Who they were

[Contributors: Xinshao (Michael) Lai, Benjamin Martinez, Aymen Alimam]

This page presents some demographic information about the residents of Weld County drawn from the data in the census of 1920.

The population of Weld County was overwhelmingly white: over 98 percent of Weld County residents had their race listed as “white” in the census; only 0.3 percent were listed as black while 0.1 percent were listed as “mulatto.” The instructions to census enumerators in 1920 stated that “all Negroes of full blood” should be entered as black, while “all Negroes having some proportion of white blood” should be entered as mulatto. Of course, in practice census enumerators could hardly know for certain if someone was of “full [Negro] blood” (not to mention the problems in even defining that concept) and one presumes enumerators made different choices in these two categories. About 1.4 percent were listed as “Japanese” (which was an official census racial category in the 1920 census.) There were also thirteen individuals listed as “Mexican,” three Chinese, and one American Indian. [1] 

There were people from several U.S. states and various, mostly European, countries in Weld County, as you can see in the maps we made. Weld County residents spoke 34 different languages as their mother tongues, from Albanian to Yiddish. After English, the largest language spoken by far was German, followed by Swedish, Danish, Japanese, Slovene, and Celtic.


Top 20 mother tongues in Weld County in 1920

The population of Weld County was mainly rural: the proportion of urban to rural residents in Weld County was 20.25% urban to 79.75% rural (all data given to two decimal.) However, women were slightly more likely to live in urban areas: the percentage of women in rural areas was 46.37%, around 5% lower than the percentage of women in urban areas (51.61%).

If we break down the urban/rural split by the main immigrant groups, we can see that while there wasn’t dramatic variation, some groups – especially the English, the Norwegians, and the Canadians – had a noticeably larger urban population than average, while the Japanese population was almost entirely rural.

Graph urban rural by country

The age distribution graph shows that there were a lot of children and a large number of working age people, with a fairly small number of elderly. In the graph below, the horizontal axis shows the age (in 10-year increments), while the vertical axis is shows the number of people.

Line graph of age

Almost all residents of Weld County were literate, though there was some variation by national origin, as the graph below shows:

Literacy bar chart showing that literacy rate was well over 90 percent for almost all populations, with only the population of Mexican origin having a literacy rate below 70

The disadvantaged position of immigrants of Mexican is visible in the literacy graph, as well as in the graph (below) showing knowledge of English: while over 80 percent of immigrants from almost all nationalities knew English (with only the immigrants from Russia/Soviet Union falling slightly below that rate), only about 60 percent of the Mexican immigrants were listed as knowing English.

Bar chart on English knowledge by nationality

The population of Mexican origin was also far less likely to have naturalized than other immigrant groups (except for the Japanese, who could not become citizens – U.S. naturalization law at the time limited the opportunity to become a U.S. citizen to “free white persons and persons of African descent,” and U.S. courts had declared that Japanese were not to be considered “white.”) [2]  This might reflect recent arrival, or simply the long tradition of back-and-forth movement across the border in the Southwest.

[1] Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. Instructions to Enumerators. Fourteenth Census of the United States. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1919.

[2] Ngai, Mae M. “The Architecture of Race in American Immigration Law: A Reexamination of the Immigration Act of 1924.” The Journal of American History 86, no. 1 (June 1999): 67–92. https://doi.org/10.2307/2567407.