Collector of the Port of New York

The Collector of Customs at the Port of New York, most often referred to as Collector of the Port of New York, was a federal officer who was in charge of the collection of import duties on foreign goods that entered the United States by ship at the Port of New York.

Collector of the Port of New York
Seal of the U.S. Customs Service.svg
The Custom House, New York, 1799-1815.jpg
U.S. federal government appointment overview
TypeCollector of import duties on foreign goods
JurisdictionPort of New York
HeadquartersUnited States Custom House, New York City
Parent departmentUnited States Department of the Treasury

The best-known individual to hold the position was Chester A. Arthur, who served as collector from 1871–1878 and who later served as the 21st president of the United States.


The first Collector, John Lamb, was appointed by George Washington in 1789. He had previously served as Collector of Customs for the State of New York from 1784.

The office was described as "the prize plum of Federal patronage not only in this State but perhaps in the country, outside of positions in the Cabinet."[1] Customs collections at US ports were overseen by three political appointees—the Collector, Surveyor, and Naval Officer.[2][a] Because they were originally paid based on a percentage system that factored in both customs collected and fines levied for those who attempted to evade payment, these appointments were very lucrative, especially those at the Port of New York, by far America's busiest port.[3] New York's Collector was the highest paid official of the federal government; as Collector from 1871 to 1878, Chester A. Arthur's compensation exceeded the modern equivalent of $1 million annually. The custom house staffs, especially at New York's Custom House were also political appointees, and were expected to contribute a portion of their salaries to the party to which they owed their appointments.[3]

Disputes over patronage at the Port of New York led to an ongoing feud from the 1860s to the 1880s between the party faction led by Roscoe Conkling and reformers who counted Rutherford B. Hayes and James A. Garfield among their number.[3] The attempts at reform that began in the 1870s led to the political appointees at each port being placed on salaries rather than the percentage system. The annual salary in 1920 was $12,000 (about $153,000 in 2019) plus about $8,000 in fees (about $102,000 in 2019).[4]

The position was abolished in 1966 when the structure of the United States Customs Service was changed. The last Collector, Joseph P. Kelly, was kept on temporarily as a consultant.[5]

List of collectorsEdit

Portrait Number Collector Nominated by Start date End date Comments
  1 John Lamb George Washington 1789 1797 [6]
  2 Joshua Sands John Adams 1797 1801 Confirmed May 19, 1797[6]
  3 David Gelston Thomas Jefferson 1801 1820 [6]
4 Jonathan Thompson James Monroe 1820 1829 [6]
5 Samuel Swartwout Andrew Jackson 1829 1838 Confirmed March 29, 1830.[6]
6 Jesse Hoyt Martin Van Buren 1838 1841 [6]
7 John J. Morgan Martin Van Buren 1841 1841 [6]
8 Edward Curtis William Henry Harrison 1841 1844 [6]
N/A Charles G. Ferris John Tyler - - Rejected by the U.S. Senate[6]
  9 Cornelius P. Van Ness John Tyler 1844 1845 [6]
  10 Cornelius Van Wyck Lawrence James K. Polk 1845 1849 [6]
  11 Hugh Maxwell Zachary Taylor 1849 1853 [6]
  N/A Daniel S. Dickinson Franklin Pierce - - Declined nomination[6]
  12 Greene C. Bronson Franklin Pierce 1853 1853 [6]
  13 Heman J. Redfield Franklin Pierce 1853 1857 Resigned July 1, 1857[6]
  14 Augustus Schell James Buchanan 1857 1861 [6]
  15 Hiram Barney Abraham Lincoln 1861 1864 Resigned[6]
  16 Simeon Draper Abraham Lincoln 1864 1865 [6]
  17 Preston King Andrew Johnson 1865 1865 Committed suicide[6]
  N/A Charles P. Clinch N/A 1865 1866 Acting[6]
  18 Henry A. Smythe Andrew Johnson 1866 1869 [6]
  19 Moses H. Grinnell Ulysses S. Grant 1869 1870 [6]
  20 Thomas Murphy Ulysses S. Grant 1870 1871 [6]
  21 Chester A. Arthur Ulysses S. Grant 1871 1878 [6]
  N/A Theodore Roosevelt Sr. Rutherford B. Hayes - - Rejected by U.S. Senate
  22 Edwin Atkins Merritt Rutherford B. Hayes 1878 1881
  23 William H. Robertson James A. Garfield 1881 1885 Nominated March 24, 1881
  24 Edward L. Hedden Grover Cleveland 1885 1886
  25 Daniel Magone Grover Cleveland 1886 1889
  26 Joel Erhardt Benjamin Harrison 1889 1891
  27 Jacob Sloat Fassett Benjamin Harrison 1891 1891
  28 Francis Hendricks Benjamin Harrison 1891 1893 [7][8]
  29 James T. Kilbreth Grover Cleveland 1893 1897 Died in office[9][b]
  30 George R. Bidwell William McKinley 1897 1902 [10]
  31 Nevada Stranahan Theodore Roosevelt 1902 1907 Resigned due to ill health
N/A Henry C. Stuart N/A 1907 1907 Acting
32 Edward S. Fowler Theodore Roosevelt 1907 1909
  33 William Loeb Jr. William Howard Taft 1909 1913
  34 John Purroy Mitchel Woodrow Wilson 1913 1913 Elected Mayor of New York City[11][12]
  35 Dudley Field Malone Woodrow Wilson 1913 1917 [13]
  36 Byron Rufus Newton Woodrow Wilson 1917 1921 [14]
37 George W. Aldridge Warren G. Harding 1921 1922 Died in office[1]
N/A Henry C. Stuart N/A 1922 1923 Acting[15]
38 Philip Elting Calvin Coolidge 1923 1933 [16]
39 Harry M. Durning Franklin D. Roosevelt 1933 1953 [c]
40 Robert Wharton Dill Dwight D. Eisenhower 1953 1961
41 Joseph P. Kelly John F. Kennedy 1961 1966 [17]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The Naval Officer was a political appointee, not a military one. The position was called "naval" because the incumbent was expected to board and inspect ships to aid the Surveyor and Collector in estimating the duties owed.
  2. ^ A private act of the 58th United States Congress in March 1904, indemnified James T. Kilbreth (posthumously), George R. Bidwell, and Nevada N. Stranahan as collectors of customs for the district and port of New York for the losses through embezzlement by Byram W. Winters, a customs service clerk. Stranahan received a refund in the sum of $8,821.44 from the federal government, having personally settled the entire amount of the fraud.
  3. ^ Harry M. Durning was the defendant in the case of Dioguardi v. Durning, 139 F.2d 774 (2d Cir. 1944), which is frequently used in Civil Procedure courses as a starting point to teach pleadings under the modern approach of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.


  1. ^ a b "George W. Aldridge Dies As He Golfs At Westchester Club – Collector of Port, 65, and Seemingly Hale, Stricken With Apoplexy – Sinks Without a Word – Charles D. Hilles and George Sweeny Near Rochester Leader as Death Comes – Ends Picturesque Career – Last Survivor of Big Three, Including Platt and Hendricks – Body to Be Taken Home Today" (PDF). The New York Times. June 14, 1922. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
  2. ^ US Congress (1875). Revised Statutes of the United States Passed at the First Session of the Forty-Third Congress. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. p. 523.
  3. ^ a b c Campbell, Ballard C. (2008). Disasters, Accidents, and Crises in American History. New York, NY: Facts on File. pp. 152–153. ISBN 978-1-4381-3012-5.
  4. ^ "Open Season Now For Job Hunters – Local Republican Leaders Preparing to Fill Offices Under New Administration – Many Fine Federal Plums – Scores of Places Under State Rule Will Also Fall to Faithful Party Workers" (PDF). The New York Times. November 9, 1920. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
  5. ^ Bamberger, Werner (June 19, 1966). "New Chief Cites Customs Aim Here – Stramiello Declares He Will Strive to Improve Service". The New York Times.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x "New-York's Customs Officers: The Collectors, Naval Officers, and Surveyors Since the Foundation of the Government". The New York Times. July 20, 1878. Retrieved February 23, 2018 – via TimesMachine.
  7. ^ "Collector Hendricks Now; Mr. Fassett's Successor Sworn In And In Charge. He Looks Through The Departments Intent On "Learning The Business" - Rumors Of Changes - Other Custom House Matters" (PDF). The New York Times. September 29, 1891.
  8. ^ "Francis Hendricks, Politician, Dies At 86 - Former Republican Leader of Central New York and ex-State Senator" (PDF). The New York Times. June 10, 1920. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
  9. ^ "New-York Offices Filled - James T. Kilbreth Collector , Walter H. Bunn Appraiser" (PDF). The New York Times. July 29, 1893. p. 1. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
  10. ^ "Appointments By Bidwell – New Collector of the Port Begins Work – Joseph J. Couch Is Special Deputy" (PDF). The New York Times. July 15, 1897.
  11. ^ "Monthly Bulletin – The Federal Service". Good Government. 30 (11): 99. November 1913. Retrieved May 1, 2011.
  12. ^ "Mitchel In Office As Port Collector Loeb, Retiring, Wishes Him Well – McAneny and Steers There as He Is Sworn In – Still in Mayoralty Fight – Politicians Say His Federal Appointment Can't Keep Him Out and Will Help Him". The New York Times. June 8, 1913. p. C4. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
  13. ^ "Malone Nominated As Port Collector – O'Gorman's Son-in-Law to Succeed Mitchel – Senator, Avoiding Comment, Tells a Story – Wilson's Personal Choice – Appointment Thought to Show Satisfaction at Tammany's Defeat – Splendid Selection, Says Mitchel" (PDF). The New York Times. November 11, 1913.
  14. ^ "Growth Of New York Port; Collector Newton Says This Is World's Greatest Commerce Centre" (PDF). The New York Times. June 28, 1918.
  15. ^ "Henry C. Stuart, Customs Aide – Assistant Collector of Port of New York for 15 Years Is Dead Here at 73 – In U.S. Service 47 Years – Considered Authority on Laws of His Department – Honored on Retirement in '37". The New York Times. May 14, 1938. p. 15. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
  16. ^ "Philip Elting, Once Collector of Port – Chairman of Ulster County Republicans Since 1904 Held Post Here, 1923 to 1933 – Dies in Kingston at 77 – Descendant of 9 Generations of Ulster County Residents – Leader at Conventions". The New York Times. July 21, 1941. p. 15. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
  17. ^ NEW IMPOST CHIEF; Kelly Sworn as Port's 41st Collector of Customs in The New York Times on July 6, 1961 (subscription required)

External linksEdit