Starting in 1870, the US Census bureau created detailed statistical atlases that popularized concepts like the center of population and the frontier, and that remain landmarks of data visualization in the current day.
Without them, for example, we would not have Frederick Jackson Turner's essay on the frontier in American history. But the representations of the aggregate population carried an agenda that reflected both state and political motives.
Only through enormous contortions was it possible to declare that the frontier had closed in 1890. By visualizing the data the census collected anew, and juxtaposing it with the published and archived sources created at the census, this talk will investigate just how state agents realized their own agendas in the charts and maps they made, and how historians and the public received them.
In so doing, it will argue that the digital humanities offer better methods than historians have previously had to engage critically with data as a primary source.
This event is co-sponsored by the Department of History and Digital Humanities.