The U.S. Census Bureau was the first government office to use punch cards to collect data, according to About.com. The cards allowed the bureau to tabulate the 1890 census in just one year, much faster than the eight years it took to complete the 1880 census.
Using the tabulation machine invented by Herman Hollerith especially for the census, operators processed approximately 7,000 punch cards a day, according to the Computer History Museum. This rate was about 10 times faster than manual tabulations. Hollerith used punch cards that were the same size as the paper money in circulation at that time, which allowed operators to use existing money holders to organize the 60 million cards.