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Survey: How Photographers Cancelled Revenue Stamps

The federal government levied a tax on photographs to generate revenue to offset heavy expenses caused by the Civil War. Known by some as the “Sun Tax,” it was implemented on Aug. 1, 1864. It ended July 31, 1866, after an intense lobbying effort led by the nation’s leading photographers, including Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner. During this two-year period, photographers affixed stamps to the backs of paper and plate images. We surveyed 867 cartes de visite from 26 collectors and to find out how they were cancelled. Here’s what we found.

Note: Special thanks to MI contributor and subscriber Michele Behan for kicking off an email conversation that led to this survey.

Source: Military Images analysis of 867 cartes de visite from the following collections: Kevin Canberg, Rick Carlile, Ronald S. Coddington, Ron Field, Adam Ochs Fleischer, Andrew German, Mike Gillett, Michael Huston, Craig Johnson, Charles T. Joyce, Megan Kemble, Robert Mayer III, Scott Mingus, Sr., Bill Munday, Al Niemiec, Dale Niesen, Charles Orear, Michael Passero, Jim Rivest, Patrick Schroeder, Gilbert Sorrel, Marc and Beth Storch, Austin Sundstrom, Fred Taylor, David Yunt, and Buck Zaidel. Most of these collectors contributed through Dale Niesen’s Facebook page, The Image Collector. Images were also gathered from Alan Griffiths’ Luminous-Lint.

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