Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Trouble Brewing

Posted By on 02.02.10 at 07:06 AM

teatime.jpg
Macon Telegraph, March 27, 1889. OK, the headlines here somewhat overstate the Irwin Allen-ish spectacle of a flood of tea. Certainly there's nothing going on here to compare to Boston's famous Molasses Flood of 1919. But it's an interesting little glimpse into overlapping layers of corruption-as-usual in Chicago commerce.

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"Of incendiary origin" meaning that it was arson, and we can infer that there's an insurance angle when an arsonist burns down a warehouse.
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"Tea in bond" meaning that a nominal portion of the federal import duty had been paid, with the rest to be paid as the tea was moved piecemeal out of the custom house to whatever wholesalers or retailers were buying.
"So wait a minute," you might be thinking: "Didn't we fight a revolution in the very name of tax-free tea?" But that's the beauty part: Judging from the condition of the warehouse books, the tea had been officially disappeared. No tea, no tax! Although some bookkeeper must have been making out like a bandit. Hail, private enterprise!

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