San Francisco Custom House records
Scope and Contents
Series I, Appraiser's Reports (1851-1861), housed in box 1, consists of appraisals of cargo entering the port of San Francisco, predominantly in 1851 and 1853. Appraisals were done in the absence of an invoice for goods or when the cargo had been damaged. Included are original invoices, and printed oaths signed by captains or owners swearing that there is no invoice for the goods shipped. The reports are arranged in chronological order.
Series II, Coasting Manifests (1851-1853), housed in box 2, consists of over 100 manifests for cargo laden at the Port of San Francisco, and destined for domestic points along the west coast, including San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Sacramento, Stockton, Benicia, Astoria, and Portland. Over half of the manifests are dated August 1851. Cargo includes foodstuffs, clothing, ballast [on ships outbound from San Francisco], liquor, and building materials. The series is organized into manifests for ships bound from San Francisco and bound to San Francisco. Within these subseries, they are arranged chronologically.
Series III, Merchandise Entry Papers (1850-1858), housed in box 3, is organized in two subseries: Import Entries and Warehouse Entries. Each subseries is arranged chronologically by date of entry. Import Entries consists of over 100 certificates, predominantly from 1851, documenting the declaration and taxation of cargo shipments from foreign ports. Oaths signed by the owner or consignee are printed on the verso. Entry documents for domestically produced merchandise returning from abroad are also present. Warehouse Entries consists of seven entry certificates documenting the deposit of imported goods, mostly liquors and foodstuffs, into warehouses in 1850 and 1851. The entries include details about the valuation of merchandise upon withdrawal.
Series IV, Other Documents (1851-1860), housed in box 4, includes inspectors' returns, various kinds of manifests, passenger returns, receipts, vessel certificates, and other documents. The series is arranged alphabetically by type of material, and most documents are dated 1850 and 1851. Also present is a carte-de-visite photograph of an unidentified man, a document granting power of attorney to N. M. Roberts for the shipping firm of Falkner, Bell & Co., and an earlier description of the Custom House Records which outlines the collection's potential for social and economic research. Oaths, certificates and invoices which have become detached from their parent documents are housed as fragments (folder 43).
Oversize contains material from Series I-IV, and is organized in box order.
- 1850 - 1861
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Immediate Source of Acquisition
4.14 Linear Feet ((5 boxes) + 5 rolls, 9 broadside folders)
Language of Materials
A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog
SAN FRANCISCO CUSTOM HOUSE
Through the middle of the 19th century, San Francisco was California's principal commercial port. Customs officials were charged with the regulation of international maritime commerce and were responsible for administering United States customs laws. Responsibilities included collecting duties on imported goods, enforcing export control laws, registering and licensing vessels, and documenting the entry and clearance of merchandise, sailors and passengers.
In June of 1850 the United States Customs Service leased a property in San Francisco from a local merchant. The city-wide fire in May 1851 consumed the building. Shipping records detailing tonnage, merchandise and passenger movements for 1849, 1850, and the first half of 1851 were reported destroyed. Records and goods which survived the fire were temporarily moved to another building until construction of the "Custom-House Block" was complete. In November 1853 Custom House operations relocated to the new structure at the south-east corner of Sansome and Sacramento Streets, where customs officials shared space with the naval department and the United States Post Office. An earthquake on October 17, 1865, caused massive damage to the "Block".
The current U.S. Customs House at 555 Battery Street was constructed after a design competition in 1905. Excavation was completed before the San Francisco earthquake and fire in April 1906 but a shortage of labor and materials delayed completion until 1911.
- Bills of lading
- Customs administration -- California -- San Francisco -- History -- 19th century
- Harbors -- California -- San Francisco -- Port charges
- Passenger lists
- Receipts (financial records)
- San Francisco (Calif.) -- Commerce
- Shipping -- California -- San Francisco
- Ships' papers
- United States Customhouse (San Francisco, Calif.)
- Guide to the San Francisco Custom House Records
- Under Revision
- by Diana Smith and Kathleen T. Burns
- February 2003
- Description rules
- Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository
P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
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