Tuesday, March 12, 2013

US Census of 1840 - Manufacturing

The data used to create the county mill density map (Figure 1) in Natural Streams and the Legacy of Water-Powered Mills (Walter and Merritts, 2008, DOI:10.1126/science.1151716) was compiled by Franklin and Marshall College students Sauleh Siddiqui, Caitlyn Lippincott and Adam Ross during the summers of 2003 and 2004. Their source material was a PDF copy of Compendium of the Enumeration of the Inhabitants and Statistics of the United States, downloaded from the census.gov website at: http://www.census.gov/prod/www/abs/decennial/1840.htm (now no longer available). They transcribed data for 21 states and 872 counties, for kinds of manufactures that would have been water-powered at that time, including:
  • Flour mills
  • Grist mills
  • Saw mills
  • Fulling mills
  • Powder mills
  • Oil mills
Our data includes the most commonly occurring types of manufactories, whereas the Sixth Census included additional data on other types of manufactories that would have used water-power and that would have had local or regional importance (i.e. forges and rolling mills, woolen manufactories, cotton manufactories, and paper manufactories).

Since the time of our effort, improved digital copies of the census documents have become available elsewhere ( see http://books.google.com/books?id=4zhRAAAAYAAJ ). Also, significant efforts have been undertaken to make available a wide range of historical census data (see below).

While we are making our data available for those who wish to use it, these newer sources should supersede the data hosted here. To download the data visit the data download page.

Other Sources of Data

Table Data


  • Visit the Data Finder page
  • Filter by year 1840
  • Select table name "Type of Establishment"


Note that you must be with a member institution to obtain the data. Documentation for the data is available to any user.

County Boundary Data


NHGIS county boundaries have a common key with which to join NHGIS table data. As explained on the NHGIS website, these boundaries are from a combination of TIGER/LINE data of the US Census, and boundaries from Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920, by William Thorndale and William Dollarhide.

Newberry Atlas of Historical County Boundaries

Newberry Atlas county boundaries are more detailed and better reflect temporal changes in the names and shapes of counties. These may be more useful for larger-scale mapping. The Newberry Atlas data is a timeseries containing overlapping boundaries, so you will have to select boundaries for the point in time you wish to map. The Sixth Census began on June 1, 1840, so you would query the dataset using the WHERE clause:
"START_N" <= 18400601 AND "END_N" >= 18400601


We used HUSCO boundaries in our original figure and mill density calculations. These are available for purchase from Louisiana State University Geoscience Publications.

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