City of Salem Marks 325th Anniversary of the Salem Witch Trials

On June 10, 1692, Bridget Bishop became the first of 25 innocent people to lose their life as a result of the Salem witch hysteria. To mark the date, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll has issued a proclamation calling for a Day of Remembrance on June 10, 2017. The text of the proclamation is below.

Speaking at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial as part of a Salem Award Foundation event this morning, Mayor Driscoll also announced the date and time at which the City will formally dedicate the new memorial at Proctor’s Ledge, believed now to be the site at which 19 innocent people were hanged in 1692 for the supposed crime of witchcraft. The dedication event will take place at the new memorial on Pope Street on Wednesday, July 19, at noon.

On July 19, 1692, the first of three mass executions took place at the site, when five innocent individuals were hanged: Sarah Good, Elizabeth Howe, Susannah Martin, Rebecca Nurse, and Sarah Wildes. The dedication ceremony on July 19 is free and open to all who wish to attend and pay their respects.

“Salem is constantly looking to the lessons of its past,” said Mayor Driscoll. “Whether it was through the formation of our No Place for Hate Committee and our landmark non-discrimination ordinance, or through the good work of the Salem Award Foundation, the lessons we learn from our history directly inform the actions we take today. Having this site memorialized, especially as we mark the 325th anniversary of that tragic event, presents an opportunity for us to come together as a community, recognize the injustice and tragedy perpetrated against those innocents in 1692, and recommit ourselves to the values of inclusivity and justice.”

The design and construction of the memorial, as well as improvements to the streetscape and the parcel itself, were funded primarily through a $174,000 Community Preservation Act grant, as well as dozens of small donations, many from descendants of those wrongfully executed at the site. The design of the memorial and landscaping plans for the site were developed by landscape architect Martha Lyon through a participatory public process and multiple meetings on site with abutters. The memorial plans call for a landscaped slope down from the ledge where the executions are believed to have taken place. At the base of the slope, on Pope Street, there will be a semi-circular area surrounded by a stone wall. Stones with the names of the nineteen individuals who were hanged near the site will be set into the wall and lit from the ground below with a single light on each name. While trees will be planted along the perimeter of the parcel itself, at the center of the memorial on Pope Street there will be a single oak tree, as a symbol of endurance and dignity.

FAME’s Visit to Sail Boston Recalls Tumultuous War of 1812

by Capt. Michael Rutstein

Although the Salem-based schooner FAME is one of the smaller vessels attending next month’s Sail Boston event, she has a fascinating connection to Boston’s history.

FAME is a replica of a Salem privateer of the same name from the War of 1812. During the war, Salem — then a major seaport and a serious rival to Boston — sent out over 40 privateers to attack British merchant shipping. In Boston, however, many influential shipowners opposed the war. Instead of sending out privateers, they carried on illegal trade with the British.

After Congress acted in 1813 to criminalize this trading with the enemy, Salem privateers such as FAME took it on themselves to police Boston Harbor. They would chase down and search inbound ships for evidence that they had been smuggling. In August of 1813, FAME and another Salem privateer (tellingly named CASTIGATOR) stopped an incoming Boston brig called the DISPATCH and concluded that she had been trading in British ports. They put a prize crew on board and began to convey the vessel into Boston to be impounded.

However, members of the brig’s crew escaped and rowed themselves quickly up to town, where they located the brig’s owner, Boston merchant Cornelius Coolidge. Coolidge was incensed to hear that his brig had been seized by privateers. He gathered a score of men armed with muskets and set off in two large rowboats to free the DISPATCH. Soon, a firefight had broken out in the middle of Boston Harbor between the prize crew, the privateer schooners, and Coolidge’s armed boats. The battle was only ended by the intervention of the Federal garrison at Fort Independence.

After a sensational trial in which no less than three witnesses were charged with perjury, DISPATCH was awarded to the privateers as lawful prize.

It was a victory for Salem and her mariners, and the smugglers of Boston were suitably “castigated”. But the decades after the war saw a steady movement of talent and capital from Salem to Boston, which has ever since reigned as the chief port and economic center of Massachusetts.

A fleet of international Tall Ships is sailing into Boston this month in the largest gathering of its kind in 17 years. The festival-opening Parade of Sail happens on Saturday, June 17. Many of the ships will be open for boarding in Boston June 18-21. The fleet departs Boston on June 22, bound for a starting line off Gloucester. From that point, they will race to Nova Scotia.

FAME, which is based at Salem’s Pickering Wharf Marina, will participate in the Parade on the 17th and offers round trips from Salem to Boston each day of Sail Boston 2017. She’ll also be sailing out to watch the start of the race on the 22nd.

Tickets are available at SchoonerFame.com.

National Doctors Day in Salem, MA

One of Salem’s earliest known physicians was Samuel Fuller, who arrived in the area then known as Naumkeag in 1629. Captain Endicott took notice of the sickness facing the settlers in Salem, and wrote to the Governor William Bradford to request that a doctor be sent to Salem. Governor Bradford upon receipt of this request sent Dr. Samuel Fuller from Plymouth Colony to Salem in hopes that he would be able to help.

While in Salem, Dr. Fuller was tasked with providing medical care for a number of settlers who all appeared to be suffering from a similar illness. The settlers who had recently arrived in the colony found themselves even more prone to sickness due to their recent crossing from Europe. During these kinds of long voyages, colonists were often crammed into close and unsanitary quarters, with very limited access to foods containing ingredients that are necessary for good health, like Vitamin C.

One likely sickness the colonists experienced due to the lack of Vitamin C in their diets was scurvy, which brought on symptoms like fatigue, weakness, and soreness of the limbs. Those dealing with scurvy would find it extremely difficult to cope with the amount of physical labor that was required of them when arriving in the colony.

Tim Maguire of Salem Night Tour

Though unrelated to his medical work, Captain Endicott noted that Dr. Samuel Fuller’s assistance in Salem allowed for a better understanding between Pilgrims and Puritans, who differed in their religious beliefs and reasoning for traveling to the colony. Puritans sought for a more rigid, “purified” version of the Church of England, while Pilgrims viewed themselves as separate from the Church altogether.

There is little record of Samuel Fuller that suggests why or how he became a physician, however we do know that he was eventually named the “official physician” of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. After treating patients in Salem, Dr. Fuller was requested in Charlestown, where he assisted colonists there who were experiencing similar symptoms.

Today, one of Samuel Fuller’s descendants is still working in Salem. Samuel Fuller is a 12th great uncle to Tim Maguire Jr., who you may spot during your visit to Salem if you embark on a Salem Night Tour or visit Remember Salem at 127 Essex Street.

Another Notable Salem Doctor

In 1692 Dr. William Griggs was called upon to examine the girls who were believed to be afflicted with witchcraft. Upon reviewing their symptoms, he determined there was no medical explanation for what was happening, and that a more powerful entity, like witchcraft, was to blame for their behavior, thus beginning the Salem Witch Hysteria.

Five Remarkable Women of Salem

March is Women’s History Month, and we’re celebrating the women who have contributed to Salem’s history over the years.  This year, 2017, we live in a Salem that has a woman at the helm, Mayor Kim Driscoll; a woman in the State House, Senator Joan Lovely; a woman as the head of the Salem school district, Superintendent Margarita Ruiz; the first woman Chief of Police, Chief Mary Butler; and President Patricia Meservey is leading Salem State University into the future.  Salem is a community that nurtures and encourages strong women.

It is only fitting, as we make history going forward, that we acknowledge and celebrate the women in Salem’s past. This weekend, there will be programs at the House of the Seven Gables, Phillips House Museum, and more.

Five remarkable women have already been named here, and they are the women who are actively building Salem’s future.  Here are four women in Salem’s history whose stories we tell often:

Mary Spencer created the Gibralter, believed to be America’s first commercially produced candy, which is still sold at Ye Olde Pepper Companie.

Caroline Emmerton purchased the House of the Seven Gables, turned it into a museum, and use the profits from the museum to fund her Settlement House, which provided training for immigrant girls, boys, and adults.

Elizabeth Peabody opened the first Kindergarten in America.

Bessie Phillips establish the Stephen Philips Memorial Trust House as a museum to be enjoyed by all, which today is part of Historic New England and the only home on Chestnut Street that is open to the public.

The thirteen innocent women who were hanged during the Salem Witch Trials, accused of practicing witchcraft, are perhaps the inspiration for many of the bright and strong women who have led Salem ever since. We remember Bridget Bishop, Martha Carrier, Martha Corey, Mary Easty, Sarah Good, Dorcas Hoar, Elizabeth Howe, Susannah Martin, Rebecca Nurse, Alice Parker, Mary Parker, Ann Pudeator, Margaret Scott, and Sarah Wildes.

For more information on the historic women of Salem, explore the Salem Women’s History Trail.

Irish History in Salem, MA

St. Patrick’s Day may be over, but there are still plenty of ways to learn about Irish history in Salem, Massachusetts. Take a tour of the Phillips House, where many Irish immigrants have been employed by the Phillips family, or visit The House of the Seven Gables this May for a new live performance based on the life of Irish Catholic indentured servant, Joan Sullivan.

The Phillips House
During the early 20th century, the Phillips family employed a number of Irish servants at their home on Chestnut Street. Like many servants at the time, most of the servants the Phillipses hired were young, white, single females who were either immigrants themselves or first generation Americans.

By 1919, the Phillips House servant quarters were home to three Irish women and a couple of Irish men. The women lived in the servants’ quarters, located on the third floor of the family’s home, while the men lived off the property often with their own wives and families.

The women often took on roles within the home, sometimes caring for children as was the case for Catherine Shaughnessy who was a nursemaid to Stephen Phillips. As Stephen eventually moved out of the home to attend boarding school, Catherine, or “Catty,” continued to work for the Phillips family for 52 years as an assistant and maid.

Men at the Phillips House performed roles outside the home, as was the case for Patrick O’Hara who served as the family’s chauffeur. Patrick was responsible for not only driving the Phillips’ family vehicle but also for its care and upkeep.

Guests may tour the Phillips House between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays through May 27. June 1 through October 31 the Phillips House is open for tours Tuesday through Saturday. Tours begin every half hour with the last tour at 4:00 pm.

The House of the Seven Gables
The House of the Seven Gables will be introducing a theatrical tavern experience in May called: I Am Joan Sullivan. This experience will give visitors a chance to learn about Joan Sullivan, the Irish Catholic indentured servant of merchant John Turner, who built The House of the Seven Gables in 1668, and her new master, turbulent Quaker merchant Thomas Maule, as she sues for her freedom from his alleged abuse.

I am Joan Sullivan will explore the trials of a young immigrant woman with little to no agency in America where she was considered a second class citizen because of her ethnicity, gender, and faith, long before the immigrant struggle of the 19th and 20th centuries that inspired The Gables’ founder, Caroline Emmerton, in her original settlement mission. For tickets ($10-17) and information, visit www.7gables.org.

Singles Awareness Day in Salem, MA

How does one celebrate #SinglesAwarenessDay in Salem, Massachusetts? By remembering some of our most famous singles from Salem’s history of course. Whether by choice (or not), religious preference, or even sabotage, Salem has seen its share of notable singles over the years:

Reverend William Bentley (1759 – 1819) was someone who today we may refer to as a gossiper, or at the very least a nosy neighbor. Local historians have numerous accounts from his diary which include candid entries where he recorded very opinionated views of his neighbors and events around town. His diary makes note of everything from what the weather was like on any given day, to which of the townspeople had died and how, to his various opinions on the businesses of others around him. Aside from his famed diary, Reverend Bentley is most well-known for his work as the pastor of the East Church from 1783. He was a progressive theologian for the time, who also influential in leading the development of Unitarianism in New England, and in allowing the East Church to promote both political and religious liberalism in Salem.

Susanna Ingersoll, from the The House of the Seven Gables’ collection.

Susanna Ingersoll (1783 – 1858) was born and raised in the historical house we know as the House of the Seven Gables. Susanna inherited a good deal of money and property, including the house, upon the death of her mother in 1811. Susanna proved herself to be extraordinarily astute when it came to business matters. During the war of 1812 when British ships were patrolling off of the coast, ships that Susanna most likely could have spied from her upstairs windows, the new nation attempted to weather its first military conflict. During the years of the war, from 1812 – 1815, when people along the coast were fleeing the threatening British, Susanna purchased an unprecedented 17 properties. By the time of her death at the age of 72, Susanna had purchased, mortgaged, and sold well over 70 properties making her the wealthiest land-rich female in New England. In the 1840s Susanna was determined to be worth $250,000.00, an enormous sum at that time which would translate to several million dollars in today’s values. Wealthy, propertied, and secure in her social status, she was truly one of Salem’s notable women and as she was identified in all of her legal documents, she was Susanna Ingersoll, Singlewoman.

Mary Crowninshield Silbee (1809 – 1887), the daughter of Senator Nathaniel Silsbee grew up in Salem on Daniels Street. Mary was rumored to have been engaged to Nathaniel Hawthorne after she had a portrait painted depicting her with a mysterious hunter who resembled the author. Sophia Peabody, who later married Hawthorne, threatened to “put Miss Mary out of the window” in a letter to her sister, and Hawthorne’s involvement with Mary ended soon thereafter. Though Sophia suffered from crippling headaches, which at first prevented her from marrying, her relationship with Nathaniel Hawthorne moved along much quicker once Mary was no longer an issue.

Mary Crowninshield Silbee. Portrait by Francis Alexander, part of the Harvard Art Museums’ collection.

Frederick Townsend Ward (1831 – 1862) was a Salem-born sailor and military commander whose troops supported the Qing Dynasty during the Taiping Rebellion. He left Salem at the age of 15 when he travelled to Mexico hoping to participate in the war going on there. Shortly after this, he began taking up odd jobs on various ships and countries across the globe before ultimately settling in Shanghai where he was asked to lead a group in the Rebellion. During the Taiping Rebellion, Ward and his troops celebrated numerous victories in their battles overseas and they eventually became known as The Ever Victorious Army. Ward makes our list of Salem’s singles due to his unfortunate death in battle: After suffering (and overcoming) 14 previous injuries, a shot to the abdomen in 1862 ultimately caused the commander’s death.

Rose Hawthorne Lathrop (1851 – 1926), the daughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Sophia Peabody, was briefly married to George Parsons Lathrop. After their separation, Rose began to help terminally ill cancer patients who did not have the financial means to pay for treatment. Rose ensured her legacy when she became Mother Mary Alphonsa and founded an order of nuns based on the medical work she had started. Today the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne, now based in Hawthorne, NY continue to help terminally ill patients who cannot afford their medical care.

Caroline Emmerton (1866 – 1942) was the founder of The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association. In 1908, she purchased the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion and spent two years renovating the home into a museum. When the museum opened in 1910 she used proceeds from admissions to support settlement work and other programs for newly arriving immigrant families. Some of the settlement house programs she started included medical clinics, citizenship classes, English language classes, and sewing to assist new citizens. The Gables continues to offer educational programming today, and currently holds the distinction of being both a museum and a settlement house, the only organization of its kind in the United States. Miss Emmerton never married and dedicated her entire life to service and philanthropy in Salem.

Salem, MA, House of the Seven Gables

City of Salem Announces Plans for Memorial at Proctor’s Ledge

Proctor’s Ledge Memorial, Martha Lyon Landscape Architecture, LLC.

Last year a team of local scholars and researchers were able to confirm the location where the innocent victims of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 were executed. Following this discovery, the City of Salem has worked with a number of individuals and organizations to come up with plans for a permanent memorial at this site. The memorial will come to fruition with the help of landscape architect Martha Lyon, local historians, Salem residents, descendants of the victims involved in the Witch Trials, and organizations like the Salem Award Foundation and the Gallows Hill Project Team.

The intended completion of the project is the spring or summer of this year, in order to line up with the 325th commemoration of the Salem Witch Trials. The City of Salem is also currently working towards securing funding efforts for the building and upkeep of the memorial. The clean-up efforts on both Pope Street and Proctor Street along with the memorial’s configuration and building specs have been funded by a Community Preservation Act grant of $174,000.

On the importance of the site as a memorial, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll states, “Salem is constantly looking to the lessons of its past. Whether it was through the formation of our No Place for Hate Committee and our landmark non-discrimination ordinance, or through the good work of the Salem Award Foundation, the lessons we learn from our history directly inform the actions we take today. Having this site memorialized, especially as we prepared to mark the 325th anniversary of that tragic event, presents an opportunity for us to come together as a community, recognize the injustice perpetrated against those innocents in 1692, and recommit ourselves to the values of inclusivity and justice.”

The memorial’s design is set to feature a downward slope from the ledge where historians believe the executions took place. A stone wall will enclose a circular space towards Pope Street at the bottom of the hill, where the names of the victims will be engraved. Lights will also be projected up from the ground to illuminate each individual name, and an oak tree (symbolic of endurance and dignity) will mark the center of the memorial. Work has already begun on the Proctor Street side of the memorial’s site, where maintaining a safe traffic pattern for visitation has become a priority. Plans are also in development to continue the overall cleanup effort of the site, and devise a plan for the use of plants to create privacy while visiting the memorial.

Great Stories Begin Here

Bewitched Statue

Monopoly was made here

George, Edward, and Charles Parker built the Parker Brothers factory in the late nineteenth century, producing games including Monopoly, Clue, Risk, the Ouija Board, and Rook. Their games were based on current events and are recognized around the world. George Parker died in 1952, and his brothers kept the company going until it was purchased in 1968 by General Mills. George Parker’s home still stands on Essex Street today.

“Hocus Pocus” was filmed here

Scenes from “Hocus Pocus” were filmed on Essex Street and around Salem Common. The Sanderson Sisters are legendary around Salem, and the film is shown – for free – on Salem Common each year during Salem Haunted Happenings. You can get up close with Bette Midler’s Winifred Sanderson at Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery.

 

 

Bewitched StatueBewitched was filmed here

Often credited with Salem’s modern “Witch Tourism,” several episodes of the television show Bewitched were filmed in Salem in 1970. After the show’s Hollywood studio was damaged by a fire, the show came to Salem and Gloucester to film the “Salem Saga” episodes. The cast and crew stayed at the Hawthorne Hotel, where you can see articles from the show’s experience in the lobby. In 2005 the TV Land network installed a statue of Samantha Stevens in Lapin Park (corner of Essex and Washington Streets) which is one of the most photographed spots in Salem today.

 

 

The first long distance telephone call was made here

“Mr. Watson can you hear me?” In 1877 the first public demonstration of a long distance phone conversation was held in the Lyceum Hall on Church Street. Alexander Graham Bell called his assistant Thomas Watson, who was from Salem but received the call in Cambridge. The plaque at the Lyceum (or the building that houses Turner’s Seafood) explains that the first news dispatch sent by telephone originated at the Lyceum, was received by the Boston Globe, and published the following day. Watson, by the way, could hear Bell, and in response he sang a song for the audience in Salem.

House of the Seven GablesLiterary icons reside here

Nathaniel Hawthorne began Salem’s trend of literary greatness in 1850 with the publication of The Scarlett Letter, which although quite popular in Hawthorne’s time was generally disliked by the people of Salem. 19th century Salem residents may not have been fans of The Scarlett Letter, but today the story creates connections to Salem with readers from all over the world. Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables (1851) helped the Turner-Ingersoll mansion become one of the most beloved historic homes in America. In more recent years, authors like Brunonia Barry, Kathleen Kent, Katherine Howe, and Adriana Mather all contribute to Salem’s thriving literary scene.

The National Guard was born here

In 2013, President Obama signed into law a bill that designated Salem as the birthplace of the National Guard. Though the specific date is unknown, historians have confirmed that the first muster of the North, South, and East Regiments of the Massachusetts Bay Colony took place on Salem Common in 1636. In recognition of this moment in history, a muster with the Massachusetts National Guard takes place on Salem Common each April.

Literary Salem

Salem, MA, House of the Seven Gables

Salem is an inspiring town! Perhaps there is something in the water or maybe it’s Salem’s turbulent history. Whatever it is, Salem has inspired many to write and share their sense of this place with the world. Here is a short list of some of Salem’s most notable fiction.

The Scarlett Letter (1850) was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s first critical and popular success. The novel continues to be included in high school English and college literature curricula today. The romance of Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale has been interpreted in film multiple times, including the major motion picture starring Demi Moore as Hester in 1995. Today you can visit the Custom House, where Hawthorne worked as a surveyor for the port of Salem from 1846 to 1849 at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site at 160 Derby Street.

Salem, MA, House of the Seven GablesHawthorne’s second novel, The House of the Seven Gables (1851) tells the legend of a curse pronounced on the Pyncheon family during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, and how the curse is manifested through the decay of the Pycheons’ seven-gabled mansion. You can explore the Turner-Ingersoll mansion that inspired the book at The House of the Seven Gables Historic Site at 115 Derby Street. In October, the characters from the novel come alive during dramatic performances of “Spirits at the Gables.”

Carry On Mr. Bowditch by Jen Lee Latham was published for younger readers (9-12 year olds) in 1955. Latham tells the story of Nathaniel Bowditch, who grew up to be one of the greatest navigators in history. The novel is a looking glass into Salem’s maritime heritage that is fascinating for all ages. The Salem Maritime National Historic Site has a walking tour of Nathaniel Bowditch’s Salem available at both the Visitor Center and the Orientation Center.

The Lace Reader (2008) by Brunonia Barry is a contemporary novel set in Salem that follows protagonist Towner Whitney on her journey home, through the streets of Salem and around the harbor islands. The novel is a journey through decades of Salem society, maritime history, and the modern witch community. A map of Towner’s Salem is available on Salem.org.

The Heretic’s Daughter (2008) was written by Kathleen Kent, a tenth generation descendant of Martha Carrier, who was accused and ultimately hanged as a witch during the Salem Witch Trials. The story is told from the point of view of Martha’s young daughter, Sarah, who survived the witchcraft hysteria that was overtaking her community and immediate family. Kent’s work of historical fiction not only describes how the witch trials took place, but also how powerful familial bonds can be even at the most destructive times in our history.

51hgv0gih5lThe Physic Book of Deliverance Dane (2009) by Katherine Howe is historical fiction with a new perspective on the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Deliverance Dane was an accused witch, and her descendant Connie Goodwin is sorting out the story of her life while living in Marblehead in the early 1900s. This novel asks the question – what if the accused were really practicing witchcraft?

Map of True Places (2011) by Brunonia Barry follows Zee Finch, a psychotherapist from Boston, on a journey to rediscover herself when the life of one her patients puts things into a different perspective, and brings back memories of her family’s tragic past. Her search for answers brings her back to Salem, where she finds her father’s health failing and the need to create a new map for the next chapter in her life.

The Traitor’s Wife (2011), also by Kathleen Kent is a prequel to her earlier book, The Heretic’s Daughter. This story takes place before the Salem Witch trials, and rather focuses on the relationship and courtship of Martha Allen and Thomas Carrier. According to Kent’s family tradition’s Thomas was believed to have fought in the English Civil War, and may have been one of the executioners of King Charles I.

51x77p2ltqlConversion (2015) by Katherine Howe modernizes the Salem Witch Hysteria through an all-girls school in Danvers, Massachusetts. Girls in Howe’s story are overtaken by conditions similar to those experienced in 1692, and the story is told simultaneously through the points of view of Coleen, a modern student, and Ann Putnam in 1706.

How to Hang a Witch (2016) was written by Adriana Mather, a 12th-generation descendant of Cotton Mather, infamous for his role in the Salem Witch Trials. How to Hang a Witch follows the story of Samantha Mather, a descendant of Cotton Mather who is forced to move to Salem when her father falls into a coma and is treated in a Boston area hospital. Samantha endures bullying and abandonment by her classmates, some of which being descendants of the victims of the witch trials, while finding herself wrapped up in a centuries old curse that surrounds living descendants in Salem.

The Fifth Petal  (2017) is the latest work by Brunonia Barry. Following The Lace Reader, The Fifth Petal focuses on the mystery surrounding a suspicious death taking place in Salem on Halloween night. The death appears oddly similar to a string of past murders, and the chief of police believes they may be connected, perhaps even by a curse that may be haunting Salem residents with familial ties to the Salem Witch Trials.

November Photo Contest Winner

Pickering Light Salem MA Photo by Amanda Beattie

Congratulations to Amanda Beattie, whose photograph of the Super Moon and Pickering Light has been selected as the November “Pick of the Month” in the Destination Salem photo contest!

Pickering Light Salem MA Photo by Amanda Beattie

The Salem City Seal

The Salem City Seal’s design is based on a very important aspect of Salem history, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.

With a merchant dressed in colorful robes standing next to palm trees on an island, and a ship in the background under full sail, the seal is actually representative of Salem’s spice trade history. The merchant featured on the seal is not meant to portray a Salem merchant, but rather a local Sumatran, where the spice trade with Salem was first established. Below the imagery are the words “Divitis Indiae usque sinum,” which translates to “To the farthest port of the rich east.” Above sits a dove holding an olive branch, symbolizing Salem’s designation as the “City of Peace.” The seal also features two specific years: 1626 when the town of Salem was incorporated, and 1836 when the city was incorporated.

Salem’s spice trade began when Captain Jonathan Carnes became the first person to return to the United States with a bulk of cargo pepper from Sumatra. In 1793, Carnes learned that wild pepper may be available along the coast of Sumatra. In order to ensure that he would be the first to reach the spice, he kept this knowledge secret from most people in Salem with the exception of his uncle, Salem merchant Jonathan Peele, who helped him acquire a schooner quickly and would later help with selling the spices.

salemma_city-seal-proclamationCarnes returned from Sumatra with the pepper aboard his Schooner Rajah in 1797, following a series of unsuccessful attempts and shipwrecks in the years prior. The pepper was not only important to the people of Salem for the same reasons we use pepper today, but it was also highly sought after for its preservative qualities. Prior to modern preservatives, spices like pepper were especially helpful as meat preservative. It is estimated that the cargo of pepper that came to Salem aboard the Rajah was valued at about $125,000 (in 1797), meaning in today’s value the shipment would be worth about $1.5 million.

For approximately the next 50 years, the majority of the pepper used in many countries came through the port of Salem. By the early 19th century, Salem’s trade had helped the city become the wealthiest per capita in the United States. Though Salem’s trade with China and East Indian nations eventually came to include more than just pepper, with items like tea, silk, and porcelain, the Sumatran pepper voyages served as some of Salem’s first and most important ventures into international trade relations.

The seal was commissioned by the city to be designed by George Peabody in 1839. Peabody was a descendent of some of Salem’s greatest pepper merchants, and was himself a ship owner. Rather than depicting a scene of Salem, Peabody thought it fitting to draw a figure representative of a Sumatran merchant as a reference to where the pepper trade first began.

Since 1839, the seal has been used on official city documents and records. In addition, using the seal on anything other than documents pertaining to official City of Salem business is a violation of State law and Local Ordinances.  A solid bronze plaque of the seal is currently on display in the reception area by the mayor’s office at City Hall, and the City hopes to eventually display it on the exterior of the new City Hall Annex Building at 90 Washington Street.

Salem, MA Military History

“Salem has a rich military history that stretches all the way back to the Seventeenth Century, and continues on today. Salem’s designation in 2013 as the birthplace of the National Guard, and Salem’s privateer connections get most of the military heritage attention, but there is much more to this story.

Salem Common was “Ye Olde Training Field” when Captain John Endicott organized the first training day to drill settlers in 1630. In 1637 the first militia muster was organized by the Massachusetts Bay Colony Court.

military-band_nelson-dionne-collection

Cadet Band, ca: 1910, led by Jean Missud.

Today we know Winter Island for its beach, boat ramp, and beautiful lighthouse. Originally named for King William, the original fort dates back to 1643-1667. It was renamed for Salem’s Colonel Timothy Pickering in 1799, and became a Coast Guard Air Station in 1935.

Six weeks prior to the “shot heard around the world on Lexington Green,” British Colonel Alexander Leslie retreated from a gathering of angry citizens on Salem’s North Bridge. Leslie and the 64th regiment had been sent by the British governor general of Massachusetts, Thomas Gage, to seize Colonial cannons and gunpowder in Salem. Leslie’s Retreat is considered by many to have been the first armed resistance of the American Revolution.

Salem Privateers made a name for themselves during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Privateers were privately owned vessels that had government permission to capture enemy vessels during wartime, and during the Revolutionary War alone Salem sent out 158 privateers that captured 444 prizes (enemy ships), more than half the number taken by all the Colonies during the war. Today you can sail aboard a replica Salem Privateer, Schooner FAME, out of Pickering Wharf.

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Salem Coast Guard matchbook (front).

Include the Pickering House on Broad Street in your visit to       Salem, and you will be exploring the birthplace of Colonel Timothy Pickering, who was an officer in the Continental Army and   Quartermaster during the Revolutionary War. Pickering’s career went on to include Adjutant General of the Army, Secretary of State, and   Secretary of War. Pickering, who was known for his unwavering integrity, lack of prejudice, devotion to justice, and commitment to   service, is buried in the Broad Street Cemetery.

Glover’s Regiment claims Marblehead as its home, but Colonel John Glover was born on St. Peter’s Street in Salem. A good friend of General George Washington’s, Glover’s Regiment ferried Washington across the Delaware River, and Glover’s Schooner HANNAH was the first commissioned ship in the US Navy.

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Salem Coast Guard matchbook (back).

Salem mathematician and navigator Nathaniel Bowditch wrote “The New American Practical Navigator.” Known as “The Bowditch,” a copy of this book was been onboard Naval and Coast Guard vessels since the War of 1812.

Residents and visitors still remember when two US Naval Submarines were docked at Derby Wharf, used as training vessels during World War II.

Salem’s military connections continue today, most notably in newly-elected Congressman Seth Moulton, who served in the Marine Corps in the Iraq War.

Armory Park, adjacent to the Salem Regional Visitor Center, pays tribute to more than 365 years of military heritage in Essex County, and includes a timeline tracing the history of the citizen soldier and the Second Corps of Cadets.

Material for this feature was provided by Bonnie Hurd Smith, Nelson Dionne, Schooner FAME, and SethMoulton.com.

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