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MMD > Archives > January 1997 > 1997.01.04 > 02Prev  Next

Re: Tax Stamps on Pianos
By Angelo Rulli

Responding to Bob Conant's query in Digest 970103.

I am aware that many municipalities taxed musical machines as a way to collect revenue and also to attempt to monitor activities in and around such machines. The earliest such taxing of which I am aware was the licensing of organ grinders in New York City and Boston about 1900. In such cases, the grinders were required to bring their street organs to a licensing official on about January 1 for the annual license. This was an attempt to control the number of grinders in a particular neighborhood and to ascertain whether a particular organ was suitable for street play.

I suppose in that case the cynic might suggest that no licenses should have been granted. The irony, of course, is that it was unlikely the license inspector had much knowledge of music, and that might have contributed to one of the better anecdotes of the day: That as many grinders were paid to get out of the neighborhood as were encouraged to play another tune.

The last license of which I am aware is on a jukebox in the collection of Gary Stevenson in St. Louis, MO. I believe the date was 1973 and this gives evidence that the practice spanned the era of the organ grinder up to and including modern music machines. I would be interested to know if readers have further information on this means of regulating music, so to speak.

Angelo Rulli
St. Paul, MN

[ I've heard that the jukebox in the neighborhood pub was often taxed by
[ the city, under considerable pressure from the local musician's union!
[ -- Robbie

(Message sent Sat 4 Jan 1997, 15:50:48 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Pianos, Stamps, Tax

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