina 5,335 South
79 Augusta Maine 5,314 Northeast
80 Plymouth Massachusetts 5,281 Northeast
81 Cumberland Rhode Island 5,225 Northeast
82 Andover Massachusetts 5,207 Northeast
83 Frederick Maryland 5,182 South
84 Bath Maine 5,141 Northeast
85 Middleborough Massachusetts 5,085 Northeast
86 Evesham New Jersey 5,060 Northeast
87 Gardiner Maine 5,042 Northeast
88 Danvers Massachusetts 5,020 Northeast
89 Concord New Hampshire 4,897 Northeast
90 Dorchester Massachusetts 4,875 Northeast
91 Easton Pennsylvania 4,865 Northeast
92 Woodbridge New Jersey 4,821 Northeast
93 York Pennsylvania 4,779 Northeast
94 Zanesville Ohio 4,766 Midwest
95 Beverly Massachusetts 4,689 Northeast
96 Danbury Connecticut 4,504 Northeast
97 Chicago Illinois 4,470 Midwest
98 Carlisle Pennsylvania 4,351 Northeast
99 Pottsville Pennsylvania 4,345 Northeast
100 Columbia South Carolina 4,340 South

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  1. 1 2 Leon F. Litwack (1958), "The Federal Government and the Free Negro, 1790–1860", Journal of Negro History, 43 (4): 261–78, 263–68, doi:10.2307/2716144, JSTOR   2716144 , and sources there cited.
  2. Edward Jarvis (1844). Insanity Among the Coloured Population of the Free States. Philadelphia: T.K. & P.G. Collins, Printers. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  3. Edward Jarvis; William Brigham; J. Wingate Thornton (1844). Memorial of the American Statistical Association Praying the Adoption of Measures for the Correction of Errors in the Returns of the Sixth Census. Public Documents Printed by Order of the Senate of the United States, Second Session of the Twenty-Eighth Congress. I. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  4. John Quincy Adams (1877). Charles Francis Adams (ed.). Memoirs of John Quincy Adams: comprising portions of his diary from 1795 to 1848. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co. pp.  27–28, 61, 119–20. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  5. Litwack (1958), 267
  6. John Caldwell Calhoun; South Carolina General Assembly (1859). Richard K. Crallé (ed.). The Works of John C. Calhoun: Reports and Public Letters. V. New York: D. Appleton and Company. p. 458. Retrieved May 31, 2013. Calhoun engaged William A. Weaver, the superintendent of the 1840 census, to review the figures and check them against related data from the 1830 census. Ibid. Weaver reported that he had examined "each specification of error" and concluded that the memorialists had themselves erred in their claims. While there doubtless had been minor errors, he said, there had been no glaring methodological mistakes as charged. See William Edwin Hemphill, ed., The Papers of John C. Calhoun: 1845, Columbia: Univ. of South Carolina Press, 1993, vol. 21, p. 156.
  7. Litwack (1958), 268
  8. "Library Bibliography Bulletin 88, New York State Census Records, 1790-1925". New York State Library. 1981. Note that several pages on U.S. federal web sites incorrectly assert that the 1840 census questionnaire closely followed that from the 1830 census, which did not include questions concerning mental illness.
  9. Includes population in the future state of West Virginia
  10. Between 1790 and 1860, the state of West Virginia was part of Virginia; the data for this state reflects the present-day boundary.
  11. The District of Columbia is not a state but was created with the passage of the Residence Act of 1790. The territory that formed that federal capital was originally donated by both Maryland and Virginia; however, the Virginia portion was returned by Congress in 1846.
  12. Population of the 100 Largest Cities and Other Urban Places in the United States: 1790 to 1990, U.S. Census Bureau, 1998
  13. "Regions and Divisions". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on December 3, 2016. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  14. Is in present day West Virginia