Statistical Atlas from the ninth Census in 1870

Posted to Statistical Visualization  |  Tags:  |  Nathan Yau

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.

[via radical cartography | thanks, @krees]

11 Comments

Favorites

Unemployment in America, Mapped Over Time

Watch the regional changes across the country from 1990 to 2016.

10 Best Data Visualization Projects of 2015

These are my picks for the best of 2015. As usual, they could easily appear in a different order on a different day, and there are projects not on the list that were also excellent.

The Best Data Visualization Projects of 2011

I almost didn’t make a best-of list this year, but …

19 Maps That Will Blow Your Mind and Change the Way You See the World. Top All-time. You Won’t Believe Your Eyes. Watch.

Many lists of maps promise to change the way you see the world, but this one actually does.