While looking for ancient examples of data tables, I came across a couple of wonderful examples from the New York Times Archive, in an edition with an abstract titled: NEWS GATHERINGS. PROBABLE MURDER. IMPORTANT CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS EFFECTS OF THE GALE. THE COURTS. STATISTICS OF THE CITY PRISON. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, from March 2, 1852.

The titles of the two data tables of interest:

  • Statistics of the City Prison
  • Weekly Report of Deaths and interments in the city of Brooklyn, for the week ending Feb. 28, 1852.

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The preface to the prison statistics gives some insight to the practice of New York’s Freedom of Information Law back then:

Through the politeness of Mr. GEORGE F. COACHMAN, the Clerk of the City Prison, we were yesterday furnished with the following statistics of the criminal institutions for the month of February, ending Saturday:

These data tables were on the front page, in the bottom-right corner:

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Death data is also included as an agate list, above the fold, same column as the prison data:

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And while we’re fixated on that particular column of text, it’s worth pointing out how much more fun crime briefs were back then:

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Doing a search for the quoted string, "Statistics of the City Prison", returns 4 other occurrences of the prison statistics, all from 1851 or 1852. Here’s a nice example from November 4, 1851 of a cluster of front page data tables for not just prison statistics, but business licenses, omnibus routes, immigration (250,000 for year-to-date), deaths for New York City, County, and Brooklyn, and a weekly inventory of the criminal accusations against the prisoners on this month’s criminal calendar (only one count of indecent exposure?)

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More tangents: On the second page of the issue, there’s a data table titled “Statistics of Donations from ten of the United States to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions” – apparently, newspaper readers back then were expected to understand the concept of averages:

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