I recently came across a fascinating blast from the past: a wonderful cartogram illustrating the relative level of electricity consumption in each U.S. state circa 1921. The size of each state in the graphic represents the amount of electricity consumed in that state “for light and power” and the green numbers represent the state’s rank in the U.S. for total electricity consumption. Click the image below to enlarge.
This image was originally published along with a collection of other interesting early-20th century cartograms of the United States by the blog Making Maps. This particular graphic was first published in Literary Digest’s April 23, 1921 issue. Further proof that the current resurgance of “infographics” is hardly novel!
(A hat tip to Sean Trende of RCP for bringing it to my attention on Twitter).
The graphic sparked my curiosity: what accounts for the very low electricity usage across most of the U.S. south or the fairly high usage in many of the western states? How do these rankings compare to the population of each state in this era? What does this graphic tell us about the relative industrial might or economic status of each state?
I don’t have a ton of answers to these questions, and hope our readers can help provide their theories and evidence. Please chime in in the coments below.
However, I did compile a comparison of the state rankings for electricity consumption in 1921 with the state’s ranking for population as of the 1920 U.S. census. I’ve flagged each state where their ranking in electricity consumption diverges from their population ranking by at least 5 positions. Those with a lower ranking for electricity than population are shown in red; those with higher electricity consumption shown in green. Once again, click to enlarge the table.
U.S. State Rankings: Population and Electricity Consumption, circa 1921