Murphy v. Arnson

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

96 U.S. 131

Murphy  v.  Arnson

ERROR to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.

In March, 1871, Arnson & Wilzinski, the plaintiffs below, imported into New York a quantity of nitro-benzole, which is obtained by the chemical action of its constituents-benzole and nitric acid-upon each other. It is then refined and cleaned by distillation, and sole as nitro-benzole and as 'oil of myrbane' to druggists, soap manufacturers, 'and to the trade generally.' The defence introduced testimony that this is a well-known article of commerce, commercially known as oil of myrbane, used for perfuming and flavoring, and also commercially known as 'artificial oil of bitter almonds,' as well as by its other names; and that, in fact, it resembles essential oil in the uses to which it is put, as a marketable commodity, more than any thing else, and is used as a substitute for an essential oil, being cheaper. Rebutting testimony was put in by the plaintiffs below.

Murphy, the collector, exacted duty upon this nitro-benzole as upon an 'essential oil not otherwise provided for,' fifty per cent, under the fifth section of the act of July 14, 1862 (12 Stat. 548), whereas the importers contended that it was a non-enumerated article, and that forty cents a gallon was the proper duty, being the highest rate payable on either constituent, agreeably to the similitude clause of the act of Aug. 30, 1842, sect. 20 (5 Stat. 565).

Upon this evidence the court directed a verdict for the plaintiffs. Judgment having been rendered thereon, the collector brought the case here.

Mr. Assistant-Attorney-General Smith, for the plaintiff in error.

Mr. William Stanley and Mr. Stephen G. Clarke, contra.

MR. JUSTICE HUNT delivered the opinion of the court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).