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April 12: The Promise of a Rosy Future

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North Dakota farm
State Historical Society of North Dakota
North Dakota farm

The United States Constitution empowers Congress to conduct a census every ten years. While every state is allotted two senators, the number of representatives is determined by the population of each state. The census counts the people for an accurate allocation of representatives.

The census has been taken every ten years since 1870. Today, the census comes under the supervision of the Bureau of the Census, which is part of the Department of Commerce.

In 1870, the Supreme Court asserted that the power of Congress to collect both an enumeration of the population and statistics is “unquestionable.” As recently as 2000, a court ruled that the census does not violate a citizen’s right to privacy.

On this date in 1911, newspapers printed the results of the 1910 census. North Dakotans reviewed the information with pride, particularly interested in the information on the state’s agriculture. There was an impressive increase in the sector since the previous census in 1900. The value of farmland alone had increased by three hundred twenty-one percent. The value of farm buildings increased by two hundred sixty-two percent and farm machinery by two hundred twelve percent.

Virtually everything related to North Dakota agriculture had increased. The number of individual farms had increased by sixty-four percent. The total acreage, the value of farms, and the number of acres under cultivation were all up.

The 1910 census suggested a rosy future for North Dakota agriculture, but making a living off the land wasn’t easy. A homestead claim cost only fourteen dollars, but while the land may have been nearly free, a farm was far from it. Homesteaders had to build a house, dig a well, and feed the family. They needed a horse to pull the plow and a cow for milk. They had to buy seed.

One historian estimated that the actual cost of homesteading was about one thousand dollars – a lot of money back then. And while North Dakota felt satisfied with the impressive 1910 numbers, no one had any idea that the disaster of the Dust Bowl was just around the corner.

Dakota Datebook by Carole Butcher


Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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