THE CIVIL WAR
SUN PICTURE TAX
Photography became mainstream
about the time the Civil War broke out.
Demand for cheap portraits grew enormously
as men marched off to war, choosing small photos
to leave behind or to take with them.
Photography studios sprung up in most cities
east of the Mississippi River,
especially in states affected by the war.
The mass popularity of photography did not escape
the notice of the U.S. Treasury Department.
Charged with raising money for the war,
its newly formed Office of Internal Revenue
levied a stamp tax in August of 1864
on what it quaintly referred to as "sun pictures."
Photos from this era are commonly found with
Internal Revenue "sun picture tax stamps" affixed.
By 1866, the tax was lifted.
(Far more revenue was generated by taxes on
tobacco, cotton, banking and distilling.)
Sun tax stamps are even found on many famous
Matthew Brady Civil War photographs
(which were cancelled by Brady's own signature.)