Agricultural Census Resources at CRL

Page from 1850 U.S. Census, Agriculture [New York State]. From CRL collections.

The Census of Agriculture began as part of the 1840 United States Census, in conjunction with surveys of mining and other economic activity. The Census of Agriculture repeated every ten years, until it switched in 1925 to its current five year cycle. The first Census of Agriculture collected a fairly limited amount of data, primarily on the production of major crops, farm acreage, and the ownership of livestock. Over the decades the Census steadily expanded to gather data on fruits, nuts, and minor crops as well as on subjects such as land use, farm buildings, farm labor and population, and farm production costs and sales. The data was then tabulated and presented for the national, state, and county levels. This invaluable Census remains the only source for this broad range of data, collected regularly and uniformly over the entire United States.

In addition to census records from more than 20 states and scattered aggregate records, the Center for Research Libraries holds microfilm and digital copies of the ledger books used in several southern states during the Censuses of 1850 and 1860. These sources provide remarkably granular information, showing, for example, that in 1860 Pike County, Alabama farmer Isaac M. Johnson owned two horses, three dairy cows, eight other cows, and ten pigs, and produced 300 bushels of corn on his 65-acre farm. The ledger books cover 15 states to provide a remarkable amount of detail over a very broad area.

CRL Holdings in Agriculture