Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.
This week’s Sepia Saturday photo celebrates wine and labels. Wine production in Virginia is as old as Virginia herself, but there are no vintners among my ancestors. However, quite a few were distillers of spirits, both legal and illegal.
|James Franklin Jollett|
During the Civil War, distilling of spirits did not suffer the strong sentiment against it as it did later in history and even today. In fact, the Confederate government kept corn whiskey on order. It was sometimes used as part of soldiers’ rations, but more often the whiskey served as medicine in field hospitals. It was poured over wounds to clean them, and it was administered to the injured to ease the shock. Sometimes it was the only anesthetic agent when ether, laudanum, and chloroform were not available for the next amputation. Quinine, morphine, whiskey – it was the best the doctors knew in the days before antiseptics, antibiotics, and awareness of how unsanitary conditions contributed as much to patient death as did illness and injury.
So I like to think that James Franklin and his neighbors in Greene County were doing their patriotic duty, distilling for the cause.
Now I’m not so naïve as to think James Franklin distilled ONLY to support the war. The tax records that I found on Ancestry.com are from 1866, a year after the war was over.
The 1866 tax was the result of the Internal Revenue Act passed by Congress in 1862 to support the Government and pay interest on the public debt – in other words, to finance the Civil War. During the war, the states that had seceded from the Union were not taxed, but following the war, Southern states were expected to step up just like their Northern neighbors, even if they had not been officially readmitted to the Union.
|Tax assessment August 1866|
|Tax assessment September 1866|
Spirits were not the only item subject to taxation. Goods, services, licenses, income and personal property were assessed annually or monthly, depending on the designation. While James Franklin was taxed only on the spirits he produced, his neighbors were taxed on their carriages, watches, pianos, silver plates, and licenses to practice law and medicine. Apparently James Franklin owned none of the “luxury” items signaling wealth.
The Internal Revenue Act of 1862 continued until 1895 when the Supreme Court declared income tax unconstitutional. It took an amendment to the Constitution – the sixteenth – to establish the power to tax income. That was 1913. The “experiment” of 1862 helped establish the format and structure of today’s tax system that we’ve come to know and love so well – wink wink.
For all the best in wine and spirits, visit Sepia Saturday. Cheers!
© 2015, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.