Title: The New York State, Manhattan, and Brooklyn Single Tax Leagues
Predominant Dates: 1886-1940
The Manhattan Single Tax Club
The Manhattan Single Tax Club, the oldest and one of the longest serving single tax organizations, was founded by Henry George and several others in 1886. From its founding, the Manhattan Single Tax Club pursued an educational mission as its members worked to spread single tax ideas in and around the nation’s largest metropolis.
Among the Club’s earliest activities included a letter writing campaign and the “Spread the Light” committee in charge of propaganda. The Club also held several evening lectures and banquets with distinguished guests. In the winter of 1888, the Club held a dinner to honor Henry George who had just returned from a speaking tour in Europe. A similar dinner was held for the former Cleveland Mayor Tom L. Johnson shortly before his death in 1910 where George’s son, Richard F. George, presented Johnson with a large bronze medallion. (A smaller replica of the medallion is on display at the Henry George Birthplace).
William H. Faulhaber served as the Club’s first President and was succeeded by several high-profile single taxers including Louis F. Post (1889-1892), Lawson Purdy (1895-1897), Robert Schalkenbach (1897), Frederic C. Leubuscher (1910), Charles H. Ingersoll (1940-1948) and several others.
In 1890, the West Side Single Tax Club voted to join the Manhattan organization and in 1893, the Club adopted the following statement to serve as its “official gospel:” “Taxation is Payment for Social Service and Advantage, and that Land Value is the only true and just measure of the value of the Services and Advantages, that Society gives to individual citizens.”
In addition to propaganda, the Manhattan Single Tax Club famously hosted a series of outdoor meetings for New York City workers in 1894 in response to the national Pullman Strike. In 1897, organized a campaign committee to support Henry George’s candidacy for mayor.
On May 4, 1899 Club leaders appointed a committee of three to consider the organization of a state-wide single tax organization. No action appears to have been taken until 1912 when several Club members helped organize the New York State Single Tax League.
In the 1920, Stoughton Cooley and Club President James Brown began publishing a monthly periodical called Taxation: A Journal of Economic Justice. Publication was discontinued after a short while, but was restarted in 1926 under the name Taxation Quarterly: An Organ of the Manhattan Single Tax Club. In the 1930s, Club President Charles Ingersoll, former treasurer Otto K. Dorn, and others supported fellow member Oscar Geiger in his efforts to establish a School based on the teachings of Henry George. The Henry George School of Social Science (HGSS) opened in 1932.
As the HGSS and other similar organization in New York City continued to flourish in the 1940s, the activities of the Manhattan Single Tax Club abated and the Club officially closed in 1948.
The Brooklyn Single Tax Club
The Brooklyn Single Tax Club formed around the same time as its Manhattan counterpart and often coordinated its efforts to spread single tax propaganda throughout the city. The Brooklyn club was aided in its endeavors by the Brooklyn Eagle and the Brooklyn Citizen, whose editors were more or less in favor of the single tax and free trade. The Brooklyn Single Tax Club held meetings every Friday evening.
A sister organization, the Brooklyn Woman’s Single Tax Club was organized on January 13, 1891 with the express purpose to,
promote the abolition of all taxes upon industry and the products of industry and exchange, and the raising of public revenues by a tax upon the value of land irrespective of improvements, to the exclusion of all other taxes, whether in the form of tariff upon imports, taxes upon internal productions or otherwise.
The Woman’s Club held meetings every Tuesday afternoon.
The New York State Single Tax League
The formation of a statewide single tax league was first suggested at a dinner hosted by Manhattan Single Tax Club member William Lustgarten to about 25 other men at the Reform Club on June 16, 1913. Following the dinner, Lustgarten raised funds to hold a Conference in Albany where the New York State Single Tax League officially formed.
Albany conference delegates elected Horace Sague of Poughkeepsie, NY to serve as the League’s first president. Benjamin Doblin was elected Treasurer. The delegates also selected a number of “Vice Presidents” who included the prominent single taxers Frederic C. Howe, Robert Schalkenbach, and Henry George Jr.
The purpose of the League included spreading the single tax message to every city and township in the state of New York. Toward that end, League members gave public lectures, hosted meetings, and other events throughout the state where speakers lectured on the merits of the single tax. The League also published and distributed educational material and supported the formation of local single tax clubs.
In 1914, the New York State Single Tax League sponsored an essay contest to stimulate interest among young people in the ideas of Henry George. The judges included novelist Amelia E. Barr, Frederick C. Howe, John J. Murphy, and Willa Wheeler Wilcox. Awards were announced in the November-December 1914 issue of the Single Tax Review where the prize winning essays were published. A similar contest was held again in 1916.
Several members of the New York Single Tax League appear to have supported the political campaigns of single taxers who ran for public office in New York and neighboring states. In the 1930s, prominent watchmaker and Manhattan Single Tax Club president Charles H. Ingersoll ran for governor of New Jersey.
“In favor of a Single Tax: Beginning of a Series of Outdoor Meetings for Workingmen.” New York Times (July 21, 1894), 2.
“Henry George’s Memory: Manhattan Single Tax Club Honors Birthday Anniversary.” New York Times (September 4, 1899), 10.
“Single Taxers Dine Johnson.” New York Times (May 31, 1910), 3.
“The New York State High School Essay Contest: The Winning Essays.” Single Tax Review (November-December 1914), 49-74.