Salem in Essex County, Massachusetts — The American Northeast (New England)
The Custom House
Inside this impressive building were the offices of the United States Customs Service collectors, inspectors, and other officials. It was here that ship’s captains and owners paid duties on imported goods and conducted other business.
Before the passage of the Federal Income Tax Act of 1913, customs duties on ship’s cargoes provided most of the money to run the Federal Government. Between 1789 and 1840, duties collected here earned the Treasury more than $20 million – a substantial amount in those days.
Salem’s Custom House was one of several in Massachusetts. It was built in 1819, near the end of the height of Salem’s East Indies trade. However, international cargoes continued to enter the port until the early 20th century, and so the Customs Service operated in this building for more than a century. Today the Custom House has historically furnished rooms and exhibits.
”Here, before his own wife has greeted him, you may greet the sea-flushed ship-master, just in port, with his vessel´s papers under his arm, in a tarnished tin box.” - Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Custom House” introduction to The Scarlet Letter, 1850
Custom House First Floor
In the painting below, U.S. Customs Service employees take measurements of imported
By presidential appointment, author Nathaniel Hawthorne served as the Port of Salem's Surveyor from 1846-1849. It was here that Hawthorne conceived his famous novel, The Scarlet Letter: “it was the subject of my meditations for many an hour while pacing to and fro across my room, or traversing, with a hundred-fold repetition, the long extent from the front-door of the Custom-house to the side-entrance, and back again.”
Location. 42° 31.283′ N, 70° 53.216′ W. Marker is in Salem, Massachusetts, in Essex County. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 176 Derby Street, Salem MA 01970, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Derby Wharf (a few steps from this marker); a different marker also named Derby Wharf (a few steps from this marker but has been reported missing); Privateer Warehouse (within shouting distance of this marker); Derby House (within shouting distance of this marker); Home for Aged Women (within shouting distance of this marker); Wharves in the Late 1800s (within shouting distance of this marker); Salem Maritime National Historic Site (within shouting distance of this marker but has been reported missing); Central Wharf (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Salem.
More about this marker. This marker replaces a previous marker with the same name (and very similar text and illustrations) at this location.
Categories. • Arts, Letters, Music • Waterways & Vessels •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 9, 2015, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. This page has been viewed 146 times since then and 19 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on August 9, 2015, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico.