Herman Hollerith & the Census

Herman Hollerith was a German-American inventor born in 1860 in Buffalo, New York. He was married to Lucia Beverly Talcott and they had six children, three boys and three girls. besides his Inventions he is said to have cherished three things: his German Heritage, his privacy, and his cat Bismark. His work as an inventor was chiefly for the United States Census Office and because of him the 1890 census only took 1 year compared to the 1880 census that took 8 years. The way that Herman did this was with inventions. He invented:

  • The Punch Cards (called the Herman punched cards)
  • The Key Punch (for punching Herman punched cards)
  • The Tabulating Machine (for reading Herman punched cards)

The way these work was a rather simple: When someone went to fill out the cards he or she would push buttons on the Key punch making holes in the cards according to the information that the person wanted to fill out. Then the Punch Cards would be put into a Tabulating machine. The way that the Tabulating Machine worked was to put the card on a rack were there would be a small amount of mercury under each available punch space on the card. Then wires would drop down and go through the spaces in the Punch Card and when they hit mercury it would send an electrical charge to ring a bell to tell the operator that the card had been counted and then it went on through a slot and the same thing would happen to the next card. Because of Herman Hollerith the 1890 Census which was supposed to take thirteen years only took one year. Herman Hollerith died at the age of sixty-nine because of a heart attack. He was buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington D.C.

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