We’re Number Ten!

The Census Bureau’s 2006 State Population Estimate, released yesterday, has North Carolina passing New Jersey to become the tenth most populous state in the country. But this is no long rise to glory, rather, it’s a return to a spot we know well. North Carolina has hovered around the tenth spot in the population numbers for the past 70 years, but if you look back further, we’ve been even higher in the rankings.

North Carolina was once the third most populous state in the nation. This may not seem quite as impressive, however, when you take into account that there were only thirteen states in the country at the time. The first federal census, taken in 1790, showed North Carolina trailing only Virginia and Pennsylvania in total population. There was a steady decline from there as, apparently, North Carolina in the 1800s was not the idyllic place it is today and many citizens left for greener pastures, often to the new territories in the west. North Carolina fell as low as 16th in population, hitting that number in 1880 and 1910 before the population began to climb again. Here are the rankings by Census year:

1790 – 3rd
1800 – 4th
1810 – 4th
1820 – 4th
1830 – 5th
1840 – 7th
1850 – 9th
1860 – 12th
1870 – 14th
1880 – 16th
1890 – 12th
1900 – 11th
1910 – 16th
1920 – 14th
1930 – 12th
1940 – 11th
1950 – 10th
1960 – 12th
1970 – 11th
1980 – 10th
1990 – 10th
2000 – 11th