United States Direct Tax Of 1798: Pennsylvania

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 records.

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 Pennsylvania.

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.