Morgan -Blog Post 2: Tax List

In class we looked at an 1875 tax list of the residents of Orange County. One prominent component of the tax list, that I would not have even thought about, was the idea of animals as property. Today, animals are seen as pets for the most part; however, in 1875, animals were a large portion of the property that residents were taxed on. If we have a chance to look at the tax list again, it would be interesting to see if certain animals were taxed more than others. If so, I wonder if the differences had to do with the expense of maintaining an animal or the value of the products that the animal produced. Southern Crossing explains how prevalent farmers rights were during the late 1800s, as many farmers felt that their taxes were unfair and too high, especially in comparison to other business owners. Southern Crossing mentions that this added to political tensions, as the Democrats played off of the farmers’ frustration by offering to “roll back” taxes in an attempt to gain the support of farmers. Another element of Durham during 1875 that the tax list revealed is that the majority of the people on the list were men. If there were women listed, it was often because they were widows. This says a lot about the gender roles during that time. While today, many women have their own property and finances even when they get married, back then it was clear that the men were the financial leaders of ay household. Southern Crossing also touches a bit on the different gender roles that were in play. It explains that on the railroad, in particular, there were two “classes” of cars. The first class car was reserved for white men and women who did not use tobacco, while the “second-class car” was for men who used tobacco, men traveling without women companions. The second class car was also much cheaper, as the atmosphere allowed behaviors that were not acceptable in the first car. While these rules do not explicitly state different gender roles, it is clear that it was more acceptable for men to travel without women companions, but that those men were not to be trusted around other women, and it was more acceptable for men to use tobacco. While this tax list opened my eyes to many characteristics and societal norms of Durham during that time period, it also left me with many questions. For one, I wonder if there were some people who did not pay taxes or who the tax list “missed,” whether that be someone who moved around often or ran businesses that were somewhat secretive. I also wonder how quickly a woman would be added to the tax list after her spouse passed away or when a woman who did not get married would be “separated” from her father’s financials and property. One thing that I do not remember noticing was whether there was jewelry, art and other more personal belongings on the tax list. While they might have been there, these items were clearly not the key component of the tax list. Finally, the tax rate today can vary depending on ones’ income, however I did not notice if there was a difference in how people were taxed on the 1875 tax list.

Personally, when I was looking at the Digital Durham website I focused on the maps and photographs rather than the letters because I tend to be a more visual learner when it comes to history. I looked at the 1914 map of Durham and the suburbs as well as the 1983 map of Durham. In my analysis of the 1914 map, I discussed how it might relate to education. However, in class it was pointed out that while roads and highways were the focus of the 1983 map, railroads were the focus of the 1914 map. After reading about the significance of the railroads and the importance they played in the South in the late 1800s and early 1900s, it seems more fitting that the the railroads were the key component of this map rather than the location of schools. If I were to analyze this map again, I would focus on the relationship between where the railroads are located in relation to the business districts versus the residential and suburban areas of Durham. Today, suburban areas and business areas tend to be split. In my town, the “downtown” is where the train stops, most of the restaurants and stores are while the neighborhoods usually only have schools and homes. There are some apartments above businesses and some houses surrounding the downtown, but these are not the prime locations to live in town. These maps, however, reveal that the city was truly built around the train station and there was more intermixing of business and living areas.  While having a train near your house often devalues ones’ property, we discussed in class how the wealthiest families often used to live near the train.

2 Replies to “Morgan -Blog Post 2: Tax List”

  1. Hi Molly. The tax list is available online. It might be something to consider looking at for your research paper, perhaps seeing if you can find some of the places mentioned in the tax list in one of the earlier maps…

  2. Molly, I really like how you incorporate Ayers into your reading of the 1875 tax document and maps. I support your interest in farmers and women in the tax document, which can tell a lot about the hierarchies and power relations the societies were built on then. There might be a way of combining maps and other archival materials to offer a deeper analysis of these issues you strongly raise.

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