Occupations to be Licensed

The occupations included in the tax lists gives us a window into life in the mid 19th-century. It is just as interesting to see what occupations were not listed as which ones were. I have not yet found a complete list of all occupations to be taxed, but the Revenue Act of 1864 lists these principal occupations in this order:

Bankers, Wholesale Dealers, Retail Dealers, Wholesale Liquor Dealers, Retail Liquor Dealers, Lottery Ticket Dealers, Horse Dealers, Livery Stable Keepers, Brokers, Pawnbrokers, Land-warrant Brokers, Cattle Brokers, Produce Brokers, Commercial Brokers, Custom-house Brokers, Distillers, Brewers, Rectifiers, Coal-Oil Distillers, Hotels, Inns and Taverns, Steamers and Vessels, Eating Houses, Confectioners, Claim Agents, Patent-Right Dealers, Real Estate Agents, Conveyancers, Intelligence Office Keepers, Insurance Agents, Foreign Insurance Agents, Auctioneers, Manufacturers, Peddlers, Apothecaries, Photographers, Tobacconists, Butchers, Theaters, Museums, and Concert Halls, Circuses, Jugglers, Bowling Alleys and Billiard Rooms, Gift Enterprises, Stallions and Jacks, Lawyers, Physicians, Surgeons and Dentists, Architects and Civil Engineers, Builders and Contractors, Plumbers and Gas Fitters, Assayers.

Many of these occupations were not pursued in Hunterdon County in 1865. There were no Lottery Ticket Dealers, no Pawnbrokers or Land-warrant Brokers, no Custom-house Brokers (makes sense since Hunterdon had no port), no Intelligence Office Keepers or Foreign Insurance Agents, no Steamers or Vessels, no Rectifiers or Coal-Oil Distillers, no Plumbers or Gas Fitters or Assayers, no Real Estate Agents (odd), and no entertainment from Theaters, Museums, Concert Halls, Circuses, Jugglers, Bowling Alleys or Billiard Rooms. There were no “Gift Enterprises” either.

I tried to figure out what “gift enterprises” were from reading the legislation, but couldn’t quite get the picture. They seem to be connected with lotteries or other mild forms of gambling. Here is the legislation regarding these activities:

Proprietors of gift enterprises shall pay one hundred and fifty dollars. Every person, firm, or corporation who shall sell or offer for sale any real estate or article of merchandise of any description whatsoever, or any ticket of admission to any exhibition or performance, with a promise, express or implied, to give or bestow, or in any manner hold out the promise of gift or bestowal of any article or thing for and in consideration of the purchase by any person of any other article or thing, shall be regarded as a proprietor of a gift enterprise: Provided, That no such proprietor, in consequence of being thus taxed, shall be exempt from paying any other tax imposed by law, and the special tax herein required shall be in addition thereto.1 Daily Enquirer, 7 Feb. 1866.

Perhaps it is just as well that Hunterdon County had no ‘gift enterprises.’

  1. from Emerson’s Internal Revenue Guide 1867, Containing The Law of June 30, 1864, As Amended March 3, 1865, July 13, 1866, and March 2, 1867, By Charles N. Emerson.

I got a much better idea of what was happening in these places by reading an article sent to me by “Jerseyman”, describing the experience of a visitor from Rhode Island to the great city of New York. It is such a good story that, with Jerseyman’s permission, I am reprinting it here:

The people of this metropolis cannot fail to have noticed the fact that gift enterprise establishments are rapidly increasing in number throughout the city. To the casual observer these places seem to be well stocked with all sorts of ornamental articles of gilt and silver ware, including also rosewood and mahogany cased pianos, and one would naturally conclude that a business so extensive must naturally be a paying one. This would be a true inference, but how it is made profitable let the following actual occurrence illustrate, by which the reader may learn what a sharp eye to business these “enterprising” individuals have. One of the home bred sons of Newport, R.I., having occasion to visit this city, and being anxious to see the elephant before returning home, took a stroll up Broadway, and struck by the dazzling array of gold and silver goods, which were on exhibition in a window of one of the establishments above alluded to, he was induced to enter. Whilst lost in rapture at the sights and scenes around him, he was politely accosted by another visitor, apparently a stranger like himself, and they both went round the establishment admiring and commenting on all they saw. The new friend, who was all kindness and attention invited the Newport man to take a chance in a lottery, assuring him that there was no doubt of winning something truly grand and expensive. “Greeny” in reply urged the lateness of the hour and his distance from home, stating that if he missed the train he would have to stay over night, &c. But the sharper (for such he proved to be) met every argument with another and better, and finally the countryman, having an eye to the supposed profits to be made, consented. His friend paid down a dollar first, and won a fine silver watch. The second and third chances were equally lucky, and the Newporter was convinced it was all right, and that “something could be made.” He was invited to join his pile (about $50) with his friend, and then take a chance for the $500 greenback prize. The unsuspecting youth did so, and drew what his friend declared was the “lucky number.” The gift man proceeding to look up the prize, but a partner stepping up at the moment, and opening the yellow envelope, discovered that the “lucky number” brought a worthless finger ring. The victim raved and swore, and pronounced the whole thing a cheat, and threatened to prosecute and expose the concern; but his friend quieted him with the assurance that it was all chance, and referred him to his (sharper’s) previous prizes drawn, at the same time telling him that he would pay his fare home—which generous offer was finally accepted as the best thing to be done under the circumstances. This is but one case out of thousands of those who have come to grief through those concerns, whose agents are on almost every block of the public thoroughfares of the city, shaking their handbills in the faces of passers-by.

The foregoing experience should put strangers visiting this city upon their guard. Every sensible person should know that an article worth $150 cannot be “given away,” as they term it, for one dollar—because that would not pay, and the gentlemen who carry on a business of this description never entertain the idea of losing money. They do not buy pianos for countrymen—these would be too heavy for transportation ; they provide knitting needles, splendid (tin) teaspoons, and other articles of like description, for that class of customers—and, in fact, for every class. When a man tries to “ring” you into any establishment, that is good evidence that it is best to keep out of it.—N. Y. Sun

Reprinted in the Columbus [Georgia