National Archives at Boston

Ready to Sail: The Manifest

New England Customs Records

Refer to Caption Outward Foreign Manifest, June 4, 1803 See Transcript

Ready to Sail

The Manifest

The manifest of the Ship Mount Vernon lists a cargo of cotton, tea, sugar, nankeens, coffee, rum, tobacco, and gum destined for Copenhagen, Denmark with a total value of $43, 785. It was signed on June 4, 1803 by the ship's master, Samuel Endicott.

Manifests provide a list and brief description of all the cargo on a ship. Once all of the cargo had been loaded and other paperwork was completed, the manifests were made out in at least two copies, one to be filed with the collector and the other to be carried on the ship. Once the manifest was made out and all other paperwork reviewed for completeness, the Collector of Customs would clear the ship for sailing.

The goods were identified on this and other records by marks that were used to keep track of the contents of different containers. These marks could also be used by inspectors to relate containers to the manifest. Often the marks were simply the initials of the merchants who were shipping goods. Thus, in this instance, "JP" would have been Joseph Peabody.

The goods on the Ship Mount Vernon originated in two areas which were very important to the Salem trade, the East Indies, China, and the West Indies. This trade was part of an intricate pattern of maritime trade where Salem merchants would send native New England goods, such as fish and timber, to the West Indies and obtain cargoes which could be sent to the East Indies. Goods obtained from both the West and East Indies would eventually be combined to make valuable cargoes destined for Europe. This three-way trade allowed merchants to greatly increase their profits and to bring to Salem desirable cargoes such as European luxury goods and ship building supplies.

See the Outward Foreign Manifest for the Brig Hope, bound for Martinique in 1803, carrying a cargo of New England products that includes cod, lumber, cheese, and shoes.

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