Salem’s Whaling History

Information for this post was provided by the National Park Service’s publication, “Pickled Fish and Salted Provisions, Oil and Bone: Salem’s Whaling Industry.”

Did you know that whaling was once a major industry in Salem? While we often think of Salem’s merchant past in terms of the spice trade, whaling also contributed to Salem’s wealth for a short time during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The first whaling ventures in Salem began shortly after its founding in 1626. These early attempts at whaling used only a couple of small ships that were not large enough for the whales to be processed onboard. As a result, the whales needed to be pulled ashore where their blubber could be processed into oil.

During this time period, whales were considered valuable due to their oil which was often shipped back to Europe to fuel lamps, and whalebone and baleen were used to create the structures of corsets and eyeglass frames. As the popularity of these products and other consumer goods increased, Salem’s whaling ships grew to meet demand.

Salem’s presence in international trade was steadily increasing until President Jefferson issued the unpopular Embargo Act of 1807. The act came at the expense of Salem’s trading industries, and while it was repealed just two years later it was too late for Salem’s merchants to make a comeback on the international trade front. As a result, overseas consumers began to purchase goods elsewhere, which startled Salem residents who relied on international trade for income and inspired them to shift their focus back to whaling.

Their efforts paid off, and in 1830 an article in the Salem Gazette proclaimed Salem as the best location for the whaling industry in Massachusetts. Through the 1830s, Salem had three active whale oil refineries in town to help keep up with the demand for whale-based products like candles along with scrimshaw, corsets, and parasols. At the height of Salem’s whaling industry in the 1830s, whaling vessels produced $165,306 worth of oil and $7,535 worth of whalebone.

By 1837 the whaling industry began to rapidly decline primarily due to an economic recession (the result of land speculation) which made wealthy businessmen less likely to invest in whaling. Within the following decade, many of Salem’s whaling ships were destroyed at sea and funds were not available to repair or replace them.

Only about two whaling ships were active by 1842, and while they were able to make sizable profits, investors began to turn their support towards other industries like the railroad and manufacturing. Salem’s last whaling vessel was sold to a company in Boston in 1871 thereby ending Salem’s role in the industry. By this point whale oil had largely been replaced by petroleum and the steelspring had proved more efficient than whalebone.

You can learn about Salem’s whaling industry today with information from the National Park Service, and you can see whales yourself with 7 Seas Whale Watch and Capt. Bill & Sons Whale Watch a few towns away in Gloucester. For more on whaling throughout the state, be sure to check out the sites along the Massachusetts Whale Trail. The trail includes museums, attractions, historic sites, whale watching trips, and tours all related to whales and their connections to Massachusetts. Learn more about the Whale Trail at and share you adventures with #whaletrailMA and #SalemMA.

“Minding the Gap” Film Screening

First-time filmmaker Bing Liu’s coming-of-age saga of three skateboarding friends in their Rust Belt hometown hit hard by decades of recession. While navigating a complex relationship between his camera and his friends, Bing explores the gap between fathers and sons,  discipline and domestic abuse, and ultimately that precarious chasm between childhood and becoming an adult.


Tickets ($11-13) available online. Film is shown as part of Salem Film Fest.

Halloween Costume Kayak Trip

Join Salem Kayak for a water tour of Salem Harbor in costume! Come prepared to paddle from Sandy Point in Beverly, MA over to the Willows and Historic Derby Wharf in costume! Any costume must incorporate a PFD (life vest) and should only be from the waist up. Portions of costumes below the waist may be added each time we land but must be removed before getting on the water again.

$75, see website for tickets and information.

The Rules of Magic and Practical Magic author, Alice Hoffman, Comes to Marblehead

This year, the popular JBM Author Series schedule is once again filled with highly acclaimed authors.  One event of note will feature, Alice Hoffman, the prolific New York Times bestselling author of over thirty books including The Rules of Magic, a prequel to Practical Magic, which was adapted into a popular film starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman.

The Hoffman event, which is sure to be a hit with fans of her writing and all those interested in the wonder of magic, will take place on Wednesday, October 25th at 7:00 PM at Temple Sinai in Marblehead. Reservations are $20 per person and include a reception.

This event has been generously sponsored by Salem State University and the Rothwell Philanthropic Fund.

Reservations are available at JCCNS.ORG or by calling 781-476-9909.

For more information, please contact JCCNS Adult Program Director, Sara Ewing at 781-476-9913 or

Iron Pour at the Iron Works

(Set up begins at 10:30 am, pour will happen at about noon.)

Join us for our annual iron pour demonstration at the Saugus Iron Works!

Location: 244 Central Street, Saugus, MA
For more Information: 781-233-0050

See Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” at the North Shore Music Theatre

The North Shore Music Theatre is currently presenting its production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, with matinee and evening performances through July 30. With music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, the story of Beauty and the Beast has captivated audiences around the world through both the film and live theatre productions.

A night out for the whole family, Beauty and the Beast offers musical numbers you know and love including Beauty and the Beast, Gaston, and Human Again, along with the fan-favorite song and dance routine of Be Our Guest. You’re sure to find yourself singing along as Lumiere serves the “grey stuff” while an entire dining room of twirling napkins, silverware kick-lines, and champagne dancers make their way around the stage. Gaston and LeFou, and the Silly Girls will have you laughing throughout the entire performance, while Mrs. Potts sets the scene for Belle and the Beast’s dance in the ballroom, featuring exquisite costuming details as Belle’s dress glitters around the stage. Perfect for a family outing or a date night, Beauty and the Beast will continue to thrill audiences through July 30.

Rose Hemingway (Belle) with Tyler Roberts (Fork) and Justin Ronald Mock (Spoon) in North Shore Music Theatre’s production of Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST running thru July 30. Photos © Paul Lyden

In celebration of Beauty and the Beast the theatre concessions offer the Enchanted Rose specialty cocktail made with Ilauri Spumante Brut Rose Wine, Monin Rose Syrup, and club soda, available prior to each performance and during intermission. For family-friendly themed dining, visit the theatre on select days to enjoy a meal at the Backstage Bistro with characters from the story like Belle, and the Beast or Gaston. Reservations are required for character dining, and may be made by calling 978-232-7200.

The North Shore Music Theatre’s production is directed by Michael Heitzman (Shrek and Disney’s The Little Mermaid) and features a standout cast of characters including: Belle, played by Rose Hemingway (Sophie, Mamma Mia and Lauren, Kinky Boots), the Beast, played by Stephen Cerf (Jersey Boys, Motown the Musical, Spamalot), Gaston, played by Taylor Crousore (Captain Hook, Peter Pan, and Harold Hill, The Music Man), Lumiere, played by Benjamin Howes (Shrek the Musical and Disney’s Mary Poppins), Cogsworth, played by Phillip Taratula (Tink! and Two Gentlemen of Verona), and Mrs. Potts, played by Christiane Noll (Elf, Chaplin, and Ragtime). Complete casting information is available at

Taylor Crousore (Gaston) and the cast of North Shore Music Theatre’s production of Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST running thru July 30. Photos © Paul Lyden

Future Productions

For a later trip to Salem, be sure to check out the coming productions at the North Shore Music Theatre. Later this summer the theatre hosts a production of Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, which will run August 15 – 27. For a fall visit, catch a performance of Evita, from September 26 – October 8, and follow your Halloween celebrations with a night out at 42nd Street, October 31 – November 12.

If you’re planning a winter visit to Salem, don’t miss the North Shore Music Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol featuring David Coffee (Maurice in Beauty and the Beast) as he continues his tradition of taking on the role of Ebenezer Scrooge. The theatre also offers concerts and special children’s programming through the rest of the 2017 season, with a full list of performances available at

Stephen Cerf as Beast in North Shore Music Theatre’s production of Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST running thru July 30. Photos © Paul Lyden

About the North Shore Music Theatre

Bill Hanney’s North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, Massachusetts is located just five miles north of Salem. The theatre has held a distinction as one of the most attended theatres in New England since its opening production of Kiss Me, Kate in 1955. Since then, the theatre has been the recipient of numerous awards and multiple Independent Reviewers of New England and Best of the North Shore awards, and it continues this legacy today with annual performances of musicals, concerts, children’s productions, and A Christmas Carol.

Directions from Salem

The theatre is located at 62 Dunham Road in Beverly, MA and is best accessed from Salem by car or taxi. Coming from Route 128 North, take Exit 19 for Sohier Road/Brimbal Ave, and follow the signs for Beverly. At the first traffic circle, take the second exit toward Sohier Road. Continue to the second traffic circle, and take the second exit toward Brimbal Ave, then turn right onto Dunham Road and follow the signs for the theatre. Preferred parking ($10) and complimentary parking are available.