Spotlight on Government Information: 1950 Census

Oct 12, 2022

New York, USA - 26 April 2021: United States Census Bureau logo close-up on website pageOn April 1, 2022 the U.S. National Archives released the 1950 Census to the public. Genealogists and historians will find a wealth of useful information about their families and the country’s demographics. Likewise, the general population can step back in time to discover what life was like 72 years ago using the census and other federal government documents.

In 1950, Harry S. Truman was the 33rd president of the 48 states. New York City was the largest urban area in the country with 7,891,957 residents. The labor force of almost 56 million workers included 13,650 airplane pilots and navigators, 56,790 librarians, and 356,760 telephone operators.

Notable news stories included the January 17 Great Brinks Robbery in Boston, the mid-year Supreme Court decision regarding racial segregation, and the Great Appalachian Storm over Thanksgiving weekend. North Korea’s invasion of South Korea, starting a war that would last approximately three years, dominated international headlines. Colonel David Schilling’s first nonstop transatlantic jet flight proved refueling in the air was possible and enabled the military to transport its aircraft to the war front more efficiently.

Communication and scientific breakthroughs were on the horizon. The Federal Communications Commission’s 16th Annual Report estimated 72,500 telephones were used in Wyoming businesses and homes. Hearings about broadcasting television shows in color produced over 10,000 pages of testimony, and the Zenith Radio Corporation tested Phonevision. In 1950, Bell Laboratories created the telephone answering machine, President Truman supported the development of the hydrogen bomb, and the first human kidney transplant was performed in Chicago.

Common household products such as super glue, diet soft drinks, Saran Wrap, Barbie dolls, and McDonald’s did not exist until later in the decade. Typically, families prepared and ate meals at home, paying an average of 14 cents for a loaf of white bread, 52 cents for a dozen eggs, and 19 cents for a quart of milk. Reading was a popular pastime and the National Book Awards was established to recognize American literary contributions in numerous categories. Isaac Asimov published I, Robot, and C.S. Lewis released The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, both of which are considered classics today.

Researchers can utilize federal documents, including the recently released 1950 U.S. Census to gain valuable insight about life in mid-century America.

Questions about federal documents? The Wyoming State Library can help. Contact our reference staff at or (307) 777-6333.

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