1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Wells, David Ames

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WELLS, DAVID AMES (1828–1898), American economist, was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on the 17th of June 1828. He graduated at Williams College in 1847, was on the editorial staff of the Springfield Republican in 1848, and at that time invented a machine for folding newspapers and book-sheets. He then removed to Cambridge, graduated at the Lawrence Scientific School in 18sr, and published in 1850–1865 with George Bliss (1793–1873) an Annual of Scientific Discovery. In 1866 he patented a process for preparing textile fabrics. His essay on the national debt, Our Burden and Our Strength (1864), secured him the appointment in 1865 as chairman of the national revenue commission, which laid the basis of scientific taxation in the United States. In 1866–1870 he was special commissioner of revenue and published important annual reports; during these years he became an advocate of free trade, and he argued that the natural resources of the United States must lead to industrial supremacy without the artificial assistance of a protective tariff which must produce an uneven development industrially. The creation of a Federal Bureau of Statistics in the Department of the Treasury was largely due to Wells’s influence. In 1871 he was chairman of the New York State Commission on local taxation which urged the abolition of personal taxes, except of moneyed corporations, and the levy of a tax on the rental value of dwellings to be paid by the occupant; and in 1878 he reported on New York canal tolls. In 1877 he was president of the American Social Science Association. He died in Norwich, Connecticut, on the 5th of November 1898.

He edited many scientific text-books, and wrote The Creed of the Free Trader (1875), Robinson Crusoe’s Money (1878), Our Merchant Marine (1882), The Primer of Tariff Reform (1884), Practical Economics (1886), Principles of Taxation (1886), Recent Economic Changes (1889)