United States Direct Tax Of 1798:
On the 24 rolls of this microfilm publication are reproduced 717 volumes
containing tax lists and related summary abstracts for Pennsylvania created
under an act of July 14, 1798 (1 Stat. 597), the first direct tax law of the
U. S. Government, and under certain related acts. The related acts include the
one of July 9, 1798 (1 Stat. 580), which provided for the valuation of lands
and dwelling houses and the enumeration of slaves. Other acts which amended or
affected the basic acts and which pertained to all the States include those
enacted on February 28, 1799; January 2, May 10, and May 13, 1800; February 27
and March 3, 1801; March 16, 1802; and March 3, 1804.
The tax lists show names of persons who owned real property or slaves subject
to the direct taxes levied by the act of July 14, 1798. Many lists also show
valuations of the properties, amounts of taxes assessed, and some show amounts
of taxes collected. Initial assessments were made "with reference to" October
1, 1798. Among types of lists created after the initial assessment and
included in this microfilm publication are lists of property omitted from or
dwelling houses built after the assessment, lists of property sold or
transferred, lists of uncollected taxes, lists of property sold because of
unpaid taxes, and lists of receipts by the U. S. marshal from property sales.
The 1798 acts established nine divisions in Pennsylvania and provided for the
appointment of a commissioner at the head of each. A division was composed of
from two to five counties (except the First Division, which was composed of
only Philadelphia county and city). The commissioners, acting as a board,
divided the State into 38 assessment districts, each consisting of a county or
part of a county. Boundaries of some counties were changed during the period
covered by the records; Centre County, for example, was formed in 1800 partly
from Northumberland County. The 1798 acts specified the duties of the
commissioners and other officials who, under the direction of the Secretary of
the Treasury, were charged with assessing and collecting the direct tax.
Pennsylvania's apportioned share of the $2,000,000 tax levy was $237,177.
The National Archives arranged the volumes by divisions and thereunder by
district, county, township, or other subdivision, and assigned a number to
each volume. The number is filmed immediately before the volume. Five books
are comprised of lists for locations within more than one division. Each of
these lists has been filmed with the lists for the pertinent assessment
district. The assigned volume numbers begin with the First Division, First
District, and continue through the Ninth Division, Fifth District. The
explanatory note microfilmed at the beginning of each roll gives the volume
numbers and the division, district, county, and township or other subdivision
for the lists on the roll.
The tax lists that constitute the main body of the records are of several
types. The principal ones are described in a circular from the Secretary of
the Treasury, dated September 8, 1798, which is reproduced after the
alphabetical listing of place names on Roll 1. They comprise "Particular
Lists" (Forms A, B, and C) and "General Lists" (Forms D, E, and F) of dwelling
houses and other buildings, lands, lots, wharves, and slaves; and Summary
Abstracts (Forms G, H, I, and K) compiled from the General Lists.
The Particular Lists for Dwelling Houses (Form A) give information generally
on locations, dimensions, number of stories, number and dimensions of windows,
materials of which built, description of outhouses, and names of owners or
occupants. (The so-called "window tax" provision of the July 9, 1798, act was
repealed by an act approved February 28, 1799.) The Particular Lists of Lands,
Lots, Buildings and Wharves (Form B) show in general the size of each tract or
lot, and the claimed exemptions; the number, description, and dimension of
wharves and buildings except dwellings over $100 in value; and the names of
owners or occupants. The Particular Lists for Slaves (Form C) usually give the
names of superintendents or owners, the total number owned, the number exempt
from taxation because of State laws or disability, and the number between the
ages of 12 and 50 subject to the tax.
The General Lists (Forms D, E, and F) are consolidations of the Particular
Lists; and the Summary Abstracts (Forms G, H, I, and K) are the "results or
footings" of the General Lists presented on a township and district basis.
Reproduced on Roll 1, after the circular from the Secretary of the Treasury,
is a printed table "showing the amount of TAX payable upon Lands in
Pennsylvania. " (The conditions under which lands were taxed are set forth in
the act of July 14, 1798.)
All tax lists for the Third District of the Second Division (part of Chester
County) and for the First District of the Fourth Division (part of Berks
County) are known to be missing. Only one entry (in volume 172) is known to be
for the Second District of the Second Division (part of Lancaster County) and
a few entries (in volumes 372 and 373) are the only records for the Third
District of the Fifth Division (part of Northampton County). Summary Abstracts
for all these areas, however, are in volume 717. Many of the various types of
lists once extant are now missing. Also, some volumes that have been filmed
consist only of covers. Efforts of the National Archives to locate missing
volumes have been unsuccessful.
As a rule, each volume pertains to only one township, but some pertain to two
or more and may include names of smaller civil divisions. Usually a volume
contains only one type of list, but some volumes contain several types. Also,
some volumes may include a list or lists having no apparent relation to the
cover title or to other lists in the same volume. Pages or parts of pages are
missing from some volumes and others are badly discolored. Some entries are
faded and others are illegible. A few volumes contain loose documents that
have been identified and placed after the related list.
There is no general index to the records but entries in some volumes are
alphabetical by the first letter of the person's surname. An alphabetical list
of place names that appear in the records was prepared by the National
Archives as a finding aid and is included in this microfilm publication
immediately after these introductory remarks. In preparing the list and the
roll notes, the National Archives, as necessary, used the spelling of place
names as they appear in U. S. Bureau of the Census, Census of Population,
1950, Number of Inhabitants, Volume I (Washington, 1952), or Census of 1790,
Heads of Families (Washington, 1908).
These tax lists are one of the few known collections of records relating to
the first direct tax program of the U. S. Government. Most of the information
in them is not available in other Federal records and the related Federal
Government publications chiefly contain only statistical data on the direct
tax program and not the information on persons or items referred to in the
The records reproduced in this microcopy are a part of the Department of the
Treasury records in the National Archives designated as Record Group 58,
Records of the Internal Revenue Service. They were received in the National
Archives from the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of
Additional records received from the U. S. District Court for the Eastern
District of Pennsylvania and placed in Record Group 58 include correspondence,
account books, and other documents relating to the 1798 direct tax in
Pennsylvania. The correspondence includes a copy of the table reproduced on
Roll 1 of this microcopy and of a table of tax rates on dwellings. In the same
record group are letters sent by the Commissioner of the Revenue and the
Revenue Office, 1792-1807, that contain letters pertaining to the 1798 tax.
They have been reproduced as Microcopy 414.
The circular reproduced on Roll 1 and later circulars relating to the 1798
direct tax are in a volume identified as Circulars from the Secretary of the
Treasury, T Series, 1795-1817, Volume No. O, in Record Group 56, General
Records of the Department of the Treasury. Also in this record group is a
volume containing correspondence, 1807-29, which pertains in part to 1798
direct tax matters.
Other records relating to the 1798 direct tax program are the accounts of the
accountable officers, which are in Record Group 217, Records of the U. S.
General Accounting Office. Record Group 60, General Records of the Department
of Justice, contains an opinion of the Attorney General concerning the power
of a marshal to execute deeds for land sold by a predecessor under the direct
tax law. This opinion, dated December 29, 1817, is No. 6 in Opinions of the
Attorney General's Office, Volume A, November 17, 1817 - June 19, 1821.
Government publications relating to the first direct tax include the American
State Papers, Finance (volumes 1 and 2) and the annual Receipts and
Expenditures of the United States for the period of the collection of the tax.
Other published contemporary sources of information include street directories
for the City of Philadelphia and a ward genealogy of the city and county of
Philadelphia compiled by the Department of Records, Philadelphia, and
published in 1959.
Miss Martha Simonetti and Mr. William H. Work from the Pennsylvania Historical
and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, aided in the identification and arrangement
of the volumes reproduced in this microfilm publication, and in the
preparation of the introduction, when they were enrolled in the Institute in
the Preservation and Administration of Archives given by The American
University, Washington, D. C.
The New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, has custody of 1798
direct tax records for the State of Massachusetts and Maine. Those for the
State of Maryland are in the custody of the Maryland Historical Society,
Baltimore. A few lists and contemporary copies of lists for Georgia are in the
custody of the Department of Archives and History, Atlanta. The National
Archives has no information on 1798 Federal tax lists for other States.