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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.

Celebrate the Holidays With the 2020 Harry Potter Funko Pop Advent Calendar


Though the main book series and movie franchise are long over, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains in the spotlight as one of the most popular properties in pop-culture. The folks at Funko definitely know this, and every year the company releases a new Advent calendar based on the popular series so fans can count down to the holidays with their favorite characters.

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Right now, you can pre-order the 2020 edition of Funko's popular Harry Potter Advent calendar, and if you do it through Amazon, you'll even get it on sale for 33 percent off, bringing the price down from $60 to just $40.

Funko Pop!/Amazon

Over the course of the holiday season, the Advent calendar allows you to count down the days until Christmas, starting on December 1, by opening one of the tiny, numbered doors on the appropriate day. Each door is filled with a surprise Pocket Pop! figurine—but outside of the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the company isn't revealing who you'll be getting just yet.

Calendars will start shipping on October 15, but if you want a head start, go to Amazon to pre-order yours at a discount.

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10 Facts About David Fincher's The Social Network for Its 10th Anniversary

Jesse Eisenberg stars in David Fincher's The Social Network (2010).
Jesse Eisenberg stars in David Fincher's The Social Network (2010).
Merrick Morton/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

The Social Network—a movie made when Facebook was less than seven years old and the social media era was relatively new—seemed destined to age poorly. But in the decade since its premiere in October 2010, the film’s depiction of the website and its young founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is more relevant than ever.

Even if you haven’t logged onto Facebook in years, the film offers plenty to love, from David Fincher’s detailed direction to Aaron Sorkin’s Oscar-winning script. In honor of its 10-year anniversary, here are 10 facts about The Social Network.

1. Aaron Sorkin started writing the script for The Social Network before the book it's based on was published.

Aaron Sorkin makes a cameo in The Social Network (2010).Merrick Morton, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

The Social Network is officially an adaptation of The Accidental Billionaires, Ben Mezrich's 2009 book detailing the founding of Facebook. But according to screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, he had already completed 80 percent of the script by the time he read the book. The project came to him in the form of a 14-page book proposal the publisher was shopping around to filmmakers ahead of the title's release. “I said yes on page three," Sorkin told Deadline in 2011. "That’s the fastest I’ve ever said yes to anything."

Instead of waiting for The Accidental Billionaires to be completed and published, Sorkin started working on the script immediately, doing his own first-hand research for much of the process instead of referring to the book.

2. Shia LaBeouf turned down the role of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network.

When Transformers star Shia LaBeouf turned down the role of The Social Network’s lead character, Jesse Eisenberg was hired to play Mark Zuckerberg instead. Superbad's Jonah Hill was another star who came close to being cast in the movie, in his case as Napster founder Sean Parker; ultimately, Fincher decided Hill wasn’t right for the role and cast Justin Timberlake instead.

3. The Social Network wasn’t filmed at Harvard.

Harvard University is integral to the legend of Facebook, and setting the first half of The Social Network there was non-negotiable. Filmmakers ran into trouble, however, when attempting to get the school's blessing. The 1970 adaptation of Love Story been shot there, and damaged the campus; the school has reportedly banned all commercial filming on the premises since then. To get around this, The Social Network crew shot the Harvard scenes at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and two prep schools, Phillips Academy Andover and Milton Academy, in Massachusetts.

4. David Fincher did sneak one shot of Harvard into The Social Network.

To convince the audience that they were indeed seeing Harvard, Fincher couldn’t resist sneaking in a shot of the campus’s iconic architecture. When Jesse Eisenberg runs across Harvard Square (which is not on Harvard property) in the beginning film, some nearby arches (which are on Harvard property) appear in the background. Fincher got the lighting he needed for this scene by hiring a street mime to roll a cart with lights on it onto the campus.

“If security were to stop him, the mime wouldn’t talk," The Social Network’s director of photography Jeff Cronenweth told Variety. "By the time they got him out of there, we would have accomplished our shot.”

5. Natalie Portman gave Aaron Sorkin the inside scoop on Harvard.

Natalie Portman attended Harvard from 1999 to 2003, briefly overlapping with fellow star alum Mark Zuckerberg. While enrolled, she dated a member of one of the university’s elite final clubs, which are an important part of The Social Network’s plot. When she learned that Sorkin was writing the screenplay for the movie, she invited the writer over to hear her insider knowledge. Sorkin gave the actress a shout-out in the final script. During one of the deposition scenes, Eisenberg's Harvard-era Zuckerberg is described as “the biggest thing on a campus that included 19 Nobel Laureates, 15 Pulitzer Prize winners, two future Olympians, and a movie star.”

6. Armie Hammer and his body double went to twin boot camp for The Social Network.

Armie Hammer and Josh Pence (as Armie Hammer) in The Social Network (2010).Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Armie Hammer is credited as playing both Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, but he wasn’t acting alone in his scenes. Josh Pence was cast as a body double and Hammer’s face was digitally pasted over his in post-production. For every scene where both twins appear on screen, Hammer and Pence played separate Winklevi, and then they would swap roles and shoot the scene again. This method allowed the characters to physically interact in ways that wouldn’t have been possible with split screens. Pence’s face may be missing from the movie, but his physical performance was still essential to selling the brothers' dynamic. He and Hammer worked with an acting coach for 10 months to nail down the characters’ complementary body language.

7. The Social Network's tagline was changed at the last minute.

For The Social Network’s main poster, designer Neil Kellerhouse made Jesse Eisenberg’s face the focal point. Over it, he superimposed the memorable tagline: “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.” Originally, the text read “300 million friends,” but it was changed under the assumption that Facebook would hit half a billion users in time for the movie’s October 2010 release.

“We were really hedging our bets," Kellerhouse told IndieWire. "But we scooped them on their own story because right as the film was coming out they got 500 million [members] so we got their publicity as well. It worked out super serendipitously.”

8. Fight Club’s Tyler Durden (kind of) makes a cameo in The Social Network.

Sharp-eyed viewers may have noticed the Easter egg David Fincher snuck into The Social Network. In the scene where Mark Zuckerberg is checking someone’s Facebook to cheat on a test, the name “Tyler Durden” can be seen in the top-left corner of the profile. Tyler Durden is the name of the narrator’s alter ego (played by Brad Pitt) in 1999’s Fight Club. Fincher directed both films.

9. The real Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t a fan of The Social Network.

Andrew Garfield and Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network (2010).Merrick Morton, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

The Social Network doesn’t paint Mark Zuckerberg in the most flattering light, and unsurprisingly, the real-life Facebook founder wasn’t happy about it. Following the movie’s release, he called out its “hurtful” inaccuracies, specifically citing the fictional Mara Rooney character that’s used as his motivation for founding the website. But even he admits that some details were spot-on. “It’s interesting what stuff they focused on getting right," Zuckerberg said at a Stanford event. "Like every single fleece and shirt I had in that movie is actually a shirt or fleece that I own.”

10. A sequel to The Social Network is not out of the question.

The Social Network premiered when Facebook was less than a decade old, and the story of the internet giant has only gotten more dramatic since then. Since settling lawsuits with Eduardo Saverin and the Winkelvoss twins, Facebook has been battling scandals related to privacy issues and its influence on the 2016 election. The last 10 years have provided more than enough material for a sequel to The Social Network, and both Aaron Sorkin and Jesse Eisenberg have expressed interest in such a project. As of now, there are no confirmed plans for a follow-up.