In July, 1771 the Massachusetts General Court passed "An Act for
Enquiring into the Rateable Estates of this Province" (p. xvii). This act
each town to elect assessors, whose duty it was to prepare a "valuation
Bill"—a list of all taxpayers and taxable property lying within the town.
Although valuation lists were made every year, it was only every seven years
so that a detailed as that for 1771 was required. The printed forms
distributed by the General Court distinguished twenty-seven categories of taxable
property including all types of buildings, mercantile and financial assets,
livestock, and improved land. In addition they provided for an accounting of
male polls (persons) sixteen years and older. The purpose of this general
assessment was to gather the information necessary to divide the burden of
provincial taxes equitably among the towns. At the same time it provided the
basis for determining each individual’s share of his or her town’s annual province
The valuation made and submitted to the province treasurer in 1771 have
been preserved in the Massachusetts Archives, volumes 132, 133 and 134.
the lists, one hundred and fifty-two, are extant, and among them they list almost
38,000 names, roughly two-thirds of all potential taxpayers in 1771. Computer
technology has made it possible not only to publish this enormous body of data
but also to analyze it and to preserve it for future analysis. The entire list
transcribed, punched on to computer cards, and finally recorded on magnetic
tape. This volume is based on a computer printout generated by that tape, and
copy of the tape has been deposited at the Inter-University Consortium for
Political Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Preparation of the valuation lists for computerization and publication began
in September, 1975. The project has been funded throughout by a generous
originator and director, Richard L. Bushman. By his sustaining enthusiasm and
curiosity, Professor Bushman repeatedly managed to restore a sense of purpose
to this momentous and often discouraging task, and much of the credit for
making these invaluable documents available belongs to him.
In its early stages of the project greatly benefited from the expert advice,
technical and conceptual, of Maris Vinovskis. The tedious task of transcribing
the lists was done responsibly and with good humor by Linda Tressler, Dorothy
Jacobs, Ann Smith, Corinna Hammond, Phyllis Johnston and Linda Foster.
Linda Foster, Clarissa Bushman and Richard Bushman, Jr., proofread the list,
Mr. John Deeran of International Computer Associates, Inc., managed the
keypunching, correction, and printing of the valuation. My sincere thanks to
each of these friends and helpers and to my husband, himself, an historian,
had contributed both moral support and sound professional advice.
BETTYE H. PRUITT