1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Salem (Massachusetts)

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SALEM, a city and one of the county-seats (Lawrence is the other) of Essex county, Massachusetts, about 15 m. N.E. of Boston. Pop. (1900), 35,956, of whom 10,902 were foreign-born (including 4003 French Canadians, 3476 Irish, and 1585 English Canadians), 23,038 were of foreign parentage (one or the other parent foreign-born) and 156 were negroes; (1910), 43,697. Area, 8.2 sq. m. Salem is served by the Boston & Maine and by interurban electric railways westward to Peabody, Danvers and Lawrence, eastward to Beverly, and southward to Marblehead, Swampscott, Lynn and Boston. It occupies a peninsula projecting toward the north-east, a small island (Winter Island) connected with the neck of the peninsula (Salem Neck) by a causeway, and some land on the mainland. Salem has many historical and literary landmarks. There, are three court-houses, one of granite (1839-1841) with great monolithic Corinthian pillars, another (1862), adjoining it, of brick, and a third (1908-1909) of granite, for the probate court. The City Hall was built in 1837, and enlarged in 1876. The Custom House (1818-1819) is described in the introduction to Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter, and in it Hawthorne worked as surveyor of the port in 1845-1849. The public library building (1888) was given to the city by the heirs of Captain John Bertram.

The Essex Institute (1848) is housed in a brick building (1851) with freestone trimmings and in old Plummer Hall (1857); its museum contains some old furniture and a collection of portraits; it has an excellent library and publishes quarterly (1859 sqq.) Historical Collections. The Peabody Academy of Science, founded by the gift in 1867 of $140,000 from George Peabody and incorporated in 1868, is established in the East India Marine Hall (1824), bought for this purpose from the Salem East India Marine Society. The Marine Society was organized in 1799, its membership being limited to “persons who have actually navigated the seas beyond the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn, as masters or supercargoes of vessels belonging to Salem”; it assists the widows and children of members. Its museum, like the ethnological and natural history collection of the Essex Institute, was bought by the Peabody Academy of Science, whose museum now includes Essex county collections (natural history, mineralogy, botany, prehistoric relics, &c.), type collections of minerals and fossils; implements, dress, &c. of primitive peoples, especially rich in objects from Malaysia, Japan and the South Seas; and portraits and relics of famous Salem merchants, with models and pictures of Salem merchant vessels. The Salem Athenaeum (1810), the successor of a Social Library (1760) and a Philosophical Library (1781) is housed in Plummer Hall (1908), a building in the southern Colonial style, named in honour of a benefactor of the Athenaeum, Caroline Plummer (d. 1855), who endowed the Plummer Professorship of Christian Morals at Harvard. Some of the old houses were built by ship-owners before the War of Independence, and more were built during the first years of the 19th century when Salem privateersmen made so many fortunes. Many of the finest old houses are of the gambrel type; and there are many beautiful doorways, door heads and other details. Nathaniel Hawthorne's birthplace was built before 1692; another house—now reconstructed and used as a social settlement—is pointed out as the original “house of seven gables.” The Corwin or “Witch” house, so called from a tradition that Jonathan Corwin, one of the judges in the witchcraft trials, held preliminary examinations of witches here, is said to have been the property of Roger Williams. The Pickering house, built before 1660, was the homestead of Timothy Pickering and of other members of that family. Among the other buildings and institutions are Hamilton Hall (1805); the Franklin Building (1861) of the Salem Marine Society; a large armoury; a state normal school (1854); an orphan asylum (1871), under the Sisters of the Grey Nuns; the Association for the Relief of Aged and Destitute Women (1860), occupying a fine old brick house formerly the home of Benjamin W. Crowninshield (1772-1851), a member of the national House of Regresentatives in 1824-1831 and Secretary of the Navy in 1814; the Bertram Home for Aged Men (1877) in a house built in 1806-1807; the Plummer Farm School for Boys (incorporated 1855, opened 1870), another charity of Caroline Plummer, on Winter Island; the City Almshouse (1816) and the City Insane Asylum (1884) on Salem Neck; a home for girls (1876); the Fraternity (1869), a club-house for boys; the Marine Society Bethel and the Salem Seamen's Bethel; the Seamen's Orphan and Children's Friend Society (1839); an Associated Charities (1901), and the Salem Hospital (1873).

Among the Church organizations are: the First (Unitarian; originally Trinitarian Congregational), which dates from 1629 and was the first Congregational church organized in America; the Second or East Church (Unitarian) organized, in 1718; the North Church (Unitarian), which separated from the First in 1772; the Third or Tabernacle (Congregational), organized in 1735 from the First Church; the South (Congregational), which separated from the Third in 1774; several Baptist churches; a Quaker society, with a brick meeting-house (1832); St Peter's, the oldest Episcopalian church in Salem, with a building of English Gothic erected in 1833, and Grace Church (1858).

Washington Square or the Common (8 acres) is in the centre of the city. The Willows is a 30-acre park on the Neck shore, and in North Salem is Liberty Hill, another park. On a bluff projecting into South river is the old “Burying Point,” set apart in 1637, and the oldest cemetery in the city; its oldest stone is dated 1673; here are buried Governor Simon Bradstreet, Chief-justice Benjamin Lynde (1666-1745) and judge John Hathorne (1641-1717) of the witchcraft court. The Broad Street Burial Ground was laid out in 1655. On Salem Neck is Fort Lee and on Winter Island is Fort Pickering (on the site of a fort built in 1643), near which is the Winter Island Lighthouse.

The main trade of Salem is along the coast, principally in the transhipment of coal; and the historic Crowninshield's or India wharf is now a great coal pocket. The harbour is not deep enough for ocean-going vessels, and manufacturing is the most important industry. In 1905 the total value of the factory products was $12,202,217 (13.9% more than in 1900), and the principal manufactures were boots and shoes and leather. The largest single establishment is the Naumkeag Steam Cotton Company, which has 2800 looms and about 1500 mill-hands. Another large factory is that of the silversmiths, Daniel Low & Co.

History.—Salem was settled in 1626 by Roger Conant (1593-1679) and a company of “planters,” who in 1624 (under the Sheffield patent of 1623 for a settlement on the north shore of Massachusetts Bay) had attempted a plantation at Cape Ann, whither John Lyford and others had previously come from Plymouth through “dissatisfaction with the extreme separation from the English church.” Conant was not a separatist, and the Salem settlement was a commercial venture, partly agricultural and partly to provide a wintering place for Banks fishermen so that they might more quickly make their spring catch. Cape Ann was too bleak, but Naumkeag was a “pleasant and fruitful neck of land,” which they named Salem in June 1629, probably in allusion to Psalm lxxvi. 2. In 1628, a patent for the territory was granted by the New England Council to the Dorchester Company, in which the Rev. John White of Dorchester, England, was conspicuous, and which in the same year sent out a small company under John Endecott as governor. Under the charter for the Colony of Massachusetts Bay (1629), which superseded the Dorchester Company patent, Endecott continued as governor until the arrival in 1630 of John Winthrop, who soon removed the seat of government from Salem first to Charlestown and then to Boston. In July or August 1629 the first Congregational Church (see Congregationalism, § American) in America was organized here; its “teacher” in 1631 and 1633 and its pastor in 1634-1635 was Roger Williams, a close friend of Governor Endecott and always popular in Salem, who in 1635 fled thence to Rhode Island to escape arrest by the officials of Massachusetts Bay. In 1686, fearing that they might be dispossessed by a new charter, the people of Salem for £20 secured a deed from the Indians to the land they then held. Although not strictly Puritan the character of Salem was not essentially different from that of the other Massachusetts towns. The witchcraft delusion of 1692 centred about Salem Village, now in the township of Danvers, but then a part of Salem. Ten girls, aged nine to seventeen years, two of them house servants, met during the winter of 1691-1692 in the home of Samuel Parris, pastor of the Salem Village church, and after learning palmistry and various “magic” tricks from Parris's West Indian slave, Tituba, and influenced doubtless by current talk about witches, accused Tituba and two old women of bewitching them. The excitement spread rapidly, many more were accused, and, within four months, hundreds were arrested, and many were tried before commissioners of oyer and terminer (appointed on the 27th of May 1692, including Samuel Sewall, q.v., of Boston, and three inhabitants of Salem, one being Jonathan Corwin); nineteen were hanged,[1] and one was pressed to death in September for refusing to plead when he was accused. All these trials were conducted in accordance with the English law of the time; there had been an execution for witchcraft at Charlestown in 1648; there was a case in Boston in 1655; in 1680 a woman of Newbury was condemned to death for witchcraft but was reprieved by Governor Simon Bradstreet; in England and Scotland there were many executions long after the Salem delusion died out. The reaction came suddenly in Salem, and in May 1693 Governor William Phips ordered the release from prison of all then held on the charge of witchcraft.

Salem was an important port after 1670, especially in the India trade, and Salem privateers did great damage in the Seven Years' War, in the War of Independence (when 158 Salem privateers took 445 prizes), and in the War of 1812. On this foreign trade and these rich periods of privateering the prosperity of the place up to the middle of the 19th century was built. The First Provincial Assembly of Massachusetts met in Salem in 1774. On the 20th of February 1775 at the North Bridge (between the present Salem and Danvers) the first armed resistance was offered to the royal troops, when Colonel Leslie with the 64th regiment, sent to find cannon hidden in the Salem “North Fields,” was held in check by the townspeople. Salem was the birthplace of Nathaniel Hawthorne, W. H. Prescott, Nathaniel Bowditch, Jones Very and W. W. Story.

Marblehead was separated from Salem township in 1649; Beverly in 1668, a part of Middleton in 1728, and the district of Danvers in 1752. Salem was chartered as a city in 1836.

See Charles S. Osgood and Henry M. Batchelder, Historical Sketch of Salem, 1626-1879 (Salem, 1879); Joseph B. Felt, Annals of Salem (ibid., 1827; 2nd ed., 2 vols., 1845-1849); Charles W. Upham, Salem Witchcraft (2 vols., Boston, 1867); H. B. Adams, Village Communities of Cape Ann and Salem (Baltimore, 1883); Eleanor Putnam (the pen-name of Mrs Arlo Bates), Old Salem (Boston, 1886); C. H. Webber and W. S. Nevins, Old Naumkeag (Salem, 1877); R. D. Paine, Ships and Sailors of Old Salem (New York, 1909), and Visitor’s Guide to Salem (Salem, 1902) published by the Essex Institute.

  1. There is nothing but tradition to identify the place of execution with what is now called Gallows Hill, between Salem and Peabody.