In 1870, Francis Walker oversaw publication of the United States’ first Statistical Atlas, based on data from the ninth Census. It was a big moment for statistics in the United States as the atlas provided a way to compare data on a national level using maps and statistical graphics.
What continues to amaze me about these old illustrations is the detail – all done by hand. That’s ridiculous. The kicker is that a lot of this stuff looks way better than a lot of what we see nowadays. Here are some selections from the 1870 atlas.
First, there’s this lovely map of rainfall.
Then there’s population measurements. Is this the beginnings of a treemap?
Ooo, stacked bar charts of expenditures and receipts.
Finally, let’s not forget the chart of “idiots.” I think we use “mentally challenged” now. Pie charts and bubbles galore.
Okay, so they’re not all better than what we have now, but come on, it was the 19th century. It was only 16 years after John Snow’s map.
In 1880 and 1890, geographer Henry Gannett took the reigns to produce similar atlases. In 1900 though, the atlas was headed for decline, and the last one was published in 1920 – that is, until 2000. I must say though I still think the first one in 1870 was the best. I hope there is a 2010 atlas. If there isn’t, I’m so doing it myself.
Sidenote: we should be receiving Census surveys really soon. Make sure you fill them out and send them back! Really important. You only have to do it once per decade.