11 Surprising Things That Were Taxed in Colonial America

In the 18th century, Great Britain exerted its control over the American colonies by taxing and adding tariffs to certain goods and services entering North America. The often-surprising items specifically targeted by the Sugar, Stamp, Townshend and other Acts—calendars, molasses, hats—shed light on the priories and motives of the British Parliament. Here are 11 seemingly strange things that fell under repressive colonial taxation rules.

1. Hats

One of the earliest duties levied against the American colonists came in the form of the Hat Act of 1732. In an effort to tamp down competition between American and English milliners, Great Britain outlawed the manufacture and export of hats in the colonies as well as prohibited inter-colonial sale of finished hats. To add insult to injury, the Crown placed heavy taxes on the British hats that were being imported to the colonies.

2. Finished Iron Goods

NYPL

In the same vein as the Hat Act, Great Britain passed the Iron Act in 1750 to encourage the exportation of raw materials from the colonies to England and quell the colonies’ own creation of finished products. Under the Iron Act, Great Britain was able to import raw pig iron and bar iron from the colonies duty-free. At the same time, the act prohibited colonists from using the iron they mined to create goods of their own, meaning colonists were forced to purchase heavily taxed finished iron goods from Britain.

3. 63 Types of Paper

iStock

The Townshend Acts of 1767 didn’t institute a blanket tax on all types of paper and paper goods shipped to the colonies. Instead, they imposed discreet duties on 63 different types of paper. A ream of paper called Atlas Fine came with a duty of 12 shillings, for example, while a ream of Blue Royal had a duty of one shilling and six pence.

4. Legal Papers

Under the Stamp Act of 1765, nearly every kind of legal document you can think of—from a will to a summons to a license—had a distinct stamp duty.

5. Molasses

iStock

Molasses may seem like an odd product to be taxed by the British—and to be deemed so important a good as to have its own act named after it (the Molasses Act of 1733), but the colonies’ production of molasses played a key role in the triangular trade between Europe, North America, and the West Indies, as molasses is a key ingredient in the production of rum.

6. Glass

iStock

The surprising thing about the tariffs on glass imposed by the Townshend Act was that they varied by color. The more frequently used white glass was taxed at a higher rate of 4 shillings and 8 pence for a hundredweight, while green glass had a tariff of 1 shilling and 2 pence per hundredweight.

7. Paint

iStock

Under the Townshend Act, a tariff of two shillings per hundredweight was imposed on paint (called “painters colors”).

8. The Use of a Pen Name

iStock

While not technically a tax, the Stamp Act placed a staggering penalty on using a pen name in pamphlets or newspapers. A person found using a pseudonym would be charged a whopping 20 pounds—equivalent to thousands of dollars today.

9. Playing Cards and Dice

iStock

In addition to legal papers, the Stamp Act placed a hefty tariff on playing cards and dice. And, much like the penalty for using a pen name, the price of failing to pay said tariffs (by selling illegal dice or manufacturing counterfeit cards) was steep: 20 pounds per offense.

10. Calendars and Almanacs

iStock

Calendars and almanacs were not only taxed under the Stamp Act, but were taxed by their length. Calendars and almanacs for one year or less than a year printed on one side of one sheet of paper were given a duty of two pence. Calendars and almanacs of one year longer than one page had a duty of four pence. And calendars or almanacs meant to serve for several years paid four pence for each year covered.

11. Pimento

iStock

Pimento is called out specifically by the Sugar Act, with the Crown placing a tariff of one halfpenny on every pound of what modern cooks know as allspice.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

The Worst Drivers In America Live in These 15 States

Life of Pix, Pexels
Life of Pix, Pexels

No matter how many times you've been cut off on a road trip, anecdotal evidence alone can't prove that a certain state's drivers are worse than yours. For that, you need statistics. The personal finance company SmartAsset compiled data related to bad driving behaviors to create this list of the 15 states in America with the worst drivers.

This ranking is based on four metrics: the number of fatalities per 100 million miles driven in each state, DUI arrests per 1000 drivers, the percentage of uninsured drivers, and how often residents Google the terms “speeding ticket” or “traffic ticket.”

Mississippi ranks worst overall, with the second-highest number of fatalities and the second lowest percentage of insured drivers. This marked the third year in a row Mississippi claimed the bottom slot in SmartAsset's worst driver's list. This year, it's followed by Nevada in second place and Tennessee in third. You can check out the worst offenders in the country in the list below.

Some motorists may be more interested in avoiding the cities plagued by bad driving than the states. These two categories don't always align: Oregon, which didn't crack the top 10 states with the worst drivers, is home to Portland, the city with the worst drivers according to one quote comparison site. After reading through the list of states, compare it to the cities with the worst drivers in America here.

  1. Mississippi
  1. Nevada
  1. Tennessee
  1. Florida
  1. California
  1. Arizona
  1. South Carolina (Tie)
  1. Texas (Tie)
  1. New Mexico
  1. Alaska
  1. Louisiana
  1. Alabama
  1. Oregon
  1. Arkansas
  1. Colorado