09 July 2013

Triviality XI: The Hat and Window Taxes

I've been meaning to do this topic for the column for awhile, but only got to it today. I've gotten it from Schott's Original Miscellany, a book that any obscure-trivia lover will need to have as a matter of course. I did some research and I got some more info for today's trivia column. It's short, I know, but there's a bigger one coming on Thursday that I've been working on for a while.

Looks like I'm gonna have to pay a fine...
poor Mysterious Rob.
What was the Hat Tax? It was what it's titled, a tax on hats in Great Britain. It was around for almost 30 years, from 1784 to 1811. It was designed as a get-rich-quick scheme for Parliament (because who doesn't wanna make money off the people?) Back then, everyone wore hats, all the way up to the '50s, which is sad, because modern Society doesn't like hats even though hats represent class. Moving on...

Since the different social classes each wore different hats, it was a way to tax people based on their wealth and class, since different money amounts were different were each hat. If you wanted to sell a hat, it'd cost you 2 pounds for a licence, and you had to wear a little sticker/stamp on the lining of each hat. To wear a hat without the stamp would cost you a fine, and if you forged licences (gasp) you were sentenced to death.

This only applied to men's hats, by the way, you know, it wasn't proper etiquette to ask women to pay up for their headwear.

This wasn't the only crazy tax that Britain came up with. There was also the Window Tax, which came before the Hat Tax.  It was first started in 1697, nearly 100 years before, to gain losses from coin clipping (replacing the precious, valuable metals in coins with cheaper metal). Again, like the hat tax, it was designed to be relative to the class and money you had.

Initially every house was charged 2 shillings but as time went on and people but more windows in their houses the tax went up, about 4-8 shillings per window in the house. To avoid paying the tax lots of people simply bricked up their windows, and if you go to Britain and see some old houses it's actually really apparent (couldn't get a good enough picture to show). The tax was abolished almost 150 years later, in 1851. And people say those crazy laws in America are crazy...

Click here to see last week's Triviality. And click here to buy Schott's Original Miscellany.



  1. I'm sure you own way cooler hats than that.

  2. I do. But that's my summer hat. (My being MysteriousRob.)