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[ 150 ] EDWARD PESSEN himself was taxed on an estate of $90,000 in 1855 when he publicly listed his worth for that year at $350,000. Real property, since it could more easily be observed, was more accurately assessed than was personal. But this did not mean in fact that assessors lived up to the oath they had sworn to assess real estate at "the true value thereof and at which they would appraise the same in payment of a just debt due from a solvent debtor!'6 If life were explained by legal enactments, 1813 should have been a turning point since the earlier practice of openly underassessing the value of property was replaced that year by an ordinance requiring assessment of all property at its real worth.7 In practice real property continued to be underassessed after 1813 as it had been before.8 There can be no question however that personal property was much more drastically undervalued by assessors than was real. A New York tax commissioners' report explained why this was so. Personal property was "invisible and incorporeal; easy of transfer and concealment; not admitting of valuation by comparison with any common standards" Rufus Story could thus succeed in changing the original valuation of his personal property at Rivington Street from $20,000 to $1,000. A like decrease would have been out of the question for real estate. In effect a fashion developed, very much in the interest of the wealthy persons who profited from it, whereby throughout the nineteenth century tax assessors reported the value of personal property far below, not what they knew it was, for perhaps no one could know, but far below what they had good reason to believe it was. Some contemporary officials and publishers blamed the situation on "the para- 8 From the tax assessors' oath, in manuscript assessment notebooks, by ward, Municipal Archives and Records Center. 7 Comptroller Thomas R. Mercein reported in 1816 that the new procedure had "occasioned a considerable augmentation of the Tax on the personal estates of the opulent? Minutes of the Common Council, February 26, 1816, VTH, 437. 8 A constant theme in the reports published by tax commissioners of the next generation was that New York City's estates, real as well as personal, had been continuously and substantially underassessed all during the nineteenth century. In reporting in 1871 that New York State's "valuation of real estate for taxation is reported as low as 20% of its real value... [and] rises in the cities to 50 and possibly 60% as a maximum" the commissioners were purporting to describe the typical situation for other years as well. New York State, Report of the Tax Commissioners of New York (New York, 1871), 30. Also see John Christopher Schwab, History of the New York Property Tax: An Introduction to the History of State and Local Finance in New York (Baltimore, 1890), 105.