Data Drop 3.0: Occupations of 1870

In a continuation of our Data Drop initiative, we’ve launched a new dataset, this time pulled from the 1870 census.

Railroad workers standing next to a steam engine
SSPL // Getty Images

In a continuation of our Data Drop initiative, we’ve launched a new dataset, this time pulled from the 1870 census. This historical context about occupations by state helps frame our current reality, especially in the face of a volatile post-COVID economy. Though this data was provided by the U.S. Census Bureau as PDFs, it is now available in an accessible and easy-to-read format. We’re excited to continue disseminating deeply researched news resources to the journalism community, especially those that bolster the efforts of local journalists.

About the data

We chose Table XXVII of the 1870 U.S. census as our next dataset, which contains a state-by-state breakdown of occupation data for the 37 states and one territory that existed at the time, detailing nearly 350 individual jobs. Previously inaccessible due to the poor quality of the PDF, the dataset is now publicly accessible and can be used to investigate how statewide economies and job markets have evolved since the late 19th century.

To transcribe the data, Stacker staff first used Amazon Textract. This returned a typewritten dataset in CSV format, but contained some gaps and some errors. This base transcription was reformatted, corrected, and checked by hand, resulting in this final product.

Using the data

This data is freely available to use under a Creative Commons license. We encourage you to access it on our site, GitHub, or and go digging for insights about your state or region.

If you’re interested in distributing a ready-made story about immigrant populations in 1900, our local story series “Most common jobs 150 years ago in [state]” is available for direct republishing on our site (you can navigate to your state’s version from our Local landing page). In addition, you’re welcome to take inspiration from some of our other ideas below for your own reporting (we’d just ask that you cite Stacker if you do):

  • Coverage of how the job market in your state has evolved in the last 150 years, from dominant industries to the role of technology
  • Unusual jobs in your state from 1870, from bellfounders to stampmakers
  • Jobs in your state from 150 years ago that no longer exist (and how they diminished)

What comes next

This is the third in a series of “Stacker Data Drops” where we equip journalists with additional tools for telling stories about their local communities. To be alerted whenever we drop a new dataset, sign up here. If you have any questions about the dataset or want to share the stories you write based on our work, contact Emilia Ruzicka at

As a newswire, Stacker is on a mission to produce and distribute engaging data journalism to the world’s news organizations. If you or your organization is interested in content that combines  data analysis with rich editorial context from authoritative sources and experts, consider becoming a Stacker Publishing Partner which provides CMS integrations, image licenses, a dedicated partner manager, and more. Contact Ken Romano at for details. You can also review our editorial standards here.