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PROLOGUE

THE JOURNAL OF THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES

Summer 1973

Volume 5

Number 2

Published Quarterly by the National Archives and Records Service of the General Services Administration

77 The United States Bureau of Customs and Smuggling on Puget Sound,

1851 to 1913
Roland L. De Lorme

89 The Bonneville Power Administration and the New Deal

Philip J. Funigiello

98 Black-White Occupational Distribution in Miami during World War I

Charles Garofalo

102 Bringing the Archives into the Classroom: The Federal Records

Center as the Historian's Laboratory
Jack F. Kilfoil

104 Accessions and Openings

116 Genealogy Notes

120 News and Notices

123 Publications of the National Archives and Records Service

126 Book Notes

132 Contributors

Unless otherwise noted photographs are from the National Archives and Records Service.
The cover design is an adaptation of the National Archives emblem by Antoinette Dibrell.

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THE UNITED STATES BUREAU OF

BUREAU OF CUSTOMS AND SMUGGLING ON PUGET SOUND, 1851 TO 1913

ROLAND L. DE LORME

Among the records of federal agencies that participated in the settlement and development of the American West, none are more interesting or instructive in the problems of frontier governance than those of the Puget Sound District of the Bureau of Customs. The 450 cubic feet of papers comprising this record group are located in the Seattle Federal Records Center and span the years 1851 to 1913. They document the regulation of commerce, immigration, fur sealing, and navigation within a district that at one time boasted a volume of shipping second only to New York. Most significantly, they record the customs service's vain struggle against smuggling activities that began with American occupation of the Oregon Country and have continued unceasingly into the twentieth century.1

San Francisco became the first official United States port of entry on the Pacific coast in 1849. Within two years the northward thrust of population and lumbering activities that accompanied the California

The author would like to thank Philip Lothyan and Ann Kennedy of the Seattle Federal Records Center for their assistance in the preparation of this article.

boom dictated the establishment of a customs district for Puget Sound. By 1854 the Puget Sound collector was headquartered at Port Townsend, Washington Territory, a tiny settlement in the eastern corner of the Olympic Peninsula, which commanded an entrance to the lower sound. Smaller stations were located at subports on the sound and along the Washington coastline south to Astoria. Inspectors manned outposts on the chief overland routes between British and United States territory, and vessels of the revenue marine patrolled American waters.2

Smuggling grew rapidly, nonetheless, fostered by the tempting proximity of British havens, the natural cover afforded by vast forested areas and by the coves and inlets of countless, heavily timbered islands, and by public apathy and even approval. Although American settlers welcomed the assertion of national control to the forty-ninth parallel, they were less amenable to restrictions on the development of trade with Vancouver Island. They wanted the duty-free rum and woolens offered by the British and feared that the imposition and enforcement of permanent tariffs on goods from British North America might result in the loss of British markets for American products. Such fears were well founded. When United States customs officers seized the Hudson's Bay Company steamer Beaver in 1851 for a technical violation of the revenue laws, it not only signaled an end to an era of unrestricted trade in the Pacific Northwest but drove some traders on both sides of the international border into illicit commercial arrangements. British wool, blankets, and liquor were the principal articles of this trade until after the Civil War. Then, in the 1870s, responding to a market created by Chinese laborers on the Pacific slope who were addicted to smoking-opium but could not afford the heavily taxed legal variety, the smugglers extended their operations to include traffic in opium. Early in the following decade, attempts to restrict Asian immigration encouraged the smuggling of Chinese into the United States. Near the close of the nineteenth century, it was only a slight exaggeration when one customs official averred that the

1 The Puget Sound District customs records are described in Elmer W. Lindgard, comp., Records of the Collector of Customs, Puget Sound District, in the Federal Records Center, Seattle, Washington, Preliminary Inventory no. 122 (Washington, D.C., 1960). Additional information may be found in General Records of the Department of the Treasury, Record Group 56, National Archives Building.

2 List of Employees in the Custom house and Lighthouses, Puget Sound District, 1871-86, 1889, passim, Records of the Bureau of Customs, Record Group 36, Federal Records Center, Seattle, Wash. (hereafter cited as RG 36, FRC Seattle).

scope and daring of Puget Sound smuggling were reminiscent of the stories of smuggling on the Irish coast and histories of the African slave trade.3

The popular view of smugglers as men of great daring had some basis in fact. Although law enforcement personnel considered them hardened criminals and “rough customers to deal with," the nature of their activities-coded messages, dashes in small but swift boats across rough seas in the dead of night, exchanged lantern signals, hiding places, caches of precious goods deep in the forest, and high stakes-provided an aura of mystery and even romance.4 As late as

1898, a journalist could report "many who openly sympathize with them and who manifestly do not regard such violations of the law as in any sense a matter of serious concern."5 The press depicted smugglers as swashbucklers who snapped their fingers at the customs officers, and local residents contributed to, and helped preserve, a body of folklore that focused on the smugglers' exploits. So much British wool was smuggled into the San Juan Islands to be sold as domestic wool by American sheepmen, it was said, that naive textbook writers credited San Juan sheep with the world's record per capita average of 150 pounds of wool.6

It was claimed that the sound's liquor smugglers had shown their contempt for authority by supplying whisky to both occupying forces during the American British confrontation

San Juan Island.? Whether the illicit cargo was rum, wool, sugar, opium, or frightened Chinese, smugglers employed audacity and wile to confound lawmen. One smuggler reputedly traveled to and from the principal ports disguised as an Indian. Women posed as legal immigrants or tourists and hid contraband in the folds of their clothes or under false bandages and generally took advantage of the customs inspector's disinclination to violate female modesty. Smugglers also crossed the border disguised as peddlers with untaxed goods hidden in boxes or trunks on wagons. Federal inspectors learned of one smuggling ring that was sending large quantities of opium south in wooden boxes attached to the undercarriages of railroad cars. The smugglers apparently knew that they were under surveillance, for when customs officers stopped a

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3 Port Townsend Leader, June 5, 1891; James G. McCurdy, By Juan de Fuca's Strait: Pioneering Along the Northwestern Edge of the Continent (Portland, Ore., 1937), p. 66; McCurdy, "CrissCross Over the Boundary: The Romance of Smug. gling Across the Northwest Frontier," Pacific Monthly 23 (1910): 182-183.

4 Tompkins Brew to Wymond 0. Hamley, Mar. 19, 1869, British Columbia Customs Department Papers, British Columbia Archives, Victoria; Port Townsend Argus, July 26, 1883.

5 Friday Harbor Islander, June 30, 1898. See also E. H. Thomas, "Kleastino: A Tale of the Kul Quienum,The Coast 4 (1902): 31-35, a fictional romance about smuggling on Puget Sound.

6 Port Townsend Weekly Message, Jan. 21, 1871; Bellingham Herald, 26, 1966.

7 Lelah J. Edson, The Fourth Corner: Highlights from the Early Northwest (Bellingham, Wash., 1968), p. 106.

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