The Boy With the U.S. Census
Part 4 out of 5
"All right, sir," Hamilton replied, "I think I can do it now. I should
find it harder, though, if I hadn't been writing all those things just
exactly as they are here on population schedules for the last month."
"It makes an astonishing difference," the experienced man agreed, "you
know the why and wherefore of everything. Now you had better take this
old test schedule and I will give you fifty blank cards, and we will see
how they come out."
Through the rest of the afternoon, Hamilton worked steadily over this
set of cards, not only doing the work, but getting the principles of the
whole thing thoroughly in his mind, and, as he had said to the
sub-section chief, knowing just the manner in which the schedules had
been made up helped him to an extraordinary degree. He was well pleased,
therefore, when he came down to work the following morning, to find at
his machine a real schedule, not the test that he had been working on
the afternoon before; the exact number of cards required for his
schedule all ready in the hopper of the machine, and it was pointed out
to him that error was not permissible and that he must account for every
"Why is that?" asked Hamilton, "what difference would a card or two
"It isn't the cards, it's the numbering," the other explained. "Don't
you remember that each card was numbered, and so, if one card is wrong
it would throw all the succeeding numbers out? Besides, you never have a
chance to see whether a card is right or not, because after you have
touched the lever and the card is punched it slides into its own
compartment. You have all the chance you want to look over your
arrangement of depressed keys before the card is punched, but none
Before a week had passed by, Hamilton was so thoroughly at home with the
machine that the work seemed to him to become more or less mechanical,
and his interest in it began to wane. As--under government
regulations--he left work early, he sauntered over several times to the
verification department to become familiar with the work of the machine
used there. There was a fascination to the boy in this machine, for it
seemed almost to possess human intelligence in its results, and he was
curious to know the principle on which it worked. Generally every one
quit at half-past four o'clock, just as he did, but sometimes a man
would work a few minutes longer to finish a batch of cards, and the boy
would go to watch him.
When he was over there one day, after hours, Hamilton saw Mr. Cullern on
"Still looking for information?" questioned the older man, with a smile.
"Yes, sir," answered the boy, "I've been watching this machine and I've
spoken to one or two of the operators about the principle of it, but
they none of them seem to know. They knew how to run it, and that was
"The principle is simple enough," the chief replied, "but it would be a
bit hard to understand the combination unless you had the clew. Then it
is all as clear as day, although the machine itself is a little
complicated. You noticed, of course, that the operator lays a card on
this plate which is full of holes, and you probably noticed that these
holes correspond with the points on the card, and that the way in which
the card is fed into the machine insures that the holes shall coincide
"That I saw," Hamilton answered, "and I could see, of course, that
this was one of the most important parts of the machine, and that upon
it a good deal of the exactness of the work depended."
[Illustration: TABULATING MACHINE. Mechanism whereby the punched cards
are verified and every error prevented, and which also tabulates and
numbers all records taken. (_Courtesy of the Bureau of the Census._)]
"It does," the other replied. "Now if you look into those holes in the
plate you can see a little cup of bright metal under each hole. What do
you suppose that is?"
"I'm not sure, of course," the boy responded, "but it looks very much
"That's exactly what it is, quicksilver, or mercury. Now mercury, you
ought to know, can transmit an electric current, so that if an
electrically charged pin comes down into the cup of mercury, the cup
itself being attached to an electric current, a circuit is formed."
"Now I'm beginning to see," the boy said, "but what is the idea of the
cup of mercury; could not the pin just as well touch on a metal plate?"
"It could, of course, but a piece of dust between would prevent contact,
the pins would wear away quickly, and the plate would get worn, whereas,
by the pin just dropping into the mercury there is no friction and no
fear of a missed contact."
"The pins are in that square box at the end of the long arm which comes
down every time a card is put on the plate, aren't they, Mr. Cullern?"
"Yes, and if there is no card there and the pins in the square box are
started down, they are automatically stopped before they reach the
mercury so as not to make a contact on every point. Also if a card were
there without any holes punched, none of the pins would reach the
mercury and no contact would be made."
"But with a punched census card," interrupted the boy, eager to show
that he understood, "the pins go through the holes in the cards and do
not go through where no holes are punched, so that somehow the number of
holes in the card is registered. But still, there's so much difference
in the cards that I don't see how this machine can verify them, can tell
which are right and which wrong!"
"There is variety enough," answered the chief, "for of the hundred
million cards punched, no two are exactly the same, they could not be."
"Couldn't it happen perhaps that two people of the same age should do
the same work, be both married and so forth?" asked the boy
"They would have to live in the same district, they would have to be
employed the same way, they would have both to be married and have the
same number of children and a whole lot more things, and even then--the
cards would be different for they would represent different numbers on
the schedule on which their names were registered. No, there are not two
cards in the entire series punched alike."
"Then I don't see how in the wide world this machine can tell which
cards are right among millions so entirely different from each other."
"They don't verify by finding the cards that are right," was the answer,
"but by picking out the cards that are wrong."
"What's the difference?"
"There is a wide difference. You can see that it would be easy enough to
arrange that machine so that if a wrong combination of contacts were
made the bell would not ring. Such wiring might be highly complex, but
you see the idea is simple. For a right group of contacts, all the wires
are satisfied, as it were, and the bell rings; for an error, one wire,
cut in on by a wrong wire, breaks the contact, and the bell does not
"But what do you mean by a wrong grouping?" asked the boy.
"You ought to be able to guess that," the chief said reproachfully.
"For instance if a card is punched 'Wf' for Wife and also is punched
'Male' that card is sure to be wrong, and if 'Emp' for employer is
punched on the same card as an age punch showing the person to be a
three-year-old youngster, the card is wrong. There are twenty-three
different possibilities of error which are checked by this verification
machine, and for any one of these twenty-three reasons a card is thrown
"For example if 'Na' for naturalized is punched on the same card as 'N'
for native-born, and things of that sort, I suppose?" the boy
"And many others of similar character," the older man agreed.
"But how about insufficiently punched cards?" queried Hamilton. "I can
see that it would be easy to arrange the wires so as to catch really bad
inconsistencies, but supposing a figure were only left out, there would
be no contact made to show the error."
"Except in the age column," was the reply, "there is supposed to be a
punch in every field and only one. Any field which does not have a
contact from every card registers its disapproval by throwing out that
"And what happens to the rejected cards?" asked Hamilton, with interest.
"A checker-up compares them with the original schedules, and if
incorrectly punched, punches a new card, if only insufficiently punched,
punches the missing place. But the number of cards found wrong does not
reach a high percentage."
"You know I've been thinking," Hamilton said thoughtfully, "that while I
suppose it is all right getting all those holes punched in a card, and
so forth, I should think it would be fearfully hard to handle the card
afterwards. All these little holes look so much alike."
"To the eye, perhaps," the chief said, "but you must remember that these
cards are never sorted by eyesight. And you must remember that the
sorting process is done by machinery all the way along, just as the
verifying and the tabulating is handled in a purely mechanical fashion.
You remember that each card was punched with a gang-punch?"
"Of course," the boy said, "that was to specify the district."
"We keep all those together from the time they are punched till after
we are through with the verifying, so that all the cards of a certain
enumeration district, and of every section in that district, are kept
together in a separate box."
"My word," Hamilton exclaimed, "what a storage you must have!"
"You ought to go down and see it some time," the other said. "It's big
enough, with every State and every county and every district in the
country having its own place, and every little village in that district
right where it belongs in a box of its own, under that State, county,
and district. I'm telling you this just to show you that we don't have
to sort the cards for location at all, and that in itself saves us a lot
of labor and time."
"And they were sorted into sexes on the punching machine, I remember,"
"Yes, and that prevents another handling of every card, you see," the
chief went on, "so that without any further special division, every card
is divided by village, district, county, and State, as well as sex, when
it leaves the punching machine From there it comes to the tabulating
machine--which is just the same as the verification, only instead of the
electrical connections being made through relays only, they are
sometimes made direct to counters."
"Just how, Mr. Cullern?" the boy asked.
"Well," the other continued, "when the pin, passing through the hole in
the card, drops into the little cup of mercury it closes a current
passing through an electro-magnet controlling a counter or a dial
corresponding with each possible item of information on the card, and
for each contact made to each dial, an added unit is registered. The
tabulating process is completed by an automatic recording and printing
system, somewhat along the stock ticker plan, connected with each dial.
When desired, touching an electric button will cause every dial to print
automatically the number recorded on a ribbon of paper."
"That is before sorting?"
"Or after. Cards may be tabulated along a lot of different lines. And
the sorting device depends again upon another machine, operated by the
The chief led the boy to another portion of the floor.
"This sorter," he said, "can be set for thirteen different compartments.
In determining the country of birth, for example, at any given point on
the card, an electrically charged brush finds the hole punched and
directs the card in between two of those finely divided wire levels,
where a traveling carrier picks it up and runs it along to the point
where the wires stop, the top wire extending to the furthest
compartment. As the card falls, it is tilted into place against the pile
of preceding cards, an automatic receiver holding them together, the
operator clearing away the pile from each division as it becomes full.
As you can see, that feed knife moves so rapidly and the endless band
fingers carry the cards out of the way in such a hurry that they move
along in a steady stream. We have only twenty of these machines and they
handle all the cards."
"It's hard to believe," said Hamilton wonderingly, "that these machines
"We're just building one in here," the supervisor replied, leading the
way into a little partitioned-off section of the room, "that has an
uncanny ingenuity. This machine feeds itself with cards, verifies and
tabulates at an incredible speed. It took some time to perfect all the
adjustments, but it is running finely now, and it will simplify the work
of the next census amazingly, just as the machines you saw have made the
old hand punching machines of former times seem very cumbersome. But
this one," he added, "is a gem."
[Illustration: PIN-BOX AND MERCURY CUPS. Details of mechanism which
almost magically detects mistakes in any census card. (_Courtesy of the
Bureau of the Census._)]
"It's a little like magic, it seems to me," said Hamilton, "to think of
every person in this whole country being registered on a card with a lot
of little holes in it, and practically the whole history on it. It
certainly is queer."
"There is something mysterious in it," the chief answered with a laugh.
"One feels as though all the secrets of the United States were boxed up
and in the storage vaults of the building. But the magician is the
Director. He is the man whose spells have woven this web of
organization, whose skill and knowledge have unlocked commercial
secrets, and whose perception has always seen the essential fact."
"It's great work to have a share in," the boy declared enthusiastically.
"To make us all feel that," his superior replied "is the chiefest spell
of the Director of the Census."
THE CENSUS HEROES OF THE FROZEN NORTH
"This is surely one blazing day," said Hamilton one day early in June,
as after the noon hour, he settled back at his work on the punching
"We'll cool you off all right," responded the foreman, who was coming up
at the moment and heard the boy's remark, "for I understand they're
looking for editors on the Alaskan schedules. A big batch of them has
just arrived and I happen to know that your name has been recommended.
Mr. Cullern asked me to send you to him just as soon as you came in."
"I should like that above all things," Hamilton replied, "partly because
I've always been interested in Alaska, and also because this work has
got a little monotonous. I hadn't thought of the Alaskan census," he
continued, "and that's strange too; I should think census-taking up in
that country must have been full of excitement and adventure."
"Probably it was," responded his friend, "but you won't find any
thrilling yarns on the schedules; they'll be just like any other
schedules, I should imagine, only that the occupations will be of a
different variety. But you had better go along and see the chief."
Hamilton went gladly, thinking that no matter how formal the schedules
might be that dealt with Alaska they could not help but show to some
extent the character of the conditions in which they had been secured
and the difficulties attaching to work in that isolated land.
"How would you like to try your hand at the editing of the Alaska
schedules, Noble?" asked the chief of the division when the boy appeared
before him a few moments later.
"Very much indeed, Mr. Cullern," Hamilton replied.
"I understand that you have shown a great deal of interest in your work
while you have been here," the chief said, "and when I was asked
yesterday if I had any one to recommend I thought of you at once. Having
had experience in the manufactures end, as well as in the population,
ought to help you a good deal in the work. You were a special agent in
the manufactures, were you not?"
"Yes, sir," the boy answered, "but I don't think any of the places to
which I went resembled in any way the conditions in Alaska."
"Probably not," the chief said dryly, "New England isn't usually
considered in that light. But the underlying principles are the same, of
course, all the way through. Well, if you want to try it, here is your
"Very well, sir," Hamilton answered promptly. "I shall be glad to take
The boy waited a moment, but as there seemed nothing more to be said, he
walked back to his machine, to straighten up before leaving.
"As soon as you're through with that schedule," the foreman in charge of
the sub-section told him, "let me know, and then you can go to Mr.
Barnes, who is in charge of the Alaskan schedules."
"I've nearly finished," answered the boy, "I'll be done in a quarter of
an hour anyway."
Accordingly, a little later, Hamilton found his way to another part of
the building, where he met his new superior, a small, alert, nervous,
quick-spoken man, who, as Hamilton afterwards found out, had the
capacity of working at lightning speed, and then stopping and wanting to
talk at intervals. He said very little when Hamilton first came to him,
merely handing him a number of schedules to edit.
Hamilton watched him furtively several times and noted the amazing
rapidity of his work. Secretly he knew he could not attain that speed,
but he thought he had better make as good a showing as he could, and so
he, too, buckled to the job for all he was worth. When the boy had done
two or three schedules, each containing fifty names, Mr. Barnes reached
out for those that had been edited and went through them closely. He
made one or two corrections.
"That's not half bad, Noble," he said suddenly, "but I can see from one
or two little things you let go by that you are not entirely familiar
with that country. I'll tell you more about it later, but in the
meantime you had better look over some of the reports the supervisors
have sent in; they give you an insight into what those enumerators out
there had to go through in order to secure anything like complete
schedules. Here in one from the Fourth District, for example, there is a
graphic description of the work which I think you ought to enjoy. It's
good writing, too."
"My enumeration work was in Kentucky," said Hamilton, "so I haven't much
line on the conditions in the North. But I've always enjoyed books and
stories about Alaska, and I'd like to read the report."
"It will give you the atmosphere," said Barnes, "listen to this
paragraph, for example: 'The work was performed during the severest
winter known in this part of Alaska by the oldest settlers there. There
did not appear to be a man who did not have a pride in his work, an
anxiety to create a record for traveling time, a desire to enumerate all
the people in the district assigned to him, and to have to his credit
less loss of time because of weather than any of the other agents.'"
"I guess," said Hamilton, "that supervisor had those enumerators just
breaking their necks to beat out the other agents, and he worked on
their pride to get up their speed."
"'That the service lost none of its men from freezing to death, and that
every man returned safely, is a matter for congratulation and of good
fortune, from the fact that there were in this part of Alaska more
deaths from the weather this winter than all preceding years in total;
cases in which those who met such deaths did not begin to go through the
sacrifice and privation that these agents of the service did.'"
"Makes you proud to have been an enumerator, doesn't it?" asked the boy.
"But it always seems difficult to realize hardship unless you have been
"I spent a winter in Alaska," said Barnes emphatically, "and I can feel
the thrill of it in every line. He knows what he's writing of, too, this
man. Hear how he describes it: 'All the men in the service,'" he
continued, "'covered hundreds of miles over the ice and snow, in weather
ranging from 30 to 70 degrees below zero, the average temperature
probably being about 40 below. Because of the absolute lack of beaten
trails--' I wonder," he broke off, "if any one who hasn't been there can
grasp what it means!"
"No beaten trail," Barnes said reminiscently, "means where stunted
willows emphasize by their starved and shivering appearance the nearness
of the timber; where the snow-drifts, each with its little feather of
drifting snow sheering from its crest, are heaped high; where the snow
underfoot is unbroken; where under snow-filled skies a wind studded
with needle-sharp ice crystals blows a perfect gale; where the lonely
and frozen desolation is peopled only by the haunting shape of fear that
next morning a wan and feeble sun may find you staggering still blindly
on, hopelessly lost, or fallen beside a drift where the winter's snows
must melt before your fate is known."
He stopped abruptly and went on with his schedule. Hamilton worked on in
silence. Presently, as though there had been no pause, Barnes resumed
his quotation from the supervisor's report:
"'Because of the absolute lack of beaten trails, and the fact that the
snow lies so loosely on the ground like so much salt, no matter what its
depth may be, it was necessary through all their work to snow-shoe ahead
of the dog-teams. When one considers their isolation,--often traveling
for days without other shelter than a tent and fur robes--it can be
understood what sacrifices some of these men made to visit far-away
prospectors' cabins and claims. However, no man who travels in this part
of the country ever considers that there is any hardship, unless there
is loss of life, and they take their work stoically and good-naturedly,
though they drop in their tracks at the end of the day.'"
He tossed over the report to Hamilton.
"Look it over," he said. "I tell you there's some stirring stuff in
that, and just the bald reports of the enumerators' trips leave the
stories of explorers in the shade."
The boy took up the report as he was bidden, and read it with avidity.
Presently, upon a boyish exclamation, the other spoke:
"What's that one you've struck?"
"It's the enumerator from the district of Chandler," answered Hamilton.
"Go ahead and read it aloud," Barnes said, "I can go on with these
schedules just as well while you do."
"'At no time after he left Fairbanks,'" read the boy, "'did the
thermometer get above 30 degrees below zero. His long journey away from
a base of supplies made it impossible for him to carry a sufficient
supply of grub, and he was obliged to live off the country, killing
moose, mountain sheep, and other fresh meat. He froze portions of his
face several times, and on one occasion dropped into six feet of open
water, nearly losing his life in consequence.'"
"That would be fearful," said Barnes, "unless he could pitch camp right
there, put up a tent, build a fire, and change into dry clothing."
"There seems to have been mighty little wood for that up there,"
Hamilton remarked, "because, speaking of this same enumerator, the
supervisor says, further on, 'In crossing the Arctic Range and in
returning he traveled above timber line eighteen hours in both
directions, which, in a country where fire is a necessity, can be
understood is a very considerable sacrifice. He traveled in many places
where a white man had never been before, and as there are no beaten
trails or government roads in the district anywhere, he was obliged,
everywhere, to snow-shoe ahead of his team to beat down a trail.'"
"Did you ever snow-shoe?" asked Barnes abruptly.
"Once," answered Hamilton, "when I went to Canada to visit some cousins;
they had a snow-shoe tramp and insisted on my coming along. But I was
stiff for a week."
"Well," said the editor, "when you try to break trail and have to keep
ahead of a dog-team coming along at a fair clip, it's just about the
hardest kind of work there is."
"They all seem to have had their own troubles," said Hamilton, who had
been glancing down the pages of the report: "here's the next chap, who
got caught in a blizzard while accompanying the mail carrier, and if it
hadn't been for the fact that the people of the nearest settlement knew
that the mail carrier was expected on that day and sent out a rescue
party to search for him, neither of the two men would ever have been
found, and the census would have lost a man."
"That was up in the Tanana region, wasn't it?" queried Barnes, but
without looking up from his work.
"Yes," answered the boy, "and from all accounts that must be a wild part
of the country. Speaking of that same enumerator, the supervisor says:
'That this agent survived the work during the stormy period and came
back alive was the wonder of the older inhabitants of the country. No
less than four times this man was found by other travelers in an
exhausted condition, not far from complete collapse, and assisted to a
stopping place. He lost three dogs, and suffered terribly himself from
frost-bite. In the same district, during the same time, eight persons
were frozen to death, six men and two women.' There's quite a story
here, too, telling how he himself rescued a couple of trappers in the
last stages of hunger, exposure, and exhaustion."
"It's fearful to think of," the other commented; "just imagine those
agonizing journeys in the teeth of an Arctic wind, traveling over
hundreds of miles of trackless wilderness to get less than one-tenth as
many people as a city enumerator would find in one block!"
"But why do it in winter?" asked Hamilton. "It's hot up there in summer,
I've heard, and driving in the warm weather is pleasant enough; there's
no hardship in that!"
"You can't drive where there are no roads, and you can't ride where
there are no horses. Then the time available is short."
"Why is it so short?"
"You haven't a railroad going to every point in Alaska," Barnes pointed
out, "there's usually a trip of several hundred miles before you get to
the place from which to start. And when are you going to make that
"In the spring," Hamilton said, "as soon as it gets mild."
"I reckon you don't know much about Alaska," the older man remarked.
"When the snow thaws, the creeks overflow, and the rivers become raging
torrents. You can't ride, and if you walk, how are you going to cross a
swollen river, filled with pieces of ice the size of this room? Those
Alaska rivers are huge bodies of water, many of them, and there are no
"How about boats?"
"You mean traveling on those ice-filled rivers? It couldn't be done."
"But as soon as the ice goes out?"
"That's pretty well into June, to start with, and then you would have to
pole up against the current all the way, and the currents of most of the
rivers are very swift. Did you ever pole a boat up against a swift
mountain river?--I thought not. Suppose, by very hard work, you could
make two or three miles an hour up stream,--at that rate how long would
it take you to go up to the highest settlement? And then you would have
to go all the way down again and ascend the next stream; and even then
more than half the settlements would be on streams and creeks you could
not get to with boats because of falls, of rapids, of long portages, and
things of that kind."
"I guess they couldn't use a boat," said Hamilton, "but still I don't
see why they couldn't ride!"
"Ride what? Dogs? Or reindeer? I suppose you mean to take a horse up
"That's what I was thinking of," Hamilton admitted.
"How would you get him up there? Take him in a dog-sled the preceding
winter? You know a horse couldn't travel on the snow like a dog-team.
And if you did get him up to the starting point during the winter, on
what would you feed him? Dried salmon? That's all there is, and while it
makes good enough dog-feed, a horse isn't built that way. There's no
hay-cutting section up there, and your horse would starve to death
before you had a chance to ride him. And even supposing that you could
keep him alive,--I don't believe you could ride him over the tundra
swamps; there is no horse made that could keep his footing on those
"I see you're right," said Hamilton, "I hadn't thought of all that."
The older man continued: "There are horses in the towns of southern
Alaska, because, you know, there is one narrow strip that runs a long
way south, and there the weather is not severe. But the north is
another matter entirely. The pay that you would have to offer in order
to lure the men away from the gold-diggings would be enormous. No, it
had to be a winter job, and in the Geography section--where I was last
year--it took us all our time to estimate satisfactory enumeration
districts for Alaska."
[Illustration: OVER THE TRACKLESS SNOW WITH DOG-TEAM. Census agents in
Alaska starting on perilous journeys in the most severe winter ever
known in sub-Arctic regions. (_Courtesy of the Bureau of the Census._)]
"The Geography section?" queried Hamilton in surprise. "I hadn't heard
of that. What is that part of the census work for?"
"To map out the enumeration districts," his superior explained. "That is
a most important part of the work. You remember that the enumeration
district was supposed to provide exactly a month's work for each man?"
"Yes," Hamilton answered, "I know I had to hustle in order to get mine
done in the month."
"Supposing," said the other, "that all the people that were on your
schedule had lived in villages close together, would it have taken you
as long to do?"
"Of course not," Hamilton replied, "I could have done it in half the
time. What delayed things was riding from farm to farm, and they were
scattered all over the countryside."
"Exactly," Barnes continued, "but I suppose you never stopped to think
that the number of people in each district and the nature of the ground
to be covered both had to be considered. Then allowance had to be made
for the enumeration of those not readily accessible, and for such
natural obstacles as unbridged rivers; all these had to be mapped out
and gone over by the Census Bureau before the sections were assigned."
"No," the boy replied, "I never really stopped to think who it was that
made up all those districts. And, now you come to speak of it, I don't
see how it could have been done without being on the ground."
"Yet it is evident," the other said, "that it must have been done. It
wouldn't be fair to tell a man to finish a district that represented
seven or eight weeks' work, nor to promise a month's work to a man and
then give him a district that had only two or three weeks' employment.
You couldn't alter the districts afterwards, either, as everything had
to be prepared in Washington for enumeration and tabulation by the
original districts as mapped out."
"You mean," said Hamilton, "that every square mile of territory in the
United States, the number of people on it, the kind of land it was, the
roads and trails, the distance from the nearest town, the rivers, and
the location of bridges across them, and all that sort of thing had to
be worked out in advance?"
"Every acre," was the reply, "and the worst of it was that there was
very little to go by. The lists for the last Decennial Census were only
of use in the Eastern districts, for in the West large towns had grown
up that were mere villages then. Whole sections of territory which were
uninhabited ten years ago are thick with farms today and the 'Great
American Desert' of a few years ago is becoming, under irrigation, the
'Great American Garden.'"
"The Survey maps helped, I should think," said Hamilton. "I have a
friend, Roger Doughty, on the Geological Survey, and he told me all
about the making of the Topographic maps."
"They helped, of course, but even with those it was hard to work out
some of the queerly shaped districts. The supervisors helped us greatly
after the larger districts had been planned, but the Geography division
had to keep in touch with every detail until the entire country was
divided into proportionately equal sections.
"And you had to do that for Alaska, as well!"
"As far as we could. Of course it was difficult to determine routes of
travel there, and to a large extent that had to be left to the
supervisors, but they merely revised our original districting. It took a
lot of figuring in Alaska because of the tremendous travel difficulties
there and the thousands of miles of territory still unsurveyed."
"I had never realized the need of all that preparatory work," the boy
"There's a great deal of the work that has to be done in the years
before the census and in the years after," he was informed, "and the
Bureau is kept just as busy as it can be, all the while. The Decennial
Census, although it is the biggest part of the census work, is only one
of its many branches, and then there are always other matters being
looked after, like the Quinquennial Census of Manufactures, and such
numberings as those of the Religious Bodies and the Marriage and Divorce
Statistics of a few years ago."
"I understood the Bureau had regular work all the year round?" Hamilton
"Indeed it has. All the births and deaths that are registered are
tabulated here, and a number of tables of vital statistics are worked
out which are of immense value to doctors not only in the United States
but all over the world. Then, as I think you know, we have for years
made a special study of cotton crop conditions, and there is a bulletin
published at stated intervals showing the state of the cotton industry
in the United States. Then there is all the statistical work on cities
of over 30,000 inhabitants, and there is scarcely a question which has
reference to the population or the manufacturing interests of the
country that is not referred sooner or later to the Bureau of the
"You work with the Forest Service, too, I believe," said Hamilton.
"Wilbur Loyle, a forest ranger whom I knew very well, showed me some
figures that the Bureau had prepared."
"Only in the collection and publication of statistics of forest
products," said Barnes, rising and changing his office coat,--for the
conversation had run on long after office hours,--"owing to their
co-operation the task is not cumbersome; questions of information or
special statistics asked for by Congress or by the executive departments
take up a great deal of time when added to an already extensive routine
Editing the schedules of the population of Alaska, just as Hamilton had
expected, proved to be of the most intense interest, since, despite the
closest desire on the part of the enumerators to confine themselves
strictly to official facts, the wildness of the frontier life would
creep in. An example of this was the listing of an Eskimo girl on the
schedule as having "Sun" and "Sea" for her parents with an explanatory
note to the effect that she had been found as a tiny girl upon a heap of
sea moss on the beach. Another was when an enumerator wrote on his
schedule under 'language spoken,' "Some pesky lingo; I know most of
their talk, but this was too much for me and the hut was too strong to
stay in long."
Such comments made it easy to create a picture of the semi-savagery of
the fur-clad fishers on the shores of the Arctic Sea.
Another schedule, one which interested the boy greatly, was that in
which the age of an Indian was described as "200 snows." To try to get
this worked out to the probably true age of 80 or 90 years evidently had
been quite a task. The enumerator wrote:
"This Indian ain't 200 years old. He says he's 200 snows, but I can't
quite figure it out. He says he was 20 snows when he got first woman,
kept her 4 snows, then she go away! He complained that 'he had no
women 4 suns and catch no women 4 snows.' He 'got more woman, keep her 5
snows, then she eat cold (frozen to death). Got no woman 20 snows, she
good woman.' He could not give any clue about his children only that
'his chickens 30 to 45 snows!' They reckon here only from what they can
remember, so this buck is probably counting from about ten years old.
That would make him thirty when he first got a wife, thirty-four when
she died, thirty-eight when he got his next wife, and forty-three when
she died. Counting his oldest child at 45 this would make him about
seventy-five. Where the '200 snows' comes in, I don't see."
[Illustration: THE CENSUS IN THE ALEUTIAN ISLANDS. Enumerator on a
schooner skirting the icy shores of the glacier-fed waters of the
Behring Sea. (_Courtesy of the Bureau of the Census._)]
A great treat to the boy came, however, when one of the enumerators from
the Second District of Alaska, who had been summoned East in the spring
on business concerning some property with which he was associated, and
had come as soon as the break-up permitted travel, dropped into the
Census Bureau. He made himself known to the Director, and the latter,
always ready to show attention and being really proud of the Census
Bureau staff, arranged to have him shown around the building. The
Alaskan was a small fellow, hard as nails, given to stretches of
silence, but with a ready, infectious laugh and the ability to tell a
good yarn after he got started. Presently, just before quitting time, he
reached the desk where Barnes and Hamilton were editing schedules.
"This ought to interest you," said the Bureau official who was showing
him around, "these men are just going over the Alaskan schedules before
sending them to the machines to be punched and tabulated."
Looking interested, the man bent forward and, with a muttered word of
apology, picked up the schedule on which Hamilton was working at the
time. "This must be one o' mine!" he said, with an air of surprise.
"But that is marked, 'Copy'!" said Hamilton "I was just wondering where
the original was."
"I'm willin' to gamble quite a stack, son," was the surprising reply,
"that you'd have been wonderin' a whole lot more if the original had
come down to you."
"Why, how's that?"
"Well, I reckon I c'n handle dogs better'n I can a pen," he said, "an'
when you come to try an' write one o' these schedules on scraps o' dried
skin you c'n count it sure's shootin' there's some decipherin' got to
Barnes looked at the official who was showing the Alaskan 'round the
building, and knowing him very well, he said to the visitor, "Spin us
the yarn; I've been up there and I'd like to hear it myself, and I know
the lad is just wild to hear it."
"I want to be a part of that audience, too," said the official, with a
"I don't want to hold up the job!" the visitor suggested hesitatingly.
"Go ahead," his conductor answered. "Here we are all waiting, and it's
nearly half-past four anyway."
"Well, then, it was up in the Noatak Pass--" he was beginning, when
Hamilton stopped him.
"I don't want to interrupt, right at the start," he said, "but where is
"I should have told you," said the miner goodhumoredly, "it's the pass
between the Endicott an' the Baird ranges, at the extreme northern end
of the Rockies. I hated to go through it, an' I wouldn't have, most
times, not unless there was a mighty big pull to get me over there, but
I had promised to count every one in my district, an' so, of course,
there was nothin' else to do but go, even though I knew there was no one
on the other side but a bunch of Eskimos. Well, we were halfway up the
pass when the Indian guide stopped the dogs an' listened. It was just
about noon an' the travelin' was good, so that, wantin' to make time, I
got good an' mad at the stop. Knowin' my Indian, I kep' quiet just the
same, always bein' willin' to bet on an Indian bein' right on the trail.
First off, I could notice nothin', then, when I threw back my parka hood
I could hear a boomin' in the air as though some one was beatin' a gong,
miles and miles away. It was so steady a sound that after you had once
heard it for a while you wouldn't notice it, an' you would have to
listen again real hard to see if it was still goin' on."
"Like distant thunder?" queried Hamilton.
"Not a bit. It was high, like a gong, an' it wasn't any too good to
hear. The dogs knew it, too, for though we had been stopped nearly five
minutes none of them had started to fight."
"Do dogs fight every time they stop?"
"Just about. They try to, anyway. In the traces, of course, they can't
do much but snap an' snarl, but that they're always doin'. This time,
however, all save one or two of them stood upright sniffin' uneasily.
"'Wind?' I asked the Indian.
"'Heap wind!' he answered. 'Go back?'
"Now you may lay ten to one that when an Indian is the first to suggest
goin' back, trouble with a big 'T' is right handy. I reckon that was the
first time I ever did hear an Indian propose goin' back. 'Why go back,
Billy?' I asked.
"'Heap wind,' he repeated, 'old trail easy.' He pointed ahead, 'No
"He meant, I suppose," Hamilton interjected, "that if you doubled on
your tracks the trail would have been broken before, and it would be
"That's the bull's-eye, and if a storm did come up we'd have a trail to
follow and not get lost."
"Did you go back?"
"I did not. I figured that while we were about a day's journey to a
settlement either way, we were perhaps an hour nearer where we were
goin' than where we had come from, an' that perhaps the storm would hold
off long enough for us to make it. Those storms last for days,
sometimes, an' we'd have the trip to make anyway, even if we did go
back. Besides, I didn't want to lose the time. 'No, Billy,' I called to
the Siwash, 'go on!'
"I was sorry the minute I said it, because I knew the Siwash thought me
wrong, although, bein' an Indian, of course he never showed a sign. He
started up the dogs without a word. I knew he thought it reckless and
dangerous, but tortures wouldn't have made him say so. In half an hour's
time, I began to be sure he was right."
"Did the storm strike as soon as that?" asked the boy.
"No. If it had, I think I should have gone back. But at the end of that
half-hour, we topped a rise that gave a view of the country ahead an'
showed it to be broken an' bad travelin'. I shouldn't have liked the
look of it at any time, but with a storm brewin' an' the Indian wantin'
to go back, it sure did look ugly. But the faint roarin' of the distant
storm sounded no louder, the sky was no heavier, the air no colder, the
wind no higher,--an' I built my hopes upon a delay in its comin', an'
plunged on. We were makin' good time; the dogs were keepin' up a fast
lick, an' the Indian ahead, workin' to break the trail, was movin' like
a streak. I sure never did see an Indian travel the speed he did. I was
behind, pushin' the sled, an' I had to put out all there was in me. An
hour went by, an' I was just beginnin' to think that we would be able to
cover the greater part of the distance, when a huge white shape rose
from the snow near by, passed in front of the sledge, and disappeared.
I've been scared once in my life. This was that once."
"What was it?" asked Hamilton breathlessly.
"I watched," the Alaskan continued, "an' presently about a hundred yards
away, an' a little to the right of the sled, the snow began to move. I
couldn't feel a breath of wind. But the snow seemed to writhe an' stir
as though some monster from the Arctic night was wakin' from his winter
sleep, an' a wisp of snow hurled upwards; then, with a heave the snow
crust broke an' fell apart an' a column of snow shot up like a geyser
swirlin' into a pillar a hundred feet high.
"A moment it stood; then swayed over an' begun to move slowly at first,
but gatherin' speed every second, noiselessly, save for a sound like the
indrawin' of a breath and a faint crackin' as the hard snow crust
shivered into atoms where it struck. Aimlessly, yet seemin' to have a
hidden purpose as though wreathin' the figures of some Boreal dance, it
come near us and fell back; moved away an' threatened again; then swept
upon us till its icy breathin' gripped our throats, an' our hearts stood
"An' in the silence, one dog whined.
"Behind the sled there stirred the snow anew, an' in a moment or two
another column threw itself at the sky, and behind us an' around, other
of these columns rose an' moved like spectral dancers under the
slate-green clouds of the snow-filled sky. No wind, no sound but the
lone leader of the team howlin' in utter fear."
"A dancing blizzard!" said Barnes, in an awed tone, under his breath.
"If there had been anythin' to do, it would have been easier," the
Alaskan continued, "but to move was not more dangerous than to stay
still. In answer to a sign, the Indian started up the dogs again, an' we
went on, though the road ahead looked like the ice-forest of a
disordered dream. Presently, without a moment's warnin' one of the huge
snow pillars came rushin' straight at us, an' I braced myself by the
sledge to hold to it if I could, but it swerved before it reached us an'
ran along beside the trail. About fifty feet ahead it swerved again and
cut across the trail, an' the extreme edge caught the Indian, picked
him up in the air, an' threw him at least thirty feet."
"Was he hurt?" cried Hamilton.
"Not a bit, for there was nothin' to fall on but snow. He picked himself
up, looked carefully at his snow-shoes to see that they had not been
damaged, an' resumed his place at the head of the dogs. What would have
become of him if he had been plucked into the middle of the whirlwind is
hard to say. I wouldn't have counted on seein' him again anyway."
"But you never really got caught by any?"
"Wouldn't be here talkin', if I had," was the reply. "But when we come
to the track of that whirlwind column, it was a puzzle how to get
across. The column, goin' like a railroad train, had cut a gully in the
hard snow full ten feet deep,--the sides as clean cut as though done
with a knife, or rather with a scoop, because the edge was slightly
scolloped all the way along."
"How did you get across?"
"Axes," was the brief reply. "We cut through the snow crust and beat
down a steep path on both sides of the gully an' made the dogs take it.
Dog harness is strong, but I was afraid of the strain on it that time."
"How long did the blizzard last?"
"You mean the whirlwinds?"
"Yes, sir," the boy answered.
"Not very long,--quarter of an hour, perhaps. Then I felt a slight
breeze, an' at the same moment the columns, bendin' their heads like
grass before the wind, swept to the right of us, an' were out of sight
in a moment. The Indian yelled and pointed to the left, throwin' himself
on the ground as he did so."
"What was it?" cried Hamilton.
"It looked like a solid wall of snow, an' before I realized it was
comin', the storm struck, hurled me to the ground, an' rolled me over
an' over in the snow. I wasn't hurt, of course, but it took me so long
to get my breath that I thought it was never goin' to come, an' that I
should suffocate. But after that first burst, the blizzard settled down
to the regular variety, an' we all felt more at home. But even at that,
it was the worst one I ever saw in the North, an' I've been there nine
"What did you do? Go back?"
"No use tryin' to go back," the traveler said, "because those whirlwinds
had cut gullies across the snow in every direction so that our old trail
was no use to us. We went ahead a bit, as far as we could, but soon
realized that there was nothin' to do but camp right where we were an'
wait for the blizzard to blow over. Usually two days is enough for the
average storm to let up a little, but it was not until the third day
that there was any chance of startin', an' even then it was almost as
bad as could be for travel. But I had to make a start then."
"Why?" asked Hamilton, who always wanted to know the details of
"Because we were runnin' short of dog-feed, an' you can't let your dogs
die of hunger, for then you can't get anywhere. But the blizzard had
drifted everything an' was still driftin', so that the snow was hard in
some places and soft in others; the travelin' was almost impossible, an'
you couldn't see twenty yards ahead. Then while the blizzard had filled
the gullies made by the whirlwinds, the snow in them was not packed down
as hard as the rest of the surface, an' dogs an' sled an' Indian an'
myself would all go flounderin' into the drift, an' it would be a tough
pull to get the sled out again.--That was a hard trip.
"The worst of it came when, without a bit of warnin', without our even
knowin' where we were, the hard crust of the snow gave way beneath us,
an' the sled, the dogs, and myself fell headlong down a slope an' into a
stream of runnin' water, the sled upside down, of course."
"How about the Indian?" asked the boy.
"He saved himself from goin' into the water, an' it was a good thing
that he did, for he was able to help in pullin' us out. But, from one
point of view, the accident was a help, for it told the Indian just
where we were. There was only one stream of that size in that
neighborhood, an' until we found it, we were hopelessly lost. But from
that time we knew that the settlement we were headin' for was straight
up the stream, an' all we had to do was to follow it. But it was a race
for life, in order to get to camp before frozen clothin' and various
frostbites crippled me entirely."
"But how about the dogs?" queried Hamilton. "I should think it would be
worse for them than for you."
The Alaskan shook his head.
"A 'husky' can stand just about anythin' in the way of cold," he said,
"an' my leaders 'Tussle' and 'Bully' were a couple of wonders. Only one
of the dogs gave out. Well, we made the camp finally, pretty well done
up all round. The worst of it was, that when we come to unpack the
sled--we did it with an ax because everythin' was frozen solid--the
census pouch was missin'. Luckily there was no past work in it,--only
blank schedules, information papers, an' things of that sort. So I made
up the schedules on odd bits of paper and skins, as I told you, an' the
supervisor copied them on the schedule to send in, an' that schedule you
have in your hand is the copy of those very pieces of skin."
[Illustration: CAN WE MAKE CAMP? A last rush for shelter as the blizzard
strikes, wiping out all landmarks.]
Hamilton glanced at the paper with redoubled interest.
"I suppose it was no use trying to get the pouch back," he said.
"I didn't think it would be," the Alaskan replied "but I tried to reach
the place where the sled had been overturned, an' each time the weather
drove me back. On the third day I got a chance to go with some Eskimos
with reindeer to a little settlement about twenty miles off, an' so I
went along and got the names there, comin' back on a reindeer sled.
That's the only time I ever felt like Santa Claus. I'm sure I don't look
[Illustration: TO ESKIMO SETTLEMENTS BY REINDEER. Census enumerator
using half-wild animals when dog-team was too exhausted to go farther.
(_Courtesy of the Bureau of the Census._)]
Hamilton looked at his spare figure and laughed.
"No," he said, "I don't think an artist would be likely to pick you for
the part. How did you like the reindeer, though? I've always wondered
that they didn't use them more in Alaska. The government keeps a herd,
"Yes," was the reply, "but that is more for fresh meat than for travel.
A good reindeer is a cracker-jack of an animal when he wants to be, but
when he takes a streak to quit, it doesn't matter where it is or what
you do to him, he won't go another step. A balky mule is an angel of
meekness beside a reindeer. You can always make a mule see what you want
him to do--although the odds are that he won't do it even then--but when
a reindeer gets stubborn,--why, he just can't be made to understand
"Yet I've read that they use them a good deal in Lapland!" said the boy
"They have domesticated them more thoroughly, I guess," the Northerner
replied. "In time they may be worked up here in the same way, and when
you consider how short a time the government has had to do what is
already accomplished, it seems to me the result is wonderful. Of course,
so far as traffic is concerned there are dogs enough, and they do the
work in mighty good shape."
"How did you work back from the settlement which you had got to with
such difficulty?" the boy asked.
"I came back another way, in order to take in a little group of houses
on a small pay-creek," was the reply. "But it was comin' back from that
trip, on the Koatak River, that I had quite a time, although I was not
the sufferer. We had been havin' a hard spell of weather, but there come
a week when conditions on the trail were much better an' we were reelin'
off the miles in great shape. I hadn't a place on my map for about sixty
miles, when in the distance I saw a little hut, just in the fringe of
some stunted cottonwoods and some scraggy willows, for we were not far
from the timber limit.
"'Billy,' I called to the Indian, 'ever see that hut before?'
"The Indian shook his head, but knowin' that I wanted to see an' count
everybody in the district, he turned off the trail--he said it was a
trail but I couldn't see it--an' led the way to the hut. I went in an'
found a man lying on a couple of planks, just about dead. He was one of
the survivors of the wrecked steamer _Filarleon_, and had frozen all
the fingers of both hands. Two or three were turnin' gangrenous; an' one
of these had got so bad that with his other crippled hand, he had sawed
off the decomposin' member with his pocket-knife. One foot also was
frozen an' had turned black, but that afterwards recovered."
"What did you do for him?" asked the boy.
"Put him on the sled, of course," the Alaskan answered, "an' took him to
the nearest settlement. I afterwards heard that a doctor happened in to
camp soon after I left, an' got at his hurts right away, an' that he was
put back into fair condition all but the one finger.--That's no
tenderfoot's country up there."
"I wonder you stuck it out," said Hamilton. "But then," he added a
moment later, "I can see how a fellow would hate to quit."
"It was tough," reluctantly admitted the narrator, "an' I'll tell you
what I did. I'm not much of a hand with the pen, but right in the middle
of the work I found a man who was goin' down the river, an' I sat down
and wrote a long letter to the supervisor. It was about as plaintive a
thing as I ever read. I had no reason to expect an answer, but by chance
another party was comin' up that way, an' some weeks later I received a
reply. What do you suppose he said!"
"I haven't the least idea," answered the boy.
"His answer read just this way:
"'I chose you because you were experienced in the treeless coast. Go to
it. We are expecting you to make good.'"
"And," Hamilton said, his eyes shining, "I'll bet you did!"
CONFRONTED WITH THE BLACK HAND
The sidelights that Hamilton had received on the Alaskan enumeration had
given him a greater zest for census work than ever, and he devoted not a
little of his spare time to the study of conditions in the far North.
Indeed, the lad became so enthusiastic about it that every evening, when
he reached home, he worked out the route of the enumerator whose
schedules he had edited during that day's work. He had secured the big
geological reconnaissance map of Alaska for the purpose. Consequently,
it was with a sense of regret that he faced the day when the last of the
Alaskan schedules had been edited.
"What next, I wonder, Mr. Barnes?" said Hamilton, laying down his pen
and glancing round to his companion. "How about Porto Rico? They had a
census this spring, too, didn't they?"
"I imagine the Porto Rico work is about done," his friend replied, "at
least I know that most of it came in some weeks ago. How are you on
"I can read it all right," Hamilton answered, "although I don't write
particularly well. But are the schedules all in Spanish?"
"Yes, indeed," said the other.
"I don't think simple Spanish would bother me at all," Hamilton replied.
"I knew a chap who was going to the Philippines and he wanted some one
to take up Spanish with him so that he wouldn't be alone in it; and to
keep him company, I hammered at it too. But, after a bit, he joined a
class, so I dropped out, although I did study once in a while so as not
to forget it altogether."
"Why don't you suggest that you know Spanish," remarked Barnes, "and
perhaps you'll get the chance."
Accordingly, when a little later, the final copy on the Alaskan
schedules was turned in, Hamilton asked concerning the Porto Rican work,
and ventured his slight familiarity with Spanish.
"We have several translators," replied the chief, "but still, I suppose
Mr. Alavero can make you useful. I'll let you know later on."
In a few moments he returned and beckoned to the boy, who followed him,
with a word of farewell and thanks to the editor of the Alaskan
schedules with whom he had enjoyed working greatly.
"Mr. Alavero," the official said, introducing Hamilton, "this is Noble.
I don't know what his Spanish is like, but I think he may be of some use
to you in getting out the manufactures statistics, as he did some work
along that line early in the year and has been with the census ever
The editor smiled affably at the boy and shook hands with heartiness.
"The schedule work is all done," he said, "but it will take some time
preparing the report. It is going to be fuller than most of them because
there is so much American capital invested in Porto Rico that a detailed
analysis will be of value."
"It is real editorial work, then!" Hamilton said, with a note of
pleasure in his voice.
"I think," said the chief dryly, "that Mr. Alavero will do the editorial
work, as you call it, since he is the editor; you are to assist him in
preparing tables and matters of that kind."
But no sooner had the Bureau official gone than the Porto Rican came
"If you like," he said, "we'll try to arrange some part of the work that
you can do all yourself, writing and everything else, so that it will
be 'real' editorial work, and you'll be able to see your own writing in
Hamilton thanked him fervently, and from that day on would have done
anything for his new superior.
"This is a considerable change, Mr. Alavero," said Hamilton the
following morning, when he found himself at a table littered with maps
and drawings of the island, with papers in Spanish and English, with
reports and circulars containing pictures of the sub-tropical landscapes
and towns of Porto Rico. "I have been doing nothing but Alaska for a
"Too cold!" the Porto Rican cried, with a shrug of the shoulders. "I was
in Washington this last winter and I thought I should die of freezing."
"You are from Porto Rico yourself, Mr. Alavero?"
"I was never away from the island at all," was the reply, "never even on
a steamboat until I came to the United States last autumn; I came to
show the people in your Congress that the coffee growers of Porto Rico
"Porto Rican coffee is the finest in the world," the editor answered
with a graphic gesture, "and when Porto Rico was Spanish we could sell
in Europe at high prices, but now the European tariff against the United
States includes us, and our coffee is taxed so that we cannot sell it.
And the American market is satisfied with Brazilian coffee, which is of
a cheaper grade."
"Is coffee the principal crop down there?" queried the boy. "I notice
that nearly half these papers and books deal with coffee plantations."
"It is still, but not as it once was," the Porto Rican answered. "Sugar
and tobacco are the other big crops."
"Coffee is easy to grow, isn't it?" asked the boy. "It doesn't want all
the attention that cotton does?"
"After a grove is well-established, no, though we prune a great deal;
but sugar, yes. That's not such an obstacle though. There is plenty of
labor on the island."
"Isn't the bulk of the island colored?"
"No, no, no," answered the Porto Rican, shaking his finger in emphatic
denial, "more than three-fifths are pure white, a much smaller
proportion of negroes than in some of your Southern States. The
negroes were slaves, but Spain freed them in 1873. There was no war." He
smiled. "We are a most peaceful people."
[Illustration: GATHERING COCOANUTS. Where the census-taker in Porto Rico
had to wait for his figures until the head of the house climbed down.
(_Courtesy of the Department of War._)]
"Not like our other accession from Spain," Hamilton commented. "I mean
the Philippines; you certainly couldn't call the Filipinos peaceful, it
seems to me that they come just about as wild as they make them."
"Wild? You do not know the half!" said the excitable little editor, who,
despite the frequency of his gestures and the volubility of his
explanations was busily working with diagrams the while. "You know there
was a census in Porto Rico in 1899?"
"I didn't until this morning," the boy answered "but as I see that most
of these tables are compared with that year it is evident that there
must have been."
"There was a census," the editor went on, after a pause during which he
had been working over a column of figures, "and my uncle was a
supervisor. Mr. Gatten--you know him?"
"Only by name," Hamilton replied.
"He was in the Porto Rico census, too. Then in 1903 he went to assist in
the census of the Philippines. It was done by the War Department,
because the fighting was hardly over. You think the census difficult?
You should hear my uncle! The Dattos were not all stopped fighting,
because just as soon as the Philippine Commission thought it safe, the
"Did any one get killed by hostile natives?" asked Hamilton, scenting a
"Several wounded, one badly, but no one killed. But"--and he waggled a
finger warningly--"there were plenty of places where the census was only
estimated! The blowpipe and the poison arrow are most dangerous. Even
with the soldiers taking the census and going with other census men, it
was very risky among the uncivilized tribes."
"They are really wild?" said Hamilton.
"I think the wildest people in the world, the most savage, are in those
jungles. My uncle had to go to the haunts of the Pygmies."
"Pygmies!" exclaimed Hamilton in surprise. "I didn't know that the Stars
and Stripes floated over Pygmy tribes! I thought they were only in
"The Negritos are pygmies," answered the editor, "seldom over four feet
ten inches for the man and the woman two or three inches shorter; they
use their toes like fingers, they wear only a loin-cloth, their hair is
fuzzy like a black bush, and they seldom use fire, even for cooking."
"How do they live?" asked Hamilton. "We have got used to thinking of the
Red Indians as a part of the United States races, but the Pygmies seem
outlandish. Have they huts or do they live in caves, or how?"
"Nothing!" was the answer. "A few have rough huts, but most of them
wander in the forests."
"But where do they sleep?"
"On the ground."
"I should think they would be afraid of wild beasts," the boy remarked.
"There are very few in the Philippines," was the reply.
"How about snakes, then?" queried the lad.
"They have to take chances on snakes. But you know a snake will scarcely
ever strike unless alarmed or attacked. No snake will bite a sleeping
man. Wild animals only attack for food, and man is left alone as much as
"Haven't they pythons there? And a python could easily strangle and
swallow a man."
"He could, but he doesn't," the Porto Rican pointed out; "rabbits are
more his size, or a young fawn. The Negritos are safe enough, as far as
"What do they live on?"
"Fish, mostly, together with roots and berries; and they can get all
they want with bow and arrow, or with a stone. They can throw a stone as
straight as you could shoot a bullet."
"We ought to import some of them for baseball pitchers," suggested
Hamilton with a grin. "But it really must have been an awful job
enumerating them. And when it comes to poisoned arrows!--No thank you,
I'd rather stick to old Kentucky. Are there many of them?"
"No," was the reply, "the Negrito is dying out, just as the aboriginal
tribes all over the world are doing. There are only about twenty-three
thousand of the Pygmies left now."
"But there are more natives than that in the Philippines?" queried the
"Hundreds of thousands. You see there are really three different types
of savages in the Philippines, according to the census reports. The
aboriginal tribes are the Negritos, perhaps as close to primitive man as
any people on earth; those are the ones I have been telling you about,
and they are a race all to themselves, as different from the rest of
the Filipinos as the negro is from the white man. The true Filipinos are
"Even the head-hunters?"
"Certainly. There are Filipinos of two grades,--apparently of two
periods of migration. The first came and settled the islands away a long
time back, driving the Pygmies to the forests, and occupying the coasts
themselves. These tribes, the Igorots, the Ilongots, the Bilans, and so
forth, are of the same general type as the head-hunters of Borneo, and
some,--like the Ilongots--to this day carry out the savage custom that
'no young man can be accepted in marriage until he has presented his
bride with a human head.'"
"That is certainly savage," Hamilton agreed; "one never thinks that sort
of thing can be going on still, and certainly not under the American
"It is, though," the Porto Rican replied. "The third group," he
continued, "the Moros and so forth, are all Mohammedans, and they seem
to have come to the islands after the semi-civilization of the Malay
archipelago and its submission to Mohammedanism. The Moros are haughty
and assume the air of conquerors. As the Igorots drove the Negritos to
the forest and thence to the wild interior, so the Moros drove the
Igorots. They are largely pure Malay, warlike and cruel, but shrewd and
capable of culture. They assume an over-lordship over all other tribes
and their Dattos can generally enforce it."
"It seems strange," the boy said, "to think of going among those savages
and asking them the same questions that United States citizens were
asked, writing the answers on the same kind of schedules, and counting
these ferocious head-hunters on a tabulating machine."
"Of course," the editor reminded him, "the Philippine census last time
was taken by the War Department, although the Bureau is even now
considering what will be the best way to attack the problem should it
have to take the next Philippine census, as it probably will. But while
it was primitive, the work wasn't so very different. They were able to
use advance schedules, for example."
The boy stared, and his informant laughed outright.
"They were a little different," he explained, "and it was during the
enumeration of the Igorots and similar tribes. It was soon found that
they could count up to ten but no further. A certain number of them
could grasp the idea of ten groups of ten. So a bundle of sticks was
sent to each village and each man was made to cut notches in these
sticks up to ten to show how many children, or pigs, or chickens he had.
In some of the villages so my uncle told me, the supervisor had a
branding iron made with which he had branded on the tally sticks the
figure of a pig, or a house, or a chicken or whatever it might be."
"That is about as far back, I should think, as any one could go, in the
way of census-taking," the boy said. "I thought some of my up-country
negro farmers were barbaric--especially when I came across some
voodooism, but now I see I didn't know what barbarism meant."
"There's just as much savagery--of a kind--right in the heart of
civilization," said the Porto Rican. "The slums of a great city are
little less dangerous than a Philippine jungle, and you will do well to
"Why should I remember it especially?" asked Hamilton in surprise.
"Mr. Burns, who has been made an Inspector, told me the other day that
he expected to start soon for some of the larger cities, where reports
of census frauds had been made, and that he thought he would take you
along, if the Director was willing."
"You mean the Mr. Burns I was with in New Haven?"
"Yes, he seems to want to have you as his assistant in that work."
"That would be just splendid," said Hamilton, his eyes shining, "but how
about the Porto Rican report, Mr. Alavero?"
"I think I can manage it," the other replied, endeavoring to suppress a
smile, "and the chapter that you were working on is nearly done, isn't
"Yes, sir," the boy answered, "I can finish it in a couple of days."
"That will be in plenty of time," the editor assured him. "I don't think
Mr. Burns intends to start until some time next week."
Before many days had passed Hamilton found the correctness of the Porto
Rican's information, for as he was busily engaged in compiling a big
tabulation on the proportion of breadwinners per age and sex for one of
the provinces of the island, his friend the special agent of
manufactures, under whom he had been at New Haven, strolled into the
"Why, Mr. Burns," the boy said delightedly, jumping up and shaking
hands, "I haven't seen you for ever so long."
"I haven't been in Washington more than twenty-two per cent of the
time," was the reply "and I'm going away on the eleven-fifty next
Tuesday evening. Do you want to come along?"
"The Director said, if you wanted to come, I could take you."
"Where are we going, Mr. Burns?"
"Seems to me, Alavero," said the Inspector, turning to the Porto Rican,
"that you've been teaching this lad to ask questions. Out of the four
remarks he has made since I came in, two have been questions. Fifty per
cent is a high average. Well, I'll tell you," he added, turning to the
boy, "it's just this: there are always some cities that aren't satisfied
with the census. I believe of the cities of over thirty thousand
inhabitants at this census there has been something like nine,
decimal-eight-one per cent protests, and the most necessary of these the
Bureau investigates. Perhaps ten or a dozen in the entire country get a
recount. The Bureau doesn't officially recognize some of them but sends
an inspector to look over the ground, and see if everything was done
right. That's what we're going to do in New York."
"All right," said Hamilton briefly.
"You'll be on that train?"
"Yes, Mr. Burns," the boy answered. "Eleven-fifty P.M., Tuesday."
The opportunity was one which Hamilton had been coveting, for he felt
that if he only had a chance to get at the city methods he would have
covered almost the entire ground of the field-work of the Decennial
Census, and while he was sorry to leave his Porto Rican friend, still
the novelty appealed to him greatly, and in spite of his former chief's
mathematical conversation, Hamilton was genuinely fond of him.
"I've been wondering, Mr. Burns," the boy said, as they stood in the
great concourse of the Union Station at Washington, "whether there would
not be a very large number of protests about census figures,--people
always seem to have such an exaggerated idea of the size of their own
"There is to some extent," Burns replied. "I think something like a
hundred places filed protests in this last census."
"Then I read something, too, about census frauds," Hamilton said, "soon
after the taking of the census, in which it was suggested that some
enumerators--who were paid per capita--had bolstered up the figures in
order to get more out of it."
"There was a little of that," the Inspector said, "but by far the
greatest amount of fraud was due to the desire on the part of the
inhabitants of a town or city to make the place appear larger and more
important. Tacoma, Washington, was the most flagrant example of this,
why, they padded 32,527 names there, and even when the Census had made a
recount they tried to repeat the same performance, complaining of the
results and demanding a second recount."
"Was this granted?"
"It was," the Inspector replied, "largely in order that the Census
Bureau itself might have an opportunity to check the correctness of its
methods. The second recount was performed by expert statisticians and
with extreme care."
"And how did it come out?" the boy asked.
"It substantiated the first recount in every way. It was, indeed, a
wonderful object lesson in showing how small is the margin of error in
the United States Census."
"But was there really much fraud among the enumerators and supervisors,
"With perhaps one exception, no criticism could be made of the
supervisors, but you can't have 70,000 enumerators, chosen for temporary
work, and expect perfection! There was quite a little over-counting,
caused by entering hotel transients as having permanent residences, by
numbering citizens both at business and home addresses, and the constant
difficulty of the floating population. Deliberate frauds were very few;
where trouble was found it was usually discovered to have been due to
the unauthorized activity of committees of boards of trade or other
commercial organizations, giving lists of names all ready to be copied
on the enumerator's schedule, which the latter did not take the time and
trouble to verify."
"Then do you think the net result of the census is to make it seem that
there are more people in the country than really are here?"
"No," the Inspector replied confidently, "the total figures are an
understatement, probably of about one per cent, maybe a little less, but
certainly not much more."
"I think that's mighty close," Hamilton said. "But do towns never wish
to have small numbers announced?"
"There was only one case, so far as I know," the other replied, "in
which a Business Men's Association wrote and demanded a recount on the
ground that the figures were too big. The reason was a dispute about
raising city salaries when a certain population mark was reached.
"And now, Noble," he continued, moving on toward the train platform, "we
want to look into the question of statistics in New York carefully.
Personally I believe the work has been as well done as possible, and I
know the Director is satisfied, but one or two little matters have come
up, which want looking into."
Being on a midnight train, Hamilton had no chance for further talk with
the Inspector; but it was quite a home-coming when, after passing
through the great tunnels under the Hudson River, he found himself next
morning among the skyscrapers of New York again.
"I suppose every one feels the same way about his own town," Hamilton
said, "but it always seems to me that you feel the bigness of things
more in New York than anywhere. In Washington there always seems lots of
time to do everything you want, but New York is just made up of hustle.
You've got to know what you want in this city and you've got to do it in
a hurry, before some one else gets there first."
"New York certainly is hurried and restless; I can't say I like the
noise and the skyscrapers," replied Burns.
"But it's great the way those buildings tower up," the boy exclaimed
enthusiastically, "the low houses and poky ways of older and smaller
cities look as though they were made for dwarfs, after living in the New
"Yet there are taller buildings, in other places, even in Europe," the
"Spires!" answered the boy, "propped up by buttresses and flying
buttresses and all the rest of it so as to keep them from falling. Look
at those," he added, pointing at the skyscrapers before him, "they're
not afraid to stand by themselves; they mean something, they have a use,
while a spire just sticks straight up, pointing at nothing and being of
no service unless it is to hang bells in a belfry. I don't care what
people say about those crazy old tumble-down buildings of the Middle
Ages, they may be beautiful and all that, but they're useless nowadays.
The New York skyscraper is the greatest example of architecture in the
world because it best does what it was built to do."
"You are enthusiastic, Noble," said his friend.
"I'm a New Yorker all the way through," the lad continued, "and I want
to feel that I'm right in the whirl of things, where there is so much to
do that you can't crowd it into a day, where the fun is at the same
speed as the work. No backwaters for me, I want to be right out in the
center. I don't say that I'm going to win, but I want to be a game sport
and try my strength with the rest of the crowd in the current, sink or
swim. It's all right to say that the heart of the nation is Washington,
and the backbone is the farm, but its nerve center is here,--right here
in New York. America's the wonder of the world, all right, but all there
is to it is capital plus brains, and New York is the furnace that melts
them down into that quickness and grip on things we call the American
spirit. Millions from every race of the world come here, and the Statue
of Liberty is the first symbol, and the skyscrapers of lower New York
the first reality they see of the Land of Promise."
"How about the inside of these great shells of structure?"
"No such office buildings in the world," the boy answered
enthusiastically. "The salt winds from over three thousand miles of
ocean blow around them; in their steel walls there are lots of windows;
lightning speed elevators make the top floor easier to get at than the
second story of a dark, old-fashioned staircase building; and I've heard
that the marble mosaic entrances of the larger of them put the Italian
palaces to shame. I don't know Europe, but I do know New York, and I
believe, Mr. Burns, if you knew it as I do, you'd be as proud of it
The Inspector looked at the boy quietly.
"You're wrong," he said soberly, "in thinking that I don't know New
York. To-morrow morning you do a little work in a section of the city in
which you have probably never been, and I think we'll hear less tall
talk. If you could count the tens of thousands of families who live in
rooms with nothing but court windows; if you could find out in how many
thousand families children are toiling under sweatshop conditions till
far into the night; if you were to ask the tuberculosis district nurses
what conditions they find, you might then do a little thinking on your
own account. It's only right you should be proud of New York, but you'd
better see both sides before you are sure of yourself. Now, I suppose
you're going home?"
"Yes, sir," said Hamilton, a little taken aback by his friend's rebuke.
"Call at my hotel early to-morrow morning and I'll start you on a
'Seeing New York' trip of a new kind." And turning off sharply, the
Inspector swung himself aboard a passing cross-town car.
Nine o'clock the next morning found Hamilton in one of the worst
districts he had ever seen. Thronged as it was, the boy was sufficiently
conscious of his difference from the people he met to feel
uncomfortable. He had one of the schedules that had been filled out
during the enumeration of the city, and the Inspector had bidden him
verify certain portions of it which were either confusing or slightly
incorrect. This was to be done in a dozen or so districts, and if the
information was found to be adequate, showing that the enumerators'
work had been faithfully done, there would be no need for further
The home manufacture of ostrich feathers first gave Hamilton a clear
insight into poverty. Four or five rooms each occupied by a family of
several persons he entered in one tenement, and in each he found three
or four people working over ostrich plumes, working nervously at high
speed, afraid to stop, even for a moment. He noted conditions carefully,
and was amazed to find that each of the little strands was wired--he had
always supposed that plumes grew upon the ostrich the way that they are
In one such family dejection seemed to have reached its lowest ebb. The
window looked out on a court,--a court that was never cleaned and where
all manner of rubbish was thrown. Although it was morning and a
brilliant, sunshiny day, the light within was so dim that it was hard to
work by; yet with characteristic shiftlessness the window had not been
washed for months and diminished still further the little light there
was; a mattress in the opposite corner from a shaky cooking gas-burner
showed that this room was the entire home.
[Illustration: TAKING THE CENSUS IN A CITY. Enumerator at a doorway,
entering in his portfolio the details of a household.]
"Where is your husband?" asked the boy, noting on the schedule a man's
name as head of the family.
"In hospital--perhaps dead. See!"
The woman pointed to a telegram which had fallen to the floor. Hamilton
picked it up. It read:
"John Sobieski worse. Come at once," and was signed with the name of one
of the large hospitals.
"Did you go?" asked the boy.
The woman shook her head.
"Two hours lost, if I go. No good. Two hours' work means twenty-four
cents. What's the use?"
"What's the matter with him?"
"Consumption. I die soon, next year, perhaps. All the children sick."
The boy looked around at 'all the children.' There were five of them in
that room, and all--even the youngest, a baby four years old--were
knotting the feathers on the plume. The baby could hardly do it, but he
"Many hands make light work," said Hamilton as cheerfully as he could.
"With so many little workers you ought to get along finely."
"Yes," the woman answered listlessly, "we get along. Some days we make
as much as a dollar!"
"Each of you?"
"Do we look so rich? One dollar for everybody. But that is only
sometimes, when I am not too sick. We can get a little more than five
dollar the week, by working all the time."
The boy hastily asked the remaining questions on the schedule, found
everything correctly reported and relieving his conscience by giving a
little help out of his own pocket, he left for the next place.
On the floor below was a family working on fur, every one of them with
hacking coughs caused by tiny particles of fur in the lungs.
"We work or we starve," was again the unanswerable explanation.
In the house next door, embroidering rich cloaks, Hamilton found a
family of which several of the members had a bad infectious skin
disease. Chancing to meet a health inspector soon afterwards he told him
about this family and gave him their address.
"I can stop it, as far as this family is concerned," the health officer
said, "and I suppose I ought to. But you know what it means, I
"What?" asked the boy.
"It means, if I take their work away, they will starve to death in a
couple of weeks."
"And if you don't?"
"If I don't, they'll go on spreading disease. Oh, I'll have to put a
stop to it, of course, but tell me what is going to happen to the
"They ought to go to a hospital," Hamilton said.
The health officer shook his head.
"They are not hospital cases," he said. "None of them need more medical
attention than they can get in a dispensary, and every hospital to which
they applied would treat them in an Out-Patient department. They would
have to take in more work, or die."
"But where would they get the work?"
"Any of these sweatshop jobbers will give it to them. It makes no
difference to the middlemen where the work is done or out of what dens
it comes, as long as it is done cheap."
"And is all clothing open to the same risk?" asked the boy.
The health inspector shook his head.
"Cheap clothing is not," he said, "because even the cheapest kind of
labor is more expensive than machinery, and machine-made clothes are
clean. But costly dresses which need hand embroidery are sent to
sweatshops to be done. Not all, of course, but enough of them to keep
thousands of women and children working day and night the year round.
The more elaborate the gown, the longer is it likely to have been in a
tenement that the future wearer would not even allow her dog to enter."
From house to house Hamilton went, finding misery at every step, with
the single consolation that the schedule showed in almost every case
that the son or the daughter who was working had moved out of the slums,
or that the family had progressed sufficiently to find better quarters.
Everywhere the children from these fearful homes seemed to have been
dowered with promise, and as Burns had suggested, the sole comfort and
hope for the future lay in the fact that the New York slum is a
It was growing toward noon when Hamilton finished the short list that
the Inspector had given him in that poorest section, and he was glad
when he was able to leave the pressure of the poverty behind him. His
next district was a section of the Italian quarter, and Hamilton knew
that while he would find poverty of a certain kind there, there was
enough of the community spirit among the Italians to prevent such
conditions as he had witnessed and enough frugality among them to enable
them to make the best of all they had.
Feeling that it was time for lunch, the boy hunted around a while for
some restaurant that looked as though it would serve a meal that would
not be too distasteful. After a little search he found a small place
that seemed to be just the thing. The sign board was in Italian and the
list of dishes pasted on the windows was in Italian, but Hamilton's
Spanish enabled him to make out what the phrases meant, and he went in.
At a table not far from the door, a man was sitting with his back to the
entrance. He did not hear the lad's step until Hamilton was just behind
him, then, with an Italian cry, he turned upon its face the paper on
which he had been writing, and jumped to his feet so quickly that the
chair on which he had been sitting overturned, and he stumbled as he
stepped back a pace or two. He glared threateningly at the boy, who
apologized for startling him. But it was evident that the man did not
understand a word of English.
Hearing the clatter the proprietor came out from an inner room, and
seeing the Italian standing there, broke into a passionate torrent of
speech, all utterly unintelligible to Hamilton.
"I hava told heem," he explained to the boy, "that I not wanta heem in
this-a place at all."
"I shouldn't think you would," said Hamilton, "I don't like his looks.
Can I have some dinner?" he added, laying on the table a book he had
just taken from his pocket, for the boy when alone always read at his
"Certainly, sair," and the proprietor rattled off a string of dishes
from which the boy made a copious selection, for he was hungry.
But he noticed that the man who had been sitting at the table had not
left the place but was furtively watching, a few steps away. He was an
ugly-looking customer, and Hamilton, full of grit as he was, felt
uneasy. Casting his eye down to where he had laid his book, he noticed
the piece of paper sticking from beneath it, and noticed moreover, a
heavy shadow as though there were a drawing on the other side. His pulse
beat a little faster as an idea came into his mind, but he showed no
sign until the proprietor returned to set the table.
"I think," he said, watching the stranger carefully as he spoke, "that
gentleman left a paper behind him. Ask him."
The proprietor, looking much puzzled, put a question in Italian, to
which was evidently returned a sharp denial.
Still watching him, Hamilton slowly reached out his hand for the paper
which lay on the table, only half-hidden by the book, and turning it
over laid it flat upon the white cloth.
It was the Black Hand.
[Illustration: FESTA IN THE ITALIAN QUARTER. Boys in Little Italy, New
York, preparing for one of the many characteristic holidays. (_Brown
RIOTS AROUND A CITY SCHOOL
There was a moment's utter silence. The bright little restaurant had
suddenly become charged with mystery, the slinking stranger seemed to
have become in a moment allied to secret powers of evil, and the whole
atmosphere seemed baneful in the sinister significance of that drawing
on the table. A glance at the restaurant-keeper dispelled all question
of complicity. His jaw had fallen, his face was ashen, his lips bluish.
The other saw his advantage in the terror the mere display had excited,
and stepping forward, he reached out his hand to pick up the paper,
saying in English:
Before the Italian had time to grasp the sketch, Hamilton quietly took
it and folded it in half.
"I wouldn't be so ready to claim it, if I were you," he said, knowing
that the other might not understand the words but could tell the tone.
"What are you going to do?" queried the restaurant-keeper in a hoarse
whisper. "They will kill-a me!"
Hamilton thought hard for a moment or two. In the first place the matter
had nothing to do with the Census Bureau, and the boy felt that while he
was on duty in that work and wearing the census badge he was not a
private citizen. Again, it was not a crime to draw a hand on a piece of
paper, and the space obviously left for the blackmail message had not
been filled in, and thirdly he could not swear that he saw him draw the
hand; he only saw the paper in the man's possession.
"Tell him," he said to the restaurant-keeper, "that I shall say nothing
about it, that I am not a policeman, nor a spy; tell him that so far as
I am concerned I do not know that he had anything to do with it, and
return him the paper."
And bending forward, he reached out the paper to the Italian, who first
snatched it eagerly, and then, having secured it, made a ceremonious
bow. The proprietor of the restaurant translated the boy's words, and
with a brief reply, which Hamilton rightly construed to be thanks, the
stranger left the store. No sooner was he gone than the restaurateur,
with a word of apology, sank into the nearest chair, fairly exhausted
"I tell you, sair," he said, as soon as he could get his breath, "I
had-a nothing at all to do with that-a man."
"It's pretty hard to know about these things," said Hamilton, who was
somewhat unnerved himself, "but I don't believe you had. Anyway, there's
no harm done. I've always heard about the Black Hand society, but I
didn't expect to run across it first thing, that way."
"There is no Black-a Hand society," the Italian said, "at least I do not
think there is."
"How do you mean there's no Black Hand?" asked Hamilton a little
indignantly, "haven't I just seen it?"
The Italian shook his head.
"What were you so scared about, then?" queried the boy impatiently.
"Mafia," said the other, his lips just shaping the syllables.
"You mean that the Mafia use the Black Hand?"
The Italian nodded.
"And that it is the sign of the Mafia?"
"No," said the restaurant proprietor. "It is this-a way. When the Mafia
was all-a broken up in-a the Sicily, the chiefs come to America. But the
people are so far away it is difficult-a to speak-a to them all. One day
one of the Mafia leaders write a letter threatening to kill. His--what
you call it--nickname was 'Il Mano Nera'--"
"That means 'The Black Hand,' doesn't it?" queried the boy.
The Italian nodded.
"He sign at the bottom with a Black Hand because the man-a to whom he
write, once was member of the Mafia. The police see the letter, a
newspaper print-a big long story about Italian society which have the
Black-a Hand for its sign, and saying that much recent murders was done.
Everybody become-a frightened, and the Mafia and the Camorra right away
both begin-a to use Black Hand. So you see when I say there is no
Black-a Hand society, no chief, no place-a to meet, no meetings, no
plan-a to share money, no oath, it is quite true, but if I say there is
a society which used the Black-a Hand that is true, too. But all I
want-a to do is to be let alone. Now, I will get you your dinner, sair."
Hamilton felt distinctly uncomfortable in being left alone, not feeling
at all sure that the man who had been there before would not suddenly
dash in upon him unawares and stab him in the back with a stiletto to
make sure of his not talking, nor that the restaurant-keeper might not
put some poison in his coffee. Take it all in all, it was the most
nerve-racking meal he had ever eaten.
Chatting with the Inspector that evening over his Black Hand experiences
he found that his chief took a very serious view of the question.
"If we were receiving immigrants from the north of Italy," he said, "it
would be an entirely different matter, but all the Italians who are
coming in now are from the 'toe' and the 'heel' of Italy, and from
Sicily. You see, the north of Italy are really Celts, like the French
and Irish, being descended from the Lombards, but the Sicilians and
Calabrians are a mixture of the old pirates, the Moors, and the
degenerated Latin races that were left when the Roman Empire fell to
pieces. The endeavor to break up the Mafia sent all the leaders of that
nefarious Sicilian society here, and now the attack upon the Neapolitan
Camorra lands another criminal group. Italy has sent us a larger
proportion of criminals than any other country, and under our present
laws, if they have been three years here, they cannot be deported. The
Vincenzo Abadasso case was a good example of the folly of that rule."
"Who was he?" asked Hamilton.
"He was an Italian immigrant who had been arrested twenty-seven times
and convicted twenty-five and who came over here a couple of years ago.
Within a few months of his arrival he was arrested here and sentenced to
three years' imprisonment And now, although he is a professed criminal,
they won't be able to deport him, because when his prison term is up, he
will have been in the United States three years."
"I suppose there are a lot of Italians coming over now?" said Hamilton
"A little over three weeks ago," was the reply, "as I heard from a
friend in the Immigration Bureau, there was a funeral in a small village
near Naples and not enough able-bodied civilians could be found in the
place to carry the casket. All of them were in America. There are scores
of towns in southern Italy where all the work--of every kind--is done
now by the women, because the men have emigrated."
"What do you think about this Black Hand business?"
"I think your friend the restaurant-keeper was nearly right, only that
it is being used by all sorts of crooks as well, who have no connection
with either the Mafia or the Camorra. Mark you, I think those two secret
societies are apt to be much misrepresented, just as the Jesuits were
during the Middle Ages and the Freemasons were at other periods. The
Camorra was once simply the Tammany Hall of Naples. But when, as
happened last year, there were six hundred and fourteen Black Hand
outrages in two States in four months it is idle to say that it does not
exist in America. The Camorrist trials over the Cuocolo murders at
Viterbo, perhaps the most sensational in the world since the Dreyfus
case, have shown its power to be more dangerous than any one could for a
moment have imagined. And the danger lies here--there are more
Camorrists in New York than in Naples!"
For a moment the boy looked at the Inspector, astounded.
"You mean--" he began, and stopped.
"I mean that the worst elements of the two worst societies in Europe are
concentrating in New York, and that unless rigorous measures are taken
to keep them down, America will harbor graver dangers than any it has
yet known. Russian nihilism, Polish anarchism, German socialism may join
hands with the Sicilian Mafia and the Neapolitan Camorra to institute a
criminal organization such as the world has never seen before. There are
enough ignorant immigrants to yield to a wave of fear, and the Black
Hand thrives and grows on terror. But, wisely held in check until they
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