Wenger- 1875 Tax List (Post 2)

While looking at the Durham section of the 1875 tax list, I was immediately drawn towards the names which I recognized. With my limited knowledge of Duke’s history and knowledge of building names around campus, I first looked for members of the Duke family. Seeing Washington Duke’s worth in comparison to some of the other people in the town makes me see how disproportional the wealth was distributed. Although a small amount of people had animals and large amounts of land, it reminds me of how wealth is still distributed in the modern age. In 2017, the top 1% earned 82% of the wealth and I can only think that the same existed back then.

Besides the large disparity in wealth, I noticed how the column headers were labeled. The inclusion of animals in taxation makes me think that taxation was more for those who owned farms. This idea however was questioned also by the graph by having different values associated with different plots of land. Knowing that Washington Duke had the prime real estate on the train tracks allows me to try to understand the distribution on land worth and correlation with animal ownership. Although not exactly accurate and based partially on logic, it seems animal ownership might mean more rural land and thus less taxes from land ownership. It also surprises me that some of the columns were completely empty for people with the same surname. Almost as if they had little to no possessions or social status and thus were taxed lightly.

Continuing on looking at family names, I noticed that if one member of the family was worth more than $5,000, that more individuals with the same name had money. The same goes on the opposite spectrum with individuals commonly having little valuables when family members also having limited funds. This makes sense due to privilege but it does not explain why family members were often not written next to each other on the page. For organization purposes, pages have the same letter last names next to each other but seemingly no organization between the names on the page. Overall, I feel like this tax list gives insight into the administrative system in place in Orange County but raises more questions in me instead of answering.

One Reply to “Wenger- 1875 Tax List (Post 2)”

  1. Tyler, I really like how you followed upon the Duke family, through which you demonstrate how individual stories do not only reflect historical patterns (such as the inequality in wealth distribution), but also help us to historicize our present times. I support your interest in family relations as a way of understanding wealth distribution and social status.

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