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Fogler Feature: Customs Records as Biographical Documents

Fogler Feature: Customs Records as Biographical Documents

Joseph R. Miller, Ph.D. Student, University of Maine

The records of Customs Houses in the United States have been consistently used in material-grounded social histories and are a staple of maritime history. They have a great deal of potential for cultural histories of foodways and consumer economies because they not only catalogue the products imported to a city but often do so in very local context. The registers of major Custom Houses like in Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Charleston can capture a more general sense of imports into the United States while the two registers of the Castine Customs House in Fogler Library Special Collections provided a much more local context for products in Maine. Scholars in social and maritime history have employed these registers as an important part of their research methodologies. Ignoring this already established used for custom house records, this post will focus on how a biographer, one specifically concerned veterans’ issues and disability studies, can use the registers as the sole record of an individuals life, using a similar methodology as the one described in a previous post, Manuscript Cookbooks as Autobiographies. Read More.

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