Who Were They?

Lost and forgotten photos from the past


The photographic tax stamp was applied between the years of 1864-1866 as a means to recover costs incurred during the American Civil War. The first income tax in America was also a means of paying for the war, however this photographic tax was specific to the luxury of photographs, ambrotypes, daguerrotypes and any other form of photography.  The amount of the tax was based on the cost of the photograph.

Photographs up to 25 cents = 2 cent tax

Photographs 26 to 50 cents = 3 cent tax

Photographs 51 cents to $1 = 5 cent tax

Photographs greater than $1 required additional 5 cent taxes for every dollar or fraction of a dollar

When you consider that the photograph might have cost 20 cents, a 2 cent tax was a whopping 10%, just for a photograph! And so, the luxury tax was born. The photographer was expected to collect the tax, cancel the stamp by some means such as writing his initials across it, and then submit the taxes to the Federal Government in Washington DC.


6 thoughts on “Tax Stamp Lady

  1. usermattw says:

    For a while I thought the stamp was for buying the copy of the photo when you got your picture taken. But I’ve since been told that it was for any retail purchase of a photo, whether it was a photo of you or not. The photo in question was one of a traveling performer that was apparently created in Europe but sold in the U.S. to the public as a souvenir of the performance. The stamp made me assume it was from the U.S., but somebody told me otherwise. I guess I’m always learning! :-) Beautiful photo, by the way.


    1. Mrs Marvel says:

      Matt that’s interesting about it being *any* photograph. I hadn’t know that.


      1. usermattw says:

        That’s what one collector told me. He was trying to convince me that his cdv with a revenue stamp had been produced outside the US. It makes sense, but I think it might require more research. :-)


  2. Interesting info about the tax stamps. I have had no photos with the stamp..yet! :)


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