In 1909, a Nebraskan Senator proposes the 16th amendment which originated the personal income tax. This guide provides access to materials related to the “Sixteenth Amendment” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.
Chronicling America is a searchable digital collection of historic newspaper pages from 1777-1963 sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.
Included in the website is the Directory of US Newspapers in American Libraries, a searchable index to newspapers published in the United States since 1690, which helps researchers identify what titles exist for a specific place and time, and how to access them.
Death and taxes! The origin of the modern income tax began with ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment authorized Congress to institute a graduated income tax on the earnings of American workers. This power thus enabled the passage of the Revenue Act of 1913. Read more about it!
The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.
The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.
June 17, 1909
United States Senator Norris Brown of Nebraska proposed the Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
State legislatures across the U.S. begin to ratify the amendment.
February 3, 1913
Wyoming becomes the last of the three-fourths states needed to ratify the Sixteenth Amendment, which officially enables Congress to legally act on a permanent income tax.
Stockholders file a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, which argues the Sixteenth Amendment covers “many taxes other than on income.
January 24, 1916
The Supreme Court declares the income tax is constitutional by the Sixteenth Amendment.
March 8, 1920
The Supreme Court says stock dividends are “not taxable under the 1916 income tax law”.