United States Customs District of Salem and Beverly

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The United States Customs District of Salem and Beverly was an administrative area for the collection of import duties on foreign goods that entered the United States by ship at the ports of Salem and Beverly. Established in 1789, it was abolished in 1913. Today the ports of Salem and Beverly are serviced by the Port of Gloucester (located at the Cummings Center in Beverly), which is administered by the Boston Customs District.[1]


The District of Salem and Beverly was established in the fifth statute passed by the First Congress in 1789 (ch.5, 1 Stat. 30). This act provided for the collection of the duties that had been laid down in the Hamilton Tariff earlier that year. The towns of Salem and Beverly were designated as one port of entry for customs purposes. The towns of Danvers and Ipswich were designated as ports of delivery only. The district extended to all shores and waters within the towns of Ipswich, Beverly, Salem and Danvers. A collector, naval officer and surveyor were appointed to the district to reside at Salem, which was the location of the Customs House for the district. Surveyors were appointed to reside at each of the towns of Beverly and Ipswich.[2] In 1790, Salem was the sixth largest city in the country and a major seaport.[3]

In 1796, the district was reorganised, with Ipswich created as a district in its own right.[4] Through the 19th century, Salem declined as a sea port, being seriously affected by the trade embargo with Great Britain. This fact was reflected in 1865, when the posts of surveyor at Beverly and naval officer at Salem were abolished, leaving the collector and surveyor at Salem as the only appointed officers.[5]

The post of surveyor was abolished ten years later in 1875. A collector remained at Salem Custom House until 1913, when Salem lost its status as a separate district and became a port of entry only.[6]

Nathaniel Hawthorne worked in the Custom House as surveyor for Salem from 1846–1849, and the introduction to his famous novel The Scarlet Letter is set there.[7]


The positions of collector, naval officer, and surveyor were appointed by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate. From 1820 onwards, officers were limited to four-year commissions, at the end of which they needed to be reappointed by the President. They could be removed from office at the pleasure of the President. From approximately the 1840s onwards, the various posts were seen as a method of rewarding supporters and punishing those of the opposite view by successive administrations. Often, a change of administration led to a change in the Customs House. Other posts, such as deputy collector, inspectors, weighers, measurers and gaugers were recommended by the collector, pending approval by the Secretary of the Treasury. This led to a certain amount of nepotism.[7]

Collector for the District (1789–1913)[edit]

James Miller, Collector 1824 - 1849

The first collector at the port of Salem following the American Revolution was Warwick Palfray. In 1784 he was succeeded by Joseph Hiller and when the collection of import duties was organised on a federal basis in 1789, Hiller was appointed collector. He had been an officer during the Revolution, as had his successor, William R. Lee. When Lee died in office, he was replaced by another soldier, James Miller. Miller was probably the most notable of the collectors to serve in Salem. He was a hero of the War of 1812, where he was made a general following his actions at the Battle of Lundy's Lane. He was a governor of the Arkansas Territory before being elected to Congress in 1824 for New Hampshire. However, he never took up his seat, being appointed instead collector for Salem. He served as collector for over 24 years, the longest term of any collector, before being replaced by his son.

Collectors in Salem were not removed from office as frequently as the other officers, they generally only being replaced when their commissions expired. Charles Odell was the longest serving collector after 1849, with 12 years and the last collector, David M. Little, served for nearly ten years before the office was abolished in 1913.

Name Entered Office[n 1] Left Office First Appointed By Reason for Leaving Office
Joseph Hiller August 4, 1789 January 17, 1803 George Washington Retired[8]
William R. Lee January 17, 1803[n 2] October 26, 1824 Thomas Jefferson Died in office
None October 26, 1824 December 6, 1824 Office Vacant -
James Miller December 6, 1824[n 2] January 3, 1849 James Monroe Commission expired
Ephraim F. Miller[n 3] January 3, 1849 January 26, 1857 James K. Polk Commission expired
William B. Pike January 26, 1857 January 26, 1861 Franklin Pierce Commission expired
None[n 4] January 26, 1861 March 14, 1861 Office Vacant -
Willard B. Phillips March 14, 1861 January 12, 1865 Abraham Lincoln Resigned
Robert S. Rantoul January 12, 1865 January 12, 1869 Abraham Lincoln Commission expired
Charles W. Palfray January 12, 1869 March 20, 1873 Ulysses S. Grant[n 5] Commission expired
Charles H. Odell March 20, 1873 May 13, 1885 Ulysses S. Grant Commission expired
Richard F. Dodge May 13, 1885 June 13, 1889 Grover Cleveland Commission expired
Guilford Parker Bray June 13, 1889 January 30, 1894 Benjamin Harrison Commission expired[9]
William C. Waters January 30, 1894 March 18, 1898 Chester A. Arthur Commission expired
John Daland March 18, 1898 November 10, 1903 William McKinley Resigned
David M. Little November 10, 1903 June 30, 1913 Theodore Roosevelt Office abolished

Naval Officer for the District (1789–1865)[edit]

The naval officer for a customs district operated as an auditor, and kept a separate record of the various transactions in the district. The most notable name associated with this office in Salem was one who never actually took up the post, Associate Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story. In 1803, Story was nominated by President Jefferson and confirmed by the Senate for the post, but he declined the appointment upon being convinced that the role would conflict with his then growing private law practice in Salem.

Name Entered Office Left Office First Appointed By Reason for Leaving Office
William Pickman August 3, 1789 February 4, 1803 George Washington Removed by Jefferson
None[n 6] February 4, 1803 November 18, 1803 Office Vacant -
Samuel Ward November 18, 1803 July 31, 1812 Thomas Jefferson Died in office
None July 31, 1812 November 4, 1812 Office Vacant -
Henry Elkins November 4, 1812[n 2] August 3, 1829 James Madison Removed by Jackson
John Swasey August 3, 1829[n 2] April 12, 1842 Andrew Jackson Commission expired
Abraham True April 12, 1842 April 12, 1846 John Tyler Commission expired
John D. Howard April 12, 1846 July 20, 1849 James K. Polk Removed by Fillmore
William Brown July 20, 1849[n 2] October 7, 1853 Millard Fillmore Removed by Pierce
Charles Millett October 7, 1853[n 2] January 31, 1858 Franklin Pierce Commission expired
None January 31, 1858 June 3, 1858 Office Vacant -
John Ryan June 3, 1858 August 3, 1860 James Buchanan Resigned
None[n 7] August 3, 1860 March 27, 1861 Office Vacant -
Joseph A. Dalton March 27, 1861 February 28, 1865 Abraham Lincoln Office abolished

Surveyor of Salem (1789–1875)[edit]

Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1848, when he was surveyor of the district

The writer Nathaniel Hawthorne is undoubtedly the most famous name associated with Salem customs, and he served as surveyor from 1846 to 1849. However he was just one of a remarkable seven consecutive surveyors who were removed from the post by the President between 1841 and 1861. Every incoming President, it seems, felt the need to put his own man in the post. One of these removals led to the only time the nomination of a customs officer for Salem was rejected by the Senate.

Edward Palfray had been surveyor in 1841 before being replaced by Stephen Daniels. When Daniels himself was removed two years later Palfray was appointed his successor by President Tyler as a recess appointment. However, when Palfray's name came before the Senate for confirmation, his appointment was rejected by a Senate vote, 12 - 23. George W. Mullet was then nominated by Tyler, but he too was rejected, 16 - 25. Finally, Nehemiah Brown was confirmed. Palfray still held the office during this time though, as recess appointments stay in place until a nomination is confirmed or until the end of the Congressional session, whichever comes first.

Name Entered Office Left Office First Appointed By Reason for Leaving Office
Bartholomew Putnam August 3, 1789 April 4, 1808 George Washington Resigned
George Hodges April 4, 1808 1817 Thomas Jefferson Resigned
None 1817 February 3, 1818 Office Vacant -
John Saunders February 3, 1818 January 29, 1830 James Monroe Commission expired
James Dalrymple January 29, 1830 January 29, 1834 Andrew Jackson Commission expired
Joseph Noble January 29, 1834 January 29, 1838 Andrew Jackson Commission expired
Edward Palfrey January 29, 1838 July 6, 1841 Martin van Buren Removed by Tyler
Stephen Daniels July 6, 1841 June 19, 1843 John Tyler Removed by Tyler
Edward Palfrey[n 2] June 19, 1843 June 14, 1844 John Tyler Senate did not confirm recess appointment
Nehemiah Brown June 14, 1844 March 18, 1846 John Tyler Removed by Polk
Nathaniel Hawthorne March 18, 1846 June 17, 1849 James K. Polk Removed by Taylor
Allen Putnam[n 2] June 17, 1849 May 30, 1853 Zachary Taylor Removed by Pierce
Lewis Josselyn[n 2] May 30, 1853 July 23, 1857 Franklin Pierce Removed by Buchanan
Ebenezer Dodge[n 2] July 23, 1857 August 1, 1861 James Buchanan Removed by Lincoln
William C. Waters August 1, 1861 March 23, 1863 Abraham Lincoln Resigned
Charles F. Williams[n 2] March 23, 1863 June 4, 1865 Abraham Lincoln Died in office
None June 4, 1865 July 28, 1865 Office Vacant -
Joseph Mosely[n 2] July 28, 1865 February 23, 1870 Andrew Johnson Commission expired
Charles D. Howard February 23, 1870 1875 Ulysses S. Grant Office abolished

Surveyor of Beverly (1789–1865)[edit]

The surveyor of Beverly was based in the port of Beverly, separate from the rest of the customs officers in Salem. The longest serving surveyor was the first, Josiah Batchelor, who served for 20 years. The most interesting case was that of Samuel D. Turner. He was appointed surveyor in April 1842, but was removed from the position later that year as he "did not qualify".

Name Entered Office Left Office First Appointed By Reason for Leaving Office
Josiah Batchelor August 3, 1789 1809 George Washington  ???
None[n 8] 1809 May 1, 1810 Office Vacant -
Jonathan Smith May 1, 1810 January 29, 1830 James Madison Commission expired
Benjamin Hawkes January 29, 1830 January 29, 1834[n 9] Andrew Jackson Commission expired
None January 29, 1834 March 15, 1834 Office Vacant -
Aaron Forster March 15, 1834 April 1, 1842 Andrew Jackson Commission expired
Samuel D. Turner April 1, 1842 September 19, 1842 John Tyler Turner 'did not qualify'
Daniel Foster[n 2] September 19, 1842 March 3, 1851 John Tyler Commission expired
Robert Goodwin March 3, 1851 May 27, 1853 Millard Fillmore Removed by Pierce
Samuel Porter[n 2] May 27, 1853 June 3, 1862 Franklin Pierce Commission expired
None[n 10] June 3, 1862 1862 Office Vacant -
Samuel Porter[n 2] 1862 February 28, 1865 Abraham Lincoln Office abolished

Surveyor of Ipswich (1789 - 1796)[edit]

The surveyor of Ipswich was part of the Salem and Beverly district until 1796, when Ipswich was created as a district in its own right.

Name Entered Office Left Office First Appointed By Reason for Leaving Office
Jeremiah Stainiford August 3, 1789 May 27, 1796 George Washington Office abolished


  1. ^ From 1820, collectors were appointed to four-year commission. The term of a collector may have expired for a short period before the new collector was confirmed, but the dates are shown as continuous.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Recess appointment. The date of taking up office is the date the recess appointment was made by the President, unless otherwise noted.
  3. ^ Ephraim F. Miller was the son of the previous collector.
  4. ^ Pike was renominated for another term by James Buchanan but never confirmed. Phillips was nominated instead by Lincoln.
  5. ^ Palfrey was nominated by Johnson, but confirmed under Grant.
  6. ^ Joseph Story was nominated by Jefferson and confirmed by the Senate on March 1, 1803. However, he declined the office.
  7. ^ Charles F. Williams was nominated by James Buchanan on February 23, 1861. However, he was not confirmed before the 36th Congress ended. Upon becoming President, Lincoln nominated Dalton instead.
  8. ^ John Burley was nominated by Madison and confirmed by the Senate on January 2, 1810. He declined the appointment.
  9. ^ Hawkes declined reappointment.
  10. ^ William W. Hinkley was nominated by Lincoln and confirmed by the Senate on July 17, 1862. He declined the appointment.