The author assumed the job overlooking Derby Wharf would allow ample time for him to write but, he soon learned, free time was not the issue. His experience at the Custom House was trying for other reasons. As he wrote to his friend Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
I am trying to resume my pen... Whenever I sit alone, or walk alone, I find myself dreaming about stories, as of old; but these forenoons in the Custom House undo all that the afternoons and evenings have done. I should be happier if I could write.
Hawthorne had previously worked at the Custom House in Boston so he should have known the drudgery of this line of work. The building is today preserved as part of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. Inside, the desk he used (pictured) is on display to the public.
He was forced out of his Salem position in the spring of 1849 when the democrats lost power. He did not take part in the public discussions about losing his job. As he wrote, "There is no use in lamentation. It now remains to consider what I shall do next." He eventually turned his experience into the sketch "The Custom-House," printed as an introduction to The Scarlet Letter in 1850.