A proposal? Oh this is so unexpected

The 1915 census sure was diverse, with lots and lots of different shades of white. With numeric, textual, and geographic data, it sure was a riot to look through! It includes the names of the citizens of Albany in 1915, their birth year, their birth place, age, sex, relationship to the rest of the house, their skin color, and their address. 1,216 rows of this, to be exact! A hoot! A holler! Fun for the whole family! The names and genders include men and women, because that was all that existed back then. Ages ranged from 0 years to 4 years to 20 years to 70 years, showing that it wasn’t just old white people in Albany at the time- there were plenty of young white people, too! Relationships range from head of household to the wife to the children, to apprentices and patients laid up (presumably, hopefully) in a doctor’s house. Race ranged anywhere from white to white to white, with a good handful of black or brown people thrown in there, because that means it isn’t racist. Citizens came from a wide range of European places, including germany, Holland, and Finland. I guess these were the immigrants that were juuuust white enough to be allowed into the city. (Though, this was also during the Great Migration, which we did cover in class- so if there were any new black citizens moving to Albany, they were listed as being born in the United States.)

Although occupations is included in the descriptions, not many people seem to have a listed occupation. This might be because there was a lot of unemployment at the time, or it might be because we simply don’t have the data to put into the tables. About 20% of the census has an occupation listed with them (although quite a few occupational inputs also list “no occupation”), but I have a hard ime believing that Albany had an over-80% unemployment rate at any point in its history, much less when other cities were likely starting to experience some sort of economic boom related to preparing for World War I. Everyone who does have an occupation listed, however, is listed as living in only a handful of places- namely, McCarthy Avenue, South Pearl Street, and Kenwood Road. (This is especially interesting in regards to whoever did their midterm walking tour on Pearl Street, and maybe they could better answer why this was one of the few designated places where employed people live. Is it part of the push towards the suburbs? Moving the employed, usually white people into their own “safe” areas?) Surprisingly, every person who is listed with the “relationship” of being a student is a female. I’d assume this is because if a male was listed as being studying under a certain subject, he was listed as an apprentice of that subject. So though a woman and a man might both be studying medicine, the woman would likely be listed as just a student (or maybe, just maybe, a nurse), while the man was likely listed as either a doctor or an apprentice in a house whose head of household was a doctor. Similarly, everyone listed as a servant is female- i.e., there were no male maids, only female. There was also a surprising number of older people living in Albany, and a lot of older people living in a lodging house. Maybe this term was used differently and meant something more like what we’d think of as a nursing home or an assisted living home? It’s just hard to imagine a bunch of old 70- and 80-year-olds living two or three in a room in any other situation. They’re all listed as being patients, so I guess that explanation makes sense.

One thought on “A proposal? Oh this is so unexpected

  • April 11, 2016 at 10:00 PM

    Ha–1915 is quite an odd time for the history of whiteness. If the birthplace question is one you’re interested in pursuing, you may want to look at the Dillingham Report on southern European immigration, the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, and the 1921 Quota Act (after your time period, but it was being debated in 1915 and 1915 numbers were used to set the immigration quotas).

    It may also be worth comparing your 1915 Albany numbers agains the national numbers from the example we looked at in class: http://dsl.richmond.edu/panorama/foreignborn/ and Albany’s longer history of immigration. Was 1915 exceptional in some way? Was Albany different from the rest of the country or the state in some way?

    Interesting observations about the students and the old people’s home–the 1915 dataset isn’t the whole of the city of Albany, just a slice, since there’s about 30k people in Albany in 1915 and obviously you don’t have that many rows.

    Re: occupations, is that taking age into consideration? Are your no-occupation people children or adults? If you plan to do any kind of argument about # employed or occupations of adults with no education, make sure to filter out children first (you can drag age over to filter as a continuous or discrete measure and set the range to 16-62 or 18-50, whatever you’d argue is working age for the time).

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