United States Customs Service

The United States Customs Service was an agency of the U.S. federal government that collected import tariffs and performed other selected border security duties.

In March 2003, as a result of the homeland security reorganization, the U.S. Customs Service was renamed the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection,[1] and most of its components were merged with the border elements of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, including the entire U.S. Border Patrol and former INS inspectors, together with border agriculture inspectors, to form U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a single, unified border agency for the U.S. The investigative office of U.S. Customs was split off and merged with the INS investigative office and the INS interior detention and removal office to form Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which, among other things, is responsible for interior immigration enforcement. The United States Customs Service had three major missions: collecting tariff revenue, protecting the U.S. economy from smuggling and illegal goods, and processing people and goods at ports of entry.

United States Customs Service
Agency overview
FormedJuly 31, 1789 (1 Stat. 29)
Superseding agency
JurisdictionFederal government of the United States
HeadquartersWashington, D.C., U.S.
Parent agencyUnited States Department of the Treasury


Responding to the urgent need for revenue following the American Revolutionary War, the First United States Congress passed and President George Washington signed the Tariff Act of July 4, 1789, which authorized the collection of duties on imported goods. Four weeks later, on July 31, the fifth act of Congress established the United States Customs Service and its ports of entry.

As part of this new government agency, a new role was created for government officials which was known as "Customs Collector". In this role, one person would have responsibility to supervise the collection of custom duties in a particular city or region.

For over 100 years after it was founded, the U.S. Customs Service was the primary source of funds for the entire government, and paid for the country's early growth and infrastructure. Purchases include the Louisiana and Oregon territories; Florida and Alaska; funding the National Road and the Transcontinental Railroad; building many of the nation's lighthouses; the U.S. Military and Naval academies, and Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Customs Service employed a number of federal law enforcement officers throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Customs Special Agents investigated smuggling and other violations of customs, narcotics and revenue laws. Customs Inspectors were uniformed officers at airports, seaports and land border ports of entry who inspected people and vehicles entering the U.S. for contraband and dutiable merchandise. Customs Patrol Officers conducted uniformed and plainclothes patrol of the borders on land, sea and air to deter smuggling and apprehend smugglers.

In the 20th century, as international trade and travel increased dramatically, the Customs Service transitioned from an administrative bureau to a federal law enforcement agency. Inspectors still inspected goods and took customs declarations from travelers at ports of entry, but Customs Special Agents used modern police methods—often in concert with allied agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and U.S. Border Patrol—to investigate cases often far from international airports, bridges and land crossings. The original World Trade Center complex, particularly building 6 housed offices of the US customs service.[2]

With the passage of the Homeland Security Act, the U.S. Customs Service passed from under jurisdiction of the Treasury Department to the Department of Homeland Security.

On March 1, 2003, parts of the U.S. Customs Service combined with the Inspections Program of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Plant Protection and Quarantine from USDA, and the Border Patrol of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to form U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The Federal Protective Service, along with the investigative arms of the U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, combined to form U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Examples of illegal items


Flag of the United States Customs Service
Flag of the United States Customs Service, now the CBP Ensign.

The flag of the Customs Service was designed in 1799 by Secretary of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott, Jr. and consists of 16 vertical red and white stripes with a coat of arms depicted in blue on the white canton. The original design had the Customs Service seal that was an eagle with three arrows in his left talon, an olive branch in his right and surrounded by an arc of 13 stars. In 1951, this was changed to the eagle depicted on the Great Seal of the United States.

Its actual name is the Revenue Ensign, as it was flown by ships of the Revenue Cutter Service, later the Coast Guard, and at customs houses.

In 1910, President William Howard Taft issued an order to add an emblem to the flag flown by ships from the one flown on land at customs houses. The version with the badge continues to be flown by Coast Guard vessels. Until 2003, the land version was flown at all United States ports of entry.[3] The renamed CBP Ensign is currently flown at CBP's headquarters in Washington, D.C., at its Field Offices, overseas duty locations including preclearance ports, and at all land, air, and sea ports of entry.


This table lists all Commissioners of Customs, their dates of service, and under which administration they served.

Commissioner Term Administration
Ernest W. Camp 1927–1929 Coolidge
Francis Xavier A. Eble 1929–1933 Hoover
James Moyle 1933–1939 Roosevelt
Basil Harris 1939–1940 Roosevelt
William Roy Johnson 1940–1947 Roosevelt, Truman
Frank Dow (acting) 1947–1949 Truman
Frank Dow 1949–1953 Truman
Ralph Kelly 1954–1961 Eisenhower
Philip Nichols Jr. 1961–1964 Kennedy, Johnson
Lester D. Johnson 1965–1969 Johnson
Myles Ambrose 1969–1972 Nixon
Vernon D. Acree 1972–1977 Nixon, Ford
Robert E. Chasen 1977 – December 1980 Carter
William T. Archey (acting) December 1980 – October 1981 Reagan
William von Raab October 1981 – July 31, 1989 Reagan, G.H.W.Bush
Michael H. Lane (acting) August 1, 1989 – November 2, 1989 G.H.W.Bush
Carol Boyd Hallett November 3, 1989 – January 18, 1993 G.H.W.Bush
Michael H. Lane (acting) January 19, 1993 – May 12, 1993 G.H.W.Bush, Clinton
George J. Weise May 13, 1993 – April 18, 1997 Clinton
Samuel H. Banks (acting) April 19, 1997 – July 30, 1998 Clinton
Raymond Kelly July 31, 1998 – January 19, 2001 Clinton
Charles W. Winwood (acting) January 20, 2001 – September 9, 2001 G.W.Bush
Robert C. Bonner September 10, 2001 – March 1, 2003[4] G.W.Bush

See also


  1. ^ "6 USC 542 Reorganization Plan". Government Publishing Office. January 17, 2018. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  2. ^ Six World Trade Center
  3. ^ "U.S. Coast Guard Flags". United States Coast Guard. October 21, 2010. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
  4. ^ When the U.S. Customs Service was merged into the U.S. Customs and Border Protection on March 1, 2003, Robert C. Bonner became commissioner of the newly formed service and continued in that role until 2006.

External links

Avey Field State Airport

Avey Field State Airport (FAA LID: 69S) is a public use airport located on the Canada–US border at Laurier, in Ferry County, Washington, United States. It is privately owned and operated.Also known as Avey Field State/Laurier Airport, it is one of six airports that straddle the Canada–US border. The others are Whetstone International Airport, Coutts/Ross International Airport, International Peace Garden Airport, Piney Pinecreek Border Airport, and Coronach/Scobey Border Station Airport.

The airport is shared by the State of Washington and the Province of British Columbia. Both the United States Customs Service and Canada Border Services Agency have offices located nearby on U.S. Route 395 and British Columbia Highway 395 adjacent to the parking area.

The airport was managed by the Washington State Department of Transportation (Aviation Division) until August 2012, when management transferred to its private owners.Laurier consists of the customs office and a post office. Little remains to indicate the thriving mining community of the 1890s. The nearest motels and recreational sites are located in Canada at a distance of 4 miles (6.4 km).

The Canadian recreational community of Christina Lake is 6.5 km (4.0 mi) north along Highway 395 and the Crowsnest Highway/Highway 3, while Orient, Washington, is approximately 10 mi (16 km) south along U.S. Route 395.

Billy Wilson (outlaw)

David Lawrence Anderson (1862 – June 4, 1918) was a 19th-century American outlaw, better known under the alias Billy Wilson, who rode with Billy the Kid following the Lincoln County War. In his later years, he also served as a law enforcement officer and a U.S. customs inspector.

Bureau of Navigation

The Bureau of Navigation, later the Bureau of Navigation and Steamboat Inspection and finally the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation — not to be confused with the United States Navy's Bureau of Navigation — was an agency of the United States Government established in 1884 to enforce laws relating to the construction, equipment, operation, inspection, safety, and documentation of merchant vessels. The bureau also investigated marine accidents and casualties; collected tonnage taxes and other navigation fees; and examined, certified, and licensed merchant mariners.

When established, the Bureau of Navigation was a part of the United States Department of the Treasury. In 1903, the organization was transferred to the newly formed United States Department of Commerce and Labor. In 1913 that department was split into the United States Department of Commerce and the United States Department of Labor, and the bureau was assigned to the new Department of Commerce. In 1932 the bureau was combined with the Steamboat Inspection Service to form the Bureau of Navigation and Steamboat Inspection. The Bureau of Navigation and Steamboat Inspection was in turn renamed the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation in 1936.In 1942, Executive Order 9083 transferred many functions of the bureau to two other agencies: Merchant vessel documentation was transferred to the United States Customs Service, while functions relating to merchant vessel inspection, safety of life at sea, and merchant mariners were transferred to the United States Coast Guard. The merchant vessel documentation functions were also transferred to the Coast Guard in 1946.

With all its functions having been absorbed by the U.S. Customs Service and the U.S. Coast Guard, the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation was abolished as unnecessary and redundant by Reorganization Plan No. III of 1946.

Charles Andrew MacGillivary

Charles Andrew MacGillivary (January 17, 1917 - June 24, 2000) was a Medal of Honor recipient, born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. A Sergeant in the United States Army, he was attached to Company I, 71st Infantry, 44th Infantry Division during World War II.

Howland Hook Marine Terminal

The Howland Hook Marine Terminal is a container port facility in the Port of New York and New Jersey located in northwestern Staten Island in New York City. It is situated on the east side of the Arthur Kill, at the entrance to Newark Bay, just north of the Goethals Bridge and Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Bridge.

Built by American Export Lines, the terminal was purchased in 1973 by New York City for $47.5 million. In 1985, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey leased the terminal from the City for a period of 38 years. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey currently contracts Global Container to operate a container terminal on the site. The original facility is 187 acres (757,000 m²) in size, but it is undergoing expansion with the acquisition in 2001 of the adjacent 124 acre (502,000 m²) Port Ivory, a former shipping port operated by Procter & Gamble.The site originally housed a B & O coal dumper, which was completed in 1949. The facility had a capacity of 100 cars per eight-hour shift. The dumped coal was delivered via barge to utilities in the harbor. It was in the process of being dismantled by Summer 1965.The terminal operates a 3,012 feet (918 m) long wharf on the Arthur Kill, with three berths for container ships. The wharf depth is 45 feet (13.8 meters) for 1,200 feet, 41 feet (12.5 meters) for 1,100 feet, 35 feet (10.7 meters) for 700 feet. A fourth 1,340 feet (410 m) long berth with 50 feet (15 m) depth is planned on the old Port Ivory site. Facilities include container storage, deep-freeze, refrigeration and United States Customs Service inspection.

The facility is also used to transfer containerized municipal waste from barges to trains, handling roughly half of New York City's barged trash volume.The terminal includes an on-site seven-track ExpressRail intermodal facility that connects via the Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Bridge to New Jersey and the national rail network. Two tracks are used for transferring waste containers. The rail facility opened in mid-2007 and uses part of the once-abandoned North Shore Branch of the Staten Island Railway, which leads into the Arlington Yard, and the Travis branch, along the West Shore.

James E. Towner

James Edwin Towner (May 29, 1851 – January 22, 1935) was an American politician from New York.

James Moyle

James Henry Moyle (September 17, 1858 – February 20, 1946) was a prominent American politician in Utah and noted as ""one of Utah's most distinguished citizens and one of the Nations' able and devoted servants."

John Whiteaker

John Whiteaker (May 4, 1820 – October 2, 1902) was an American politician, soldier, and judge primarily in Oregon. A native of Indiana, he joined the army during the Mexican–American War and then prospected during the California Gold Rush. After moving to the Oregon Territory he served as a judge and member of the legislature. A Democrat, Whiteaker served as the first state Governor of Oregon from 1859 until 1862 and later was Oregon's Congressman from 1879 to 1881. He also was president of the Oregon State Senate and Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives.

Kelby Woodard

Kelby G. Woodard (born April 1970) is a Minnesota politician and former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives. A member of the Republican Party of Minnesota, he represented District 20A, which includes Le Sueur and Scott counties in the southeastern part of the state. He is also a small business owner of Trade Innovations, TRG Direct, and the Trusted Trade Alliance.

Laura Cox (politician)

Laura Cox is a Republican politician from Michigan who currently serves as the Chair of Michigan Republican Party. Cox previously represented the 19th District in the Michigan House of Representatives from 2014 until 2019.

Lupe Valdez

Guadalupe Valdez (born October 11, 1947) is an American law enforcement official who served as Sheriff of Dallas County, Texas, from 2005 to 2017, and was the Democratic nominee for Governor of Texas in the 2018 gubernatorial election.

Myles Ambrose

Myles Joseph Ambrose (July 21, 1926 – June 3, 2014) was an American lawyer and United States federal government official. He served as the Commissioner of Customs under President Richard M. Nixon and paved the way for the establishment of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

National Treasury Employees Union v. Von Raab

National Treasury Employees Union v. Von Raab, 489 U.S. 656 (1989), was a United States Supreme Court case involving the Fourth Amendment and its implication on drug testing programs. The majority of the Court upheld the drug testing program in United States Customs Service.

Noel W. Campbell

Noel W. Campbell (born December 1941) is a Republican member of the Arizona House of Representatives representing Arizona's Legislative District One, alongside David Stringer.

Robert C. Bonner

Robert Cleve Bonner (born January 29, 1942) is an American former prosecutor, former United States District Judge, former Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration and former Commissioner of United States Customs and Border Protection. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the California Institute of Technology, a retired partner at the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and former Chair of the California Commission on Judicial Performance.

Robert H. Clancy

Robert Henry Clancy (March 14, 1882 – April 23, 1962) was a politician from the U.S. state of Michigan.

Clancy was born in Detroit, Michigan, where he attended the public schools. He graduated from the literary department of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1907 and he later studied law there for one year. He worked as a reporter on Detroit newspapers for four years before serving as secretary to Congressman Frank E. Doremus from 1911 to 1913. He then served as secretary to Assistant United States Secretary of Commerce Edwin F. Sweet from 1913 to 1917. During World War I, he was manager of the War Trade Board at Detroit, chief inspector of purchases in Michigan for the Medical Corps of the War Department, and recruiting officer of the aviation division in Detroit. He was United States customs appraiser for Michigan from 1917 to 1922. During Prohibition he was arrested along with the mayor of Detroit and the Wayne County sheriff at the Deutches Hall while consuming alcohol.

In 1922, Clancy was elected as a Democrat from Michigan's 1st congressional district to the 68th Congress, serving from March 4, 1923 to March 3, 1925. He was defeated by Republican John B. Sosnowski in the 1924 election. After leaving Congress, he engaged in the real-estate business until the next election. In the 1926 election, he switched parties and ran as a Republican, defeating the incumbent Sosnowski in the primary, and going on to defeat Democratic candidate William M. Donnelly in the general election for a seat in the 70th Congress. In 1928 and 1930, Clancy again defeated Sosnowski in the Republican primary and Donnelly in the general election to be re-elected to the 71st and 72nd Congresses, serving from March 4, 1927 to March 3, 1933.

In 1932, Clancy was a candidate in the Fourteenth Congressional District in Michigan, due to redistricting after the 1930 Census. Clancy lost to Democrat Carl M. Weideman, after which he was engaged in an executive capacity with a manufacturing company until his retirement in 1948. He died in Detroit and is interred there in Mount Olivet Cemetery.

Tom DeLeone

Thomas Denning "Tom" DeLeone (August 13, 1950 – May 22, 2016) was an American football center who played 13 seasons in the National Football League, with the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals. He grew up in Kent, Ohio and graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School in 1968, where he was on the football, basketball, and track teams. He played college football at Ohio State University, where he was a starting center and an All-Big Ten and first-team All-American selection. He later went on to work as a criminal investigator with the U.S. Department of the Treasury rising to a Senior Special Agent position within the U.S. Customs Service. He worked in the US Customs Service, and he was a member of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in Salt Lake City, Utah, during the 2002 Olympic Games in Park City, Utah. In 2003, The U.S. Customs Service became a part of the newly created Department of Homeland Security and he retired from Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2007. He is a 2002 inductee of The Ohio State University Football Hall of Fame and a 2003 inductee of the Kent City Schools Hall of Fame.DeLeone, a key member of the 1980 Cleveland Browns Kardiac Kids, died on May 22, 2016, at his home in Park City, Utah following a five-year battle with brain cancer. He was 65. DeLeone was married, with three children. His middle child, Dean DeLeone, played football for Arizona State.

Before his death, he worked as a substitute teacher at Park City High School and Treasure Mountain International School in Park City, where he had also volunteered as an assistant coach on the football team, sharing his love of football with the young students he coached and mentored.

Tom Threepersons

Tom Threepersons (July 22, 1889 – April 2, 1969) was a Cherokee lawman. He is considered to have been one of the last of what were considered gunfighters of the Old West, although his career did not begin until the early 20th century. He invented the "Tom Threepersons holster."

William von Raab

William von Raab (January 26, 1942 – February 20, 2019) was an American attorney who served as Commissioner of the United States Customs Service from 1981 to 1989.He died on February 20, 2019, in Charlottesville, Virginia at age 77.

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