The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982 Page: 402
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
census of the nineteenth century. In addition, the unpublished manu-
script population schedules of the 1890 federal census, which would
have permitted, at an enormous expense of labor, the compilation of
similar data, were destroyed long ago.
Once the euphoria of discovery had subsided, I began to wonder
about the accuracy of the 1887 census. As one crude measure, I looked
up the figures for total Texas population as reported in the 188o and
1890o federal censuses and calculated the 1887 population that would
have resulted if the increase during that decade had been the same
each year. The figure thus produced, 2,042,395, matched almost per-
fectly the 2,015,032 shown in the 1887 state census. Next, I compared
the figure listed for the German element with estimates I had made
earlier, using the 188o and 1890o censuses. My figure, corrected to
1887, was 131,500--very close to the 129,610 reported in the state
census (Table 1). Several other similar tests produced comparable re-
sults, and I became convinced that the 1887 state census was about as
accurate as federal censuses of the same era.3
Commissioner L. L. Foster, who edited the volume, defended its
accuracy. The enumeration, he pointed out, had been made by "tax
assessors and their deputies, who will compare favorably in point of
intelligence and ability with the average census taker appointed by the
United States Government to perform a similar service," leading him
to believe that the figures were "approximately correct." Foster ap-
parently anticipated criticism because the totals were lower than some
boosters had predicted. He declared that "there never has been, and
doubtless never will be, a census taken by disinterested agents that
met public expectation." Too, Foster was embarrassed that the 1887
census had cost "nearly double the sum fixed by the United States for
similar services performed by census takers in 188o." Perhaps because
of the lower-than-expected population totals and the exorbitant cost,
the Texas legislature apparently never authorized another state census.
The low count may also help explain why the 1887 census was quickly
forgotten, since it would have received little publicity when it ap-
peared, even though 0o,ooo copies were printed.4
Without question, the greatest value of the 1887 census lies in ethnic
data. In particular, it includes the only published enumeration of the
sTerry G. Jordan, "The German Element in Texas: An Overview," Rice University
Studies, LXIII (Summer, 1977), 2. The 1887 total of 2,015,032 includes 32,940 in families,
"the heads of which refused any information to Assessors." Report, xlvi, li, liv (quotation).
The totals include Greer County.
4Report, ix (fourth quotation), xlvii (first, second, and third quotations), xlviii.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982, periodical, 1981/1982; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101208/m1/460/: accessed May 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.