Breathitt Had 2,648 Outhouses in 1960

By Stephen D. Bowling

The 1960 Census featured many firsts; the first census to mail forms to addresses and the first to use a computer to calculate all of the collected totals. In April 1960, census takers fanned out across Breathitt County to gather the constitutionally required decennial count of inhabitants who did not return the mailed forms. These paid census workers asked thirty-five questions about who lived at each house, how old they were, where they were born, and many other questions. Questions also included occupation, hours worked weekly, work location, and others related to nationality and education.

The 1960 Census also included a Housing Schedule, which included an additional forty-six questions seeking information about housing in Breathitt County. Many homeowners objected to the housing questions. Census workers were required to evaluate a home and answer 18 questions before questioning the homeowner for more information. Census takers had to evaluate each home and decide if each structure was “Sound,” “Deteriorating,” or “Dilapidated.” Many owners and renters disagreed with the assessments of the homes.

Built by Remington-Rand and delivered to the Census Bureau on March 31, 1951, UNIVAC was the world’s first commercial computer. The computer used more than 5,600 computer vacuum tubes, 18,000 crystal diodes, and 300 relays to speed the Census Bureau’s data tabulation. Source- US Census Bureau.

After more than two years of number crunching, the United States Census Bureau released, in early 1962, updated population totals and a brief outline of housing information gathered in 1960.

The Census Bureau sent these 1960 Population and Housing Census to each household in the United States, hoping they would be returned by mail.

According to the information published, Breathitt County had 4,025 housing structures identified in the 1960 Census data. On April 15, the census indicated that 3,523 of those homes were occupied. Based on the analysis of the census takers, 791 were classified as in “sound condition.” Of the homes in Breathitt County, 2,348 were occupied by owners, and 1,175 had renters who paid an average of $27 in rent each month. The average value of an owned home in Breathitt County was less than $5,000.

The Census form asked about plumbing and found that 965 homes had hot and cold running water. Information indicated that 875 homes had “indoor flush toilets,” and 2,648 still utilized outhouses.

There were 899 bathtubs or showers in Breathitt County in 1960. Seven hundred and four houses included a basement, and 3,047 had washing machines, but only 188 had a clothes dryer. According to the final report, 491 families had one or more home food freezers.

Breathitt County’s statistics included 1,325 homes that owned at least 1 automobile, while only 42 had three vehicles or more.

Basements were found under 704 homes in the county. Fourteen mobile homes or trailer homes were reported, and only 42 households had air conditioning. Televisions were more popular and affordable by 1960, and 998 were reported in Breathitt County homes, while 3,170 radios and 732 telephones were tallied.

In an effort to get everyone counted, The Jackson Times ran samples of the 1960 Census form that readers could fill out and mail to the Census Bureau. Despite all the efforts, Breathitt County was listed as one of the “underreported” counties.

The numbers by the Census Bureau were reported in detail in Series HC (1), No. 19, Kentucky published by the Bureau of Census. The publication was sold by the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing Office in Washington, D. C., and at Field Offices of the U.S. Department of Commerce for $1.25 per copy. It is unclear how many copies were sold locally, but The Jackson Times ran advertisements where the collected work could be acquired.

A census worker uses the IBM 27 Card Proof Punch machine to enter Housing information from the 1960 Census.

After all of the calculations, Breathitt County reported 15,490 inhabitants, a 22.4% drop from the 1950 Census. It was a continuation of the population slide that started soon after World War II as coal mining slowed and many families moved north in search of employment. The Housing Schedule in 1960 indicated that Breathitt County was a rural community in the middle of cultural change.

Mobile homes would play a growing part in the housing picture of the county after 1960. Air conditioners and more electric appliances became a part of every home. The coal booms beginning in the late 1960s brought more people and money to the county for a while. The housing picture changed as more subdivisions like Snowden Branch, Lakeside, Jett’s Drive, and King’s Ridge became popular housing communities.

Breathitt County would never be the same.

© 2023 Stephen D. Bowling


About sdbowling

Director of the Breathitt County Public Library and Heritage Center in Jackson, Kentucky.
This entry was posted in Breathitt County and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Breathitt Had 2,648 Outhouses in 1960

  1. Glenita Fenwick says:

    It was the best times..Happy times. We never knew it was so bad..


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