Women Smugglers of the Gilded-Age

customs_women_inspection_1Gilded-age American newspapers commonly printed drawings of female customs inspectors undressing young women looking for contraband. They published them partly to titillate; they were the Victorian equivalent of side-boob. But they also did so because Treasury officials believed that women were unpatriotic consumers lusting for foreign luxuries like silks, laces, and diamonds– in sum, natural smugglers. Inspectors made no secret of their beliefs; indeed, I’d argue they profiled women well past 1900.