Changing Documentation


Over the course of the nineteenth century, the Customs Service transitioned from handwritten documents to standardized printed forms; however, the production of records by multiple hands in numerous ports guaranteed the persistence of idiosyncratic documentation. Customs officials created records on various qualities of paper and embellished their documents with seals, stamps, and patriotic engravings.  Developments in maritime transportation are reflected not only in registration, inspection, measurement, and surveying documents, but also in the changing iconography of ship engravings on manifests, crew lists, and bills of lading.