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In July, 1771 the Massachusetts General Court passed "An Act for Enquiring into the Rateable Estates of this Province" (p. xvii). This act required each town to elect assessors, whose duty it was to prepare a "valuation or State 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 or 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 all 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 tax.

The valuation made and submitted to the province treasurer in 1771 have been preserved in the Massachusetts Archives, volumes 132, 133 and 134. Half of 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 was 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 a 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, both 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, who had contributed both moral support and sound professional advice.


August, 1978


(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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Although valuation lists were made every year, only about every 7 years would a detailed list, as this one in 1771, be made. The printed forms named 27 types of taxable property, including all types of buildings, trade and money resources, farm animals, and land that had been built upon or fixed up. They also counted all male polls (persons) 16 years and older. The purpose of this list was to gather the information needed to divide the taxes equally among the towns.


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"Massachusetts Tax Valuation list of 1771"

publisher   G. K. Hall
author   Bettye Hobbs Pruitt
date   1978
location   Boston, Massachusetts
height   14.0"
width   10.0"
process/materials   printed paper, ink
item type   Legal Documents/Government/Society Records
accession #   #L99.095

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See Also...

Deerfield Town Meeting

Deerfield Town Meeting

Deerfield Town Warrant

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