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Box 138 


Philadelphia. Mayor ,1911-1916 (Rudolph Blankoiw 
burg, 1843- ) 

Equalization of asisesaiaents and new soiirces of 
revenue. An suidress delivered by Mayor Blanken- 
burg to the Buoiness nen's associations of 

Philsuielphia, on January 20 1 1913;. with statement 
by the Board of revision of taxes in criticism or 
in denial of a few of the ohorges, and the Mayor *i 
answer thereto* ^Philadelphia, 1913j 
o over- title, 32 p* dlagr. 23 cm. 


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MAIN ENTRYi B.l.^nk^.r)ib.u.r94...RM.doJpJi. 

Equalization of assessments and new SQurces of 

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■ v'f' 

■' ' ■ ■. >- - , ■ ' , 

wmi by Hie Board of Revision of Taxes in Criticism 
r In Denial of a few of the Citarges, md die 


• ■ .' l'. 








Id the Ball Room of the Bellevue-Stralf ord Hotel 

January twenty. Nineteen hundied and diifteen 

Mr. E. J. Berlet acted as Chairman of the meeting. 

Mr. Blankenburg. 

Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen: — This meeting was not 
suggested by me, it came to me as a suggestion, and when 
asked whether I would address an assemblage of officers 

and members of the many and varied Business Men's As- 
sociations in Philadelphia, I accepted with a great deal of 
pleasure. We have more than a hundred Business Men's 
Associations, all of them, as far as I know, and as far as 
is known to the original associations, composed of citizens 
who are deeply interested in the welfare of their City 
and the well-being of their fellow citizens. Let me say 
to you that there is no body of men in any community 
that can exert a greater and better influence for the 
public good than the business men, if they will. They 
have proved it on a number of occasions and they can 
and will again show their power for good whenever the 

occasion arises. 

It seems strange, in this enlightened age, that it should 

be necessary to go before the people and recommend and 
urge upon them an efficient, good, honest business ad- 
ministration. It is as much the interest of one citizen 
as it is that of another to encourage an administration 
that will be of the greatest benefit to the greatest num- 
ber. Unfortunately, in years past, many of us have 
neglected our duty and have under-estimated our power, 
and that is the reason why, instead of - business, politics 
have held sway and have ruled our municipality to our 
great loss and detriment. Not only ours, but municipal- 

.Ji;. ..'iitHMWi^ 

ities all over the land have suffered, and are suffering, 
from tlie same causes. 

It should be nobody's eoneem what my national polities 
are when it comes to municipal administration. I am 

as good a partisan as the next man while partisanship 
keeps on the straight path, but above everything 
else, first, last and all the time, I am an American. We 
have forgotten, to a great degree, that we should be 
Americans before we are partisans, and through this 
neglect, designing men who care little for the general 
weal, but do care for and foster their own interests, have 
assumed the reins of government and have placed us in 
very unenviable light before tlie country. A man may 
be a politician and be honest, but if he uses his partisan 
prejudice as a power to further unsavory purposes and 
his own selfish ends, the sooner we get rid of him the 
better it will be for the community. 

We had quite a revolution a year ago last November. 
Your humble servant, by sheer luck, I suppose, happened 
to win. They didn't know Iioav strong the popular re- 
sentment was, and thoy didn't count upon the large ma- 
jority that would bo o'iven to the Reform candidates. Why 
was I elected Mayor, and Mr. Ryan City Solicitor? 

Not many years ago we had an election for District At- 
torney, Mr. Bothermel being the Independent candidate ; 
John Weaver was his opponent. Mr. Bothermel was 
persona non ^rata*' with the then Organization because 
he had been faithful to his official oath in the prosecution 
of a certain politician who was accused of grave crimes. 
Such faithfulness was a crime in the eyes of the organiza- 
tion, intensified by his nomination on an Independent 
ticket. I shall never forget the outpouring of the peo- 
ple at the Academy of Music and the eloquent pleas made 
for the retention in office of an honest official. Mr. Both- 
ermel was defeated — not at the polls but at the counting 
of the ballots. Four years afterwards some of the very 
men who had opposed him and knew of the gross fraud, 
admitted that 70,000 fraudulent votes had been cast or 
counted. At that time 370,000 or 380,000 names appeared 
on the Assessors' list as qualified voters. They could 
place any number on the lists in those days. There were 
only about 265,000 vot^s east at the last Presidential 
election, although we have 300,000 more people in this 
City now than we had ten years ago. Draw your own 
conclusions. Is not the late election the grand result of 
an awakened public conscience? You can deceive the 
people and mislead them for years, but there is a limit 
to everything, and we have reached that limit. 


Gentlemen, shall we stand still, or ^ shall we go for- 
ward in this great movement for the redemption of our 
municipality? That is the question I want to place before 

you this evening ; that is the question which interests 
every man, woman and child in Philadelphia, and to 
bring about such results is why I am here to-night to 
address this splendid giathering of Philadelphia business 

I want to lay before you obtain facts and data. In ike 

first place, the greatest trouble that besets the Administra- 
tion is the lack of funds. We have been trying our best 
to raise the necessary revenue to carry on the ordinary 
business of the City administration. We are to-day be- 
tween three and four million dollars short of the amount 
required. I have proposed a number of sources of 
revenue, which bave been quite freely discussed in the 
newspapers. Some have been approved, other^t have been 
condemned. I constantly read in the papers letters 
written by various citizens, many of whom are lacking in 
courage to sign their names to their communications. I 
have little use for a man who fears to stand up and be 
counted. Not a critic, as yet, has been able to point out 
new sources of revenue that seem acceptable to the tax- 
payers. They all find fault with my suggestions but 
they have no remedy to offer to cure the evil. I ask you 
business men to help me and make suggestions that will 
solve this problem. 

Let me call your attention to a few new-revenue sug- 
gestions made by me. 

The personal property tax, of which a quarter goes to 
the State of Pemisylvania, should all go to the City of 
Philadelphia. No one objects to that except, perhaps, 
some of the country members of the Legislature who 
think whenever Philadelphia or Pittsburgh want legis- 
lation there must be a snake in the grass. It is hardly 
to be wondered at that they feel that way. We will give 
them proof, however, that to-day they need have no fear 
whatever of the cities trying to take advantage of the 
, country. All we ask is justice for Philadelphia, and we 
are willing to give them justice in return. 

Another source of revenue that justly ought to come | 
to Philadelphia is that derived from the mercantile tax. | 
Why should the mercantile tax go to the State when the 1 
State does not protect our merchants, does not pave, I 
clean or patrol our streets? Frankly, I do not know a I 
single legitimate reason why the mercantile tax should \ 
not go, in toto, to the City of Philadelphia, 


Let US go to Harrisburg and speak on this subject to 
the Legislators, they are reasonable and will listen. 

A tax on automobiles has been suggest(?d. Chicago 
1 collected from this one ^urce, in 1911, $550,000. We 
-^ooUeet^d practically nothing. It will not very much af- 
\f ect the owner of a $5,000 automobile or of a cheaper 
ear, to pay a reasonable tax. We take eare of, pave and 
clean the streets for him ; we give him police protection, 
and we also watch that he does not go too fast, if he does, 
and violates the law, he should be fined for the benefit 
of the City Treasury. Why should he not pay a rea- 
sonable amount of tax? 

Then there is the tax on eigars and cigarettes. Even 
cigar stores are in favor of a tax of that character, be- 
cause they claim that if such a tax is imposed, there will 
not be so much cigar and cigarette selling done by those 
who are not in the legitimate business of selling the weed. 

I suggested other sources of new revenue that almost 
got me into serious trouble. This is only an informal talk, 
and I €rpeak just as I feel and I feel just as I speak. I 
was bold enough to suggest a slight tax on manufacturers. 
Deep silence, nobody applauds! Everybody probably 
feels ^^That affects me, therefore I object." ^^If the tax 
affects my pocket, I shall oppose it. I am quite willing, 
however, to let the other fellow pay.'' 
J "We manufacture $750,000,000 Avorth of goods a year. 
I A tax of one dollar a $1,000 would enrich the Tieasury by 
1 $750,000. On a locomotive costing $15,000 it would be $15. 
I The Baldwin Locomotive Works will not turn away any 
\business on that account; in fact, it would be easy to add 
this trifle to the selling price. Take the Stetson hats. Five 
thousand three-dollar hats would pay but $15. If a man 
wants to build a house and gets an estimate of $15,000 will 
be stop because it will cost $15,015? I am not an advocate 
of taxing our industries, but we mmt have more revenue. 
We must get it somewhere, and as we are treating our 
manufacturers liberally in the assessment of real estate, 
their factories and mills, which are assessed at an average 
of only 45 per cent, of their real value, for land, and 
buildings, they should willingly help. If we cannot get 
revenue from this or other sources, we must increase the 
tax on real estate, and that will hurt them more than a 
dollar for each $1,000 of goods manufactured. 

A source of revenue which should long have been bring- 
ing larger returns is from licenses. The charge for 
licenses, of which large numbers are yearly issued, should 
be increased. Present charges date back fifty-five or sixty 
years. We could derive an amount of not less than half 


a million dollars, and, perhaps, $750,000 a year by a re- | 

vision of license and other fees. We are considering this 
question at the present time. 

Chicago derives an income of $131,000, I believe, from 
the tax on dogs. A letter appeared in thci paper the other 
day in which a lady complained bitterly that she should 
not be deprived of the pleasure of having a pet dog by im- 
posing a tax of $1.00. Another letter appeared in another 
paper, which said: *'You ought to charge those miserable 
dogs at least $100 a piece.'* I am reasonable; $1.00 a 
head would be about the right tax. In 1911 the dog tax 
collected in Philadelphia amounted to $47.50. 

Axmther sonrce of revenue is an occupation tax. It 
may be news to you, as it was to me, until I investigated 
the question, that an oeeupat^n tax is levied in nearly 
every county in the State of Pennsylvania. We have tens 
of thousands of people in Philadelphia who do not pay any 
direct tax whatever. The only tax they pay is fifty cents 
every two years for poll tax, and that tax is too often 
paid for them. If we tax the different occupations — 
physieians, dentists, lawyers, architects, clerks, salesmen, 
preachers and many others; if we charge on equitable 
amounts for various occupations a five mill tax, we could 
Q;Ollect a large sum. This would also enable us to substi-ll 
tiite an occupation tax for the much-abused poll tax, audi 
would assist in abolishing the Assessors, costing aboutl 
$100,000 a year, an absolutely superfluous body to the! 
general public, but of great use to the men who! 
have been ranning the government of the City of 
Philadelphia before the advent of the present Ad- 
ministration. A friend of mine, an attorney of some 
twelve or fifteen years' practice, said: ''I have an income 
of twelve to fifteen thousand a year and I have never paid 
a dollar tax, except a poll tax. I am anxious to help pay, 
for the maintenance of the municipality in which I live.'* 

The questions propounded and discussed so far are of 
comparatively little importance, and I bow come to the 
subject which I shall make the main point of my address 
this evening: The imposition of real estate taxes through 
assessments made under the supervision of the Board of 
Revision of Taxes. 

The most serious question confronting us to-day, so 
far as the finances of the City are concerned, is the assess- 
ment of real estate. On former occasions I have given my 
judgment of the methods and the work of the Board of 
Revision of Taxes, and I made a promise not Ion? ago 
that I would lay facts before my fellow citizens that 
would convince them that this Board is antiquated, follows 


no system, is a power uato itself and a detriment to the 
solution of financial problems in Philadelphia, and shonld 
be superseded or abolished. 

The present system of assessing property for taxation 
in the City of Philadelphia should be changed for many 

Those now charged with the duty of fixing values on 
which taxes are collected are not responsible either to the 
people direct, to the elected r^resentatives of the people, 
or even to the power that appointed them. In other 
words, they are neither elected by the people nor ap- 
pointed by the Mayor j they are a greater power even than 
the City Councils. 

This is an intolerable condition, for there is no redress 
for the people whose property they may fully tax, on the 
one hand, or greatly nndertax, on the other. They are 
beyond control by Councils or by the Chief Executive of 
the City, whose whole policy, or ability to carry out a 
policy, rests upon the financial support which, in the 
final result, must be largely determined by the amount 
equitably assessed against real estate. Neither the people 
who pay taxes nor the authority charged under the law 
with the important work of expending moneys derived 
from taxes have the slightest control over this body oi 
men who possess autocratic power to increase or hold at 
a stationary point the assessed valuation of every prop- 
erty within City limits. Do not let us forget that, while 
the present Board of Revision of Taxes owes appointment 
to the Board of Judges, the Judges come only once in ten 
years before the public for re-election. Conseqn^tly, the 
power which appoints tiie Board of Revision of Taxes is 
only at long intervals brought before the public for a 
test of condemnation or approval. 

, It would be impracticable, almost impossible, therefore, 
for the people to express their disapproval of the appoint- 
ment of the Board of Revision of Taxes at the polls be- 
cause such disapproval would have to be manifested at 
six different elections. It could be made most effective 
and telling if the question could be submitted for de- 
cision at a single election. If this might be done at a 
single election, the Board olJudges, with all due respect, 
would not appoint men suggested by politicians, but would 
advise with the Business Men's Associations of Philadel- 
phia and ask them to suggest names. Then we might 
have a Board of Bevi»on of Taxes upon which we could 
rely for business-like and reliable work. 

Judges who hold office for terms from 1913 to 1922 
ought not to have the authority to appoint a powerful 



body, responsible to no one, to assess taxes in Philadel- 
phia. An Act will be introduced in the Legislature at 
Harrisburg to abolish this system, and we want your as- 
sistance, my friends. Let all business men's organizations 
combine and help. Such an Act would bring about day- 
light in OUT present financial condition. If we had equita- 
ble assessments, there would be an increase of not less 
than $300,000,000 in taxable property, and that would 
mean $3,000,000 a year added to the revenue of the City. 
No one would be hurt, because every one would pay his 
just share of the taxes. I would like you at your next 
meeting (call a special meeting if necessary) to appoint 
committees from every business men's association. Then 
let the whole party take a special train^to Harrisburg, and 
I volunteer to go with you to help obtain thw great 

A change is necessary because the present system im- 
poses an impossible task upon an honest man, or it may 
open to a weak man a wide range of opportunities for 
questionable action. All modern systems of assessment 
include provisions for the separate assesfimient of land and 
improvements. In all recent attempts to simply revise old 
methods it has been recognized that to ask a man to value 
land and buildings together, in a city continually growing 
and adding new elements of value each year, is to ask the 
impossible even of the most expert or honest man. It 
must be recognized, also, that the relative advance in 
vidnes in one section of the City affects all sections, and 
there must therefore be, in the mind of the assessing 
power, ability to see the (Xty as a whole, rather than 
separated into individual districts or wards. 

In certain sections of Philadelphia property has long 
remained unimproved, passing, by transfer, for a nominal 
consideration, from one owner to another in the same 
family. Where two or three large parcels of land carry- 
ing these features lie together, a considerable area is left 
without record of sale during a long period of years. In 
such circumstances the assessor is generally met with a 
plain refusal on the part of the owner to put a value on 
his property, such owner even refusing to give real estate 
agents a value, resting content with merely refusing of- 
fers without naming any selling price. Here is a case in 
which it is most difficult for an assessor to estimate \he 
market value 'of the land, for there are no public sales 
to guide him and no opinions which can be relied upon 
available for his information. Nearly every section of 
imimproved land,- such as has been described, lies witliin 
a short distance, however, of an in^>roved section where 


values have been established by actual transactions, some- 
times the same property changing hands three or four 
times within a range of five years. If we followed a ra- 
tional system, this unimproved land would carry a valua- 
tion at a fixed proportion of that carried by nearby im- 
proved properties, and thus automatiealiy establish its 
assessable value, notwithstanding the refusal of the owner 
to assist the authorities in arriving at an equitable ar- 
rangement. By application of a general rule, buildings 
should be valued either on floor space or on cubic measuro- 
raeiits, values being attached to various types of buildings 
with a varying value for each type. 

Two great rivers border on land much of which is un- 
oeeupied, offering exeeptioniU facilities for harbor devel- 
opment and, coincident with harbor development, recovery 
of material from rivers which can be used for filling land 
to saleable level. In this section large bodies of property 
have been held by the same families for seA'eral genera- 
tions, and here, as in the West Philadelphia residential 
land, and, also, in land in the northeastern section of the 
City, it is often impossible to get owners to put a value 
on their property. Moreover, as it is unimproved prop- 
erty and pays no current revenue, it is difficult for an 
assessor to base his estimate of value on the percentage of 
income. Sales in these sections are of rare occurrence, 
and where made, are either for a nominal consideration 
or have, in the transaction, some special feature which 
renders the sale unavailable as a measure of surrounding 
values. And yet, wheij the City has attempted to buy 
property, or certain outside interests have made such an 
attempt, the prices offered and refused have been far in 
excess of the assessed value in the latest year of record. 

Two cases will illustrate this point. When a Congres- 
sional Committee visited Philadelphia, seeking for a site 
for an emigrant station, a certain property, recommended 
by a body of local business men thoroughly familiar with 
local values and conditions as being well adapted for the 
Government purpose and cheap at $3,000 an acre, was, 
at the time this valuation was placed upon it, carrying 
an assessment of less than $500 an acre ; indicating that 
its owner was paying taxes to the City on only one-sixth 
viduation, whereas the great bulk of small residences 
owned by our skilled labor were paying on a basis of 
100 per cent, valuation, in some cases eve'n more. 

In another case some property assessed at $300 an acre 
was held at $3,000. 

i\s illustrating the point that the present system is 
utterly fallacious; that under it there is opened the op- 


portonity for serious errors and even for wide fraud; 
seventy-two illustrations are taken from actual transac- 
tions of purchases by the City as a part of the opening of 
the Northeast Boulevard. These purchases are contrasted 
with the next preceding assessment and then compared 
with the iirice paid for the property in question. The 
record diseloses the fact that the price at which the 
property was assessed previous to purchase by the City 
ranged all the way from only six per cent, to sixty-three 
and two-thirds per cent, of the price at which sale was 
finally made. Fourteen of the seventy-two transactions 
show that the property was assessed at less than twenly 
per cent, of -the selling price; twenty-five at less than 
thirty per cent. ; nine at less than forty per cent. ; eleven 
at less than fifty per cent. ; only three properties being 
over sixty per cent. I cannot help but call this refined 
robbery, which has cost the City over a million dollars. 
This vast sum has been paid to men, some in high office 
to-day, and naturally opposed to any change in the method 
of assessing real estate. 

Now let us cover a broader area of the CSty— the North- 
east Boulevard operations being confined to the Forty-sec- 
ond Ward. Records kept of sales either to the City or 
reported in the press cover operations in twenty-seven of 
the forty-seven wards, these wards representing every 
section of the City— North PhUadelphia, South Philadei- 
phia, West Philadelphia, the center of the Cily, vacant 
property, farm property, property at the heart of the bus- 
ness center. Eighty-two separate transactions are repre- 
sented, and here the assessment ranges all the way from 
thirteen and one-third per cent, of the selling value up 
to one hundred and ten per cent., the fact being re- 
peatedly disclosed of a mortgage for a sum considerably 
m excess of the total assessment of the properly. In one 
case, I am informed by an expert on these matters, that 
ten building societies combined to take a $200,000 second 
mortgage on a central business i^roperty, such mortgage 
being entirely beyond the limit of the assessment made 
by the City for the property. 

The most remarkable illustration of the vagaries of 
assessment is furnished by the case of the Philadelphia 
Driving Park. This property shows on the assessors' 
books sixty-three acres and thirty-four perches of land, at 
fo^^^m assessment has remained unchanged since 

1907. The report of our expert states that this tract was 
sold about a year ago for $120,000. although assessed to- 
day at $39,000, the sale mentioned being $95,000 on mort- 
gage and $25,000 cash. Since sale was made $100,000 in 


improvements lias been made on the property by the 
new owners, and its value has been further enhanced by 
the extension to the properties of facilities which give 
it a full supply of City gas and City water. The report 
of expert also states that this sixty-three acres of land 
was sold ten years ago by Barnes & Lofland for $47,500, 
and yet for ten years the assessment has conlanued below 
this recorded sale price. The assessment for 1912, of 
$39,000, therefore, is thirty-two and one-halE per cent, of 
the latest selling price, as reported by our expert, and 
only seventeen per cent, of that selling price with cost of 
improvements, namely, $100,000. 

In the section of the City to the south and east of this 
driving park stretches a wide area of unimproved land. 
Some twenty-five of these properties have been investi- 
gated and their assessment found to range from $149.46 
an acre up to a maximum of $606.06 an acre, save in one 
small instance, when a special tract was sold of four 
acres, carrying a farmhouse and frame barn. Two ex- 
perts, who have examined this property, place an average 
valuation ranging between $5,000 and $10,000 an acre. 
Even accepting the lowest estimate, this great stretch of 
property, in a section where the City has been expending 
or is obligated to expend, millions of dollars in public 
improvements in the shape of League Island Park, Broad 
Street Plaza, South Broad Street Boulevard, widening of 
Delaware avenue and the creation of new docks, seems to 
be paying less than one-tenth of the tax burden carried 
by the owners of small houses throughout the City of 
Philadelphia. The property is held in large parcels, and 
in the majority of cases, by wealthy people, sometimes 
having been in one family for generations. Circumstances 
surrounding its physical condition and its ownership 
make it difficult for outside or small operators to secure 
portions of the property in question, and by purchase 
establish a range of value approximating its real value. 
In cases of this kind, therefore, a general rule applying 
to the whole City would arbitarily fix a valuation equit- 
able alike to owners and to other taxpaymg citizens oi 
the City. 

In West Philadelphia there are numerous instances 
where the assessed valuation of property is quite different 
from that suggested by assessment of neighboring prop- 
erty or sale price of properties in the vicinity. Complaint 
having been made to the office regarding the over-assess- 
ment of a certain property, investigation disclosed the 
fact that a property on one side of the street was assessed 
for $4,800, while two properties opposite, containing tour 


times the area and four times the street frontage, had 
a combined assessment of $5,600, or both only $800 more 
than the house opposite. 

Perhaps the most serious indictment of the present 
system of assessing is found in the circumstance that the 
assessments seem to be based on no rule or settled practice. 

Another feature is that exempt property will frequently 
remain without change in value for many years, while 
other exempt property will suddenly start to advance, 
continue this advance for several years, culnunating in 
some project to sell this heretofore exempt property to 
the City at a high price. In one important residential 
section a comer property, carrying a home, has remained 
unchanged in its assessment for nine years, while prop- 
erty in the same block has increased one hundred and fifty 
per cent. On one-half of a lot adjoining this corner prop- 
erty, with its unchanging assessment, assessed at $2,300, 
there was erected, during the past six months, a $7,000 
building. The 1913 assessment for this property shows 
an addition of only $3,700, although $7,000 of new invest- 
ment has been made upon it, and the erection of this 
handsome building has certainly added to the unimproved 
half of the property. 

In another instance a large cemetery, in 1907, was 
assessed for $100,000 on the exempt list. Later it was 
decided to open a street through part of this cemetery 
and the City paid over $60,000 damages. Then an eighth 
of its total area was marked off and assessed at $50,000, 
to be combined with two small properties and offered to 
the City as a park at a large advance. After it had lost 
one-eighth of its area and the company had already re- 
ceived 60 per cent, of its present assessment in eai^, for 
a narrow sferip used as a street, the remaining portion 
was assessed at $200,000, making a total in assessment 
of $250,000 for a property assessed five years ago at 
$100,000. In the interim the City had paid the owners 
over $60,000 in money damages for a small strip. In 
this instance, over $200,000 has been added to the assess- 
ment of a $100,000 property, and yet, in the immediate 
neighborhood many properties can be found that have 
been left unchanged in assessment during the whole 
period. It would not be surprising if the remaining 
section of this cemetery, at its largely enhanced assess- 
ment, should be offered to the City at a price perhaps 
double its present assessment, or five times its assess- 
ment five years ago. 

Another property later offered to the City for park 
purposes— in fact sold to the City for park purposes — 


was assessed at $1,000 per acre in 1907; $1,500 in 1912; 
sold to the City at over $4,100 per acre. In a different 
section, another piece of property increased from $1,000 
to $5,000 an acre in tiie five years preceding its purchase 
by the City. Yet, in both cases, property in the ^itar 
mediate vicinity remained unchanged in its valuation. 

In still another section of the City a property which 
ultimately came into the possession of the City as a park, 
was assessed at $1,000 per acre in 1907 ; $1,500 in 1912 ; 
increased in 1912, when it was proposed to sell to the 
City, to $175,000. The award of the jury for this prop- 
erty was $151,360, or less than the assessment of 1912. 
Tlie jury could not concur in all of such bare-faced rob- 

The following examples are illustrations of the in- 
justice of present assessments. They are reported to 
me by men who are personally interested in the prop- 
erties referred to. 

One property, occupied for biudness purposes on one 
of our leading streets, was assecaed for $115,000. The 
owner appealed to the Board of Revision for a reduction 
from this assessment, at the same time that he was re- 
fusing an otfer of $170,000 for his property. 

A valuable business property in a rapidly developing 
section is assessed for $100,000, The owner, at the time 
assessment was made, was known to have refused 
$150,000 for the property in question. 

One of the largest buildings recently erected in the 
City, I am informed, carried with it option to purchase 
for $1,500,000. I am further informed that $100,000 had 
been bid for this option to purchase at $1,500,000. In 
face of this apparent market value of $1,600,000 the 
building is assessed for only $1,000,000. 

Coming to the center of the City, an illustration is 
found under the shadow of City Hall. Business property, 
for years occupied as a stable, later as a garage, long 
prevented the erection of a handsome building which 
would have paid large tributes to the City in the form 
I of taxes. This property is situated opposite the City's 
I own investment of nearly $25,000,000 in a public build- 
I ing. It owes a large part of its value to this investment 
by the City and certainly should have been expected to 
1 contribute 'to the City's support. This property recently 
sold for $850,000, although only assessed for $650,000, in- 
dicating that the property has only been assessed for 
75 per cent, of its value — this under-assessment robbing 
the City of over $3,000 a year income. 

Passing now to the central noarthem section, on Old 


York road, in one of the most rapidly developing sec- 
tions, property was sold for $90,000 "for improvement, 
its assessment being $47,300. This property was sur- 
rounded by improved properties and its value easily 
aseertainable, and yet the CSty*s borrowing capacity and 
the City's income were limited for years because this 
property was not assessed at more than 52.5 per cent, of 
the selling value. Owners of this property have refused 
to improve it or allow others to improve it, and their 
immense profit is due solely to the work of other people 
whose money and capital developed the section, iuid to 
the culpable negligence of the assessing powers. 

On Thursday morning, January 16, the Public Ledger 
bears record of sale of property at 634 Market street, 
southeast corner of Seventh and Market, lot 20 feet 4 
inches by 95 feet in depth ; sale being made by the Penn- 
sylvania Company to David C. Folwell for $135^00. A 
transfer is made by D. C. Folwell to the Finance Com- 
pany of Pennsylvania for a nominal eonsideratioa, sub- 
ject to a mortgage of $120,000, the assessed valuation of 
this property is given as $100,000. 

An unanswerable objection to the present system of 
assessed valuation of property, for taxation, rests on the 
power which it bestows to withhold from the City 
Treasury, by under-valuation, large sums of money, and, 
on the other hand, to take from the City Treasury vast 
amounts by insensate and inexcusable advances in assess- 
ments when the City is the purchaser. Many such in- 
stances might be cited. It is difficult to analyze motives, 
but many transactions open the door to very unpleasant 
interpretation. For example : In one ease property was 
systematically advanced in assessment for several years 
and then sold to the City at an exorbitant price. A 
• peculiar feature of the transaction was that after one 
of the advances tiie property was reduced from City to 
suburban rate. This reduction lends color to the sus- 
picion that it was the desire of somebody to make the 
burden on the owner of this property as low as pos- 
sible until such time as he was able to unload the prop- 
erty on the City at a high price. Any system which makes 
it possible for an appointive official, such as an assessor, 
who holds ofllce from another appointive body (both 
not in any way responsible to anybody), to exercise un- 
restrained power of taxation, should be abolished. 

Another point should not be overlooked, it is an im- 
portant one. In every State and in the national Govern- 
ment, from the earliest day, the right of the taxpayer 
is upheld to have the imposition of taxes placed in the 


hands of officials who come before him for public ap- 
proval or disapproval from time to time. Under the 

present system there is absolutely no public control of 
the assessment, and as this control has been surrendered, 
the old right of the people to have a voice in the fixing 
of their tax burdens has been taken from them. 

The Board of Judges who appoint the Board of Re- 
vision of Taxes oame before the people for election at 
various times, on the expiration of their ten y«ars* term, 
never as a whole body. Their terms expire as follows: 
one in 1913, one in 1914, two in 1915, two in 1917, six 
in 1918, three in 1922. It would be impracticable, almost 
impossible, therefore, for the people to express their 
disapproval of the selection of the Board of Revision of 
Taxes at the polls, because such disapproval would have 
to be manifested at six elections. It could be made most 
effective and telling if the question could be submitted 
for a decision at one single election. 

The whole method is a violation of every principle on 
which Republican government is founded, and I am 
confident that when it is clearly understood by the peo- 
ple of Philadelphia they will feel that indignation against 
the system, irrespective of those who carry it out at the 
present day, which actuates me in my earnest but honest 
criticism upon the existing order, and my demand for a 
new system in hamony with the principles of our gov- 

Here are a few examples o£ gross under- valuation of 
real estate, taken at random from wards in all parts of 
the City. All figures, representing the most recent as- 
sessments, are for the year 1912. The figures for 1913 
have not been available in preparation for this evening's 
statement. What changes they may show as a result 
of recent criticisms of the work of the Board of Revision 
of Taxes, I do not know. 

Assessed Price 

Ward. Location. Value. Paid. 

9. Southeast corner of Thirteenth and 

Cuthbert streets $40,000 $58,000 

8. 1315 Sansom street 15,000 30,000 

43. Nurseries : Old York Road above Wyom- 
ing avenue 47,300 90,000 

9, 1420-28 South Penn Square 600,000 850,000 

10. Northwest corner of Thirteentli and 

(Jherry streets 40,000 136,000 

15. Sontibiwest comer of S«rrrateentk and 

Wood streets 15.000 48.500 

1. Southeast comer of Sixth and Mountain 

streets 7,000 10.000 

15. 1901 Vinei street 8,600 25,000 

15. 1903 Vine street 8,500 20,000 


Wftrd T^iiHAn Assessed Price 

15. 1905 Vine street 8,400 20,000 

15. 1907 Vine street 8,700 30,000 

15. 300 North Nineteenth street (Nineteenth 

and Pearl streets) 3,900 6,000 

15. 302 North Nineteenth street 3,800 5,700 

15. 304-306 North Nineteenth street 7,400 11,500 

15. 1906 Wood street 2,100 3,750 

15. 1918 Wood street 2,000 3,500 

15. 1922 Wood street $3,100 $6,000 

43. West side of Ninth street and Lindley 

avenue 850 2,250 

40. Northwest side of Woodland avenne, 

240.5% feet southwest of Cobbs 

Creeic Parkway; 161.2% feet on 

Woodland avenue to centre line of 

Cobbs Creek, irregrular in depth. . . . 10,000 30,000 

14. North side of Sprino- Garden street, 313 

feet west of Thirteenth street 18,000 25,000 

39. East side of Broad street, 74 feet south 

of Ritner street 8,500 14,500 

46. East side of Fifty-seventh street, 80 

feet north of Pine street 3,000 5,250 

40. North side of Ux^land street and the 

east side of Cobbs Creek Parkway. 18,000 120,000 
46. South side of Washington avenue and 

fhe east side of Elfty-seventh street 

and the nortiliwest side of Baltimore 

avenue 15,000 42,500 

8. 1418 Walnut street 128,000 250,000 

37. 2529-49 North Broad street 16,000 70,000 

21. Northwest corner Magdalena street and 

Monastery avenne 15,000 40,0Q0 

21. Northeast corner of Reading Railway 

and Eidge avenue 600 6,000 

5. £kkst side of Seventh street, 47.9 feet 

south of Delancey street 2,300 4,500 

40. Southeast side of Forty-seventh street 

and north side of Paschall avenue. 6,500 15,000 
34« North side of Summer street, 139 feet 

east of Fifty-seventh street 1,000 4,800 

15. 1703 Spring Garden street 10,000 14,000 

Now let US turn to another side, when it is the City's 
turn to pay for property wanted for its own purposes and 
placed upon the City plan. The action of the Board of 
Revision of Taxes in these cases certainly needs an ex- 
planation that will explain, or a serious charge of favor- 
itism to the owners of the properties affected, at the ex- 
pense of and serious loss to the City, will remain. 

In November, 1911, an ordinance was passed by Coun- 
cils and signed by my predecessor, placing upon the City 
plan properties embracing the -west side of Sixteenth 
street, from 108 North Sixteenth street to Cherry street, 
and almost all of the south side of Cherry street, west 
to Seventeenth street. The acquisition of these proper- 


ties was for the benefit of the American Philosophical 
Society. The fine structure contemplated by this Society 
would certainly be an ornament to the Parkway. 

Immediately after the plaeing of this plot of ground 
on the City plan a most remarkable advance in the as- 
sessed value of properties affected was made by the Board 
of Revision of Taxes. Why were these properties ad- 
vanced overnight, so to say, in value from thirty-three 
and one-third to three hundred per cent? Was it be- 
cause the City was to be the purchaser — ^the patient, long- 
suffering municipality, so long used to pay exorbitant and 
unreasonable prices t 

Compare these figures: 

(19U asMssment before, ldl2 after being placed on City plan.) 

Location. 1911, 1M2. 

108 Xorth Sixteenth street $6,000 $10,000 

110 North Sixteenth street 5,000 7,500 

112 North Sixteenth street 5.000 ^ 7,500 

114 North Sixteenth street 6,000 9,000 

116 North Sixteenth street 3,500 11,000 

118 North Sixteenth street 4,500 8,000 

120 North Sixteenth street 5,500 8,000 

122 North Sisteeivth street 5,500 8,000 

124 North Sixteenth street 3,000 6,500 

126 North Sixteenth street 3,000 6,500 

128-30 North Sixteenth street 10,000 21,000 

1606 Cherry street 6»000 8,000 

1608 Cherry street 6,000 8,000 

1610 Cherry street 6,000 8,000 

1612 Cherry street 5,000 7,000 

1614 CherrV street 9.000 12,000 

1616 Cherry street 5,500 7,500 

1618 Cherry street 6,000 8,000 

1620 Cherry street 4,700 7,500 

1622 Cherry street 5,000 8,500 

1624 Cherry street 5,500 8,500 

1626 Cherry street 5,500 8,500 

1628 Cherry street 4,700 8,000 

1630 Cherry street 5,500 8,500 

1632 CherrV street 4.500 7,500 

1634 CherrV street 5,000 8,000 

1636 CherrV street 6,000 9,000 

1638 Cherry street 8,000 10,000 

A remarkable contrast to this swollen assessment is 
the fact that properties on Cherry street, from Sixteenth 
street east to Fifteenth street, nearer to central Broad 
street and more desirable for business purposes, remained 
absolutely nnehaiiged from 1911 to 1912. For instance : 

Location. 1911. 1912. 

1506-08 Cherry street $3,500 $3,500 

1510 Cherry street 2,300 2,300 

1512 Cherry street 2,700 2,700 

Aiid so on up to No. 1540. 


The same contrast is shown in the assessments on Fif- 
teenth street, a square nearer to Broad street, there being 
no advance from 1911 to 1912 in assessed values. That 
property nearer to the center of the City should remain 
stationary in assessment at the very time when that 
farther away jumps from thirty-three and one-third per 
cent, to three hundred per cent, in valuation is a mystery 
I cannot solve. 

This short statement, which can be multiplied many 
times, should open the eyes to the necessity for a radical 
change in the real estate assessing of Philadelphia. For, 
in 1913, the Board of Revision of Taxes, ignoring the 
average increase for five years, whi^h was $56,620,000, in- 
creased the assessments by only $22,531,000. I wonder 
why this was done. Do you know? Can you guess? 

Much has been said by our opponents about the claim 
of savings made by the Administration not being based 
upon fact. Indeed, I am told that one gentleman is pre- 
paring a statement showing that the expenses are higher 
and the waste is even greater thsxi under the previous ad- 
ministration. I am looking for that man, and I am wait- 
ing for such statement. If he won't be sorry if he ever 
writes it I miss my guess. A great many things have 
been investigated under the present Administration that 
have not yet seen the light of day. 

One increase in expenses that has been charged against 
me and criticized almost from the day I assumed office — 
the increase in the sidary of the Secretary to the Mayor. 
I could employ a secretary at $1,000. He would be worth 
$1,000 a year and not a cent more. I could pay $2,000 
or $3,000 and never get the right and efficient service that 
is indispensable in this position. But the Mayor of Phil- 
adelphia needs more than a secretary-clerk; he needs a 
right hand, a right arm, a man of integrity, activity, 
brains and experience, and such a man earns every doll»'* 
of his salary. In spite of the increase of $3,000, the total 
salary increase of the Mayor's oflSce amounts, through the 
aboltion of one position, to only $1,338. The total expenses 
during the Mayor's first year in office, on the other hand, 
including automobiles and official entertaining, are less by 
more than $25,000 in 1912 than in 1911. 

We have been buying properties on the Parkway at ten 
per cent, advance over the assessed value — in all 165 prop- 
erties — «ind the people who sold them to the City were 
quite satisfied. A stop has been put upon the inexcusable 
prices formerly taken from the City Treasury. 

The Director of Public Works has done remarkable 
work. The City pays, at the present time, $1,000 less 


in wages each working day in the year than it did in 
1911, and it gets much more efficient service. This means 
an annual saving of $312,000 of the taxpayers' money. 
You will hear additional good news a little later. 
We lure doing things. 

All grade crossings will be abolished in the near future. 

The question of the subway has earnest consideration and 
investigation. New docks and wharves would by this 
time be advanced largely if Ave had the money. It takes 
two to make a bargain, and when you deal with corpora- 
tions it is natural that negotiations should take time. 

Let me refer fathers and mothers to the work of Dr. 
Neff and the boby-saving show. By it the lives of three 
hundred or four hundred dear babies were saved last 
year. Dr. Neff is devoted to and in love with his work, 
and is doing excellent service. 

Look at the police to-day. They are much more polite, 
efficient and eager to do their duty than they have ever 
been. They are out of politics, they no longer piay assess- 
ments. They are American citizens; formerly they were 
Organization slaves. 

I do not want to touch upon the question of gas to- 
night. Mark, though, where there is a will there is a way- 
The one way to do a thing is to do it. The consumers of 
gas are entitled to enjoy cost price; the City ought not 
to have that revenue. A friend of mine suggested : ' ' Sup- 
•poBe we reverse the case, »id that to-day the City should 
suddenly say (after we had enjoyed eighty cent gas for 
years) : *We shall hereafter impose a tax of twenty 
cents a thousand cubic feet upon the consumers of gas.* 
There would be mass meetings all over the City. The 
Academy of Music and the Metropolitan Opera House 
would not hold the protesting crowds. It would be a 
repetition of the gas steal protest of 1905," 

In conclusion, I am glad to say that the atmosphere 
around the City Hall has changed materially. There is 
very little idling now. All are working from nine in 
the morning until five in the evening. Formerly, office 
hours were from nine in the morning until any odd hour 
that suited. There is a different spirit, a new spirit, 
in Philadelphia. Let us take advantage of this new 
"spirit," realize that we have been slumbering too long, 
that we can and must do* things in harmony witb the 
awakened thought of the twentieth century. 

Gentlemen, the Legislature of Pennsylvania met in reg- 
ular session at nine o'clock this evening. We have pre- 
pared and are preparing a number of laws that will bene- 
fit the City of Philadelphia without in the least affecting 


or injuring the State at large. These proposed laws deal, 

as I have said before, with revenues now going to the 
State that should go to the City. The City should have 
greater power to govern itself than it has to-day. It is 
not reasonable that for every privilege or improvement 
we want we skoicdd be compelled to go to Harrisburg and 
beg the Legislature to help us. We can go, plead and 
demand it as our right. Just as we secured new legisla- 
tion in 1905, that gave us the registration law and gave 
us other reforms, we can now go to Harrisburg and ask 
for other reforms. I believe you, my friends, the busi- 
ness men of Philadelphia, will help the Administration 
for the Administration's sake and for your own sake. 

One word of warning : A clique of men, formerly in 
power, who have ascertained that bumness men's associa- 
tions can exert great influence, are quiety at work organ- 
izing business men's associations of their own, whom they 
propose to use for their own benefit; business men's asso- 
ciations, so called, intended, however, to be nothing but 
political associations. Disdain any affiliation with politi- 
cal associations of this character, stand as men who love 
your families and children, your wives, fathers and 
mothers, and work for a glorious future of your City. 

I am proud to say that to-day, all through the country, 
the City of Philadelphia is not looked down upon, but 
is looked up to, because we are doing that which every 
municipality in our broad land should aim for. Give me 
good municipal government, regardless of partisan asso- 
ciation, and I will give yon good State and National Gov- 

Let us stand together, gentlemen, in this great project, 
and Philadelphia, the City of Independence, that liberated 
us from a foreign yoke, will liberate itself and every 
municipality over our broad land from a domestic yoke, 
a partisan political yoke, as oppressive and dangerous as 
any foreign yoke ever was. 

With these words, I close my remarks. I thank you 
most heartily for your attention and for your attendance, 
and, as you go home, take with you two words, "My 
City. ' ' Love your City as you love your wife, your child, 
your father, your mother. Go to bed thinking of "My 
City. ' ' Arise thinking of " My City, ' ' and the future of 
Philadelphia will be assured. 



My criticism of the Board of Revision of Taxes having ' 
aroused that body, and drawn from its members a reply 
to a few of the many charges made in my speech, and 
desiring to be just to the gentlemen composing the Board, 
I give, herewith, their statement in full, together with 
the facts on the points in dispute. Each disavowed charge 
has placed opposite the paragraph containing the oharge 
an initial letter which will be found repeated opposite 
the answer of the Board of Revision to this charge, as 
well as opposite my explanation of their answer, with 
proof sustaining my original charge. By following the 
initial from page to page, any particular charge and 
answer can be fully comprehended. 

Accompanying these documents is a map, specially pre- 
pared to illustrate the remarkable action of the Board 
of Revision in arbitararily advancing certain properties 
on Sixteenth street asad on Cherry street, while allowing 
neighboring properties to remain unchanged, the prop- 
erty advanced in such an extraordinary manner being a 
property which the City was known to require to com- 
plete an arrangement with the Philosophical Society, 
in the matter of Parkway construction. On this map 
the areas where no change in assessment occurred in 
the years 1911 or 1912 show one set of figures in black, 
the startling advances in the property required by the 
City being shown in red; the black figures being for 
1911, the red for 1912. 


* ' I don 't know where the Mayor gets his information, ' ' 
said Mr. Gratz, when he was a&ked to eommeat upon the 
statements of the Mayor. 

recall the most flagrant instance where be is in 
error. This is the case of the Philadelphia Driving Park, 
at Point Breeze. He says that this property is assessed 
at $39,000. As a matter of fact, it is assessed at $95,000. 
That is just one case.*' 



"In corroboration of the statement made by the Board 
of Revision that the Mayor's speech at the Bellevue- 

Stratford last Monday evening contained many inac- 
curacies and much that is misleading, the following facts 


in relation to a few properties specifically mentioned by 
the Mayor are submitted to the public. 

"Southeast comer Thirteenth and Cuthbert streets. Q 
Since the 1912 assessment was made, work began on the 
construction of the Vendig Hotel at the northwest corner 
of Thirteenth and Filbert streets. TOs had the effect 

of booming all values in the immediate neighborhood, 
and as a result the assessment was increased for the cur- 
rent year to $55,000. 

"Northwest corner Thirteenth and Cherry streets. — Q 
The records do not show that this property has been sold. 
The Buck estate also denies it has been sold. The IMayor's 
expert evidentiy obtained this information from a rumor 
printed in one of the morning papers. This property is 
assessed for $80,000 for 1913. 

"1420-26 South Penn Square. — ^The deed conveying the B 
Standard Cab stables, 1420-26 South Penn Square, re- 
cites a consideration of $800,000, not $850,000, as the 
Mayor's informant has it. The assessed value for 1913, 

based on this transaction, has resulted in an increase of 
the assessment from $600,000 to $750,000. 

"1703 Spring Garden street. — ^The records show that £ 

on May 7, 1910, this property was sold for $7,800. Sub- 
sequently a mortgage of $8,000 was placed upon it, and 
June 21, 1911, it was conveyed for $9,500. November 22, 
1912, this property was conveyed for $4,000, subject to 
a $10,000 mortgage. The assessors have totally disre- 
garded this last sale in fixing the assessment, as they 
consider it mflated. There have been no increases in that 
neighborliood in recent years, which is shown by the sale 
of 1731 Spring Garden street, a much handsomer resi- 
dence, in May, 1912, for $11,000. This lot is 30 by 170 
feet, to Brandywine street, while 1703 is only 95 feet, 
without any rear frontage. 

"1901-03-05-07 Vine street, 300, 302, 304, 306 North 
Nineteenth street, and 1906, 1918, 1922, Wood street 
were acquired by the City for the Free Library site, and 
if excessive prices were paid it is the fault of the City 
and not the Board of Revision. 

"Northwest corner Magdalena street and INIonastery p 
avenue. — ^This property, known as the Indian Rock Ho- 
tel, does not appear to have been sold for $40,000. The 
owner may have held it at that sum. On the first Mon- 
day of December, 1912, it was sold at Sheriff's sale for 
$15,300. The purchaser neglected to comply with the 


terms of the sale, and as a result it will again be offered 
by the Sheriff at the next sale in February. 

G "Northeast eomer Reading Railway and Ridge ave- 
nue, Twenty-first Ward.— This is an irregular lot, which 
the City requires for a proposed improvement. The 
owners have placed a prohibitive value of $6,000 on it, 
although every one conversant with eonditions in that 
neighborhood admits that its actual value, by reason of 
its not having any outiet, is not much more than its 
assessed value. 

H "1418 Walnut street.— Sine€ the $128^ assessment 
was placed on this property, work began on the con- 
struction of the Eitz-Carlton Hotel, the Stock Exchange 
and the Manufacturers' Club. This has had the effect 
of greatly booming values in this locality, and as a re- 
sult prices have jumped since last year. The 1912 assess- 
ment of $128,000 has been increased to $175,000 as an 
unimproved lot, the building that stood there having been 

"Nearly all the other properties mentioned in the 
speech were purchased by the City after hearings by 
road juries, who very frequently placed values on prop- 
erties far beyond their actual value, probably actuated 
by the fact that when the City needs a particular parcel 
of real estate it should pay the extreme price for it. 

I "In connection with the northwest corner of Sixteenth 
and Cherry streets assessments, the books show that the 
entire section, whether on the Parkway lines, or the land 
required for the American Philosophical Society, or on 
properties opposite, has undergone, since 1911, a general 
increase in values, as is shown by the following list, and 
none of these properties will be affected in any way by 
the improvements contemplated by the City." 

Aasessment, Assessment, 

ins. 1912. 

1523 Cherry street $3,300 $4,300 

1525 Cherry street 3,300 4,300 

1527 Cherry street 3,300 4,300 

1531 Cherry street 3,500 4,500 

1506 Cherry street 3,500 6,000 

1510 Cherry street 2,300 3,000 

1526 Cherry street 4,000 6,000 

1528 Cherry street 4,300 6,300 

1530 Cherry street 4,300 6,300 

1534 (Jherry street 3,300 5,000 

117 North Sixteenth street 10,000 ' 13,000 

119 North Sixteenth street 9,500 12,000 

121 North Sixteenth street 9,000 12,000 

125 North Sixteenth street 9,500 13,000 




The matter of a revision of assessments is a question 
which vitally affects everyone interested in the cre- 
ation of new port facilities, in the development of im- 
provements in our traction system, m the completion 
of the Parkway, in addition to our existing highways, 
our parks, our playgrounds. In other woi>ds,_ it appeals 
to everyone interested in a greater Philadelphia, because 
that greater Philadelphia cannot be realized unless new 
sources of current revenue are discovered sufficient to 
carry the new loans necessary to bring about the new 

Jl— In my speech I called attention to the Philadelphia 
Driving Park. The valuation for the year 1912, the last 
valuation on which the City has coUeeted taxes and the 
latest assessment available when my investigatiwi was 
made, showed this property of sixty-three acres and 
thirty-four perches assessed at $39,000, a figure at which 
it had been assessed since 1907, or for a period of five 

years. 0.4.1,4. 

I called attention to the report of our expert, that a 
year ago this tract had been sold for $120,000, complain- 
ing that, although sold at this price a year ago, it still 
remained assessed at $39,000, paying taxes on less than 
one-third of its selling price. I stated further that ?100,- 
000 in improvements had been made on the property by 
the new owners, that it had been further enhanced lu 
value through expenditure necessary to connect the prop- 
erty with water and gas. In short, this property, which 
had sold, more than a year ago, for $120,000, and had 
since been improved to the extent of $100,000, made its 
last pavment of taxes to the City of ^MadelphM on an 
assessment of only $39,000. Even this $39,000, which had 
been the rate for five years, was in face of a reported 
sale by prominent auctioneers ten years ago, ot this same 

property, for $47,500. , . ^ • ^i. 

The answer made to this serious arraignment m the 
published statement of Mr. Gratz, Chairman of the Board 
of Revision of Taxes, was that the 1913 assessment— that 

is, the assessment for the present year— was not, as I had 
stated, $39,000, but $95,000. He cited this as proof of 
the unreliable character of my figures. I had made no 
mention of the assessment for 1913 ; my figures, as he well 
knew were the figures on which the property had paid 
taxes for years, and including 1912. The assessment he 


quoted was not made public until after the tenth of Jan- 
uary, and the remarkable eireumstanee is disclosed that 
the assessment on this property was increased, for the 
present year, over the previous year on which taxes have 
been collected, from the figure I named, $39,000 to $95,000, 
although nothing had occurred in the few months during 
which the change was being made to justify this tremen- 
dous increase in assessment, an increase of nearly one 
hundred and fifty per eent. Even at the advanced assess- 
ment for the year 1913 this property is paying taxes on a 
valuation $25,000 below the price paid, without taking 
into account the $100,000 of improvement added since 
that price was paid. 

The situation, therefore, is that this $225,000 property, 
even after the corrected estimate of the Board of Re- 
vision, is paying taxes on $95,000, or less than fifty per 
eent. of its value, while thousands of homes in the City 
of Philadelphia, owned by our skilled labor, are assessed 
at full value, or even from five to ten per cent, above 
their selling value. The Board's answer, therefore, to 
my accusation is a distinct confession of the truth of my 
charge. For years the City, on this property, has been 
losing two-thirds of the revenue it should have received, 
and the borrowing capacity of the City has been de- 
creased, on tMs property, two-thirds of its proper sum. 

B.-— I stated that the property 1420-26 South Penn 
Square, reported as sold for $850,000, was assessed, at the 
time of sale, for only $600,000. To this charge the Board 
of Eevision make answer that the deed shows the price 
paid for the property in question was only $800,000, in 
place of the $850,000 quoted by me. Admitting a typo- 
graphical error in the price of sale reported, even with 
this error corrected, the property is grossly under-valued, 
for it was only assessed, at the time of sale, at $600,000, 
or seventy-five per cent, of its acknowledged selling price. 
The Board of Revision admits, therefore, that this was a 
gross under-assessment. It makes this admission not 
merely in its printed statement, but it confinns its words 
by acts, reporting in the same statement that the valuation 
on this property for the present year has been advanced 
from $600,000 to $750,000, an increase of twenty-five per 
cent, in one year on this one property ; and yet even the 
corrected and advanced assessment remains $50,000 below 
the actual selling price admitted as being shown in the 
deed by the Board of Eevision. 

Here we have a concrete example of the practice which 
I condemn. Nothing has happened in the past twelve 


months, in Philadelphia or vicinity, to abnormally increase 
values in the small section of which City Hall is center. 
The general return made by the Board of Bevision for 
the whole City shows that, in their opinion, the City, as 
a whole, has enjoyed no appreciation in values; in fact, 
their assessment for the year 1913 indicates clearly that 
they believe the general level of real estate values in the 
City has declined during the year 1912, admittedly the 
most prosperous year Philadelphia has ever known. This 
admission is in evidence through 4;he fact that the gross 
assessment of property for taxation, shown by 1913 over 
ipi2, is $10,000,000 less than the recorded expenditure 
for new building work during 1912, and less than build- 
ing operations for the year 1911. 

According to their own theory, then, if the advance in 
total value is only seventy-five per cent, of the known 
building operations for 1912, then there must have been 
a decrease in the values of properties existing prior to 
that expenditure. This fact is important to emphasize, 
because here we have a Board, charged with the import- 
ant duty of providing basis for our taxation, that basis for 
taxation determining not merely our tax rate, but the 
borrowing capacity of the City. In the case just cited, 
while this Board makes a general report which indicates^ 
the opinion that values for the whole City have declined, 
they take a specific ease and make a twenty-five per e^at. 
advMice in their assesraients, this line of action being re- 
ported in nearly every ease criticised by me in my speech, 
the advances sometimes running to fifty and one hundred 
per cent. One of two propositions must be true. Either 
there has been a general appreciation of values and the 
total assessment should show, for the year 1913 over 1912, 
a full average increase in general values, consequently 
justifying these specific advanees in property aasesraiients, 
or there has not been any advance in general values, and 
these special assessment advanees, running to such large 
percentages, are not justified, but are made to defend an 
untenable position. 

To emphasize the remarkable character of the assess- 
ment for 1913, there is the circumstance that a consider- 
able percentage of the increase for the year, small though 
it be, is due to the fact that the Masonic Temple, assessed 
at $2,000,000, which has stood for years on the exempt 
list, has been placed on the taxpaying list. Undoubtedly - 
other properties, formerly exempt, have been so trans- 
ferred, so that even the small increase shown in the total 
for 1913 over 1912 must be reduced largely if we are to 
compare it with the increased valuations shown by 1912 
over 1911 and by 1911 over 1910. 

26 ' 

In the case of the Masonic Temple, what is responsible 
for this sudden change of heart ? Why this present-day 
realization that this $2,000,000, for years exempt from 
taxation, should now be compelled to pay its just propor- 
tion of municipal expenses? 

C. — Southeast comer of Thirteenfth and Cuthbert 

I cited as an illustration of under-assessment property 
located at the southeast corner of Thirteenth and Cuthbert 
streets, giving its assessed value, for the latest year of 
record on which taxation had been collected, namely, 
1912, as $40,000, the reported sale of this property at 

The Board of Revision, in answering this charge, says : 
"Since the 1912 assessment was made, work began on 
the construction of the Vendig Hotel at the northwest 
comer of Thirteenth and Filbert streets. This had the 
effect of booming all values in the immediate neighbor- 
hood, and, as a result, the assessment was increased for 
the current year to $55,000." 

This is merely another confession of the charge. The 
Vendig building operation has been in contemplation for 
some time. Property has been considered most valual)le 
in this section for years. The actual sale at $58,000 is 
not denied; the actual assessment at the time of that sale 
of $40,000 is not denied ; all the Board puts up as a de- 
fence is the fact that since this sale has been made and 
the low assessment disclosed to the public, they have in- 
creased the assessment for the forthcoming year to $55,- 
000, a price still $3,000 under the sale reported in my 

D, — ^Northwest corner of Thirteenth and Cherry streets. 
Assessed value quoted by me, $40,000; reported sale, 

The Board of Revision claim that the records do not 
show that this property has been sold. The sale, how- 
ever, was reported in the papers, and the Board admits 
the justice of the under-assessing charge by its own action 
in doubling the assessment for the year 1913. In other 
words, while it considered $40,000 a fair valuation upon 
which tax should be collected last year, it considers $80,- 
000 a proper value for the property during the present 
year. Of course, this increase in assessment is due to 
the circumstance that the owners of the property have 
shown, that they place a value on this property from two 
to three times the value placed by the assessors sworn to 


protect the interests of the City and insure equal treat- 
ment to all taxpayers. 

B. — ^1703 Spring Garden street. 

As an illustration of under-assessment I cited from 
twenty-seven separate wards in the Oity of Philadelphia 
in order to illustrate that this mider-«ssessment was not 
confined to any one locality or any one class of property. 
One of the illustrations in this list was 1703 Spring Gar- 
den street, a property which paid taxes during the year 
1912, the latest year for which taxes had been collected, 
on an assessment of $10,000. This property sold for $14,- 
000, or forty per cent, more than its assessment. 

Answering this illustration, the Board of Revision of 
Taxes makes this remarkable statement: "The records 
show that on May 7, 1910, this property was sold for 
$7,800. Subsequently a mortgage of $8,000 was placed 
upon it, and on June 21, 1911, it was conveyed for $9,500. 
November 22, 1912, this property was conveyed for $4,000. 
subject to a $10,000 mortgage. ' ' The assessors have totally 
disregarded this last sale in fixing the assessments, as tiiey 
consider it inflated. The Board says : ' ' There have been 
no increases in <tiiat neighborhood in recent years, which 
is shown by the sale of 1731 Spring Garden street, a much 
handsomer residence, in May, 1912, for $11,000. This 
lot is 30 by 170 to Brandywine street, while 1703 is 
only 95 feet without any rear frontage." This statement 
is remarkable because it admits that a sale was made 
as recorded at forty per cent, above current assessment. 
It disregards this sale because it belie^eB the sale repre- 
sents inflated prices, and yet, repeatedly, the Board has 
claimed that sales are the only guide Avhich it will follow, 
and in many instances — even instances quoted in this de- 
fence — it bases its present advance for the year 1913 
upon these sales at inflated values. In other words, this 
is a bold claim to the right of personal opinion on the 
part of the assessor, even when that personal opinion goes 
counter to the direct language of the Act regarding as- 
sessments. In place of proving my figures inaccurate, 
the Board admits their correctness, and in refusing to do 
as' they have in other cases, make a further advance for 
the present year, they justify such action on the grounds 
that they think the buyer paid too much for the property. 

F. — Northwest corner Magdalena and "Monastery ave- 
nue. This property, assessed for $15,000, was reported 
sold for $40,000. 

The Board, in their statement, deny such a sale, admit 


a Sheriff's sale for $15,300, but claim this sate was not 

confirmed and that property is to be resold. As Sheriff's 
sales generally bring much less than actual value, the 
under-assessment of this property is palpable. 

O. — Northeast corner of Reading Railroad and Ridge 
avenue. A^isessed at $600, sold for $6,000. 

This instance of under-assessment is answered by the 
Board in the following manner: "Northeast corner 
Reading Road and Ridge avenue, Twenty-first Ward. 
This is an irregular lot which the City requires for a 
proposed improvement. The owners have placed a pro- 
hibitiye value of $6,000 on it, although every one con- 
versant with conditions in that neighborhood admits that 
its actual value, by reason of it not having an outlet, is 
not much more than its assessed value. Here the Board 
refuses to accept the property owner's own valuation, 
and assesses the property at one-tenth of the owner's 

H.— 1418 Walnut street. Assessed at $128,000; re- 
ported sold for $250,000. 

The Board of Revision, answering this charge, states: 
** Since the $128,000 assessment was placed on this prop- 
erty, w^ork began on the construction of the Ritz-Carlton 
Hotel, the Stock Exchange and the Manufacturers' Club. 
This has -had the effect of ^atly booming values in this 
locality, and as a resnlt prices have jumped since last 
year. The 1912 assessment of $128,000 has been in- 
creased to $175,000 as an unimproved lot, the building 
that stood there having been demolished." 

This answer is a confession of the truth of my charge, 
for even with a full knowledge of the increased values in 
the neighborhood brought about by tlie new building 
referred to, the new assessment is $75,000 below the price 
at which the property was reported sold. 

L — called special attention to the rapid advance in 
the assessments of properties which the City was expected 
to buy on North Sixteenth street and Cherry above Six- 
teenth, in connection with its exchange of property with 
the Philosophical Society, the properties quoted each 
showing a tremendous advance between 1911 and 1912. 
I also cited, as a contrast, seventeen properties in the 
neighborhood on Cherry street closer to Broad street and, 
therefore, of ^eater value, the assessment of which had 
remained unchanged during the years quoted — ^1911 and 


Answering this charge, the Board of Revision said: 
* * The books show that the entire section, whether on the 
Parkway line or on the land required for the American 
Philosophical Society, or on properties opposite, has 
undergone, since 1911, a general increase in values, as is 
shown by the following list, and none of these properties 
will be affected in any way by the unprov^ents con- 
templated by the City." 

Then they proceed to give two tables of assessments for 
the properties referred to, one being for the year 1912, 
the other for the new year 1913, not one figure being 
given for the year 1911 mentioned in their answer. This 
answer confiirms everything contained in my chairg|e. 
The properties I cited had not changed between 1911 and 

1912. The properties, they cite, they changed after my in- 
vestigation, increasing over the 1912 figures, the figures for 

1913. In other words, thra series of advances, instead 
of demolishing my argument or answering my charge, 
is a direct confirmation of my statement, for the Board 
admits the properties had heretofore been under-assessed 
by advancing them for the year 1913, the year in which 
no taxes have yet been collected. Why did they not post- 
pone advancement of the properties required by the City 
until this late datef 

The Board, in answering a number of other illustra- 
trons cited of under-valuation, dodges the question by 
asserting that the properties referred to were required 
by the City and therefore purchased at exorbitant prices. 

This statement is true, as illustrated by the sale of 
1907 Vine street, assessed at $8,700 and purchased by the 
City, under the previous administration, for $30,000. 
Comment is unnecessary. 


Thirty.year Record of Annual Assessment InereMet. 
AsMBiiiiff AiitiM»ity in Other Oities. 



Increase Over 
Previous Tear, 

Percent of 




































v*«i- Ac><iAa.«n^4- iDcrcase OvGr Per Cent, of 

Assessment. Previous Year. Increase. 

'1895 782.677,694 12,747,152 1.6 

1896 801,028,552 18,350,858 2.3 

1897 818,827,549 17,798,997 2.2 

1898 842,330,700 23,503,151 2.8 

1899 846,516,035 4,185,335 .4 

1900 880,935,265 34,419,230 4. 

1901 894,628,974 13,693,709 1.5 

1902 901,009,664 ' 6,380,690 .7 

1903 911.968,674 10,959,010 1.2 

1904* 1,162.074,023 250,105,349 27.4* 

1905 1,185,899,831 23,825,808 2. 

1906 1,215,776,334 29,876,503 2.5 

1907 1,250,688,286 34,911,952 2,8 

1908 1,287,287,123 36,598,837 2.9 

1909 1,317,292,053 30,004,930 2.3 

1910 1,358,675,057 41383,004 3.1 

1911 1,458,851,880 100,176,823 7.3 

1912 1,533,791,867 74,939,987 5.1 

Uli''^. . . . l,o&6,323,614 22,631,747 1.4 

*Tn this table' of assessments, covering the thirty years from 
1884 to 1913, annual increase is shown with percentage of in- 
crease. Figures given for the year 1904, showing an increase of 
over $250,000,000, are exceptional, because they represent a spe- 
cial increase in assessments all over the City to bring real 
estate up to its full selling value coincident with a decrease in 
the tax rate from $1.85 to $1.S0 per hundred dollars. 

^*It will be noted that the increase for 1913 is but 1.4 per ceat. 
ataiost 2.3 to 7.3 per cent, from 1908 to 1912. 

Asmmng Authority in Other Cities. 

Boston. — The body charged Avith the duty of assessing 
property for taxation in Boston is tlie Board of Assessors, 
eonsistiag of seven members termed Principal Assessors. 
They are appointed by the Mayor for a three-year term 
and are €nihjeet to the approval of the Civil Service Com- 
mission. The salary is $4,000 a year, with the exception 
of the Chairman, who receives $4,500, and the Secretary, 
who receives $4,200. They are removable by the Mayor 
for cause. Appeal made against assessments is made to 
the County Commissioners in Boston, the Street Commis- 
dcmers acting m County Commissioners, or to the eonrt. 

Baltimore. — The Appeal Tax Court, consisting of three 
men, is charged with the duty of assessing property for 
taxation in Baltimore. Members of the Appeal Tax Court 
are appointed by the Mayor, one being appointed each 
year. During the first six months after appointment, the 
Mayor has absolute power of removal, but after the six 


months' period he can only remove for cause after 
charges have been preferred. Each member of the Ap- 
peal Tax Court receives $3,000 a year. An appeal from 
assessments made by the Appeal Tax Court can be taken 
to the City courts. 

St. Louis. — Assessment is in the hands of a Board of 
Assessors. This Board coi^ists of a President, elected by 
the people for a four-year term and receiving a salary 
of $3,600 a year, assisted by twelve District Assessors, 

appointed by the Mayor, for a four-year term, with salary 
of $1,800 each. The President is removable by the City 
Councils for cause, and the District Assessors are re- 
movable by the Mayor or Councils for cause. Appeal 
from assessments by this Board of Assessors can be 
made to a Board of Equalization composed of the Presi- 
dent of the Board of Assessors and four real estate 
owners residing in the city who M*e appointed to so act 
by the Circuit Court. 

New York. — Assessment is in the hands of a Depart- 
ment of Taxes and Assessment, with a Board of seven 
members appointed by the Mayor, the President of the 
Board receiving a salary of $8,000 a year; other members, 
$7,000. The President of the Board is designated as such 
at the time of his appointment. No more than five of 
the seven membera of the Tax Board may belong to the 
same political party, and at least one of them must be 
learned in the law. The President must be a resident of 
the Borough of Manhattan. The Board is authorized to 
appoint forty deputies, distributed among the various 
boroughs as nearly as possible according to population. 
No deputy xnay he assigned to assessment work outside 
of the borough in which he is an elector, except by a 
vote of the Board with reason for such assi^ment 
entered on the minutes. Deputies are required to inspect 
every piece of taxable real estate on each annual assess- 
ment, and to enter in their reports to the Board the sum 
for which, in their judgment, each separately assessed 
parcel of real estate, under ordinary circumstances, 
would sell if it were wholly unimproved, and separately 
state the sum for which, under ordinary circumstances, 
the same parcel of real estate would sell with the im- 
provements, if any, thereon. Annual assessment of real 
estate is begun on the first Tuesday in September, and 
records must be opened for public inspection on the 
second Monday in January and remain open for review 
and correction until the first of April. 


Pitteburgh. — Assessment of property for taxation is 
under the coiitrol of the Board of Assessment and Re- 
yiftion of Taxes of Allegheny County, consisting of three 
members appointed by the County Commissioners, under 

Act approved 13th day of June, 1911. Term of office is 
four years; salary received, $5,000. The Board divides 
the county into definite districts, appointing subordinate 
assessors who receive $4.00 per day each. One hundred 
and forty such assessors are now employed. Assessments 
are revised by the Board, after revision appeal dates be- 
ing fixed, when dissatisfied taxables place their case be- 
fore the Board, Appeal from Board decisions lies to the 
Common Pleas Court within tliirty days of the rendering 
of such decision by the Board of Revision. 

Chicago. — Assessment of property in Chicago and Cook 
County is in the hands of a Board of Assessors consisting 
of five members, each member serving six years, two or 
more being elected every two years. At least one mem- 
ber mnst come»from ontside of the City. The salary of 
each member of the Board of As»e€»ors is $5,000 per an- 
num. There is also a Board of Review consisting of three 
members, each having a term of six years, one member 
being elected every two years. The annual salary of 
each member of the Board of Review is $7,000. This 
Board corrects and equalizes assessments made by the 
Board of Assessors. 








V— - 
I — 








This map shaws a small trianole placed on City plan, 
for purchase by the City, as per ordinance of Counoils, 
November 9, 1911. The sudden and incomprehensible 
advance in assessments by the Board of Revision of 
Taxes, from 1911 to 1912, ranging from 33 1/3 per 
cent, to over 300 per cent, is given in red inic 

All figures in black ink denote 1911 assessment for 
nearby properties. They were not increased by the 
Board of Revision, but remained unchanged for 1912. 





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