From 1857 until the Fire of 1871
Table of Contents

Title Page
Harbor and Marine [v. I, to 1857]
From 1857 until the Fire of 1871
River, Harbor And Marine
Elevators
The Custom House
Harbor Improvements
Life-saving Service
United States Marine Hospital
Harbor And Marine [v. III, 1871 to 1885]
Table of Illustrations

The Custom House

The Chicago Custom House is rated as the most important of all the local branches of the Federal service. An account of its earlier years, the making of Chicago a port of entry, and the re-appointment of William B. Snowhook as collector, on March 18, 1853, appears at length in the first volume of this work. Mr. Snowhook was the first collector of the port, receiving his appointment direct from President Polk; and when the Democrats again came into power, he succeeded Jacob Russell, who has served under the Whig administration. The Custom office was at this time in the Starkweather Building, on LaSalle Street, near Randolph. Collector Snowhook remained in office until July 10, 1855, when he was succeeded by Philip Conly, who retained the office until the advent of President Buchanan's administration, when, on March 31, 1857, Jacob Fry was appointed his successor. Mr. Fry assumed possession of the office early in May, and served until June 15, 1858, when he was removed, and Bolton F. Strother, a lawyer, was appointed in his stead. Collector Strother managed the office until after the inauguration of President Lincoln in 1861. The business of the Custom House in 1857 was greater than that of any other government department, the value of exports being $1,585,096, the imports from Canada $326,325, and the total duties collected on imports $143,009.23. The collector of customs was formerly, ex officio, sub-treasurer, called a "depositary," and had charge of all the government collections, being paid a percentage on the money handled. In 1854-55, the business of the port assumed such proportions as to demand much work in its management, and it was not until then that any clerical force aside from the collector and his deputy, were employed. Under Mr. Conly, Thomas J. Kinsella was deputy collector, and Frederick C. Russell under Mr. Strother. In 1866, four men performed the work of the office, but from that time forward it demanded.extra force. On March 30, 1861, Julius White was appointed to succeed Mr. Strother as collector, but he resigned a few months afterward, to take the colonelcy of a regiment then formed in Chicago. From October 3, 1861, to March 9, 1866, the office was filled by Luther Haven, and from March 10, 1866, until June 30, 1866, the office was managed by Thomas J. Kinsella, as acting collector. During the last year of Collector Strother's management, the office was removed from LaSalle Street to the newly erected government building, at the corner of Dearborn and Monroe streets. This building was known both as the Custom House and the Post-office. Portions of the site were purchased January 10, 1855, July 1, 1857, and January 26, 1865; the total cost being $68,600. The contract price of construction was $276,750, and the actual cost of construction $365,694. The total cost of the building up to June 30, 1871, including alterations and repairs was $505,618. It was almost destroyed in the great fire, only the walls being left standing. A short time prior to the fire, an appropriation of $11,956 was made for furnishing the building. This building was 80 by 150 feet in area, three stories and sub-basement, built of stone. It faced Dearborn and Monroe streets, and on the other two sides there were open courts. The Post-office occupied the basement and first floors -- the remaining floors were occupied by the Custom House and other departments.

Judge Walter B. Scates was collector from July 1, 1866 until June 30, 1869, and was succeeded by J. E. McLean, who served until July 17, 1872, when Hon. Norman B. Judd was appointed to the control of the department. In September, 1866, W. C. McElroy, of Baltimore, became deputy collector, and was succeeded by Charles M. Pullman as deputy.

Since 1869, the collector of customs has acted as the disbursing agent of the government, besides being the custodian of all public buildings in his district, including light-houses. In the latter part of 1871, or early in 1872, the United States Marine Hospital was taken out of his charge, and placed in that of the Surgeon of the Marine Hospital. In July, 1870, the "Immediate Transportation Act" went into effect, the law providing for immediate transportation of goods without appraisement" at the port of entry. Prior to this, specific duties only were in effect, and not a great deal of skill was required on the part of the officials or employes to conduct the business of the Custom House. When the act went into operation the labor increased, and the work was of a character to demand careful and constant attention. Some forty employes were required, and the annual expenses of collection were upwards of $55,000. The effect of the act was to require the same methods of business, and proportionately the same number of employes, as the New York Custom House.

For the eleven months ending May 31, 1871, the schedule of warehouse transactions in the Chicago customs district were as follows :

The penalties and forfeitures collected from July 1, 1870, to March 31, 1871, amounted to $4,159.

The number of merchant vessels and the tonnage in the Chicago Customs District, June 30, 1877, were as follows:

Sailing vessels 333 64,702.26 tons
Steam vessels 84 6,846.30 "
Unrigged vessels 233 23,735.39 "
Total 650 95,283.95 tons

The only lake ports at this date exceeding the customs tonnage at Chicago were Buffalo and Oswego, and their excess was derived from a greater number of unrigged vessels, such as barges and canal-boats.

John Hitt was appointed deputy collector under Collector Scates in 1867, and served under subsequent collectors in the same capacity. After the great fire, the Custom House business was transacted in temporary quarters in Congress Hall, a hotel at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Congress Street. Dry goods boxes were used in lieu of counters and desks, and Custom-house permits were made out on the printed menu cards of the hotel. After an experience of seven months in these cramped and inconvenient quarters, the business was removed to the Republic Life Insurance Company's building, in Arcade Court, the removal taking place May 2, 1872. There the Custom House remained until the completion of the new government building.

The annexed table shows by years the receipts at the port of Chicago from August 27, 1846, to June 30, 1871, an amount of duties on imports, tonnage duty, marine hospital collections, and the expenses of collecting the revenue from customs :

YEAR. Duties. Tonnage duty. Marine Hospital collections. Expense of collecting.
1847 $ 21 75 $ 259 74 $ 1,332 26
1848 1,104 90 640 47 1,784 83
1849 2,045 26 707 30 2,609 52
1850 4,256 07 1,060 55 4,935 21
1851 1,924 48 776 75 2,816 00
1852 10,610 85 577 89 2,400 00
1853 110,885 46 838 40 2,853 01
1854 332,814 28 1,119 50 5,017 75
1855 573,921 75 1,549 05 7,295 00
1856 205,195 00 $ 372 50 1,826 50 11,971 83
1857 143,009 23 2,151 97 14,536 00
1858 80,149 91 1,598 64 14,097 11
1859 23,151 89 277 00 1,044 67 12,723 00
1860 68,919 53 1,661 13 11,576 00
1861 45,149 35 2,137 32 12,525 00
1862 21,628 14 2,753 67 12,809 35
1863 65,980 59 9,760 13 3,432 10 12,317 45
1864 158,454 92 10,962 97 3,581 70 12,670 00
1865 127,931 74 28,006 60 3,910 02 17,213 00
1866 393,406 55 22,953 85 4,137 06 20,146 40
1867 511,081 89 32,842 78 3,763 55 31,585 40
1868 659,380 73 31,192 72 4,475 64 59,831 83
1869 583,835 7t 32,859 07 4,370 50 70,019 82
1870 691,066 82 28,135 07 4,189 89 58,425 30
1871 827,964 81 7,922 03 1,384 42 65,942 00

The following table exhibits the imports of merchandise at the port of Chicago for the years ending June 30, 1856 to 1871, inclusive:

YEAR. Direct from Canada. Received in bond from other districts under warehousing acts. Total imports.
1856 $277,404 No data $277,404
1857 326,325 No data 326,325
1858 222,930 No data 222 930
1859 93,588 No data 93,588
1860 60,214 No data 60,214
1861 77,148 No data 77,348
1862 62,129 No data 62,129
1863 134,204 No data 134,204
1864 322,352 No data 322,352
1865 311,455 No data 311,455
1866 1,095,585 No data 1,095,585
1867 355,790 No data 355,790
1868 344,174 $1,110,508 1,454,682
1869 423,889 791,114 1,215 003
1870 735,894 951,947 1,687,841
1871 575,154 1,467,345 2,042,499

The value of merchandise exports from Chicago is taken from the record of direct and through business of the port for the following years:

YEAR. Domestic. Foreign. Total.
1856 $1,345,223 $1,345,223
l857 1,585,096 $308 00 1,585,404
1858 1,711,077 1,713,077
1859 I 269 385 1,269,385
1860 1,165,183 1,165,183
1861 3,522,343 3,522,343
1862 2,303,275 2 ,303,275
1863 3,544,085 3,544,085
1864 3,529,034 3,529,034
1865 4,590,350 4,590,350
1866 2,636,539 7,936 00 2,644,475
1867 1,818,463 5,908 00 1,824,371
1868 5 052 062 5 052 062
1869 3,742,256 3,742,256
1870 2,611,678 1,394 00 2,613 072
1871 5,575,660 6,514 00 5,582,174

The number of vessels built, their tonnage, and the tonnage of vessels documented at the port of Chicago from August, 1847, to June 30, 1871, is given below.

YEAR. Total number built Total Tonnage. Registered Tonnage. AGGREGATE.
1847 3,951.56 3,951.56
1848 10,488.62 10,488.62
1849 13 2,2IO.84 17,332.43 17,332.43
1850 13 1,691.21 21,242.17 21,242.17
1851 4 313.56 23,103.45 23,103.45
1852 17 1,217.28 25,209.30 25,209.30
1853 9 1,158.35 27,015.75 27,015.75
1854 16 3,255.08 31,041.04 31,041.04
1855 12 1,742.15 50,972.00 50,972.00
1856 21 4,404.47 57,407.30 57,407.30
1857 9 2,722.78 67,316.92 67,316.92
1858 7 586.42 67,001.23 67,001.23
1859 3 230.01 1,057.56 67,065.78 68,123.39
1860 1,624.00 77,192.05 78,8l6.05
1861 4 1,537.20 85,743.66 85,743.66
1862 5 1,411.83 1,100.89 107,256.48 108,357.42
1863 85 9,783.18 1,385.59 125,298.76 126,684.40
1864 96 11,468.01 9,682.37 150,558.65 l60,241.07
1865 34 3,521.07 4,223.31 71,220.55 75,444.41
1866 12 942.39 2,569.50 84,115.83 86,685.33
1867 36 1,896.22 521.91 94,814.14 95,336.05
1868 29 7,153.80 3,313.6l 97,346.36 100,753.71
1869 16 2,346.03 2,079.65 101,966.22 104,314.58
1870 15 1,676.67 956.04 92,365.16 93,62549
1871 12 1,771.49 494.96 93,423 98 93,918.97

STATEMENT OF DUTIES collected at Chicago, Illinois, during the fiscal years, 1857-71, inclusive:

YEAR AMOUNT
1857 $143,009 23
1858 80,149 91
1859 23,131 89
1860 68,919 53
1861 45,149 35
1862 21,627 94
1863 65,980 59
1864 158,454 92
1865 127,931 74
1866 393,406 55
1867 511,081 89
1868 659,380 73
1869 583,835 71
1870 691,066 82
1871 827,964 81
Total to 1871 $4,401,091 61

 


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A selection of marine information and illustrations from this magnificent three volume history of Chicago.