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Abstract

Sixteen years after the end of the Revolution, and on the eve of the formation of Adams county, the United States became embroiled in a "quasi-war" with France (1797-1801) which strained the federal treasury. As a result of the diplomatic disagreement, Congress approved several bills to fund America's military build-up. One of these, the U.S. Evaluation Tax of July 9, 1798, was signed into law to raise two million dollars in revenues. The direct or "window tax" was levied based on landholdings, buildings and the number of glass lights, and slaves-in essence, a federal property tax.

Although the "window tax" was considered a burden by most contemporaries, it was a blessing for modern cultural scientists. Fulfilling their duty by compiling at least five schedules for each township, the assessors described each major structure on nearly every farmstead and in every village and town in York county, noting building dimensions, number of stories, number of windows and lights, and construction materials. Although some schedules have not survived, the remainder graphically illustrate that most of the dwelling houses in Adams county by the summer of 1798 were made of wood. [excerpt]

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