The National Archives at New York City

The World's Port

The World's Port, through documents of the National Archives

Trade and Money

Trade and Money reflects the growth of business and commerce of the Port of New York. International trade through the port grew steadily throughout the 19th century until the Port of New York represented point of entry/departure for the vast majority of imports and exports.

Business of the Port

Business of the Port includes cargo manifests, crew lists, shipping articles, and the maritime register highlighting the active roles played by captains and crews in making the Port of New York into the World's Port.

Danish Consulate Receipt for the Ship Nordskov, April 7, 1852
Records of the United States Customs Service

Within 48 hours of entering port, a captain of a foreign vessel presented his ship's papers to Customs officials, and deposited them with his consulate. Heavy fines from $500 to $2,000 ensured that captains followed proper procedures.

At the Custom House

At the Custom House looks at the responsibility of the United States Customs Service in monitoring and regulating this growing business as it collects tariffs, the main source of Federal revenue until the income tax.

Architectural Drawing of the Collector's Room, November 1, 1904
Records of the Public Buildings Service

The Collector of Customs at the Port of New York had significant power and prestige. The position was described by the New York Times as a "prize plum of Federal patronage." By the late 19th century, the Customs Service had been corrupted by the spoils system of political support.


The World's Port exhibit reflects primary source documents can tell important stories of our past, that the National Archives has these documents, and that they are available for everyone to learn from and discover.

The World's Port exhibit ran from September 21, 2012 through November 25, 2012 at the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House at One Bowling Green, New York, NY.

The National Archives at New York City >

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
1-86-NARA-NARA or 1-866-272-6272

.