Robertson v. Oelschlaeger
137 U.S. 436 (1890)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Robertson v. Oelschlaeger, 137 U.S. 436 (1890)

Robertson v. Oelschlaeger

Nos. 86, 255

Argued November 20, 1890

Decided December 22, 1890

137 U.S. 436

ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED

STATES FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK

Syllabus

Philosophical apparatus and instruments, as referred to in Schedule N of the Tariff Act of March 3, 1883, 22 Stat. c. 121, 513, are such as are more commonly used for the purpose of making observations and discoveries in nature, and experiments for developing and exhibiting natural forces, and the conditions under which they can be called into activity, while implements for mechanical or professional use in the arts are such as are more usually employed in the trades and professions for performing the operations incidental thereto.

Page 137 U. S. 437

Duties were assessed at 45 percent ad valorem and collected on a variety of articles imported into New York, it being claimed that they were manufactures not specially enumerated under Schedule N of the Act of March 3, 1853, 22 Stat. c. 121, 501. The importer brought suit to recover an alleged excess of duties, claiming that they should have been assessed at 35 percent under Schedule N as philosophical apparatus and instruments. At the trial, a scientific expert was examined as a witness. The court and jury, with the exception of this evidence, had nothing before them to rely upon except the common knowledge which all intelligent persons possess. As a result, the court directed the jury (1) to render a verdict for the defendant as to a specified class of the articles, (2) to render a verdict for the plaintiff as to another specified class, and (3) as to the remainder, it left the jury to determine their classification, and they found for the plaintiff as to a part and for the defendant as to a part. Held that there was no error in these instructions.

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