Historic Hood River
Sometimes the back of an image tells as much of a story as the front. This is the reverse of a Civil War era Samuel Blythe cabinet card. I’ve never seen a tax stamp on a photograph, so I did a little research. Early in the Civil War it became clear the government needed new revenue sources to pay for the war, so Congress created the Internal Revenue Service and authorized these tax stamps, which would be attached to objects to prove the appropriate tax was paid. Between 1864 and 1866, the “Sun Picture Tax” levied a tax based on the cost of the photo. A two cent stamp indicates this photo cost 25 cents or less. So now we not only now when the photo was taken, but how much Blythe paid for it.
It seems a little unfair a soldier sending a photograph back home would have to pay a tax to cover the cost of the war he was fighting.
Tags: 1860s, Blythe, Internal Revenue Service, stamp, Washington
We have several pictures with revenue stamps on them from that period.
It's a pretty narrow slice of time which is useful for dating images.
Arthur, maybe you could put together a collage of the setting and whole process in which you and the museum put all this important web site together. Rather a “behind the scenes” of Historic Hood RIver.
Just a thought, for history.
How do you know the above stamp image is for a tax stamp, rather than just a regular postage stamp on the back of a card that may have been mailed as a post card? Were the tax stamps different from the postage stamps of that era?
I assume that you are able to attribute this to Samuel Blythe, or his estate, based on the source of the cabinet card or markings on the card? Do we know what the image is on the other side of the card – is it one of the images posted earlier on HHR?
kmb, the stamp says “U.S. Inter. Rev. Bank Check” which makes it part of a series of tax stamps. There were all sorts of special purpose stamps issued by the government to prove taxes paid– remember the distilled spirits tax stamps across the caps of liquor bottles? With modern inventory tracking applying a physical stamp isn't the preferred method of proving tax paid anymore.
The scan is one of 574 scans of the collection donated years ago by the Blythe/ Marlor family. It contains family records and artifacts back to the 18th century. We have GAR ribbons, locks of hair, journals, etc. This particular cabinet card appears to be Julius Blythe. I haven't had time to check the Blythe family genealogy to see how Julius is related to Samuel, but he seems to be a similar age so I am guessing he is a brother or cousin.
nels, your request made me chuckle because a collage of the process behind HHR posts would show me hunched over my home computer at 2AM. I have a copy of the museum photo database on my home machine so I can work on HHR at odd moments when I have some time.
Sometimes I want to share the story of some collection we've recently scanned– for example, we have a fun collection of photos from Camp Yellani in my “in box” at the museum which I am eager to share when I get them processed.
Unfortunately we have several years work in my in box– every image has to be scanned, then properly placed in an archival sleeve and given a “permanent” shelf location. Metadata (keywords) have to be applied to the digital file so we can find it amongst the tens of thousands of scans, then it is inserted in the digital collection (with multiple backups for security).
Other times I scroll randomly through the collection until I see a group of photos I haven't looked at for a while, and I see what grabs my interest and might tell an interesting story. This tax stamp is an example of something which tells a little of the “inside” story of the sorts of clues I use to help figure out the story behind an image.
I'll take a few images of the image archives at the museum, which might be more interesting than me making a photoblog entry after midnight.
And a technical correction: this is a carte de visite, not a cabinet card. The carte de visite was a smaller format (2.5″x4″) which was popular from the late 1850s to the 1870s, when it was replaced by the larger cabinet card.
Samuel Blythe was born 1842 in Pennsylvania. It appears that he had twin brothers Junius (1844-1921) and Julius (1844-1870)