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HARTRANFT v. MEYER.

decided: May 15, 1893.

HARTRANFT
v.
MEYER.



ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA.

Author: Shiras

[ 149 U.S. Page 544]

 MR. JUSTICE SHIRAS delivered the opinion of the court.

This was an action, brought by the firm of Meyer & Dickinson, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, against

[ 149 U.S. Page 545]

     the collector of customs for that district, to recover duties which they allege to have been illegally assessed against certain articles imported by them. The action was certified to and tried in the Circuit Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and resulted in a verdict and judgment in favor of the plaintiffs. The collector sued out a writ of error, which is now prosecuted in this court by his executrix.

The issues that were tried in the court below arose under the tariff act of March 3, 1883. 22 Stat. 510, 512, c. 121. The imported articles consisted of "chinas" and "marcelines," the latter being made wholly of silk, and the former of silk and cotton, silk being the component material of chief value.

The position of the government was that such articles were dutiable under Schedule L of the act, at the rate of fifty per centum ad valorem, while the plaintiffs contended that they came under Schedule N, and were chargeable with duty at the rate of twenty per centum ad valorem.

The court below regarded the case as falling within the doctrine of Hartranft v. Langfeld, 125 U.S. 128, and of Robertson v. Edelhoff, 132 U.S. 614, and accordingly referred it to the jury to find, under the evidence, whether the goods in question were trimmings, and what was their chief use.

A large number of witnesses were called on both sides. There was no dispute as to the composition of the goods, but there was conflicting evidence as to the extent of their use as hat trimmings. The testimony on behalf of the government tended to show that such goods were largely, and, according to some witnesses, chiefly used for purposes other than for hat and bonnet trimmings. The plaintiffs' witnesses testified that, while they were used to a limited extent for other purposes, their chief use was for trimming and lining hats and bonnets. A verdict was found and judgment entered in favor of the plaintiffs.

If this case is not distinguishable in its facts from the cases above referred to, then a like conclusion must be reached as that announced in the case of Cadwalader v. Wanamaker, just decided, ante, p. 532, and for the same reasons, which we need not here repeat.

[ 149 U.S. Page 546]

     An attempt is made to distinguish the facts of the cases in the particular that whereas, in the other cases the imported goods were ribbons, and thus articles naturally fitted for hat and bonnet trimmings, in this case they are piece goods, bought and sold under the commercial designation of "chinas" and "marcelines," and chiefly used for lining hats and bonnets.

But an examination of the record shows that the judge of the trial court did not overlook the distinction supposed to be involved in the character of the imported articles. He stated to the jury that "undoubtedly the word 'trimmings,' as used in the clause relating to hats, and so forth, material for, includes ornamental appendages. But does it include nothing more?This you will determine upon a consideration of the whole evidence, and having regard also to the terms of the particular claim of the tariff act with which we are now dealing. The language of that clause as it relates to 'trimmings' is: 'Hats, and so forth, materials for, . . . trimmings, . . . used for making or ornamenting hats, bonnets, and hoods.' The use is not confined to ornamentation, but by the express words of the clause is for 'making' as well as ornamenting. . . . But ...


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