When doing research for my data I was intrigued to find many different connections for all aspects of the data. When looking I found that many of my question were answered to a certain extent. Within minutes of searching for how pensions were paid out I found a few fast facts that really applied across the board for this data set. The main idea of the first article that I came across was specifically how Civil War pensions were paid. In this data set many of the pensioners were likely receiving such pensions from injuries suffered from the Civil War so I thought this would be a good place to start. The main question that I had from the first visualization was how there were so many differences in pensions paid and this article was very helpful. Almost instantly my question was answered, it turns out that those who applied for pensions earlier were likely to receive lower pensions. Using today’s logic that seems like it would be really unfair and it was, and it only got worse. Due to pension laws evolving over time a person would receive more for the same injuries on different types of technicalities. So, if someone who was certain about their ailments significantly effecting their lives to receive a pension would in fact be paid lower than someone who would try to work or survive without a pension. And the pay wouldn’t change over time for those earlier applicants either, someone would just get paid more based on whichever technicality was passed before they applied. I found this to be particularly disturbing because as I said before, people who were certain that they would need a pension to keep going who benefit less by applying than someone who thought that they could at least make ends meet for a while without a pension. Similarly, in regards to different pieces of pension qualifications being passed your ability to be pensioned changed as well. So if you weren’t eligible to be pensioned one day the next day you could be eligible. So overall, one day you would not be eligible to receive a pension and then the next day, you could not only receive a pension but have a higher monthly payout that someone who has been receiving one for years. From these two statements alone my data started to make so much sense. Perhaps it was that people knew that they could receive more if they waited, but for those who really needed the pensions, who couldn’t wait, were not to benefit. This is kind of disappointing, how most of these people, veterans, or widows from the war, had a portion of there income governed by dates on a page possibly missing a potential meal by a day or two.
I’ve also learned that the whole pensions system was kind of weird. Just for the sake of taking a look I Googled the 1886 census and looked at some data from a county in Illinois, and shockingly the data was almost exactly the same. Many of the pensions were in the same area and some were exactly the same for a certain field. In the mother category most people received $8, this was the same in this county in Illinois as we’ll as Albany. Also many of the abbreviations for the certain injuries. So somewhere along the way they made some sort of rigid system that was adopted by every census taker in the country. If this kind of communication was out there why couldn’t as system be to create some sort of uniformity for the payments? It was like they made all these new rules, let new people in, adjusted a little for inflation but forgot about the people who filed for pension earlier on. The weirdest part of all of this was that there was no federal government action at this time. Civil War veterans did not start receiving pensions from the federal government until 1930. After all this I look at the relative similarities as nothing short of a miracle. Especially in those times where there was no form of really efficient communication, this would’ve been ridiculously hard. So since there was no federal structure the whole payment of pensions was based on state or county rules. It would’ve been up to the counties that the people lived in to keep track and maintain the records for the pensioners, another tall task, so I can see where the temptation to cut corners comes in. One thing I thought that was interesting about how states and counties paid pensions was that some counties would have a competitive rate compared to another county that could have a greater ability to pay a higher pension. I would think a county like Albany who at that time was fairly prosperous would presumably have higher pensions then say a smaller county in a lesser state or especially the South. The fact that almost across the board pension rates are similar is simply astounding.
Overall I find that the this dataset’s true story is lost in history somewhere. It’s not one of the more glorious parts of history but it’s in there. For this set the main factor that drove the pay scale was when you applied to be pensioned. This is something that you wouldn’t guess from first glance. And that is something that I experienced first hand. At first I looked at this data and thought why would there be a difference at all? Even though injuries ranged from challenging to life altering it was basically all left up to a date. That is something in today’s times could never happen. To think of something that could change the ability to feed your family left up to a chance date, especially set by the government would not fly. By today’s standard that is borderline unfathomable.Though most logic would go against the actual truth of how the pension was paid it’s still interesting to find it.