Page images




HERE is extant in the city of New York an odd piece of bric-a-brac which I am sometimes tempted to wish were in my own possession. On a bracket in Edwin Booth's bedroom at The Players-the apartment remains as he left it that solemn April day ten years ago-stands a sadly dilapidated skull which the elder Booth, and afterward his son Edwin, used to soliloquize over in the graveyard at Elsinore in the fifth act of "Hamlet."

A skull is an object that always invokes interest more or less poignant; it always has its pathetic story, whether told or untold; but this skull is especially a skull "with a past."

In the early forties, while playing an engagement somewhere in the wild West, Junius Brutus Booth did a series of kindnesses to a particularly undeserving fellow, the name of him unknown to us. The man, as it seemed, was a combination of gambler, horse-stealer, and highwayman -in brief, a miscellaneous desperado, and precisely the melodramatic sort of person likely to touch the sympathies of the halfmad player. In the course of nature or the law, presumably the law, the adventurer bodily disappeared one day, and in time ceased to exist even as a reminiscence in the florid mind of his sometime benefactor.

fast one morning in a hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, a negro boy entered the room bearing a small osier basket neatly covered with a snowy napkin. It had the general aspect of a basket of fruit or flowers sent by some admirer, and as such it figured for a moment in Mr. Booth's conjecture. On lifting the cloth the actor started from the chair with a genuine expression on his features of that terror which he was used so marvelously to simulate in Richard III" in the midnight tent-scene or as Macbeth when the ghost of Banquo usurped his seat at table.


In the pretty willow-woven basket lay the head of Booth's old pensioner, which head the old pensioner had bequeathed in due legal form to the tragedian, begging him henceforth to adopt it as one of the necessary stage properties in the fifth act of Mr. Shakspere's tragedy of "Hamlet." "Take it away, you black imp!" thundered the actor to the equally aghast negro boy, whose curiosity had happily not prompted him to investigate the dark nature of his burden.

Shortly afterward, however, the horsestealer's residuary legatee, recovering from the first shock of his surprise, fell into the grim humor of the situation, and proceeded to carry out to the letter the testator's whimsical request. Thus it was that the skull came to secure an engagement to play the rôle of poor Yorick in J. B. Booth's

As the elder Booth was seated at break- company of strolling players, and to con

tinue awhile longer to glimmer behind the footlights in the hands of his famous


Observing that the grave-digger in his too eager realism was damaging the thing, -the marks of his pick and spade are visible on the cranium,- Edwin Booth presently replaced it with a papier-mâché counterfeit manufactured in the propertyroom of the theater. During his subsequent wanderings in Australia and California, he carefully preserved the relic, which finally found repose on the bracket in question.

How often have I sat, of an afternoon, in that front room on the fourth floor of the club-house in Gramercy Park, watching the winter or summer twilight gradually softening and blurring the sharp outline of the skull until it vanished uncannily into the gloom! Edwin Booth had forgotten, if ever he knew, the name of the man; but I had no need of it in order to establish acquaintance with poor Yorick. In this association I was conscious of a deep tinge of sentiment on my own part, a circumstance not without its queerness, considering how very distant the acquaintance really was.

Possibly he was a fellow of infinite jest in his day; he was sober enough now, and in no way disposed to indulge in those flashes of merriment "that were wont to set the table on a roar." But I did not regret his evaporated hilarity; I liked his more befitting genial silence, and had learned to look upon his rather open countenance with the same friendliness as that with which I regarded the faces of less phantasmal members of the club. He had become to me a dramatic personality as distinct as that of any of the Thespians I met in the grill-room or the library.

Yorick's feeling in regard to me was a

subject upon which I frequently speculated. There was at intervals an alert gleam of intelligence in those cavernous eye-sockets, as if the sudden remembrance of some old experience had illumined them. He had been a great traveler, and had known strange vicissitudes in life; his stage career had brought him into contact with a variegated assortment of men and women, and extended his horizon. His more peaceful profession of holding up mailcoaches on lonely roads had surely not been without incident. It was inconceivable that all this had left no impressions. He must have had at least a faint recollection of the tempestuous Junius Brutus Booth. That Yorick had formed his estimate, and probably not a flattering one, of me is something of which I am strongly convinced.

At the death of Edwin Booth, poor Yorick passed out of my personal cognizance, and now lingers an incongruous shadow amid the memories of the precious things I lost then.

The suite of apartments formerly occupied by Edwin Booth at The Players has been, as I have said, kept unchanged

a shrine to which now and then some loving heart makes silent pilgrimage. On a table in the center of his bedroom lies the book just where he laid it down, an ivory paper-cutter marking the page his eyes last rested upon; and in this chamber, with its familiar pictures, pipes, and ornaments, the skull finds its proper sanctuary. If at odd moments I wish that by chance poor Yorick had fallen to my care, the wish is only half-hearted, though had that happened, I would have given him. welcome to the choicest corner in my study and tenderly cherished him for the sake of one who comes no more.






Director of the Last Census

HE results of the twelfth census-in ten thousand pages, comprised in ten quarto volumes, two relating to population, two to agriculture, four to manufactures, and two to vital statistics -are now before the public. To be sure, certain special reports corresponding to the subsidiary ones included in the eleventh census are yet to be prepared, but, notwithstanding that fact, the twelfth census is virtually completed.

Most of these ten thousand pages are covered with figures for the States, counties, and towns of this vast country; and so great is the mass of detail presented that it is difficult to determine which are the most important facts, the most noteworthy results. The point of view varies, and no two men would select for mention the same topics. I have been particularly impressed with the results and inferences that follow; but probably no one of the former subordinates in the Census Office or of the outside students of statistics would make precisely the same selection.

It is likely, however, that in any consideration of the returns of the twelfth census the growth of population would be one of the first subjects to attract attention. In this article the subject is discussed with special reference to the changes that are taking place in the territorial distribution of population, and in its constituent elements. The tendency toward aggregation

in large cities, which is so characteristic of the present period, has an important bearing on social and economic conditions. The presence in our population of the negro and foreign elements involves serious problems, the solution of which requires the highest statesmanship. As we have among us more than ten million foreigners and nearly nine million negroes, census data bearing on these topics can hardly fail to be of interest.

It is unfortunate that the quality of immigration is changing for the worse. The present industrial prosperity is attracting crowds of foreigners, many of them unfit for assimilation with our people and not in sympathy with our plan of government. This danger is serious enough to attract public attention, so that proper safeguards should be instituted for the protection of the standard of American citizenship. "Americans, on guard!" was the shibboleth of a political party forty or fifty years. ago, and although no sensible man is now afraid that any foreign influence will obtain a strong foothold in our system of politics, the education and assimilation of the foreign element still continues of far-reaching importance.

The color-line is an ever-pressing subject in the South—a difficult problem that time alone will solve. The evolution of a race to higher conditions has ever been slow, and it will be in this instance. The man of the South must be trusted to work this

out in his own good time. He is charged with the burden, and must bear it. The colored man is gaining in literacy, but his gain is slow, and slowly, therefore, must he expect to acquire the right to full citi zenship.

The advance of intelligence and education is measured by the statistics of illiteracy. This subject, which is of great importance, has been treated with considerable detail in the report on population. Some interesting results are brought out by comparisons between the different parts of the country, between urban and rural districts, and between the different elements of the population.

In this age material progress and industrial development are given great, perhaps undue, importance. But this progress is the basis of all higher activity, and the country is to be congratulated on the fact that the last decade is shown by census figures to have been one of remarkable and healthy growth in the two great branches of production, agriculture and manufactures. Many of our statesmen and economists have maintained that the tilling of the soil is the foundation on which the hope of the country rests, while others have insisted that a system of protection will develop our natural resources in the form of coal, iron, and other metals, thus building up national industries, and incidentally giving the workingman higher wages. Jefferson and Hamilton represented the extremes of these two theories.

Between 1880 and 1890 the reported value of the products of manufactures passed the reported value of agricultural products. The statistics of the last census show that the gap between these two great lines of national activity is growing steadily wider, which suggests that the theories of Hamilton have triumphed. Generalizations of this kind, however, are at best unsatisfactory. In a country such as ours, where the investment in both agriculture and manufactures is vast, accurate comparisons are difficult; and there are doubtless many persons who would insist that the United States is still predominantly an agricultural nation.


THE total population enumerated by the twelfth census was 76,303,387; but while


[blocks in formation]

The only countries surpassing the United States in number of inhabitants are the Chinese Empire, the British Empire, the Russian Empire, and probably France, with the inclusion of its African possessions.

In 1890 the United States had a population of 62,979,766. In 1900 the population comprised within what might be termed the greater United States exceeded that number by 21,253,303, or thirty-four per cent. Of this increase 8,083,683 was added by the annexation of new territory; the remainder, 13,169,620, represents the growth within the former territorial limits of the country, resulting from immigration and natural increase.

In 1900 the population of continental United States was 75,994,575, having increased 13,046,861, or twenty-one per cent., since 1890. To this increase in population New York State alone contributed over a million and a quarter, Pennsylvania a little over a million, and Illinois about a million. The increase in these three States forms one fourth of the total increase. The only other States showing an increase of over half a million were Texas and Massachusetts.

Notwithstanding the steady migration westward which has been in progress since the country was first settled, the great mass of the population is still located in the East. In 1900 the States along the Atlantic coast, which comprise less than fifteen per cent. of the total area of the mainland of the United States, contained over forty per cent. of the total population; and the States east of the Mississippi, comprising less than thirty per cent. of the total



area, contained over seventy per cent. of the total population. Dividing the main land of the United States into two equal parts, east and west, it is found that over ninety per cent. of the total population is located in the eastern half.

The changes in the distribution of population between the East and the West have been less marked in the last decade than in the one preceding. In the decade from 1880 to 1890 the percentage of population west of the Mississippi increased from twenty-two and five tenths to twenty-six and seven tenths; in the last decade it increased only from twenty-six and seven tenths to twenty-seven and six tenths. Apparently the westward movement of population has been in some degree checked or diverted. The West is still gaining on the East, but less rapidly than it was.


OF the 65,767,451 native Americans re-
siding in the United States in 1900, 51,-
979,651, or seventy-nine per cent., were
residents of the State or Territory in which
they were born. The percentage was
slightly larger than it was in 1890, and
has, in fact, shown an increase at every
census since 1860. It is evident that the
native American is slowly but steadily be-
coming less migratory. This may indicate

a growing contentment of national disposition. At the same time it is probable that the inducements to migrate are less strong than they once were; as the country becomes more thickly settled, its population more evenly distributed, and its natural resources more fully utilized, the economic advantages of one region over another naturally become less marked. The native population appears to be tending toward a state of equilibrium, and it is probable that the percentage of interstate migration within the limits of the mainland. of the United States will continue to diminish slowly from decade to decade. The effect which the recent acquisition of territory may have upon the movement of native population is, of course, another story, to be told by the censuses of the future.

If we take the Mississippi as the dividingline between the East and the West, we find that 4,512,097 native Easterners have taken up their abode in the West, while the number of native Westerners living in the East is only 518,543. The difference, 3,993,554, represents the debt which the West owes the East in the interchange of native population.


THE proportion of the population living in cities has shown a marked increase at each

« PreviousContinue »