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1859 Partly-Printed Mississippi Tax Receipt – Slaves and Free Men of Color
1859 Partly-Printed Mississippi Tax Receipt – Slaves and Free Men of Color

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A partly-printed tax receipt dated 1859 and including lines for both slaves and free men of color. Since slaves were considered property and were traded just like any other commodity, their owners were subject to taxation by the local authorities for the stated value of the slave. The presently offered document is a partly printed receipt for the payment of taxes on various items deemed valuable enough to warrant taxation, with a space left before each listed item for the quantity of that particular item and a space after for the value. This particular document was issued by “The State of Mississippi, Jefferson County” and states that there was “Received of the Est of James M Liddell the sum of Forty five 25/100 by T C Brown admr Dollars, Being the amount of State and County Taxes for 1858 …”. A partial list of the more common items deemed taxable according to this receipt includes “… acres of land … Town Lots … Amount Money Loaned … Sales Slaves, Horses &c … Carriages … Watches … Bowie Knives … Sword Canes … Head of Cattle … Gold & Silver ware …” and “… Pianos …”. All of the previously noted items would be expected on a tax document of this era, but this piece has several unusual listings. This receipt leaves spaces for taxes paid on such unusual items as “… Ten-pin Alleys … Racetracks … Toll Bridges … Turnpikes … Ferries …”, and most germane to this category “… Free Men of Color …” and “… Slaves …”. Presumably, this type of form was used for the receipt of all taxes, whether remitted by an individual or a municipal authority, since most individuals did not own a ten-pin alley or racetrack. None of the individual item listings has a number or amount, so the reason for this payment is unknown. The document was issued from “Fayette”, the county seat of Jefferson County, and is dated Feb 12 1859. The signature of “R F McGinty” in his capacity of “Sheriff” appears in the lower right corner, though the signature was actually applied “By R C McPhaill” (it is obvious based on the letter formation that the signatures were accomplished by the same individual). The verso features the standard notations describing the contents of the document so that it wouldn’t have to be unfolded after being placed in storage (it would also be easier to find without having to open every folded document should it be needed). The pre-printed portions are accomplished in black ink on light blue paper, while the manuscript portions were added in period brown ink. This piece measures approximately 3.50 x 6.25 inches, and would make a great addition to any slave-related or tax collection, especially with the unusual taxable listings.

As with many documents of this type, the presently offered piece exhibits numerous signs of period wear and subsequent extended storage. Several harsh folds, both vertical and horizontal, bisect this item, though none of these has seriously affected the integrity of the paper. The contrast is only average, though all of the text, both pre-printed and manuscript, is legible (some of the words are somewhat difficult to read due to the penmanship and the nib of the pen used). Moderate toning is noted across the surfaces, with slightly darker areas present, especially around the manuscript portions. The right hand edge is straight, while the other three appear to have been cut with scissors (all exhibit signs of waviness, with the lower left having a ragged and torn appearance). Minor ink bleed through is noted for accuracy, as this has not caused any paper loss or separations. Overall, this is an attractive display piece, with very interesting content and nice eye appeal.

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