Warren Wood, "Fraud and the California State Census of 1852: Power and Demographic Distortion in Gold Rush California." Southern California Quarterly, Vol. 100, No. 1

Mary Ann Irwin's picture

An article of interest to California historians may be found in the current issue of Southern California Quarterly [Warren Wood, "Fraud and the California State Census of 1852: Power and Demographic Distortion in Gold Rush California," Southern California Quarterly, Vol. 100, No. 1, pp. 5–43]. The article explains how the 1852 California State Census schedules for San Francisco County reveal a fraud that inflated the white male population by 30% and the total population by 25%. The fraud was a part of the intense competition for political power between San Francisco and other parts of the state. In its complexity, that competition contradicts the usual rendering of Gold Rush politics as a contest of north versus south, free labor versus slave labor, or David Broderick versus William Gwin. The census schedules contain much data that is at odds with what most historians have understood about Gold Rush San Francisco. The study also finds that the proportion of women and families in San Francisco was greater than heretofore realized, which calls for a re-evaluation of the city’s social history. In addition, the census was inflated by counting Chinese residents as white, affecting historians’ understanding of the city’s racial composition. The author calculates a corrected rendering of San Francisco’s population and demographics for future reference.