You own a piano? That’s $4, please.


It’s not well known, but income tax in the US didn’t begin with the ratification of the 16th amendment in 1913. In 1862 an act of Congress established an income tax to pay the cost of the war. In addition to income, a number of luxury goods, such as watches, carriages, or pianos were taxed and the records show that a number of Dayton people possessed such luxuries. For example, in 1866 George W. Dunavan was taxed $2 for a watch, $4 for a piano, $2 for one carriage and $3 for a second, presumably of greater value. Isaac Green was taxed $1 for his watch, obviously not as valuable as George’s was. David Green paid $4 for his piano and brother Jesse had to come up with $2 for his carriage. James Hite was taxed only $1 for his carriage; it must not have been in very good condition. Seth Sage also paid $1 for his carriage. Moab Trumbo had a carriage ($1) and a watch ($1). Fred Tavener’s piano wasn’t all that good – he paid only $2 tax on it. Luckily, no one in Dayton had an unlicensed billiard table – that would have cost the owner $10. The Civil War taxes were not immediately repealed at the end of the war, but most of the “emergency” taxes were repealed in 1872.

Sorghum molasses

Sorghum Molasses article1     Evaporator2


Sorghum comes from the sorghum plant and is not a true molasses, which is produced from sugar cane. Sorghum is a type of grass, the juice of which produces a naturally sweet syrup. Special milling equipment extracts the juice from the crushed stalks, and evaporating pans with heating units steam off the excess water, leaving the syrup. Cook’s evaporator was the primary rival of Gates & Co. and they would have looked much the same.

The Greens’ sorghum venture in 1861 was apparently of recent origin, as the 1860 agricultural census of Dayton showed no one producing sorghum or molasses. Sorghum syrup could be used to flavor baked beans or barbeque sauce, or used straight from the jug on pancakes. It could be used in any recipe calling for molasses; it has a milder taste than the true, sugar cane, molasses. There are a number of modern recipes using sorghum. If you’d like to try one of these, check out

  1. The Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, October 12, 1861, p.3, col. 2
  2. Prairie Farmer, (Old Series) Vol. 22, No. 9, (New Series) Vol. 6, No. 9, August 30, 1860, p. 175

May I have your autograph?

Autograph album 2

Maud Green’s autograph album, shown above, was given to her for Christmas, 1879, when she was 13 years old. She kept the album and treasured it, as years later, she added the married names of some of her young friends to their verses. A sample of some of the entries:

Remember me when washing dishes
Remember me and my best wishes.

Dear Maud,
Many a bow the archer sent
Hits a mark that was never meant.
So many a word though lightly spoken
Has healed a heart that’s almost broken.
Yours truly
Frankie R. Trumbo, by her mama

Passing through life’s field of action
Lest we part before its end;
Take within your modest volume
This memento from a friend.

Autograph album

The album from which this page came was given to Grace E. Green for Christmas, 1885, when she was twelve.

Dear Grace,
A little word in kindness spoken
A motion or a tear
Has often heal’d the heart that’s broken
And made a friend sincere.
Your friend and school-mate,
Allie Ainsley
Dayton, Jan. 12th 1886

My pen is poor
My ink is pale
My love to you
Shall never fail.

A verse you ask this fine day
Of course I’ll write you one.
The task of writing finds its pay
In joy that it is done.

Remember the old school desks?

Embed from Getty Images

When I started at the Dayton school in 1945, we had desks that looked like this, although not quite so heavily defaced. In first grade there was no ink bottle in the ink well provided for it, and I don’t recall having one even in the higher grades. By then we had ball point pens, but the hole for the ink well remained. What I do remember about this desk is how we learned to write our names in first grade. Miss Fraine, who taught grades one through four, would write our names in chalk, in her beautiful flowing handwriting, on the top of our desks. We each had a jar of corn kernels and would outline the name with the corn, to learn the shape of our names.

The desks were fastened in rows, with the back of one seat supporting the desk for the person behind. Seven or eight rows of these seats held the four grades in each room. Miss Fraine moved from row to row as each grade was called on for their lessons. By the time you reached fourth grade, you had heard those lessons several times over.