I was hunting for government immigration data and instead stumbled onto this remarkable visualization of U.S. government spending between 1789 and 1870. It’s striking, first, because it’s rather beautiful (if you are into this sort of thing). It’s striking also because wow, look at what happened to public debt during the civil war — it’s the center column.
The left column shows where revenue came from. The yellow bars represent tariffs, which accounted for most of the nation’s income until Congress introduced the income tax (pink bars) in 1862 to help pay for the war.
The bars in the right column show how the young nation spent its money. The light blue bars represent the Army, making a few other wars easy to spot.
See it really big (and see two more visualizations from the era) at the Dashboard Insight blog.