The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
United States Customhouse (Ipswich, Mass.)
Ipswich (Mass.) Federal Custom House
1.25 Linear feet (3 boxes)
This collection contains the
only known extant records of the independent Ipswich Federal Customs
SERIES I. Registers, Enrollments, Licenses
B. Registration and Enrollment Oaths
C. Enrollment Bonds
D. License Abstracts
E. License Bonds
F. Licensing Oaths
SERIES II. Hospital Returns SERIES III. Crew Lists
Scope and Content Note
This collection contains the only known extant records of the independent Ipswich
Federal Customs District. Also included are records kept at Ipswich following
annexation of the port to the District of Newburyport. After the annexation,
information was recorded at Newburyport, and many Ipswich-related materials may be
found in the Newburyport Federal Custom House Records (MSS 282).
Thirty volumes and several folders of loose records comprise the collection.
Materials have been arranged in three series to distinguish between records of the
fleet, arriving vessels, and crew lists.
Series I. Registers, Enrollments, and Licenses
Federal customs duties performed at Ipswich include registering vessels engaged
in foreign trade; enrolling vessels over 20 tons that participated in domestic
coastwise trade and fishing; and granting one-year licenses to all vessels involved
in coastwise trading and fishing.
This series contains 92 registers dated 1797-1830. Entries include: register
number; temporary or permanent designation; name and residence of owner; name,
rigging, and home port of vessel; its place of construction, date, and
specifications; place and date of issue, and date of registration.
To register or enroll a vessel, the owner and master were required to bond
themselves to obey federal customs regulation and take an oath attesting to the
accuracy of the information contained in their application. The oaths of owners
recorded at Ipswich date from 1804-1868. Masters are included from 1804-1829. Oaths
indicate: owner's name and residence; name, rigging, and tonnage of vessel; place
and date of construction; master's name; and the date of the oath.
Actual enrollment papers are not known to exist; however enrollment bonds dating
from 1820-1841 are included in the collection. Bonds specify: the names and
residence of the owner and master; the amount and date of bond; and the name,
rigging, and tonnage of the vessel. Bonds between 1832-1835 include the length of
Three small volumes containing abstracts of license records date from 1797-1829.
The volumes detail licenses granted and surrendered at Ipswich for cod fishing,
mackerel fishing, and coasting. Entries include: date, number, and place of
enrollment; date of license; rigging, name, home port, and tonnage of the vessel;
names of the owner and master; license bond date and amount; names of bond
principals and sureties; and place, date, and cause of surrender of license.
License bond records are available for 1827-1830, 1837-1844, and 1849-1868. The
bonds indicate: vessel name, owner, master, rigging, tonnage, and home port; the
bond amount; and the type and number of the vessel license.
Additionally, four volumes detail oaths given by masters for licenses from
1828-1834, one from 1854, and 1860-1868. Included is vessel name, rigging, and home
port, and master's name, and the date of the oath.
Series II. Hospital Returns
One volume of hospital return records from 1829-1835 contains details of the tax
paid by arriving vessels in support of the marine hospital. Details include vessel,
crew, and tax information. See historical note for more information about the
Series III. Crew Lists
Two crew lists from fishing schooners dated 1795 are included with the Ipswich
records. They are the schooner Raven, mastered by David
Pulsifer, and the Sally mastered by Ebenezer Caldwell,
Jr. The crew lists are agreements signed by the master and crew to obey United
States regulations regarding fishing voyages. These records include their
signatures, signatures of witnesses, and the dates of the fishing voyage conducted
for the season.
On 31 July 1789, Congress established the United States Custom Service as a branch
of the Treasury Department. A minor port between two major points of entry at
Newburyport and Gloucester, Ipswich became a port of delivery under the
Salem/Beverly Customs district. Jeremiah Staniford was appointed Surveyor; John
Holmes was Inspector and Measurer, and John Stanwood Weigher and Gauger.
On 7 May 1796, Congress passed a new act establishing Ipswich (including the
port of Essex) as an independent customs district. The Surveyor position was
abolished and Asa Andrews was installed in the new role of Collector. Andrews was
succeeded by Timothy Souther in 1829, and the third and last Ipswich Collector was
Asabel Wildes, appointed 2 August 1840.
On 16 July 1798, and again on 3 May 1802, Congress passed acts for the relief of
sick and disabled seamen. Hospitals were established and supported by a hospital tax
secured by the Customs Collectors from each American vessel arriving from a foreign
port. The tax was assessed according to the number of men in the crew and the
aggregate time for which the entire crew had been employed. The masters deducted
their crewmen's salaries to cover the tax. Sick and disabled seamen applied to the
Collector for free admission to the marine hospital associated to the Customs
Congress approved legislation to annex Ipswich to the Newburyport Customs
District, and Essex to the Gloucester District on 15 June 1844, to be effective 20
July 1844. Wildes remained in Ipswich as Surveyor following the annexation, with
Daniel L. Wilcomb as Inspector during this period. Following annexation, the Ipswich
fleet was greatly reduced because many of the vessels formerly registered, enrolled,
or licensed there were actually owned by residents of Essex.
The exact location of the Custom House is unknown. Due to its infrequent use,
and the small size of the Ipswich fleet, it is possible that several rooms in rented
quarters were sufficient for Customs collections. Customs collection ended in
Ipswich and the Newburyport District in 1910.
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.
United States Customhouse (Ipswich, 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 the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex
Ipswich (Mass.) Federal Custom House (1796-1844) Records, MSS 335, Phillips Library,
Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.
The provenance of the Ipswich (Mass.) Federal Custom House Records is unknown. It is
possible that the records were donated with the Newburyport (Mass.) Federal Custom
House Records (MSS 282) on May 24, 1927.
Collection processed by Robert M. Hall, Jr., . Updated by: Jean Marie Procious,
Felt, Joseph B. History of Ipswich, Essex, and Hamilton,
Massachusetts. Ipswich, MA: Clamshell Press, 1966.
Hurd, Duane Hamilton. History of Essex County,
Massachusetts. 2 v. Philadelphia: J.W. Lewis & Co., 1888.
Laffley, Sally Brown. Unpublished manuscript titled: "Report on the Custom
House, Newburyport." Newburyport Public Library, 1974.
Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Maritime History of
Massachusetts, 1783-1860. Boston: Northeastern University Press,
Nason, Elias. "History of Ipswich" in Standard History of
Essex County. Boston: C.F. Jewett & Co., 1878.
Waters, Thomas Franklin. Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay
Colony. 2 v. Ipswich: Ipswich Historical Society, 1917.
Ipswich (Mass.) Federal Custom House (1796-1844) Records
The provenance of the Ipswich (Mass.) Federal Custom House Records is unknown. It is possible that the records were donated with the Newburyport (Mass.) Federal Custom House Records (MSS 282) on May 24, 1927.