Archive for July, 2011

The Census, Computer and, of course, Flags

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

Recently, a friend of ours, Blane Meier of Meier Wealth Management, sent us a little something having to do with flags. But more about that later. Tracking down its source got us to thinking about the US Census, and the results compiled from last year’s efforts.

Census logoAs you well may know, Dear Reader, the United States conducts a census of its people every 10 years as mandated by the Constitution. We’ve been doing this ever since 1790. What you may not be quite as familiar with is that, prior to the advent of the computer, this took a really, really long time to tabulate. What with a growing population and increases in the type of information collected, the 1880 census took nearly 10 years to count. Well, it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out that this couldn’t keep up. So, one bright fellow, Herman Hollerith, figured out a way to punch holes in paper cards so that they could be read by a machine.

Herman Hollerith

Herman Hollerith in 1888

Tabulation (Census-ese for adding up) for 1890 only took about 2Ā½ years. Clever guy, ol’ Herman. The rest, as they say, is history. Oh, wait. Guess that was history as well. In any event, kindly fast forward to this century and there appear to be a few applicationsĀ  of electronic computers in our daily lives. And as for the Census Bureau? And what about that curious item our friend Blane sent? Well. It seems those clever folks at the Census are a bit more than (human) being counters after all. Seems they figured (small pun intended) that folks might want to know more than just how many people live in, say, Oregon. So, after “enumeration” (Census-ese for counting) and “tabulation” , they’ve been producing some clever little service – almost blog-like – since what looks like 2006. They call the service “Facts for Features & Special Editions“. Facts for FeaturesCatchy, eh? And, get this, they further explain that these posts “consist of collections of statistics from the Census Bureau’s demographic and economic subject areas intended to commemorate anniversaries or observances or to provide background information for topics in the news.” Thorough. Couldn’t have said it any better.

So which “commemorate anniversary or observance” is immediately upcoming? Yes! The Fourth of July! (Which incidentally and for reasons we don’t fully understand, is celebrated with nearly as much enthusiasm in Denmark as it is in the States. Great, Danes!) Flag of Denmark

Back to the Facts, M’am. The “Facts for Features” to which Blane had drawn our attention (ah, it’s all connecting now, right?) is their entry for “The Fourth of July 2011”. Surprise!

Fireworks!

Well, in addition to fascinating tidbits regarding such things as “Fireworks”, “Patriotic-Sounding Place Names” and “Fourth of July Cookouts” (Florida led the nation in watermelon production last year with 750 million pounds), there were also some spicy stats regarding flags. (It always comes to this, doesn’t it?) Specifically:

$3.2 million

In 2010, the dollar value of U.S. imports of American flags. The vast majority of this amount ($2.8 million) was for U.S. flags made in China.
Source: Foreign Trade Statistics <http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/www/>
<http://www.usatradeonline.gov>

$486,026

Dollar value of U.S. flags exported in 2010. Mexico was the leading customer, purchasing $256,407 worth.
Source: Foreign Trade Statistics <http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/www/>
<http://www.usatradeonline.gov>

$302.7 million

Annual dollar value of shipments of fabricated flags, banners and similar emblems by the nation’s manufacturers, according to the latest published economic census data.
Source: 2007 Economic Census, Series EC0731SP1, Products and Services Code 3149998231
<http://www.census.gov/econ/census07/>

Not exactly a multi-billion dollar industry, would you say? But we do it because we love it. And, by the way, all of our best quality flags of any country are made right here in the good ol’ U S of A.

Waving US flag