The U.S. Customs Service and the U.S. Immigration Service were both created within the Department of the Treasury. From the outset of the establishment of the new federal government in 1789, the secretaries of the treasury were charged with responsibility for the collection and protection of the federal revenue, promoting and regulating international trade, and enabling and regularizing immigration and emigration.
The country faced an immigration crisis with the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, which led to the creation of a Superintendent of Immigration within the Treasury Department in 1891. The establishment of the Bureau of Immigration followed in 1895.
In 1903 the Department of Commerce and Labor was established, and the Bureau of Immigration was transferred to the new department, ending 114 years of Treasury's singular management of American ports of entry and international borders.
The Customs Service had relied on mounted customs inspectors for patrolling the northern and southern borders since 1853. The need to enforce the Chinese Exclusion Act led to Congress enabling the Bureau of Immigration to deploy mounted immigration guards at the borders in 1915.
With the establishment of Prohibition in 1920, the strain on the resources of the Bureau of Immigration became acute, which led to the creation of the U.S. Immigration Border Patrol in 1924.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and this circa 1930 photograph is a wonderful example of the Customs and Immigration forces coming together to protect the Northern border during the height of Prohibition.
Female customs inspectors - then called inspectresses - were stationed at the ports of entry as early as 1866, with their primary duty being to search women when the need arose. The female inspectors were not issued official uniforms until the 1940s, which accounts for the interesting attire of the officer in the group photograph. On close examination, her hat looks like a crumpled man's felt fedora with the Customs insignia placed on the ribbon band.
It is now more than 80 years since the Customs and Immigration officers stood proudly together in Derby Line. Much has changed. A then-new border inspection station opened in Derby Line in 1932 and remains in operation. Customs and Immigration have been reunited as U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which protects our borders and ports today.