Here is a small yet representative sample of the variety of receipts one might find in a collection of maritime manuscripts. These examples are particularly relevant to shipping, and would have been collected by the shipmaster during the course of his activity in port. Receipts can be productive research sources, and can yield valuable information about the business of shipping and the conduct of a vessel’s affairs.
Receipt for hospital tax, paid to the port Tax Collector, New Orleans, 2 June 1843. The Customs Service was required, after 1798 to collect a fee from all vessels arriving from foreign ports, based upon the number of crew members. The revenue was used to help established and maintain hospitals and related services for sick or disabled seamen. This receipt indicates that a recent law passed in March, 1843, evidently revised or expanded the tax base.
Harbor Master’s fees @3 cents per ton on the vessel, $6.36, paid to the Deputy Harbor Master, New Orleans, 22 June 1831. The Harbor Master enforced harbor regulations. He often controlled the mooring and berthing of ships, and scheduled the loading and discharge of cargo.
Customhouse services, $9.93, New York, 26 April 1831. The number of services rendered, and the amount for each, could vary from one vessel to another, and also between ports. Note that in this instance hospital monies and harbor master fees were paid through the customhouse.
This receipt for 64 dollars indicates that 32 alien passengers were allowed to land at Boston, Massachusetts, in 1853, and it provides an example of an individual state’s immigration laws during the mid-nineteenth century.
Whenever a vessel carrying alien passengers, or immigrants, arrived at a U.S. port, the master was required to report certain information to the municipal authorities. The regulations varied from state to state, but in general he was to repor the names and places of residence or embarkation of these passengers to the selectmen, overseers fo the poor, or mayor of the twon. He then had to give a bond for watch alien, to indemnify the town and state for any expenses that the immigrant might incur for his or her maintenance over a certain period of time. In Massachusetts, the value of the bond was one thousand dollars, and the time period covered was ten years. Other states averages three to five hundred dollars bond value for a three to five year indemnification period. Masters of vessels were not required to give bond, however, when the officials saw fit either to dispense with the bond or to allow the master instead to pay a fee for each alien, as in the case of the document illustrated above. In Massachusetts this fee was two dollars, which was average for states that allowed the unlikely to become public charges during the next several years. The document illustrated indicated that the master of the bark AUSTIN apparently went to the city official in Boston, and, acting for the vessel’s owner, D.W. Lord, received permission to pay the two-dollar landing fee for his promising group of passengers.