Welcome to the National US Customs Museum Foundation!
From 1789 to 1913, the US Customs Service was the sole source of revenue for the federal government, allowing the United States to complete the Louisiana Purchase, negotiate the transfer of Florida, and buy the Alaska Territories.
Revenue from the US Customs Service was critical in building the Transcontinental Railroad from New York to San Francisco — a marvelous feat of transportation in 1869.
Launched in 1857, the US Revenue Cutter Harriet Lane — an official US Customs Service vessel — fired the first naval shots of the Civil War at the Battle of Fort Sumter.
USRC Harriet Lane was then captured by Confederate troops at the Battle of Galveston in January 1862, a fateful event in the history of the Civil War.
The Customhouse was often the most important building in a growing city — and among the first to be constructed. Pictured here is one of San Francisco’s first Customhouses, built in 1855 as the city was growing fantastically.
Depicted here is an even older Customhouse, built on New York City’s Wall Street in 1799, as the metropolis began to take its modern shape.
In the early days of the republic, Customs Service ensigns were made locally from imprecise design instructions, resulting in flags that reflected each flag-maker’s unique style. This ensign flew above Customs’ Revenue Cutters during the War of 1812.
We are here to bring the history of the US Customs Service to life through educational experiences in museums and historic buildings across the country. Look for a new exhibit popping up near you!
The National US Customs Museum Foundation advances knowledge and understanding of the history of the US Customs Service by exhibiting and promoting historical documents, artifacts, and other items that tell the story of our nation’s first federal law enforcement agency.