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 The Civil War taxes were not immediately repealed at the end of the war, but most of the “emergency” taxes were repealed in 1872.

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