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U.S. Supreme Court

Henderson Bridge Co. v. Kentucky, 166 U.S. 150 (1897)

Henderson Bridge Company v. Kentucky

No. 462

Argued December 11, 14, 1898

Decided March 15, 1897

166 U.S. 150


The Henderson Bridge Company was a corporation created by the Kentucky for the purpose of erecting and operating a railroad bridge, with its approaches, over the Ohio River between the City of Henderson, in Kentucky, and the Indiana shore. It owned 9.46 miles of railroad and .65 of a mile of siding, making its railroad connections in Indiana, which property was assessed for taxation in that state at $627,660. The length of the bridge in the two states, measured by feet, was one-third in Indiana and two-thirds in Kentucky. The tangible property of the company was assessed in Henderson County, Kentucky at $649,735.54. From the evidence before them, the Board of Valuation and Assessment placed the value of the company's entire property at $2,900,000, and deducted therefrom $627,660 for the tangible property assessed in Indiana, which left $2,272,340, of which two-thirds, or $1,514,893, was held to be the entire value of the property in Kentucky. From this, $649,735.54, the value of the tangible property in Henderson

Page 166 U. S. 151

County, was deducted, and the remainder, $865,157.46, was fixed by the Board as the value of the company's franchise. From the total value,

$1,385,107 was deducted for the tangible and intangible property in

Indiana, and the taxes in Kentucky were levied on $1,514,893 of tangible

and intangible property in that state. The company paid the tax on the

tangible property ($2,762.08), and refused to pay the tax on the intangible property ($3,675.91). This action was brought to recover it. The

Court of Appeals held that the Commonwealth was entitled to recover



(1) That the company was chartered by the Kentucky to build and operate a bridge, and the state could properly include the franchises it had granted in the valuation of the company's property for taxation.

(2) That the tax was not a tax on the interstate business carried on over or by means of the bridge, because the bridge company did not transact such business, that business being carried on by the persons and corporations which paid the bridge company tolls for the privilege of using the bridge.

(3) That the fact that the tax in question was to some extent affected by the amount of the tolls received, and therefore might be supposed to increase the rate of tolls, was too remote and incidental to make it a tax on the business transacted.

(4) That the acts of Congress conferred no right or franchise on the company to erect the bridge or collect tolls for its use; that they merely regulated the height of bridges over that river and the width of their spans, in order that they might not interfere with its navigation, and that the declaration that such bridges should be regarded as post roads did not interfere with the right of the state to impose taxes.

(5) That the tax in controversy was nothing more than a tax on the intangible property of the company in Kentucky, and was sustained as such by the Court of Appeals, as consistent with the provisions of the Constitution of Kentucky in reference to taxation, and that, for the reasons given, and on the authorities cited in Adams Express Co. v. Ohio State Auditor, 165 U. S. 194, this Court is unable to conclude that the method of taxation prescribed by the statute of Kentucky and followed in making this assessment is in violation of the Constitution of the United States.

The case is stated in the opinion.

Page 166 U. S. 152

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