1. ManicHedgehog
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    ManicHedgehog Member

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    Custom house work?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by ManicHedgehog, Jul 12, 2008.

    This is a bit of a bizarre request, but I'm looking for a place where I can learn a little about what it was like to work at a custom house - the building at ports where imported goods and immigrants would go through when entering a country. The problem is that custom houses are pretty much just museums now, so it's tough to find someplace online where I can research what it was like to work there.

    One of my MCs for a novel I'm planning out works at a custom house (mostly as a lower-level employee trying to stay afloat in a big city while studying at a university), but I'm not sure exactly what the MC would actually do during the course of a day while there. Anybody got any tips on where to look?

    Thanks.
     
  2. BillyxRansom
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  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's 'customs house'... and what one would be like depends on where it is and when it is... can't tell you more without knowing what country and what decade/century you're dealing with...

    customs houses no longer exist under that name, as far as i know... now, the buildings or sections of airports/seaports set aside for that is usually dual-named 'customs and immigration'... or something similar, in whatever language prevails... so, what period in history and in what country does your story take place?...

    as for what the daily activity would be in the long-ago customs house, i'm sure it would depend on whether your character was charged with dealing with immigrants or goods... the two would certainly be separated, to some extent, especially as you say it's a sizable city/port...
     
  4. ManicHedgehog
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    ManicHedgehog Member

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    I've actually seen it written as both "customs" and "custom" house (I thought it was "customs," as well, but I saw it written in Google links as "custom" mostly). I want some accuracy, but I'm not looking for exact historical accuracy because this city is my own creation in a world of my own creation, so I just want a general idea. It's got a steampunk atmosphere, so I'm thinking late-1800s or early-1900s, if you need a reference point.

    And I'm actually not really sure about the immigrant or good thing. I was hoping the character could dabble in both, as my plot may warrant it. That could always change, but if it's possible, I would hope the character could handle both - mostly goods, though.

    Thanks for the link, too, but the article seems to mostly concern the construction of a custom house and not the actual work within it. Thanks for looking, though.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    in that time frame, a major port like nyc, would have totally separate places for handling immigrants and goods... ny's immigrants [like both sets of my grandparents] were processed at ellis island... goods were off-loaded at the warehouse docks... the same would be true of boston, or any other port...

    so, your character can't do both at the same time... but he could do one, than be reassigned to the other, though that wouldn't be likely, since each job requires a totally different set of skills/ability and would be under a different authority...

    you seem to have painted yourself into a corner here, as what you want this character to do isn't doable, if you want to write something that's believable...

    one way you could solve this is to have him be a guard... then he could be reassigned from one place to the other... but then he wouldn't be dealing directly with either the people or the goods...
     
  6. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    He could also be an interpreter used to "read" labels on inspected goods and interview immigrants.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    true, but still couldn't be doing both at the same time...
     

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