New London Maritime Society: History of US Custom Service Exhibition


New London Maritime Society Celebrates the
180th Anniversary of New London’s US Custom House with
new exhibition on the History of the US Custom Service


Opening Reception Monday, September 21, from 5 to 7 PM

New London Maritime Society is pleased to host an exhibition celebration 225 years of the US Custom Service and 180 years of New London’s Custom House. Created by the National US Customs Museum Foundation, the exhibition highlights the storied history of the U.S. Customs Service from its inception in 1789 to the present. Using artifacts, images, graphics, and video, the display illustrates the important roles Customs has played in the growth and development of the nation we know today. A Reception will take place Monday, September 21, from 5 to 7 PM at the Custom House Maritime Museum, 150 Bank Street, New London. The event is free and open to the public, but space is limited. Please RSVP to 860-447-8700, or email

New London was the main customs port in Connecticut from colonial days. When President George Washington established the US Custom Service in 1789, he appointed Norwich native and general in the Continental Army, Jedediah Huntington, as the first customs house collector for the coastal area from the Connecticut River to Rhode Island. Customs was central to New London’s growth as a whaling city in the early and mid-19th century, when agents retrieved maritime revenue from aboard swift Revenue Cutters. When the ship La Amistad was commandeered in a revolt by its captive Africans, the ship was intercepted by the Customs vessel the USS Washington and brought to New London.

One year after US Customs was established, the Revenue Cutter Service was created as the on-sea arm of customs enforcement. The Revenue Cutter Service is the direct precursor to the US Coast Guard, whose 225th anniversary (counting back to this date), was celebrated this year. US Customs also managed the nation’s lighthouses — their construction, staffing, and supplies — until the mid 19th century (that job eventually also went to the USCG).

“Having collected artifacts, documents, and images from current and retired Customs Officers, we are excited to tell Customs’ story to a new generation,” said Robert Murtagh, the National US Customs Museum Foundation’s President. “Without the dedication of Customs Officers, the United States would not be the magnificent country it is today – we want everyone to understand that story.” Today, the U.S. Customs Service is called Customs and Border Protection and is a unit within the Department of Homeland Security. Join us in celebrating this 226-year legacy.


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.

The New London Maritime Society was established in 1983 by an impassioned group of citizens/volunteers who worked to preserve New London’s U.S. Custom House. They succeeded! Housed in the 179-year-old Robert Mills building at 150 Bank Street, today we are a nonprofit historic site–the nation’s oldest continuously-operating U.S. Custom House, scene to much of the City’s maritime history–and an educational organization.


The Custom House Maritime Museum – your local, independent,
community museum, open year-round
telling the stories of New London’s waterfront!

The Custom House Maritime Museum is always FREE for current members
and children under age 18 (with adult). A $5 donation is asked for all others.

April through December, we’re open Tuesday through Sunday (closed Monday), from 1-5 PM, & by appointment – call: 860-447-2501, fax: 860-447-8086, email:

January through March, we’re open Thursday through Sunday, from 1-5 PM, & by appointment — call: 860-447-2501, fax: 860-447-8086, email:

New London Maritime Society

Custom House Maritime Museum
150 Bank Street
New London, Connecticut 06320


Find more like this: Bulletins, Exhibits, Of Note, Points North

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