History of the ASA

The ASA was formed at a meeting in the rooms of the American Education Society in Boston and chartered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Present at the organizing meeting were William Cogswell, teacher, fundraiser for the ministry, and genealogist; Richard Fletcher, lawyer and U.S. congressman; John Dix Fisher, physician and pioneer in medical reform; Oliver Peabody, lawyer, clergyman, poet, and editor; and Lemuel Shattuck, statistician, genealogist, publisher, and author of perhaps the most significant single document in the history of public health to that date.

By 1841, the ASA was already an energetic society with a roster of 109 members. In 1939, the ASA celebrated its 100th anniversary, and events were held in Boston and Philadelphia. Membership reached an all-time high of more than 3,000. Following the war, the activities and membership of the association expanded rapidly in response to the many advances in science.

From the ASA’s inception, the association has been closely affiliated with the statistical work of the U.S. government, particularly the U.S. Census Bureau. As early as 1844, the ASA recommended to Congress that the Sixth Census “be revised and a new and accurate copy be published.” The first director of the permanent census office was S. N. D. North, the sixth president of the ASA.