What 11 Common Objects Would Cost in 2015 if Colonial Taxation Still Existed

It’s safe to say the American colonists were pretty upset about the taxes and tariffs imposed on imported goods in the 1760s and 1770s—upset enough to start a war. But at rates like ten shillings or a couple of pounds, the tariffs hardly sound oppressive to modern ears. That is, until you do the math to modernize the prices. Here is just how much 11 everyday items would cost if they were taxed today at the same levels they were in colonial America.

1. An Issue of mental_floss Magazine; $293.56 in taxes

Paper was among the most heavily taxed goods under the Stamp Act of 1765. For a pamphlet or newspaper larger than one whole sheet, the Stamp Act imposed a duty of one shilling per page and two shillings for every advertisement. That means a 35-page (printed on both sides) issue of a magazine with 10 advertisements would cost £186.98 today, or $293.56—on top of the newsstand price.

2. A Diploma; $234.84 in taxes

Nearly $300 for a magazine seems like a bargain considering colonists had to pay the equivalent of $234.84 for a single sheet of diploma paper under the Stamp Act. Any piece of paper, skin, piece of vellum, or parchment used for a certificate of degree taken at a university or academy incurred a stamp duty of two pounds (valued £149.58, or $234.84 today).

3. A Pair of Dice; $58.72 in taxes

Under the Stamp Act, a tariff of ten shillings was added to every pair of dice sold. In today’s economy, that would leave you paying over $58 for a pair of dice. Even more harrowing, the penalty for being caught selling an illegal pair of dice (and therein bypassing the tariff) would cost you ten pounds per die—or 20 for the pair. This penalty is equivalent to over $2300 today.

4. A Deck of Cards; $5.87 in taxes

Each deck of playing cards sold in the colonies was charged an extra shilling (or $5.87 today) under the Stamp Act. While that might not seem like much compared to the exorbitant duties on dice and paper, things are put into perspective when you consider that you can buy a deck of cards today for well under $5.00—that makes the duty in excess of 100 percent of the cards’ value. Also, much like dice, the penalty for selling counterfeit cards was 20 pounds (thousands of dollars).

5. A Calendar; $1.96 in taxes

A stamp duty of four pence (or $1.96—which now seems like a bargain!) was added to one-year calendars and almanacs printed in the colonies.

6. A Pound of Tea; $1.46

Under the Townshend Acts, a duty of three pence (approximately $1.46 today) was added to every pound of tea sold in the colonies. A common misconception is that the colonists protested the tax on tea because it was too high, when if fact, the Boston Tea Party was in response to cheap, rather than expensive, tea. In order to bail out the failing East India Company, England granted the company a monopoly on the sale of tea in the colonies and set a low tax on tea in order to undercut tea smuggling to the colonies. The colonists were angered by Britain’s attempt to restrict their trade as well as impose taxes (of any sort) against their will.

7. Foreign Coffee; $350.80 in taxes

The Sugar Act of 1764 imposed a duty of 2 pounds, 19 shillings, and 9 pence on every hundredweight of foreign coffee sold in the colonies. This is even more egregious when you consider that the tariff on British coffee was a mere 7 shillings ($41.10) per hundredweight. Foreign coffee was more than eight times more expensive than British coffee, nearly ensuring the British a monopoly on colonial coffee sales.

8. Foreign White Sugar; $129.16 in taxes

A hundredweight of foreign white sugar incurred an outrageous duty of 1 pound, 2 shillings—or nearly $130—under the Sugar Act.

9. Wine from Spain or Portugal; $58.72 in taxes

A ton of wine imported from Spain or Portugal was subject to a duty of 10 shillings (approximately $58.72 today). Not so bad, right? The crazy thing about this tariff is just how bonkers it makes the duty on wine imported from other places seem. Take, for instance…

10. Wine from Madeira; $821.94 in taxes

According to the Sugar Act, on “every ton of wine of the growth of the Madeiras, or of any other island or place from whence such wine may be lawfully imported” was placed a tariff of seven pounds. That’s 14 times more than wine from continental Europe!

11. License to Sell Wine; $469.68 in taxes

Under the Stamp Act, the paper on which you printed your license to sell wine—but, significantly, not wine and spirits—was stuck with a stamp duty of 4 pounds (or $469.68 dollars today). Much like the tariff on wine itself, the absurdity of this duty comes into focus when you compare it with other kinds of liquor licenses. The paper on which you printed your license to sell spirits—but not wine—had a duty of only one pound ($117.42). And the paper on which you printed your license to sell both wine and spirits had a duty of 4 pounds—the same as the duty on your license to sell wine alone. These tariffs seem to indicate that the Crown wanted to drive the sale of liquor (which was more often English-made) over wine (which was more often foreign-made).

Where Exactly Is Anne Boleyn's Body?

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Anne Boleyn had a pretty rough 1536. First, a pregnant Anne discovered her husband was having an affair with Jane Seymour, one of her ladies in waiting. Some believe the shock and betrayal caused Anne to suffer a miscarriage in early February—and at least one report says it was the boy Henry VIII so desperately wanted. The birth of a healthy baby boy probably would have saved Anne’s life, but since she was unable to produce a male heir to the throne, her husband decided to simply replace her. Anne found herself imprisoned in the Tower of London on May 2, accused of adultery, incest, and high treason. Her marriage was annulled on May 17, and she was relieved of her head on May 19.

To add insult to all of this injury, no one bothered to give Anne a proper burial. Though the execution itself was meticulously planned, it hadn't occurred to anyone that there was no coffin until after Anne’s head rolled. After rummaging around the grounds, someone eventually scrounged up an old arrow chest to cram the corpse into.

She and her brother were then buried in an unmarked grave in front of the altar at St. Peter’s ad Vincula, within the Tower of London, and then completely forgotten about for the next 300-plus years. It wasn’t until Tower repairs in 1876 that Anne resurfaced—maybe.

Bones were discovered under the altar during the renovations, and based on the circumstantial evidence of an arrow chest coffin, bones belonging to a slender woman between the ages of 25 and 35, and a decapitated head, it was assumed that the remains belonged to Anne. However, Henry VIII disposed of his fifth wife Katherine Howard in the exact same manner, and had her corpse thrown in with the pile of bodies accumulating under the altar. Still other women were decapitated and buried in the same place, including Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury; Lady Jane Grey; and Lady Rochford.

Despite the fact that five headless women were buried there at one point, only four bodies were uncovered. The remains of Katherine Howard had seemingly disappeared, perhaps due to the quicklime found in the graves. Regardless of the uncertainty, Queen Victoria had the bodies exhumed and placed in individual coffins. A plaque with the name of the person thought to be inside was affixed to each coffin, and each one was given a proper reburial underneath the altar.

Is it really Anne Boleyn who lies beneath, or did workers really find someone else, giving credence to the theory that Anne Boleyn’s relatives had her body secretly reburied elsewhere? Unless DNA testing is performed on the remains, we’ll probably never know.

Updated for 2019.

The Very Real Events That Inspired Game of Thrones's Red Wedding

Peter Graham's After the Massacre of Glencoe
Peter Graham's After the Massacre of Glencoe
Peter Graham, Google Cultural Institute, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Ask any Game of Thrones fan to cite a few of the show's most shocking moments, and the so-called "Red Wedding" from season 3's "The Rains of Castamere" episode will likely be at the top of their list. The events that unfolded during the episode shocked fans because of their brutality, but what might be even more surprising to know is that the episode was based on very real events.

Author George R.R. Martin has said that the inspiration for the matrimonial bloodbath is based on two dark events in Scottish history: the Black Dinner of 1440 and 1692's Massacre of Glencoe. “No matter how much I make up, there’s stuff in history that’s just as bad, or worse,” Martin told Entertainment Weekly in 2013. And he’s absolutely right. See for yourself.

The Massacre of Glencoe

The West Highland Way in 2005, view from the summit of the Devil's Staircase looking south over the east end of Glen Coe, towards Buachaille Etive Mòr with Creise and Meall a' Bhuiridh beyond
Colin Souza, Edited by Dave Souza, CC BY-SA 2.5, Wikimedia Commons

In 1691, all Scottish clans were called upon to renounce the deposed King of Scotland, James VII, and swear allegiance to King William of Orange (of William and Mary fame). The chief of each clan had until January 1, 1692, to provide a signed document swearing an oath to William. The Highland Clan MacDonald had two things working against them here. First of all, the Secretary of State, John Dalrymple, was a Lowlander who loathed Clan MacDonald. Secondly, Clan MacDonald had already sworn an oath to James VII and had to wait on him to send word that they were free to break that oath.

Unfortunately, it was December 28 before a messenger arrived with this all-important letter from the former king. That gave Maclain, the chief of the MacDonald clan, just three days to get the newly-signed oath to the Secretary of State.

Maclain was detained for days when he went through Inveraray, the town of the rival Clan Campbell, but still managed to deliver the oath, albeit several days late. The Secretary of State’s legal team wasn't interested in late documents. They rejected the MacDonalds's sworn allegiance to William, and set plans in place to cut the clan down, “root and branch.”

In late January or early February, 120 men under the command of Captain Robert Campbell arrived at the MacDonalds's in Glencoe, claiming to need shelter because a nearby fort was full. The MacDonalds offered their hospitality, as was custom, and the soldiers stayed there for nearly two weeks before Captain Drummond arrived with instructions to “put all to the sword under seventy.”

After playing cards with their victims and wishing them goodnight, the soldiers waited until the MacDonalds were asleep ... then murdered as many men as they could manage. In all, 38 people—some still in their beds—were killed. At least 40 women and children escaped, but fleeing into a blizzard blowing outside as their houses burned down meant that they all died of exposure.

The massacre was considered especially awful because it was “Slaughter Under Trust.” To this day, the door at Clachaig Inn in Glen Coe has a sign on the door that says "No hawkers or Campbells."

The Black Dinner

In November of 1440, the newly-appointed 6th Earl of Douglas, who was just 16, and his little brother David, were invited to join the 10-year-old King of Scotland, James II, for dinner at Edinburgh Castle. But it wasn’t the young King who had invited the Douglas brothers. The invitation had been issued by Sir William Crichton, Chancellor of Scotland, who feared that the Black Douglas (there was another clan called the Red Douglas) were growing too powerful.

As legend has it, the children were all getting along marvelously, enjoying food, entertainment and talking until the end of the dinner, when the head of a black bull was dropped on the table, symbolizing the death of the Black Douglas. The two young Douglases were dragged outside, given a mock trial, found guilty of high treason, and beheaded. It’s said that the Earl pleaded for his brother to be killed first so that the younger boy wouldn’t have to witness his older brother’s beheading.

Sir Walter Scott wrote this of the horrific event:

"Edinburgh Castle, toune and towre,
God grant thou sink for sin!
And that e'en for the black dinner
Earl Douglas gat therein."

This article has been updated for 2019.

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