About this Exhibit
The Philadelphia Custom House records at the University of Delaware Library offer a wealth of information on the economic, political, and maritime history of the United States. Created between 1779 and 1932, these documents chart the movement of commodities through the port of Philadelphia, capture the organic growth of government recordkeeping, and highlight the bureaucratic expansion of the United States Customs Service as it took on new responsibilities and wielded greater authority over the course of the nineteenth century. These records not only illustrate U.S. commercial and shipping interests, but also the activities of Custom House employees and sailors. This on-line exhibition introduces researchers to the types of documents found in the Library's collection and describes how they functioned to support American commerce and maritime travel.