License (Coasting / Fishing Vessels)

American Maritime Documents 1776-1860

Stein, Douglas L. 1992

Printed document of various sizes and formats. “License”was often prominently printed near the top of the document. Signatures of customs officials are present, and there is a general absence of decorative engraving.

This License was a product of the Act of 1793 entitled, “An Act for enrolling and licensing Ships or Vessels to be employed in the Coasting Trade and Fisheries, and for regulating the same.” It was issued through the Customs Service to vessels, regardless of size, authorizing them to engage in either fishing or the coastal trade for a period of one year. Any vessel licensed for these trades that exceeded 20 tons would also need to have an Enrollment Certificate. Registered vessels were not required to have a license. These documents are frequently found in maritime collections.

license for a vessel above 20 tons

License for a vessel above 20 tons, to carry on the coasting trade for a period of one year, signed by the Collector at New London, Connecticut, 5 July 1858. It was the 59th License issued at the port during the year.

Master's Oath

Master’s Oath upon granting a vessel’s License, signed by the Collector at Gloucester, Massachusetts, 9 December 1795. The shipmaster also signed the document, within which he affirms his American citizenship and swears not to use his vessel in a manner that would violate the conditions of the License.

License authorizing the ship Warren to engage in the coasting trade, “or to carry on the Bank or Whale Fishery ” for a period of one year. Dated 1790, it is an example of the kind of document issued by the Customs Service before the Federal Licensing Act was passed in 1793. Over the years Licenses became more specific, indicating a vessel’s employment in the coasting trade, the cod fishery, mackerel fishery, etc. (Courtesy of Rhode Island Historical Society.)