Since the mid 1600s, Salem, Massachusetts played a key role as one of North Americas busiest sea ports. Each time a ship arrived in the harbor, the contents of the ship would need to be declared at the Custom House. In the early days, the British government operated the customs service, charges taxes on imported goods and impounded untaxed goods. After the American Revolution, the new United States wanted to establish their authority over customs activities. In 1819 the current Custom House was constructed and operated as the Salem Customs Offices until the 1930s. The impressive golden eagle which adorns the top of the building was added in 1826 at a cost of $50.