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The section of the Custom House ceiling left undone consisted of eight trapezoidal panels alternating with eight tall and narrow rectangular ones, all of which curved both vertically and horizontally. Each tall rectangular panel had the name of an explorer set in plaster above it (Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, Adriaen Block, Gaspar Cortereal, Henry Hudson, Giovanni da Verrazano, John Cabot, and Estevan Gomez), and, thus, already dictated a theme related to historical exploration. But Marsh was free to imagine his own scenario for the trapezoidal spaces. His earliest plan [79.84.4illus.-Version #1 in the Museum of the City of New York] featured the arrival of an ocean liner into New York Harbor, a subject easily related to the business transacted in the Custom House as well as to the building’s location close to the waterfront. It was, after all, through the Custom House that goods transported from across the seas entered the United States, and the duties levied there had enabled the American government to operate since the early nineteenth century. Until the introduction of an income tax in 1913, custom duties were the primary source of federal revenue.7 As Marsh envisioned them, the panels broke down an ocean liner’s progress into the harbor as a series of stages but used different liners. Various stages are represented in the panels: Passing Ambrose Lightship; Picking Up the Pilot; Cutter Approaching a Liner at Quarantine; Customs Officials Boarding Liner; New York Harbor with the Statue of Liberty; The Press Interviewing a Celebrity; SS Normandie Being Warped into Berth; and Unloading Cargo. The ships featured are the SS Washington, the French liner Normandie, the British RMS Queen Mary, and the German Bremen.
Hudson. [Sketch of Henry Hudson]

Hudson. [Sketch of Henry Hudson]

Sketches by Reginald Marsh for the murals in the Rotunda of the United States Custom House, Broadway...

N.Y. Custom House Ceiling Designs by Reginald Marsh. [Sketch of the layout of the Custom House murals]

N.Y. Custom House Ceiling Designs by Reginald Marsh. [Sketch of the layout of the Custom House murals]

Sketches by Reginald Marsh for the murals in the Rotunda of the United States Custom House, Broadway...

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