Making It Count

Evansville, like other cities in the U.S., participates in the U.S. Census every 10 years for a variety of benefits (other than it being required in the Constitution). Cities derive many financial resources from state and federal governments using census data and qualify for larger allocations when they reach certain population thresholds. In Indiana during the 19th and 20th centuries, there also were friendly competitions from the two second-tier cities (Fort Wayne and Evansville) to reach the No. 2 position after Indianapolis.

There often were attempts to annex land to boost the count, particularly in 1940, and there are many stories through the decades of city leaders trying out-of-the-box ways to count more folks.

The most interesting census story I found was from 1890, as related during the 1900 campaign. The census director in 1900 was Charlie Covert, who later became mayor. He related the tale of his 1890 predecessor Fred Scholz. It seems the struggle to count more than 50,000 was going slowly and that number would put us at second place in the state. An alert enumerator called Scholz from the old Crown Pottery plant near the fairgrounds where the Barnum and Bailey circus was setting up for the week.

Realizing there were nearly 1,000 circus workers in the city at the time, Scholz decided to try and count all of them for Evansville. Mr. James Bailey himself agreed to help, and before the circus left, he turned in the full 789 names of the circus for the census. They were all accepted, and our population count for 1890 put us at 50,750. Our achievement was entirely due to a traveling circus and an alert enumerator whose name we do not know.

Information for the 2020 Census currently is being collected. To complete your census information, simply call 844-330-2020 or visit

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