NARA expects to digitally release the 1950 population census schedules for researcher use on April 1, 2022, which is 72 years after the official 1950 census day of April 1, 1950. This is the seventh in a series of blog posts on the 1950 census.


The Census Bureau developed special procedures to address the problem of enumerating transients:  persons without a fixed address and those temporarily away from home.  Without a systematic approach, these persons would either be over-enumerated (counted twice) or under-enumerated (not counted at all). These were the “T-Night” canvasses (“T” for transient) on Tuesday, April 11, 1950, and Thursday, April 13, 1950.

Image:  1940 Census--"Enumeration, One Day was Devoted to the Enumeration of Trailer Camps and Other Places Inhabited by Transients" (National Archives Identifier 6200777).


Tuesday, April 11, 1950, was the date for “an intensive drive to cover in a single night the occupants of certain places usually devoted to transients” such as hotels, YMCAs, and tourist courts or camps (campgrounds).  YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) facilities provided safe and affordable lodging to young men moving to cities from rural areas, with more than 100,000 rooms nationally by 1940.  Enumerators were to be stationed at these facilities from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Tuesday evening and again from 7 a.m. to 12 noon the next day.


T-Night procedure featured the use of Individual Census Report Forms (ICRs) that were to be completed by each person themselves, in contrast to the standard procedure of the enumerator recording information on the population schedule during an interview with a household member.  ICRs were used to avoid unnecessary invasion of privacy or interference with personal and business activities that would result if people were interviewed in hallways or their rooms or were delayed from checking out of hotels and similar places.


The area Crew Leader or someone he designated to be the “enumerator in charge” supervised the T-Night enumeration.  The T-Night supervisor consulted hotel and YMCA management to determine the number of ICRs needed, room number designations, and which guests were expected to check out the next day.  Enumerators assigned to T-Night worked from the hotel lobby. They could ask guests passing through the lobby if they had completed their ICRs, telephone guests on the house phone to request they pick up or return forms, review forms as they were returned, and seek clarifications when necessary.

American Hotel Association letter to member hotels, December 29, 1949, about the 1950 censusLetter from T. Harry Gowman, President, American Hotel Association, December 29, 1949, to member hotels, concerning the forthcoming 1950 census. From Supplement to the Enumerator's Reference Manual, 1950 Census, page 14.


T-Night ended on Wednesday, April 12, 1950, at 12 noon, but follow up efforts to “clean up” the enumeration of a hotel could continue until Friday, April 14, 1950, at 5 p.m.  If a hotel guest left without completing an ICR, the enumerator would fill out an ICR based on the hotel register information, including name, address, race, and gender, and indicate “REG” (for “register”) on the ICR.


Due to the self-enumeration procedure, the Bureau warned enumerators not to “relax and wait for results.”  Instead, it was that the enumerators “take affirmative action throughout the procedure, to insure maximum results. The larger the volume of returns from transients, the better will be the quality of the census.  Although we wish maximum returns, these must be obtained with due regard to the common courtesies extended to guests and management....”


Thursday, April 13, was the date for a similar effort at missions and flophouses.  T-Night enumerators assigned to these facilities were to “station themselves at the main entrance or the lobby of the place” and were to directly interview guests and any resident staff and employees.  The information collected was recorded on the regular Form P-1 population schedule.


Adapted from Supplement to the Enumerator’s Reference Manual, 1950 Census of the United States, pages 10-14, and Crew Leader’s Manual, 1950 Census of the United States, pages 26-37.