Meyer v. Arthur
91 U.S. 570 (1875)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Meyer v. Arthur, 91 U.S. 570 (1875)

Meyer v. Arthur

91 U.S. 570

Syllabus

1. Where, in the Act of June 6, 1872, to reduce the duties on imports, 17 Stat. 230, Congress provided that on and after Aug. 1, 1872, but ninety percentum of the duties theretofore levied should be collected and paid upon all metals not therein otherwise provided for, "and all manufactures of metals of which either of them is the component part of chief value, . . ." held that the words "manufactures of metals" refer to manufactured articles in which metals form a component part, and not to articles in which they have lost their form entirely and have become the chemical ingredients of new forms.

2. White lead, nitrate of lead, oxide of zinc, and dry and orange mineral are not manufactures of metals within the meaning of that act.

This is a suit to recover import duties alleged to have been unlawfully exacted by the defendant, the collector of the port of New York. The articles on which they were charged were white lead, nitrate of lead, oxide of zinc, and dry and orange mineral imported after the first day of August, 1872. By the second section of the act to reduce duties on imports, passed June 6, 1872, 17 Stat. 230, it was provided that on and after the first day of August, 1872, only ninety percent of the duties theretofore imposed should be levied upon certain enumerated articles imported from foreign countries, amongst which were the following, as described in the words of the act:

"All metals not herein otherwise provided for and all manufactures of metals of which either of them is the component part of chief value, excepting percussion caps, watches, jewelry, and other articles of ornament,"

with a proviso excepting certain kinds of wire rope and chains made of steel wire.

The following facts appeared in evidence upon the trial.

Oxide of zinc is manufactured in European establishments as follows:

Sheets of zinc ordinarily sold in commerce are placed in retorts. The face of the retort has an opening large enough to admit the sheet. The backs of the retorts are enclosed in a furnace, and the retorts are heated by bituminous coal to a white heat. The action of the heat vaporizes the spelter, which is entirely consumed. The vapor passes out of the

Page 91 U. S. 571

mouth of the retort into large pipes, into which currents of air are forced. The vapor combines with the oxygen of the air and becomes white snow-like flakes. The current bears these flakes along through the pipes, which terminate in long chambers. At the mouth of the pipes, bags are suspended in which the flakes are caught. No further process is required.

The oxide of zinc in suit was manufactured in this way.

Nitrate of lead is a chemical combination of lead and nitric acid. Lead previously melted and cooled is placed in a vessel filled with dilute heated nitric acid and subjected to a slight additional heat. The nitrate of lead is formed in crystals upon the side of the vessel. Its form as a commodity in the market is ordinarily that of a white opaque crystal.

Orange or red lead is made by roasting dry white lead in a furnace and exposing it to the air which is admitted into the heated receptacle. By this process, the white lead loses a portion of its carbonic acid and absorbs oxygen from the air. Orange or red lead is used by paper stainers, manufacturers of wallpaper, and for highly colored cards.

White lead is manufactured as follows:

Small earthen pots are partially filled with vinegar or acetic acid. Pig lead of commerce, cast into round perforated plates technically called buckles, are placed in the pots above the acid, and not in contact with it. The pots thus filled are placed in a chamber upon a layer of spent tan bark. Alternate layers of pots and tan bark are filled up to the roof of the chamber; air is introduced into the chamber through flues and natural crevices. The tan contains moisture, becomes heated, and evolves carbonic acid. By chemical action, the lead is oxidized by the oxygen of the air, and then, in combination with the carbonic acid, becomes a carbonate of the oxide of lead.

The acetic acid does not touch the lead, but its presence facilitates the process of oxidation.

In the course of three months, the lead has generally become entirely oxidized, of a white color, but retaining its original shape of a buckle. It is then crushed in rollers, any uncorroded pieces of lead having first been separated from it, then ground and dried. Then, if it is to be sold in oil, it is reground with linseed oil.

Page 91 U. S. 572

An analysis of the articles in question gave the following results:

OXIDE OF ZINC

Zinc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79.98

Oxygen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19.67

Insoluble matter and impurities. . . . .35

------

100.00

======

ORANGE MINERAL

Lead . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90.69

Oxygen, with traces of carbonic acid . 9.31

------

100.00

======

DRY WHITE LEAD

Lead . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80.11

Oxygen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.19

Carbonic acid. . . . . . . . . . . . . 11.39

Water. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.31

------

100.00

======

WHITE LEAD IN OIL

Dry white lead*. . . . . . . . . . . . 92.92

Linseed oil. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.08

------

100.00

======

NITRATE OF LEAD

Lead . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61.90

Oxygen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.90

Nitric acid. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32.35

Moisture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .74

Traces of free nitric acid, insoluble

matter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11

------

100.00

======

* This dry white lead gave the

following result:

Lead . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80.20

Oxygen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.20

Carbonic acid. . . . . . . . . . . . . 11.21

Water. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.30

------

100.00

======

Page 91 U. S. 573

The metals named in the respective analyses are the components of chief value. There is no metallic zinc or metallic lead, in the ordinary sense of these words -- that is, no metallic zinc or metallic lead of commerce -- in either of these articles. The ingredients in each of the articles unite by reason of their chemical affinity. Oxide of zinc has a different specific gravity, density, and color, from metallic zinc. White lead and nitrate of lead have each a different specific gravity, density, and color, from metallic lead.

The manufacture of orange or red lead and white lead, either dry or in oil, is carried on by the same persons in the same establishment, commencing with the corrosion of the lead and stopping the manufacture at certain stages according to the product desired.

Oxide of zinc and white lead are principally used as pigments. Nitrate of lead is used largely in dyeing and in the manufacture of pigments and as a disinfectant and for other purposes. It is never ground in oil. Oxide of zinc, white lead, and red lead are imported both dry and ground in oil. They must be ground in oil before they can be used as paints. The oxide of zinc and the red lead in the invoices in controversy were dry, and the white lead was ground in oil, and were all to be used in the manufacture of or as pigments.

All the articles in suit are generally dealt in by persons connected with the manufacture and sale of pigments, and they are staples of trade in that line of commerce. Nitrate of lead, however, is principally dealt in by wholesale druggists; metal dealers do not usually deal in any of these articles.

The method of the manufacture of white lead has been substantially the same for upwards of twenty-five years.

There being no disputed question of fact in the case, the court informed the jury that the articles in question had been classified in the tariff acts not with reference to the material of which they were composed, but with reference to the use to which they were destined and for which they were manufactured, and had been classed as paints, and were not, within the true construction and meaning of said acts, manufactures of metal, and directed a verdict for the defendant, which was rendered accordingly. From the judgment on the verdict this writ of error is prosecuted.

Page 91 U. S. 576

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