U.S. Customs in New London

  • A contemporary oil painting depicting La Amistad (left) with the USS Washington in pursuit. La Amistad was seized and moored at the New London harbor, while processing was conducted at the New London Customs House. The commandeered slave ship soon became a symbol for the abolitionist movement and motivated the end of slavery in the United States.

  • A modern replica of La Amistad is shown here at full sail. This ship travels up and down the eastern seaboard, informing visitors of the important role the historic ship played in American history and freedom.

  • The U.S. Customs Service ensign, flown from the New London Customhouse continuously from from its construction in 1835 until 1983, when the New London Maritime Society saved the building from demolition.

  • The New London Customhouse, located on the waterfront at 150 Bank Street in New London, Connecticut, will host the National U.S. Customs Museum Foundation’s next exhibit, opening in May 2015.

October 1, 2015 - May 31, 2016


The New London Maritime Society operates the Customs House and is committed to preserving and showcasing the storied history of New London, CT. The U.S. Customs Service played major roles in this history, which were feature prominently in this new exhibit.

Customs was central to New London’s growth as a whaling city in the early and mid-19th century, collecting maritime revenue aboard its swift Revenue Cutters. When the slave ship La Amistad was commandeered in a revolt by its captive Africans, it was intercepted by the Customs vessel the USS Washington and brought to New London.

The exhibit included fascinating information on the Customs Officers who made names for themselves through the civil service and protecting America.

We also featured content on Prohibition Era enforcement in New England, both by boat and over land. And the exhibit will conclude with an exposition on smuggling today, with a focus on illegal drugs and counterfeit goods.


Customs and the Golden Gate

San Francisco Maritime Museum

  • Located in the Maritime National Historic Park along the shore of the Aquatic Park, the Maritime Museum is housed in an Art Deco building constructed during the Works Progress Administration in the 1930’s. The “Customs and the Golden Gate” exhibit is located in the Lobby and the west wing’s Prismatarium, which also features a ceiling mural by the artist and color theoretician Hilaire Hiler.

  • In the lobby of the Maritime Museum, you’ll find a US Customs flag, introducing you to the exhibit and the US Customs Service.

  • Also in the Museum’s lobby, these ship models tell a story of the evolving nature of Customs’ duties during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

  • This panel will welcome you to the exhibit itself, with the fascinating story of heroic Customs officers during the earliest days of San Francisco.

  • In 1849, this harbor was choked with vessels whose crews had abandoned ship for the gold fields. Today, you can see beautiful Angel Island, where thousands of late 19th century immigrants were processed by Customs officers.

  • In an era before electronic tracking, special US Customs locks were used to ensure that containers reached their destination without any tampering.

  • Badges and articles from the first US Customs Inspectress from the 1920’s. Only a handful of these badges were commissioned: As more and more women rose through the ranks of Customs with the title of Inspector, the novel title of “Inspectress” was abandoned.

  • Authentic 19th century Customs documents fill this case below the story of the pivotal role that the San Francisco Customhouse and its employees played in helping to save the city during the fire that engulfed the city in 1906.

  • Some tools of the Customs Inspector, including a scale and tools used to sample large bushels of grain and other products.

  • A typical Customs officer’s desk, complete with a “Look Out Book” filled with images and descriptions of wanted criminals.

  • Customs badges and hats from around the world. At the exhibit, you can try to identify which item represents which country.

  • The U.S. Customs Service and the Golden Gate exhibit, hosted at the San Francisco Maritime Museum will close to the public on Sunday, February 15, 2015. It was a great success for our organization and we thank everyone who visited.

July 30, 2014 - February 15, 2015


While we will be disappointed to see the Customs and the Golden Gate exhibit ending on February 15, 2015, the exhibit has proved a great success and has reached thousands of visitors in its 8 month run. The National US Customs Museum Foundation would like to thank all of our generous supporters and the many visitors who enjoyed the exhibit.

Originally planned to celebrate the 225th anniversary of the creation of the U.S. Customs Service on July 30, 2014, the National U.S. Customs Museum Foundation’s first historical exhibit dedicated to Customs’ rich history will close on February 15, 2015.

From collecting tariffs on imported mining equipment during the Gold Rush to battling marine smuggling up and down the California coast, the U.S. Customs Service played critical roles in the history of the San Francisco Bay Area, California, and the nation.

In partnership with the National Park Service, we showcased the connection between Customs and San Francisco in the context of a growing and prosperous nation.

The exhibit delved into the early history of the City by the Bay, touching on the methods and purpose of revenue collection, safeguarding innocent human trafficking victims, protection of US consumers and businesses, and enforcement of anti-smuggling laws — from pirates to drug-runners to endangered species-peddlers.

The exhibit also honored the important roles that Asian-Americans have played at Customs — as Officers, Attorneys, Translators, and much more. Like our nation, Customs’ vibrant and successful history would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of newly-arrived Americans and their children. These pieces will make another appearance at the Maritime Museum in May during the Museum’s celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month.