The Burning of the Census Records

The Burning of the Census Records

The article appearing on page 173 of this week’s issue of FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING reveals a most remarkable state of affairs in the lack of foresight among the officials having charge of the keeping of the records of the government. The fact that it was possible for such valuable papers as records of the census, dating back to the first enumeration of the United States taken in 1790 and including practically all of the census records from that time to 1919, to be exposed to the danger of fire would seem an almost incredible piece of carelessness. It opens up a question as to whether other valuable records of the Government are kept in a similar slipshod manner. It certainly should have been easy and comparatively inexpensive to have placed such valuable papers in fireproof vaults where in case of fire they would have been preserved from damage both by the blaze and by water. Apparently, instead of this being done, these papers were stacked in aisles in the basement of the building of the Department of Commerce, presumably the officials in charge of them relying upon the fact that the building itself is of fireproof construction. However, as events plainly showed, this reliance was a futile one as no matter how fire resistant a building may be the contents are none the less inflammable and subject to the dangers of consumption by fire and destruction by water. It is to be hoped that this unfortunate experience of the census bureau may result in a movement toward Fire Prevention among those in charge of valuable government records of the nation, state and city. It is a pretty safe assumption that the census bureau is not the only government where such carelessness exists and where reformation in housekeeping in this respect would be an excellent move on the part of all officials in charge of priceless records.

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