On 9 July 1798 the United States
Congress passed legislation that created the first federal
property tax levied on U. S. citizens, “An Act to provide for the
valuation of lands and dwelling
houses and the enumeration of slaves within the United States.
The legislation, which divided each state into districts, established seven districts for Maryland. These districts consisted of 1) St. Mary’s, Charles, and Calvert; 2) Montgomery and Prince George’s, including Washington, D.C.; 3) Anne Arundel and Baltimore, including Baltimore City; 4) Washington, Frederick, and Allegany; 5) Harford, Cecil, and Kent; 6) Queen Anne’s, Caroline, and Talbot; and 7) Somerset, Dorchester, and Worcester. Commissioners appointed by the president for each district then divided their district into smaller assessment units and in turn appointed a principal assessor and a number of assistants for each of the smaller areas. The assessors compiled a list of houses, land, and slaves as of 1 October 1798, which they then evaluated and assessed.
A second act passed on 14 July 1798
set the amount to be raised at $2,000,000, assigned a fixed
portion of the total to each state, and provided a set formula for
assessing the value of property.
Description of Lists
The assessors compiled two types of lists. The general lists covered the entire county and contained less detail, while the particular lists covered each hundred (a colonial and early national county subdivision) with considerable detail. The general lists serve as an index for the particular lists: they are alphabetical by owner’s surname, indicate the hundred in which the property was located, and usually are cross-referenced by number to the particular list.
The general and particular lists contain three types of assessment lists. The first type covers property of no more than two acres improved by dwellings of more than $100 in value. This list provides the name of the property owner and the name of the tenant, if any. It includes dimensions, building fabric, number of stories, number and size of windows, and value, for all dwellings and out buildings (many of the latter also being identified by function, such as stable or smoke house).
The second type includes all lands, lots, wharves, and buildings not included in the first type of list. Landholdings in excess of two acres and improved properties that did not include a dwelling house appeared on this list. This second type includes the same categories of information found in the first type as well as acreage, tract name, and names of adjoining property owners.
The third type covered enslaved persons, listing their superintendent or owner, total number owned, number exempt from tax due to disability, and the number (between the ages of 12 and 50) subject to tax.
Present Value of the Lists
The Federal Direct Tax lists provide a resource of immense value for genealogists, historians, and other researchers, such as archaeologists and architectural historians. The tax lists can be used as a proxy for the census in areas of Maryland for which the 1800 United States Census has been lost. The lists contain enormous information about wealth and slaveholding at the turn of the century. Above all they provide the most complete picture available of late eighteenth-century Maryland buildings.
The Maryland State Archives has microfilm [M3468-M3481] for the following counties: Anne Arundel, Baltimore (City and County), Caroline, Charles, District of Columbia (portions of Montgomery and Prince George’s), Harford, Prince George’s, Queen Anne’s, Saint Mary’s, Somerset, and Talbot. Except for Prince George’s, there are general lists for dwellings, lands, and slaves as described above. In addition, at the end of the series there is a miscellaneous reel with a few particular lists that could not be identified by county, and a record book of the annual duties on carriages for the years 1794 to 1798. 3
In addition, card index 68 provides an index for Anne Arundel County [M3468]. The index contains two sections, the first of which is an alphabetical index to all tracts of land named in the particular lists. The second section is an alphabetical index by owner to the same lists. The cards for tracts include tract name, owner, citation, and sometimes acreage and location of adjoining properties. The cards for owners include names of tenants, description of the property and dwellings (including size and type), assessed value, and citation. Cards for slaves include the owner or superintendent, total number of slaves, number exempt from state taxation, and number subject to taxation. Index 68 does not cover the Anne Arundel general lists.
Card index 68 began as an index to Annapolis and Middle Neck Hundreds, for which there are typed cards with no area designation. The work done for Annapolis and Middle Neck Hundreds does not index the particular lists of slaves.
At a later point, handwritten cards were prepared for the rest of the county, using the following coding system:
1798 MARYLAND FEDERAL DIRECT TAX DATASET
Department of History
University of Southern California
MARYLAND ca. 1800 HOUSING
LOCALITY (see attached list of hundred numbers and names)
NAMES (see attached list of hundred numbers and names)COUNTY
NUMDWA number of dwellings over $100 in value (the A schedule dwellings)
NUMDWB number of dwellings $100 and under (the B schedule dwellings)
NUMOUT number of outbuildings
NUMACREA the acreage in schedule A (house lots around the A dwelling)
NUMACREB the acreage in schedule B
VDWAORIG total $ value of dwellings >$100 (original valuation Schedule A)
VALDWA final total $ value of dwellings >$100 and the 2 acres or less around them
VDWBORIG total $ value of dwellings $100 and < (original valuation Schedule B)
VALDWB final total $ value of dwellings $100 and <
VPRDORIG total $ value of land & improvements in Schedule B minus value of dwellings $100 and < (orig. eval.)
VALPROD final total $ value of land and improvements in Schedule B minus value of dwellings
NUMRENT number of dwellings where owner’s name different from occupant
NUMSLAVE number of slaves
NUMABLE number of able-bodied slaves 12-50
NUMOWNER number of slave owners
POP1800 estimate of population in 1800
YEARS number of years between founding and 1798
PCTDWB (NUMDWB/NUMDW)* 100
PCTRENT (NUMRENT/NUMDW) * 100
AREA NUMACRE/640 estimated sq. miles in hundred
PRODACRE value of non-dwelling house realty per acre (VPRDORIG/NUMACREB)
This dataset is part of a statistical and geographical information system project funded by the Geography and Regional Science Program of the National Science Foundation (SES 9196167) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (RO 22213-91).
With the exception of YEARS all the variable information on the hundreds and the wards of the city of Baltimore is derived from the 1798 Federal Direct Tax microfilm available through the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis. When possible, each observation is a hundred (a tax unit) or a ward, but in some instances the lists combined hundreds, making it impossible to separate two hundreds. In those cases, the unit is two hundreds.
The variables ending in ORIG give the first valuation of dwellings, land, and business improvements (agricultural buildings, wharves, commercial buildings etc.) made by the assessors. They sometimes differ from the final valuations, the variables beginning with VAL, because in some counties and cities the assessors had to raise more money to meet the state’s obligations and so they increased everyone in the jurisdiction by a set amount. Even though the tax was a progressive tax within the state, with those having expensive houses paying at a higher rate than those with modest homes, the state’s total obligation was based on population, so as not to conflict with the Constitutional ban on any federal tax other than a head tax. In Maryland the revised evaluations were done mechanistically to raise the necessary amounts and greatly altered the valuations in cities like Baltimore, which were made to bear the brunt of the tax Consequently for studies of housing value, land value, or inequality, it is best, in Maryland, to take the original assessment, before the Commissioners of the State began adjusting the numbers to raise the appropriate amount needed for the state to pay its designated tax to the federal government.
Population figures for Maryland are not broken down by hundred in any of the federal censuses, 1790, 1800, etc. The estimation formula for hundreds that came closest to county totals in the 1800 census was to multiply the sum of the hundred’s dwelling houses (NUMDWA and NUMDWB) by 6, add the number of slaves, and then add 5.5% (the amount that population grew nationally between 1798 and 1800) of the total, to get the estimated hundred or ward population in 1800.
An Archives of Maryland electronic publication.
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