Seeberger v. Hardy Spalding
Statement by Mr. Justice BROWN:
These were actions against the collector of the port of Chicago to recover duties claimed to have been erroneously assessed upon certain consignments of pearl opera glasses. The facts and the questions of law involved in the two actions were similar, except in some unimportant details. The opera glasses consisted of lenses in a metal frame, with an outer covering of shell. The question litigated was under which of the three following provisions of the tariff act of 1883 were socalled 'shell opera glasses' dutiable:
By paragraph 143, (22 Stat. 497,) 'porcelain and Bohemian glass, chemical glassware, painted glassware, stained glass, and all other manufactures of glass, or of which glass shall be the component material of chief value, not specially enumerated or provided for in this act,' were dutiable at 45 per cent. ad valorem.
By paragraph 216, (page 501,) 'manufactures, articles, or wares, not specially enumerated or provided for in this act, composed wholly or in part of iron, steel, copper, lead, nickel, pewter, tin, zinc, gold, silver, platinum, or any other metal, and whether partly or wholly manufactured,' were subject to 45 per cent. ad valorem.
By paragraph 486, (page 514,) 'shells, whole or parts of, manufactured, of every description, not specially enumerated or provided for in this act,' were dutiable at 25 per cent. ad valorem.
As these opera glasses were made of a combination of three materials, namely, glass, metal, and shell, they were also claimed to be subject to Rev. St. § 2499, as amended by the act of 1883, (22 Stat. 491,) viz.: 'On all articles manufactured from two or more materials the duty shall be assessed at the highest rates at which the component material of chief value shall be chargeable. If two or more rates of duty shall be applicable to any imported article, it shall be classified for duty under the highest of such rates.'
Upon the trial, certain depositions were offered in evidence, tending to show the relative value of the component parts of which the opera glasses were made up, to the reading of which counsel for the defendant objected 'upon the ground that the said depositions did not give in detail the values of the metal, shell, and glass, component parts of the pearl opera glasses in this suit, in the condition in which the opera glass manufacturer received them.' The depositions were admitted, and counsel excepted.
In this connection the court charged the jury that, 'in determining which of the materials (manufacture of metal, manufacture of shell, or manufacture of glass) composing the opera glasses in question was the component material of chief value, they must ascertain what were their values at the time they were in such condition that nothing remained to be done upon them, except putting them together to make the perfected glasses.' Defendant excepted to this instruction, and asked the court to charge 'that, in arriving at what was the component material of chief value in the said opera glasses, they should look, and look only, at the respective values of the metal, shell, and glass in the raw and unmanufactured state in which the opera glass manufacturer received them, and before their respective values had been enhanced by the manufacturer by means of any work, labor, or time expended thereon.' This was refused. In each case the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff importer, upon which judgment was entered, and the collector sued out this writ of error.
Asst. Atty. Gen. Whitney, for plaintiff in error.
P. L. Shuman and W. Wickham Smith, for defendant in error.
Mr. Justice BROWN, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.