Mexican California's customs house was in Monterey. When the territory became part of the U.S. in 1846, San Francisco was the emergent port city. Despite the territory's political commitment to continue operating under Mexican law, William Richardson was customs officer at San Francisco by 1847; he was named in a published announcement also mentioning "Collectors of the Customs at the different Ports of California". In 1851, Dr. T. O. Andrews was appointed "surveyor of the port of Santa Cruz". (I suspect that "surveyor" and "collector" are equivalent titles in U.S. ports.)

Around 1850, where in California besides San Francisco were there customs officers or houses?

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    Surveyor is quite distinct from collector of customs; they report back up thru different government departments, and have very different duties. Any location where existing land claims needed to be verified as having legal standing would require a surveyor, as well as access to a land board who would adjudicate the claims. These operated everywhere the United States expanded where prior land claims existed, such as areas with French settlements. Collection of customs occurs only at ports, and is an action of United States sovereignty, and is independent of any local laws. Jan 2, 2019 at 0:32
  • Try federal records of the Customs Service: archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/036.html#36.3 Jan 2, 2019 at 0:34
  • @PeterDiehr: A Marine Surveyor "is a person who conducts inspections, surveys or examinations of marine vessels to assess, monitor and report on their condition and the products on them, as well as inspects damage caused to both vessels and cargo." This is very distinct from the normal Civil Engineering sense of the word, and might better be described as an Assessor or Appraiser. Such an appointment would work closely with the Customs Collector. Jan 12, 2019 at 21:05
  • @PieterGeerkens: I have not encountered the term "marine surveyor" in my studies of early 19th century government records. I believe that this may be a modern term. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Association_of_Marine_Surveyors. Jan 13, 2019 at 1:35
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    Let us continue this discussion in chat. Jan 13, 2019 at 2:15

1 Answer 1


From: The Journal of San Diego History San Diego History Center Quarterly Summer Fall 2016, Volume 62, Number 3 & 4

David Lion Gardiner: A Yankee in Gold Rush California, 1849-1851:

Other new settlers had considerably more savvy. Gardiner spent a good deal of time in the company of Davis, Heintzelman, and John E. Summers, all of whom were “agreeable companions and sociably inclined.” They shared a desire to turn San Diego into a port of entry. Collector of Customs James Collier, meanwhile, was lobbying Congress to make San Francisco the only port of entry along the California coast. This would mean that cities like San Diego and Santa Barbara might pay as much as 300 percent more for imports due to the high rates of freight. Gardiner and his friends even talked about foiling Collier’s “selfish interests” by turning Southern California into a separate territory or state.

In 1850, Congress conceded port of entry privileges to San Diego and other coastal cities as a test before making a final decision. Ultimately, San Francisco was chosen as the only port of entry on the California coast. Gardiner petitioned his brother Alexander for assistance in having him appointed Collector of Customs for San Diego. Alexander was well connected politically and in touch with their brother-in-law, the former President Tyler. Although party politics were unlikely to influence the selection of officers in such a remote state as California, Gardiner still asked his brother to forward his request to Tyler who, in turn, could relay it to Millard Fillmore who had recently stepped from Vice President to President after the death of President Zachary Taylor. Gardiner emphasized, “You know I supported General Taylor’s election.” Failing in that attempt, he later asked Alexander to procure for him “some fat office here,” writing that he could not afford to take any government position that “did not pay well.”


  • This is fascinating; if other cities were temporary ports of entry in 1850, which were they? Jan 13, 2019 at 2:18
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    Bancroft says Sacramento, Benicia, Stockton, Monterey, San Pedro, and San Diego History of California, Volume 7; Volume 24, pg 141.(Can't seem to get link to work)
    – justCal
    Jan 13, 2019 at 4:07

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