Today is the anniversary of Congress passing the Census Act of 1790. President George Washington signed the law, which authorized the collection of population data by U.S. Marshals. Although the act included the specific inquiries marshals asked at each home they visited, they did not receive printed forms on which to record the data. Marshals used their own paper and designed their own forms—a practice followed until the U.S. government began supplying printed census schedules in 1830.
Census Day was on the first Monday in August 1790 and was conducted under the supervision of Thomas Jefferson. Today, the law requires that the census be conducted on or about April 1, and every ten years after that. The most recent decennial census was conducted in 2010, on time and under budget. The Census Bureau is part of Commerce's Economics and Statistics Administration. The image here is a limestone relief by James Earle Fraser, one of many panels adorning the Department of Commerce headquarters in Washington, D.C.