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list of the present tariff act governing passengers' baggage, which reads as follows:
"Wearing apparel, articles of personal adornment, toilet articles, and similar personal effects of persons arriving in the United States: but this exemption shall only include such articles as actually accompany and are in the use of, and as are necessary and appropriate for the wear and use of such persons, for the immediate purposes of the journey and present comfort and convenience, and shall not be held to apply to merchandise or articles intended for other persons or for sale:
Provided, That in case of residents of the United States returning from abroad, all wearing apparel and other personal effects taken by them out of the United States to foreign countries shall be admitted free of duty, without regard to their value, upon their identity being established, under appropriate rules and regulations to be prescribed by the Secretary of the Treasury, but no more than one hundred dollars in value of articles purchased abroad by such residents of the United States shall be admitted free of duty upon their return."
Lest this legal phraseology should be misunderstood, the little blue folder takes it up phrase by phrase, expounding, elucidating, and explaining it until it would seem as if the law and the rules established pursuant thereto must be as plain as a pikestaff is alleged to be even to a rudimentary intellect. It is carefully pointed out that the exact number of pieces of baggage must be stated in the declaration: that after the declaration has been prepared and signed the coupon at the bottom must be detached and the declaration given to the purser; that after all his baggage has been landed upon the pier the passenger must present his coupon at the desk where an inspector will be detailed to examine the baggage; that the passenger must acknowledge in person his signature to the declaration; that all wearing apparel, jewelry, and other articles, whether used or unused, on their persons, in their clothing, or in their baggage, which have been obtained abroad by purchase or otherwise, with the foreign value or cost, must be declared ; that all wearing apparel, jewelry,
or other articles taken out of the United States which have been remodeled or improved while abroad so as to increase their value, must be declared, the statement to include the cost of such improvement. But for fear this twice repeated explanation that "wearing" foreign bought articles does not exempt them, it is explained all over again for the third time in a separate paragraph, in these words:
"Use does not exempt from duty wearitig apparel or other articles obtained abroad, but such articles will be appraised at their present value."
All cigars and cigarettes must be declared and are not included in the one hundred dollars exemption. But each passenger over eighteen years of age is entitled to bring in free of duty and internal revenue tax either fifty cigars or three hundred cigarettes for his or her bona fide personal consumption. Smokers who have had to exist for a few months upon European made cigars will see in this a deliberate attempt on the part of the United States Government to affront them, for no one in his right mind would smoke European cigars if he could get any othersHousehold goods of persons from foreign countries are admitted free of duty if actually used abroad by them not less than one year and if they are not intended for any other person or for sale.
All articles intended for other persons, for use in business, theatrical apparel, properties and sceneries, must be declared by passengers, whether foreigners or residents. Duties can not be paid by check or draft but only in currency. Passengers are also warned that to offer or give gratuities or bribes to customs officials is a violation of law. They are also explicitly invited to report any discourtesy or incivility on the part of the customs officers to the deputy collector or deputy surveyor at the pier; or if that doesn't work, to go to the custom house; or if that isn't satisfactory to go straight to the Secretary of the Treasury.
Great care is exercised in the distribution of the declarations and the little blue folders on shipboard. They are handed to each passenger personally and his attention is directed to them by word of mouth. If he fails to turn in his declaration to the purser as requested, he is reminded of his neglect. The purser must turn over a baggage declaration for every passenger to the customs officers who board the ship at quarantine. Being numbered, every blank, including those accidentally spoiled, has to be accounted for.
All this seems plain enough, doesn't it? Yet a young woman from Chicago who arrived on the Oceanic last October included in her declaration only $920 worth of gowns and jewels purchased abroad, while the inspector found a great deal more. She was taken before Deputy Surveyor O'Connor to explain.
"Did you read the printed regulations
for travelers distributed on the ship?'' she was asked.
"Oh, yes! but I didn't pay any attention to them."
"Did you read the warning that failure to declare dutiable articles rendered the articles liable to seizure and you to arrest, fine, and imprisonment?"
"Why, yes, I read that, but really I didn't take it seriously."
After the usual exemption had been disallowed and she had been obliged to pay $1,800 in duties and penalties it is said the young Chicagoan took the law much more seriously. So, also, did a Brooklyn girl returning from Paris last October. In addition to the regulation warnings her father had written to her to be careful to include everything dutiable in her declaration. Yet she declared but three gowns at $364, omitting seven others worth $523. That omission cost her father $836. A superior young gentleman from Philadelphia who merely wrote "dutiable goods" across his declaration and then turned it in also took the law seriously after a very bad quarter of an hour with the deputy surveyor.
The inspectors who board the ship at quarantine do not make the examinations but merely see that the declarations are duly filled out and turn them over to the supervisor in charge at the pier. Incidentally they saunter through the deserted staterooms collecting empty jewel boxes, labels hastily ripped from foreignmade garments, scraps of paper, and other rubbish that any ragpicker would scorn, but which very frequently proves to be worth a good many thousands of dollars to the Government, for such things often turn out to be clues to attempts at smuggling. »
Upon disembarking the passenger finds lined up and waiting for duty one inspector for each five first-class, and one for each ten second-class, passengers. There are also a couple of desks for each class in charge of uniformed men. Among those present, but not in uniform, are a number of customs detectives who have ways of their own of finding any dutiable articles that may happen to escape the regular inspectors. At regular intervals along the walls is a letter of the alphabet. The passenger takes up his stand in the space corresponding to the first letter of his name to wait for his baggage. When it is all assembled he goes to a desk, and presents the numbered coupon he tore from his declaration. The latter is fished from the pile, the inspector at the head of the waiting line is called to escort the passenger to another desk where the latter is shown his declaration and asked if the signature is his own. Then comes the examination.
Such heart-rending pictures have been drawn by newspapers of a certain type of the "sufferings" of delicately nurtured ladies undergoing the tortures of the examination, alleged to be aggravated by the boorishness and brutality of the uni
formed fiends who perpetrate it, that it seems a pity to spoil the illusion. But the unpicturesque truth is that all such stories are ordinary lies.
No man who does not know how to conduct himself decently can get a job in the customs service. Furthermore, he can not begin work as an inspector until he has graduated with credit from a two months' course in a school of deportment maintained in the custom house. The first and greatest lesson he is taught there is that he must be a gentleman, not part of the time, but all the time. His next lesson teaches him how to handle costly laces and dainty lingerie. He has to practice on real trunks full of things that travelers ordinarily have in their baggage until he is letter perfect. Then he is permitted to try his hand on immigrants' baggage at Ellis Island. From there he is advanced to second-class baggage arriving on the minor lines. Not until he has become proficient is he allowed to examine baggage at the piers of the important lines. There he is closely watched, and if he does not do his work properly he loses his job. If he shows up with dirty hands or unkempt clothing, unshaven or untidy, back home he goes, losing his day's pay. If he is impertinent or accepts bribes something unpleasant happens to him.
No, the passenger who makes out his baggage declaration honestly and correctly never has any trouble getting through the custom house. The examination is as brief and simple as is compatible with a proper performance of duty.
The inspectors must first of all be alert and intelligent, and intelligent men are not the sort who are cither rough or discourteous. Indeed the worst boor could scarce be discourteous to most of the American women who are returning home. Inspectors, after all, are human beings.
There is a reason for the sensational yarns circulated about the customs examination at New York, and this reason is best expressed in the four letters— LOEP>. The explanation is to be found in these little tables showing the New York Custom House before and after taking William Loeb, Jr., as Collector of the Port.
the Government three millions, by the indictment of a member of the sacred executive committee of Tammany Hall, and the arrest and indictment of some of the biggest art dealers on Fifth Avenue, New York, for swindling the Government out of millions in duties, not to mention hosts of smaller smugglers. Upon the whole, there is no wonder the custom house and everybody connected with it is very unpopular just now in certain circles having some degree of skill in vocalizing their unhappiness.
Two ladies from the West now cherish particularly uncomplimentary opinions of the New York customs officers. Each bought two splendid sable muffs in Europe last summer, and it did seem a pity to have to pay duty on them. Prob
ably they would not have paid duty if hobble skirts had not been in vogue last fall. It is hard enough to walk in a hobble skirt, as any one who has tried it can testify. But when in addition to hobble skirts one's freedom of movement is still further hampered by a huge muff drawn up over each 1 well, the inspectors lined up on the pier actually laughed out loud when the Western ladies essayed the passage of the gang plank. The Brutes!
Not to linger over the harrowing details, the two westerners were politely invited back to their staterooms by some women inspectors. When it was all over those muffs had cost their owners just four times what they could have been purchased for in the home market.
This unfortunate affair of the sable muffs was not the only attempt on record to evade the payment of dufles by guileful passengers. Bless your heart, no! Why, in six weeks last fall the customs inspectors gathered in five hundred thousand dollars' worth of jewelry from amateur smugglers, more than half of whom were women.
Contemplating the matter calmly it seems incredible that any one should try to smuggle since the custom house has been reorganized. Detection is about as certain as anything can be in this uncertain world, and as those who are caught are always caught literally with the goods on, there is nothing for it but to take one's medicine. It is only fair to say, however, that the customs officers are as charitable to the amateur smugglers as is consistent with their duty. When they find a trunk full of dutiable articles not declared they generally give the owner a chance to amend his declaration. Only in the more flagrant cases do they shut the gates of