Guide to the Savannah Port Papers, 1754-1920
This collection contains the official papers of the Port of Savannah, Georgia, in the Governmental Coastal District of Savannah. They are papers of ship clearance, cargo lists, Treasury Department letters and similar papers which deal with the customs operations at the port from 1820 to 1920. Although the papers mainly consist of cargo manifests, there are also letters, legal documents, literary pieces, and other miscellaneous items. Several of the items deal with slavery in Savannah and there are occasional mentions of piracy, smuggling, and general misdeeds among the seamen.
- Collection Number
- Savannah Port papers
- Port of Savannah (Ga.)
- 20 Linear Feet, 5,594 items
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
- Materials in English
The official papers of the port of Savannah cover a myriad of topics, but are primarily comprised of documents pertaining to customs, import and export trade, and shipping. The general papers include ship clearance papers, cargo lists, crew lists, crew bonds, customs papers, salary receipts for port officials, and warehouse papers. The general correspondence includes letters from everyday port transactions and affairs, United States Treasury Department letters, and letters from the British consulate. There are papers concerning construction and maintenance of lighthouses, particularly the Tybee Island Lighthouse. These papers also include a number of legal documents, mostly bills of sale and deeds for land, livestock, sea vessels, and slaves. Other items include lists of seamen admitted to the Savannah poor house and hospital in the 1820s and 1830s, miscellaneous literary documents, and papers of the Savannah Port Society, a charitable organization to aid indigent seamen. Included also is a letter book, 1817-1826, of A. S. Bullock, collector of the port of Savannah, giving many references to economic conditions; a volume listing the persons who entered the port of Savannah, 1817-1818; and volumes containing lists of returns of goods on a number of ships, and inspectors' returns, 1830-1840. Items are arranged chronologically whenever possible.
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How to Cite
[Identification of item], Savannah Port papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
This series consists of the official papers of the Port of Savannah, Georgia. It mainly contains ship clearance papers, cargo lists, and other documents that were a part of customs operations at the time. The documents date from 1754 to 1918, but the bulk of the items are from the early to mid-1800s.The manifests detail cargo entering and leaving the port. The Returns of Seamen papers list the crews shipping on the vessels. There are also import customs papers, which detail the customs due on each item. The Warehouse Withdrawal papers are permits to withdraw stored items from warhouses. Importers were allowed to place liquors and otherarticles in bonded warehouses until sold and then pay the duty as they withdrew them from the houses. Also included are lists of ship stores. The crew bonds are bonds binding vessel masters to return to port with the same crews with which they ship out, unless some be discharged in foreign ports with permission of the U.S. Consul in that port. There are also salary receipts of the various United States officials necessary to administer the work of the District of Savannah, and receipts and disbursement accounts of various sorts for the Port of Savannah, District of Savannah.
Of these papers, by far the largest part are manifests, either of a part of the cargo or of the whole cargo. The next largest groups include Returns of Seamen and Import Custom papers, and the other items are in much smaller proportions.
Several interesting observations arise from a study of this collection. One of these concerns the chief items of export from Savannah during the years of this set. The one item which composed the largest part of the export trade was up-land, or short-staple colton. Most of this went to Liverpool, and the return cargoes consisted largely of iron, steel, and manufactured goods.There was some Sea Island Cotton to export, but not nearly so much of it as of the upland. Two or three manifests, one in 1851, show that often ships came down from Boston and New England with cargoes of ice. The 1851 manifest shows a cargo of 124 tons of ice from Boston to Savannah. Most of the other cargoes from New England consisted mainly of food.Two other items occur often in the export manifests from Savannah. One is rice. This commodity formed a part of many cargoes, and quite a few times was the whole cargo. The other item was lumber, notably pine, in the form of boards and shingles. Much of this went to Liverpool, and much of it to Barbados, Havana, and other island ports, but, interestingly enough, a considerable quantity was sent North to New England ports. Much wine was imported from Madeira and then exported again to European ports, notably Liverpool. The main European ports receiving Savannah exports were Liverpool and Havre.
Items are arranged chronologically. There are several boxes of oversized documents also arranged chronologically.
Includes three documents from November and December of 1835 pertaining to the brig Ann Maria and its cargo. Thirty-three slaves are listed alongside sea stores and cargo. The documents are from the Port of Alexandria and the Port of Savannah.
Various fragments, copies of ordinances and other items that are legal in nature.
The correspondence contains various letters to and from the British Consulate in the Port of Savannah, as well as correspondence regarding the day-to-day operations of the port. Also among the letters are many requests for information on British citizens presumed dead and thought to have settled in Savannah. These letters are generally seeking for portions of inheritances. The letters to the British consulate often request financial aid or travel back to Britain. Among these letters of the British consulate is a note from Jefferson Davis, allowing a British subject to travel freely without threat of conscription (January 2, 1865).
Particular letters of interest include the following:
1) A letter dated December 12, 1819 that includes details on the prosecution of certain prisoners who were part of the crew of the piratical ship Louisa and were charged with piracy and murder.
2) A letter dated March 10, 1820 with a complaint about port fees.
3) A letter dated October 27, 1843 detailing a complaint against the master of a particular ship and his theft of broadcloths and linens. This was not his first act of impropriety and the author of the letter urges the port to recognize him as a "shameless smuggler."
4) A letter dated February 2, 1853 urging its recipient that "by sending the negroes to Charleston they would bring a higher price."
The papers of the Savannah Port Society, a charitable organization to aid indigent seamen.
Letterbook of A. S. Bullock, collector of the port of Savannah at least from 1817 to 1822, containing copies of routine letters relative to the port of Savannah. The routine letters, however, contain considerable information. Among them are accounts of pirate ships, smuggling of slaves, escape of slaves in ships, burning of the customs house at Savannah, Tybee Light House and its equipment, and other related matters. Frequently Bullock's letters request information on legal matters from the district attorney. A few letters at the end of the volume were written by N.A. Olmstead, Deputy collector.
Contains handwritten poetry, the Song of the Charleston Light Dragoons at their 24th Anniversary Supper, and other miscellaneous literary items.
Contracts, letters, bills, receipts, proposals, etc., that deal with the upkeep of the Tybee Lighthouse.
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- Customs administration -- Georgia -- Savannah.
- Lighthouses -- Georgia -- Savannah.
- Merchant mariners -- Missions and charities -- Georgia.
- Shipping -- Georgia -- Savannah.
The Savannah Port Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library between 1939 and 1956.
Processed by: Janice Hansen, February 2015.