From the Ashes, 1872-1900
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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October 1, 1872


Increasingly throughout the nineteenth century there was an emphasis on gathering data on individuals and groups. These were practical exercises as it was believed that data could yield generalizations on social conditions and thus problems could be identified and then addressed. It was not until the last quarter of that century that more exact sampling techniques were used and calculations of probability and correlations were made. Government entities in particular submersed themselves in data for the enlightenment of policy makers.

At a meeting of the Chicago Board of Education held August 20, 1872, the school agent was directed to canvass the city in order to provide the state's superintendent of public instruction the statistics he required. The Illinois General Assembly had approved an act in April of that year which ordered the state superintendent to make biennial reports to the governor. Types of information mandated for each county included statistics on schools, teachers, students and school revenue. Each county school superintendent in turn provided the state superintendent the data needed to prepare a comprehensive statewide report.

Points to Consider

How were blacks distributed among the city's three divisions? Why were "Col'd Persons" listed separately?

In 1870 the total valuation of real estate and personal property was set at $275,986,550 and this amount generated $4,239,798.75 in revenue for the city. In 1871 the total valuation was $289,746,470 but only $2,897,464.70 was realized as city income. Why was this?

Which of the city's three divisions experienced the largest growth over the period 1853-1872? Why?

Why would a census like this have been required and how could it have been useful?

See Related Document:

6, 7, 14, 31, 33 and 48

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