Hollerith Punch Card for Use in the Baltimore Census of Mortality

By the late 19th century, the U.S. government no longer could compile all the statistics it needed by hand. The engineer Herman Hollerith designed a tabulating machine to count Americans by machine. Hollerith tried out his machine by compiling mortality statistics for the city of Baltimore on cards like this one. When this trial was successful, a modified form of Hollerith's card was used for the 1890 Census.
This card has 32 rows of three circular punch positions along both of its long edges. It could be punched with holes using a punch like that used by a railroad conductor. It is intended for compiling the vital statistics for the city of Baltimore. It includes fields relating to place of origin (United States or Foreign and, once this choice was made, region or country of origin), cause of death, occupation (and possibly spouse's occupation), race, sex, and marital status. Four rows of holes, numbered from 1 to 12, may refer to the month of death, two columns numbered from 0 to 9 may refer to the day of death, and two columns with the numbers from 1 to 11 and 0. This is the earliest punch card of which Truesdell had a specific record.
G. D. Austrian, Herman Hollerith: Forgotten Pioneer of Information Processing, New York: Columbia University Press, 1982, pp. 39–40.
L. E. Truesdell, The Development of Punch Card Tabulation in the Bureau of the Census, pp. 38–39.
Currently not on view
Object Name
punch card
date made
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: .1 cm x 21.9 cm x 8.4 cm; 1/32 in x 8 5/8 in x 3 5/16 in
place made
United States: District of Columbia, Washington
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Census, US
Science & Mathematics
Tabulating Equipment
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Tabulating Equipment
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Virginia Hollerith and Lucia Hollerith

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