Ten the Hard Way

Being a professional gambler can’t be an easy way to make a living, yet America has always had its share of such persons. What’s more, it’s easy to find them in the federal population census.

[1940 Census] SEARCH—OCCUPATION: Gambler 424 results
[1920 Census] SEARCH—OCCUPATION: Gambler 148 results
[1910 Census] SEARCH—OCCUPATION: Gambler 561results
[1900 Census] SEARCH—OCCUPATION: Gambler 1,471 results
[1880 Census] SEARCH—OCCUPATION: Gambler 1,314 results

Roulette wheel (NY.gov photo)

You can also search for gamblers in the 1930 census, but it doesn’t allow a search by occupation:

[1930 Census] SEARCH—KEYWORD: Gambler 604 results

The 1930 results include some persons surnamed Gambler, in addition to numerous professional gamblers. It appears likely that professional gamblers were under-reported in the censuses for 1910-1940: why, I can’t say. I do know that the Great Depression made it more difficult for everyone to make a living, gamblers included.

Note: In a game of craps, achieving a bet the “hard way” involves rolling doubles with the dice: two fives to make ten, etc.

How can researchers access the federal population census? You may use Heritage Quest Online from home with a valid SLPL library card and PIN, or at Central Library or any of our branches.

You may use Ancestry Library Edition at Central Library or any of our branches.

Here’s a list of SLPL reference databases.

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