Saturday, August 15, 2009

Social History Saturday: The Boy with the US Census

As I was looking for audio and digitized books I ran across this book, The Boy with the US Census by Francis Rolt-Wheeler was published in 1911. The story is that of a young census taker and the people and situations he encounters as he goes about his enumerating duties.

This book is actually part of a series that all begin with the phrase “The Boy with” and include the U.S. Survey, U. S. Foresters, U. S. Mail, U. S. Inventors, U. S. Trappers, U. S. Miners, and the U. S. Explorers.

In the introduction, the author hints at the danger a census worker faced. And he ends with the purpose for writing this book, “To show how this great Census work is done, to reveal the mysteries its figures half-disclose, to point the paths to heroism in the United State to-day, and to bind closer the kinship between all peoples of the earth who have become “Americans” is the aim and purpose of the Author."

This book is not written as a history book, it is listed as a piece of fiction and it is written in the form of a novel. While it may contain some fictionalized accounts, the 28 photographs used in this book were provided by the US Census Bureau and other government agencies. These photographs represent situations that a census taker would encounter including child labor workers in a cotton mill, with an the telling caption “Eight Years Old and Tired of Working”. The pictures in this book are great, including a picture of a census punch card, a tabulating machine, a family arriving at Ellis Island, living conditions in the south, workers at the Winchester Rifle company and so much more.

To read more about the history of this book see

This book is available in many different forms on the internet (for sale and in free digitized versions.) You can look at it in its digitized form on Google Books at

This is a great book and I look forward to reading the other books in the series. As a side note, the author, Rev. Francis Rolt-Wheeler was an Episcopal clergyman whose wife in 1915 filed for divorce on charges of cruelty against her husband, he encouraged her to kill herself so that he wouldn’t have to take care of her. The newspaper clipping about the divorce allegations is a great reminder to us as genealogists that all kinds of information can be found in the newspaper, including the details of divorces. To see the New York Times clipping,


Diane Wright said...

Yep, yep, yep! I am going to look at that one. Sounds like FUN!

Elizabeth said...

What an interesting find, Gena! Thanks for sharing it!

footnoteMaven said...

Such an interesting book. Thank you for pointing me in its direction.

The photos are wonderful as is your article.