U.S. Customs Service (Oswegatchie, NY District) Records

Identifier: GLMS-0025

Collection Overview


The Customs District of Oswegatchie, New York was established on April 1, 1811. This collection contains one volume of vessel abstracts, 1836-1841, which provides information on date registered, rig and name of vessel, port of departure, tonnage, and officers and crew. Two additional volumes of detailed wreck reports, 1874-1900 and 1902-1925, are indexed by vessel name.


  • 1836-1924
  • Majority of material found within 1836-1841
  • Majority of material found within 1874-1924


1 Reels (1 reel of 35mm microfilm)


Scope and Contents

This collection contains information for vessels calling at ports in the United States Customs District of Oswegatchie. Ogdensburg, NY served as the district headquarters during the years covered by this portions of the collection, 1836-1841. Commercial traffic in this district can be examined from the vessel, cargo and crew data compiled in the abstracts to form a view of the Great lakes regional economy around the middle of the nineteenth century. The information in each abstract generally contains dates of arrivals and departures, name and rig of vessel, clearance and departure ports, tonnage and crew data.

The second part of this collection contains wreck reports for the Oswegatchie district from the years 1874-1924. These reports also provide information on the nature of Great Lakes vessel traffic through descriptions of vessels and cargoes involved in wrecks.

Agency History

The customs district of Oswegatchie was established on April 1, 1811 with the opening of a headquarters office at Ogdensburg, NY. Sub-offices were later opened at Hammond, Morristown, Louisville, Massena and Waddington, NY. Activities for this district were confined to St. Lawrence County, NY. Consolidations of offices led in 1913 to the adding of the Cape Vincent and Champlain districts to that for Oswegatchie. This new district was called St. Lawrence.

Customs offices collected duties on merchandise arriving from foreign ports and issued regulatory forms for merchandise being exported to foreign ports. The U.S. Customs Service began operations in 1789 as a branch of the Treasury Department. The Oswegatchie District was not one of the original 59 districts, but came into existence to help enforce customs regulations for the rapidly expanding Great Lakes trade of the early nineteenth century.

Regulation of steamship and sail vessel inspections occupied customs district office staff. Licensing vessels that would appear on insurance company registers fell to customs officials. After 1850 customs offices maintained records for vessel sales also. By 1860 customs agents were providing nearly half of all new revenue to the Federal government.

Records of the Oswegatchie district in this collection reflect the role personnel in a Great Lakes office played in the process of customs regulation. The vessel registration data allows the reader to follow the daily arrivals and departures of vessels in this district. The wreck reports for 1874 to 1924 provide a view of customs district activities in getting official accounts of wrecks for insurance purposes and to track the disposition of vessels that may have been lost.

Conditions Governing Access

No known access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

The collection is in the public domain.

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The original records were loaned to the Center for Archival Collections for microfilming in 1977 by the U.S. Customs Service after being discovered in the customs building in Ogdensburg, NY.

Guide to the U.S. Customs Service (Oswegatchie, NY District) Records
Mark Sprang
June 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note