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G.W. Blunt White Library

Connecticut Ship Database, 1789-1939


The United States Customs Service, established by Congress in 1789, is an agency within the U.S. Department of the Treasury and is charged with the enforcement of tariff acts and other laws relating to the importation and exportation of goods. Records kept by the Customs Service often prove invaluable for vessel research.

As part of the Work Progress Administration, the registration data from many customs districts was compiled and transcribed onto worksheets for posterity and ease of use. Compiled data from some customs districts, such as New Orleans, New Bedford, Providence, and many others, were published in the 1930s, but other districts, including those in Connecticut, have never made it to the publication stage.

The 1935-1940 vintage WPA work was recorded on extremely acidic, brittle paper and the information was in danger of being lost, when beginning in 1999, Mystic Seaport's G.W. Blunt White Library, with support from a National Parks Service Maritime Heritage Grant, began the creation of a database of vessel register information from the Connecticut customs districts of New London/Stonington, New Haven, Bridgeport/Fairfield, and Hartford/Middletown.

The records that have been input cover the period from 1789 to 1939 and while they represent approximately 15,000 vessels as well as the associated people, the database is still incomplete. It is our intention to continue the work until all the personal names from the records are added and then to continue enriching the database with associated information and materials. The records currently contain such information as vessel name, vessel type, when, where and by whom the vessel was built; the size of the vessel in feet and tons; the rig, etc. as well as the names of owners and masters.