Government forms usually look boring.  White paper.  Black ink.  Dull.


The Census Bureau chose green or blue ink for many 1950 census forms.  Color, but still just one color.


However, the Bureau chose two colors for a very important form of the 1950 census:  Form 17Fld-1, Portfolio Control Label.  It’s artistic – as far as forms can be – and almost screams, “I’m important.”  This single oversize sheet measured about 10 1/4 inches by 17 1/2 inches.  The printing was all blue except for a flag-like red-white-blue stripe that was usually on the right 1/3 of the form.  The words “1950 Census of the United States” were printed in blue ink in the white stripe.

1950 Census, Form 17Fld-1, Portfolio Control Label

Image from “[Folder 14] Form 17Fld-1, Portfolio Control Label, 17th Decennial Census, 1949-1950” (NAID 195980248) in series “Narrative Histories, Committee Minutes, and Procedural Manuals Primarily Relating to the 17th Decennial Census” (NAID 5634057), Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census.


(Of course, there are always nuances.  When the 1950 census becomes available, researchers will also notice that some Portfolio Control Labels have the red-white-blue stripe on the left side, and some have no stripe as all. It's possible the stripe was cut off of some forms.  No, I don't know why at this time.)


This form was likely pasted on the outside of large envelope.  When the enumerator was done querying the people and farms in the enumeration district, he or she placed completed population schedules, agricultural schedules, maps, and other administrative materials inside this envelope and returned them to the Crew Leader.  If the enumerator made the serious mistake of accidentally losing the portfolio, the Portfolio Control Label served as a “postage due” mailing label to the appropriate Census District Office.


This label also served as an operational checklist for Field Office verification of completed work and for Washington Office verification of coding and key punch activities for statistical compilations.


When the population schedules were microfilmed by the Bureau of the Census in 1952, the Portfolio Control Label was normally the first page of the records for each enumeration district.  Sadly, its beautiful two-color scheme is lost in the black-and-white monochrome microfilm. Fortunately, the full color example shown above survives in the administrative records of the Bureau of the Census.


1950 census, microfilmed portfolio control label

Image:  Portfolio Control Label for Enumeration District 65-78, Long Beach, Los Angeles County, California, NARA Microfilm Publication T628, Seventeenth Census of the United States, 1950.  This image contains no Title 13 restricted data.