In the spring of 1930, the Bureau of the Census temporarily employed nearly 87,800 individuals as enumerators for the Fifteenth Census of the United States. Each was at least eighteen years old, a U.S. citizen, and had successfully filled out a test census schedule. The test included a narrative description of families and farms in a hypothetical community and a blank schedule. Potential enumerators read the narrative and completed the schedule on the basis of its contents. Interestingly, the blank schedule that was part of the test was not the final 1930 census schedule. Thus, the purpose of the test was not to familiarize applicants with the 1930 census questions, but to assess their ability to follow directions and to make sense of people's answers, so as to record the data correctly. The document featured in this article is an example of a completed test population schedule.
The Bureau of the Census mailed 336,890 test schedules to prospective enumerators and received 197,950 completed tests. After they were corrected and graded by the Bureau in Washington, D.C, supervisors across the country were provided with lists of applicants in their district who had successfully passed the test. From these lists, the supervisors, who were responsible for the completeness and accuracy of their district's census, selected enumerators. Preference, wherever possible, was given to veterans. Because the Census Act of June 18, 1929, did not require enumerators to hold civil service status, to a certain extent political patronage played a role in the selection enumerators.
Ones selections were made, the Bureau provided each enumerator with a ninety-page instruction booklet, necessary schedules, blank forms, illustrated examples of completed schedules, a portfolio, a certificate of appointment, and other supplies. The instruction booklet gave enumerators 456 specific instructions.
Instructions ranged from how to care for schedules and deal with untruthful replies to how to …