The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Salem Custom House
The Salem Custom House
9.5 linear feet (9 boxes, 5 volumes)
The Salem Custom House Records
give evidence of the day-to-day activities undertaken by the Custom House
SERIES I. Administration
SERIES II. Crew Documentation SERIES III. Imports and Exports
A. Returns of Merchandise
SERIES IV. Vessel Documentation
A. Enrollments and Registry Oaths
C. Entrances and Clearances
SERIES V. Guilford Parker Bray Personal Papers
Scope and Contents
The Salem Custom House Records give evidence of the day-to-day activities undertaken
by the Custom House employees. Series I. Administration
includes correspondence, administrative paperwork, and account books. Subseries A. Correspondence includes letters to and from
the Collector of Customs, most notably letters to the Collector from the Secretary
of the Treasury. This subseries includes one letter from Alexander Hamilton, dated
1794. Also included are circulars addressed to the collector of customs, a letter
book for the years 1763-1772 and a typescript in which each letter is abstracted.
Subseries B. Other consists of a variety of
administrative paperwork, including accounts of payment to staff, fees collected by
the Collector and Deputy Collector, as well as two account books of Bonds. Of note
in this subseries is an estimate written in 1818 for the construction of the current
Series II. Crew Documentation contains original and
typed crew lists, crew list inspections, and passport and roll of equipage.
Series III. Imposts and Exports contain account
books, records, and inspectors’ records. Subseries A. Returns of
Merchandise includes three account books documenting the cargoes of
individual ships and loose records from the years 1849-1850. Subseries B. Imposts contains records of duties paid on imported goods.
Subseries C. Exports contains loose records and two
account books detailing amounts paid on exports. Subseries D.
Other contains one volume and two folders of "Inspector's Returns," one
volume containing the work activity for a number of inspectors, one folder of the
schedules of goods, and one folder of completed forms for duties paid.
Series IV. Vessel Documentation includes material
relating to the physical condition and the official status of ships coming in and
out of the Port of Salem. Subseries A. Enrollments and Registry
Oaths contains four books of owners' enrollment oaths and one volume of
masters' oaths; these oaths were signed by the ships' owners and masters as they
placed themselves under bond to obey customs regulations. This subseries also
includes one volume of coastwise vessel enrollments, lists of merchant vessels, and
changes of masters of vessels. Subseries B. Privateers
includes two volumes of applications for commissions as privateers. Subseries C. Entrances and Clearances document the arrival
of foreign ships to their first United States port, and their departure from their
last port before returning home. It also includes one folder of two loose entrances
and clearances signed by the naval officer at the Custom House, temporary documents
for vessels, and reports of boarding officers. The books in this subseries overlap
because more than one person kept records on entrances and clearances. The volume of
Entrances and Clearances for 1750-1762 is referenced in Early
Coastwise and Foreign Shipping of Salem by Harriet S. Tapley. Subseries D. Other includes reports of fines, seizures and
penalties, issuances and surrenders of Marine documents, two volumes of Tonnage
duties paid, and one volume of Wharfages and Dockages paid.
Series V. Guilford Parker Bray Papers is included in
this collection because Bray was Collector of Customs in Salem from 1889-1894. He
was a member of the United States Navy and served in the Civil War until he was
discharged for a physical disability. Included in this series is: a notebook; a
history of the Salem Custom House, which he wrote; railroad tickets; as well as
official papers dealing with his discharge from the Army and his commission at the
Customs House. The folder "Miscellaneous Papers" contains documentation concerning
the sale of a slave named Marianne, 9 years old.
Since its inception in 1789, the United States Customs Service has been an integral
part of United States history; for the first 125 years of its existence, duties
collected by the Customs Service contributed to the nation's early growth and
infrastructure. The Customs Service enforced the laws and regulations concerning the
import and export of merchandise, the collection of tonnage taxes, the entrance and
clearance of vessels as well as their documentation, the overseeing of coastwise and
fishing trade vessels, and the protection of passengers.
The Salem Massachusetts Custom House has been in existence since 1649,
overseeing imports and exports for the British government during the colonial period
and for the American government once the Customs Service was established in 1789. At
the turn of the 18th century, Salem was counted among the major international
trading ports, primarily dealing in textiles, porcelain, spices, as well as
furniture and decorative arts. The current customs house in Salem was built in 1819.
A typical staff roster would include the Collector and Deputy Collector of Customs
as well as a Surveyor, who managed the tasks of the Inspectors, Weighers, and
Gaugers; Nathaniel Hawthorne was employed at the Custom House as a surveyor in the
1840s. The Custom House was used until the 1930s, when the demise of the shipping
industry in Salem rendered its operations unnecessary.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons,
or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Bray, Guilford Parker
Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 1804-1864
United States Customhouse (Salem, Mass.)
Restrictions on Access
This collection is open for research use.
Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in
writing to the Manuscript Librarian in Phillips Library of the Peabody Essex
The Salem Custom House Records, MH 261, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum,
This collection is an amalgamation of materials from several different sources. Some
of the material was purchased, while other items were donated.
Collection processed by Rachel Jirka, June 2009. Amended by Karen Clemons, September
Customs and Border Protection. "U.S. Customs Service: Over 200 Years of History."
U.S. Customs and Border Protection. http://www.cbp.gov/about/history (accessed 18
Frayler, John. "A Custom House Sketch." Pickled Fish and
Salt Provisions (2) 2000.